Episode 62 – Unstoppable Writer and ASL interpreter with Kelly Brakenhoff
Kelly Brakenhoff is an author of six books and an ASL interpreter from Nebraska. She has served as an interpreter for deaf and hard of hearing persons now for over 30 years. You can tell how much she likes her chosen professions by listening to her as you get to do in this episode.
Kelly is especially excited by a series of books she has started involving Duke the Deaf Dog where she introduces readers to ASL, American Sign Language. She is working to help readers, especially children, better understand the deaf and hard of hearing community.
On top of everything Kelly has done, she has used the crowdfunding program, Kickstarter, to help fund her newest book. It turns out that another famous author also used this program to fund their efforts. You get to hear all about it.
I very much hope you enjoy our episode this time and that you will give us a 5 rating. Thanks for listening.
About the Guest:
Kelly Brakenhoff is an author of six books and an ASL interpreter from Nebraska, US.
She divides her writing energy between two series: cozy mysteries set on a college campus, and picture books featuring Duke the Deaf Dog.
Parents, kids, and teachers love the children’s books because they teach American Sign Language using fun stories. And if you like a smart female sleuth, want to learn more about Deaf culture, or have ever lived in a place where livestock outnumber people, you’ll enjoy the Cassandra Sato Mystery series.
Social media links:
kellybrakenhoff.com and follow her social media or blog by using this link: https://kellybrakenhoff.com/quicklinks/
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is an Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:21
Hi, and here we are once again with unstoppable mindset, the podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected me. And the unexpected, as always, is the fun part of the podcast. We love to carry on different kinds of conversations with people learn about them. And you know what I’m going to say once again, for any of you listening out there, I’d love to have conversations with you. I’ll bet you have stories that we should talk about. So definitely reach out. Michael hingson.com/podcast or Michaelhi@accessibie.com. And I’d love to chat with you. But for now, we have Kelly Brakenhoff, who is here with us. She is an author, and ASL interpreter, and a Kickstarter campaign runner par excellence. But does that elevate you are what Kelly Welcome to unstoppable mindset. How are you?
Kelly Brakenhoff 02:18
Hi, I’m great. Thank you for having me. today. I’m really excited to be talking to you.
Michael Hingson 02:24
Well, I’m really excited to have a chance to chat with you and learn all about you and and learn why you’re unstoppable. When I started this podcast, because we think that everyone has a story to tell, we all have had challenges in our lives and, and we’ve overcome them. And it doesn’t need to be a huge challenge. But still a challenge is a challenge. And when we overcome it, that’s great. And when we recognize that we did something that we didn’t think we can do, then I think we fall into this concept of being able to move toward a mindset of unstop ability. And so we started unstoppable mindset, and we have a lot of fun with it. Well, why don’t we start with your story a little bit? Why don’t you tell us about you kind of growing up or anything about that that you think we ought to know?
Kelly Brakenhoff 03:12
Well, sure. Um, yeah, I’m a fan of your, your mindset, your your podcast, I think this is just the coolest thing. So like I said, just super excited to be here today. Um, I’ve been an ASL interpreter for more than 30 years, and an author for just over three years. So although I’m a veteran interpreter, I’m still a baby author and publisher. I learned new things every day. So I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. I guess. I’ve moved around. One thing that’s interesting about me as I’ve moved around quite a bit. I grew up in Connecticut. I’ve lived in Nebraska, Boston, Hawaii, Seattle. And then now we’ve been in Nebraska for quite a while since Austin. Last Boston, Boston. Yes.
Michael Hingson 04:01
So can you say it pack your car and have a yard? Of course.
Kelly Brakenhoff 04:07
My uncle is from South Boston and so he married my aunt who’s from upstate New York and listening to the to talk was so fun. I lived with them for a summer in college. And and I just had such is such a fun time, especially if they like had a little discussion or something you know, and they they get the voices raised and they’d start going in their accent they revert.
Michael Hingson 04:35
I lived in Winthrop, Massachusetts for three years and spent some time in the in the Boston area before then and back a little bit but I love the accent but I love Massachusetts. I love New England in general. And my wife and I have a story about Mr. Connecticut. We were going there for something and And I don’t even remember what it was. And we were we were traveling the right way but we were traveling a lot further than we thought we needed to to get to Mystic So ever since I’ve been saying that one of the things about mystic is it moves around and doesn’t stay in one place. So I’m sticking
Kelly Brakenhoff 05:17
to memory of mystic is going there on probably a sixth grade field trip. And you know afterwards, the field trip they take you through the gift shop and I bought a little pewter whale. Yeah, sure. I still have it somewhere in the bookcase somewhere in my house.
Michael Hingson 05:39
We stopped at a restaurant there. The second time we went to mystic and I’m still convinced it wasn’t in the same place. It was the first time we went to a restaurant and sat right along the river and watch the drawbridge coming up, which was
Kelly Brakenhoff 05:55
that is really fun. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 05:57
definitely. Yeah. We love New England. And I hope that we get a chance to go back there. I have all sorts of stories about Boston. We went I went a lot over to Daniel hall into Quincy Market and ADA Durgan. Park. Have you ever eaten there?
Kelly Brakenhoff 06:13
I have it in there. Yes, I love Faneuil Hall.
Michael Hingson 06:16
I don’t know whether Durgin Park is still open. I’ve heard it. I’ve heard that it is. But I’ll have to tell you. Well, I’ll tell you the story about Durgan Park. It’s a Durgin Park, for those who don’t know, is a restaurant that if it’s still there, serves food family style, and they have tables along the side. That will seat for people. But you have to have four people, if you want to sit at one of those tables. If you have three, you sit at the long tables in the middle. If you have too long tables in the middle. They’re very snotty about it. In fact, waitresses and waiters are hired to be snots. It’s all an act, but they’re supposed to be absolutely obnoxious. They’re just what some people would say the typical clothes New England style of of being, if you will, but anyway, we go into the restaurant one night, and it was me and two other people and my guide dog Holland, who is a golden retriever with the most luscious eyes in the world. And the hostess said, you know, I’m just going to let you guys sit at one of the tables for four. So she seats us and the waitress comes over. And she says what are you people doing here? You can’t sit at this table. And I said, well, the host has put it put us here. No, she didn’t you just snuck in here. You can’t sit at this table. And she yelled at us. And we said no. We got to sit be seated here because we have a guide dog under the table. No, you don’t I don’t believe that. You’re not going to fool me with that. You can’t sit here and she just went on. Then she goes away. And she comes back and she said you can’t sit here I said, look under the table. Finally she looks. There’s these eyes just staring back at her. And she just melts. And the next thing we know she goes away. One of the things about Durgin Park is that they serve a when they serve prime rib. It’s a huge piece of prime rib that takes the whole plate. She comes back with this plate. She said somebody didn’t eat much of their prime rib. Can I give it to the dog? And oh, it was great. But it’s just fun memories of all over Boston. So I’m glad you had a chance to be there. Well, enough about me in that. So you’ve lived all over?
Kelly Brakenhoff 08:29
We have we’ve moved a lot and you haven’t moved a lot recently. But when when I was younger, I moved quite a bit.
Michael Hingson 08:35
Yes. What caused you to be moving around. Um, we
Kelly Brakenhoff 08:39
grew up in Connecticut. And then in high school, my parents decided my mom’s from Nebraska so and my dad’s from upstate New York. So when I was in high school, we moved our family moved to Nebraska. And then when my husband and I first got married, he worked for a construction company who moved us to Hawaii for five years that works. That worked. That was a great honeymoon, We’d only been married six weeks. And so that was that was a five year honeymoon. That was awesome. Our first couple of kids were born there. And we decided that we after a year or so they really didn’t get to see their grandparents very often. So he decided to move back to the mainland and we made a stop first in Seattle and then we came back to Nebraska. So we’ve been in here for quite a while but I really enjoyed getting to experience all the different cultures and all the different places and I also have a very soft spot in my heart for New England to
Michael Hingson 09:35
Well, it’s great to live in various parts of the US shows what a wonderful and just incredible country we are with all sorts of different cultures that can really blend and meld together to form what we get to experience if we only keep the culture going as as really we are the melting pot and that just makes it so Great when we get to see that,
Kelly Brakenhoff 10:01
I totally agree i Yeah.
Michael Hingson 10:04
So how old are your kids now?
Kelly Brakenhoff 10:07
They are grown up. We have four kids, three boys and one girl. And so the oldest is 21 going to be 29. And our youngest just graduated from college last year. So he’s 22 in Nebraska, and Nebraska. Huskers everybody’s a Husker.
Michael Hingson 10:28
Go Huskers Go Big Red. Yep.
Kelly Brakenhoff 10:31
So um, but we have four grandkids too. So that’s a lot of fun. And we’re really lucky. They all live in town, so I get to see them quite a bit.
Michael Hingson 10:38
That works. So you see you fix it up. So you now have this this Braden half ghetto, if you will,
Kelly Brakenhoff 10:45
yes, my Twitter handle is actually in Brockville. Because one of my friends quite a while ago used to tease me that I was trying to create my own village. So we call it in Brock anvil.
Michael Hingson 10:59
There you go, that works. Nothing wrong with that. Well, so I know you’re an author. And I know that you are an ASL interpreter, and so on, tell me how you got into being involved with ASL. And a little bit more about all that.
Kelly Brakenhoff 11:16
Sure. Um, I in high school, I volunteered at a camp for deaf kids. My parents wanted me to do something in the summer and stay out of trouble. So they kind of sent me to go volunteer. And at this camp. In the end, I didn’t know any sign language. So I got a book. And I started trying to figure out a few signs before I first went to this camp. Of course, the first few weeks I was there, I had no idea what anyone was saying, because they were all using sign language. And I didn’t know it. But by the end of the summer, I had learned quite a bit and I had made some really good friends. And I just kept learning during the school year, when they went when they were all gone. I kept taking classes and reading more books. And it actually turned out to be my, the language that I took when I was in college, it counted as my foreign language. And I just kept learning and hanging around with Deaf people. And eventually, my mentors in ASL, the deaf people that I was friends with, invited me to try interpreting for them. And I didn’t, if I had known, I wasn’t very good, but they were very kind. And they they asked me to interpret so I did and it just ended up kind of something I fell into. It wasn’t something I intended to do. But it’s become my whole life’s work, and I really like it.
Michael Hingson 12:40
So is that kind of a full time job? Or are your vocation then?
Kelly Brakenhoff 12:43
Yeah, I would say it, it’s my Well, it’s hard to say what’s my vocation because I also really love being an author, even though I haven’t been published until recently. But I’ve been a writer my whole life in college, I actually majored in English. And I always wanted to be a writer, it just, I guess the interpreting thing just kind of was a very long detour. But I always wrote even when I was interpreting and so in raising my family and stuff, so once my kids started getting into high school and college, and I started looking around for something to fill some of my empty hours. That was when I really got serious about finishing my first book.
Michael Hingson 13:27
Well, from from an ASL standpoint, and interpreting it certainly is something that’s, that’s a little bit different. What have you learned about deafness and disabilities and so on from being involved in all of that,
Kelly Brakenhoff 13:41
oh, my goodness, we don’t have enough there’s not enough time in the day to talk about it’s just changed my whole mindset, like, like, you’ve talked about that. I think it’s just a way of looking at the world. Like a lot of people think that people who are deaf and hard of hearing, it’s about your ears being broken, but it’s really just a different way to move through life. So instead of a hearing world do like they have a visual world, so everything is visual. So it’s like the opposite of what you experience now. So it’s, it’s just a way of moving through the world, you know that. And so instead of being like broken and something that needs to be fixed, it’s just kind of a way of life. I guess. I just have a lot of respect. I’ve worked a lot in at the University of Nebraska. So I work with a lot of college students. And I’ve over the years done just Gosh, 20 Something different majors. I sit in on all the classes. I interpret what the teachers seen at the front of the class, and the discussions that the students do. And so I’ve gotten to learn a lot of things just by osmosis over the years and I have a really deep respect for the students because you know, their classmates sitting in the same room with them, they can listen to the lecture, write notes, you know, go online and do stuff all while this is all going on, whereas the deaf student has to sit there and watch me. If they want to take their own notes, they kind of have to look down and take their own notes, but then still keep an eye on me. And then if there’s a PowerPoint, they’re trying to watch that. And if there’s a video, they’re hoping that it has good captions, and so like, there’s so many things going on, that it’s amazing that they can get as much as they do out of the classes. And then of course, they have to study so much more afterwards, because a lot of times, they have to go back over the notes or back over the reading to see what they missed, because they were just, you know, a lot of their attention during the class is on me. So it’s just given me a really healthy respect for how intelligent and how hard workers the students are. And I’ve just kind of seen that in all walks of life. I’ve interpreted for a lot of different situations, and different businesses and all kinds of things. And I just, I’m always in awe of how, how hard workers, the deaf students and just deaf adults in their job, or
Michael Hingson 16:13
how did the students then really get the job of notetaking done? Do they oftentimes have people who take notes for them? Or are they successful enough at taking notes themselves,
Kelly Brakenhoff 16:26
it really depends on the student and their preference. You know how some people don’t mind having someone else take the notes, because then they can pay more attention to the interpreter and the PowerPoint and the teacher. But then other people maybe don’t, you know, when you take notes, we could listen to the same speaker and your notes would be different than mine. And so some students don’t really trust that another student is going to write down the same things that they would have written down if they were taking their own notes. So it really is a personal preference. But luckily, now, with the technology, I have a couple of students who, so they’re deaf, and they use ASL and they use interpreters, but they also use cart, which is the captioning service. And so they’ll have a laptop, or they also use like an otter, which is an app that the teacher wears a microphone and then it, it makes a transcript of everything that the teacher has said, and then they can save it. So I have a few students who even though they’re, you know, pretty much dependent on the sign language for comprehension, they still use the transcript, because then they can go back later and like highlight the parts that they thought were important. And then it’s kind of I think more in their control. Or if sometimes, like an English word has, you know, five different signs for it. And so if I do a sign, and they want to know what the exact English word was, they can look at the transcript and see oh, okay, that’s the word that, you know, I need to remember or that’s the word that I want to know. So I think it’s great that they have all these tools. Because, gosh, back in the day, when I first started, none of that existed. And a lot of times, they would just have someone else take notes for them. And if that person wasn’t a good note taker, they were kind of out of luck.
Michael Hingson 18:25
We use otter actually to do the transcribing of all of these podcasts. So that one unstoppable mindset is published. There’s a written transcription as well. So we use otter to do that. And oftentimes, I will use otter to transcribe a meeting, or make it possible, make it possible for for people to come into the podcast, and listen and watch if you will in real time, which makes a lot of sense. So I found that otter works really well.
Kelly Brakenhoff 19:00
Yeah, I’ve tried several different apps and different services, because I have a thing to like you, I really want to make my website as accessible as possible, and my appearances as accessible as possible. So I get transcripts made of all the podcasts that I do whether the provider does or not. And so I’ve tried several different services, and I do agree that I think otter is a it produces a good product, and the price is good, too. So
Michael Hingson 19:33
I certainly right, you’re right, the price is certainly right. But also, it does a good job and it’s improving over time. Some people have said they’re better systems than otter and I haven’t really tried other services. And the people who help with the podcasts have looked at various things and we all end up settling on otter it really works well.
Kelly Brakenhoff 19:54
That’s good to know. That’s good to know, because a couple of years ago I tested several and I haven’t read rechecked back into it. And the last six months, it’s great. I think the one of the good benefits of the pandemic has been, how everyday people have realized that speech to text. And other, just things that we used to think of as being accessible for people with disabilities are now helpful for like everyone. And people have just come to realize that with all the Zoom meetings, and all of the the work from home solutions, so things that used to be just in the realm of special are now every day and they’re all getting better, because we all demand that they get better. So the AI captions and everything are so much better than they were even just a few years ago.
Michael Hingson 20:47
Well, and then look at that you bring a very good point to light, which is that oftentimes, there are things that we use, that when other people start to use them first of all makes them much, much more affordable. But also, that will cause them to improve a lot more than otherwise they would have look at Dragon Naturally Speaking that started out as Dragon Dictate and did okay. And now Dragon is a lot better. I don’t think that it transcribes as well as otter does in terms of plugging in punctuations, and so on. But I’m not surprised or wouldn’t be surprised if that improves over time. But when you look at what otter does, it’s pretty incredible.
Kelly Brakenhoff 21:31
It is it really is. And the What’s incredible to me is the the short amount of time that it’s gotten better. So I think that’s great. But like you said, I think I guess it’s sad to me that it takes it took a pandemic for enough people to use the tools that we’ve all been using for years to you know, demand a higher quality and a lower price. But I guess you know, if that’s one good thing that comes out of all this, and that’s great.
Michael Hingson 22:02
I think we tend to just get locked in to doing things one way and we, for whatever reason tend to be very slow at looking at other options. And you’re right, the pandemic has made a significant difference and look at how many people are using zoom as opposed to pre pandemic, yet, Zoom has been there. The other thing that we’ve noticed along the way with Zoom is that they have deliberately and absolutely focused on accessibility and inclusion. So when a person who is blind encounters a problem with zoom in something is working right. There is a process to report that and we find that very quickly, it gets resolved, because they have a whole team working on issues to make sure that Zoom continues to be very inclusive.
Kelly Brakenhoff 22:55
Yes, I agree. Because I think when we first started with Zoom, the there was no, the only way you could have captions was hiring a person to do the captions. And then once they started making them automatic and everything that that was huge. That was that was huge. That’s I’m glad to hear that they have a team doing it. And I agree, their improvements have have been amazing.
Michael Hingson 23:23
I don’t want to put zoom on the spot, but have you compared otter with, if you compare it to otter with the zoom, automatic closed captioning,
Kelly Brakenhoff 23:31
um, I have, I guess if I just stop and think about it, I think they’re pretty similar. What’s actually kind of funny is when I will do a large meeting on Zoom, where I’m one of the interpreters. So I’m one of the little heads in the Brady Bunch group of people on Zoom. So I’ll interpret for some of the deaf people in the meeting. And what I’ll do sometimes is I’ll turn on the captions because, you know, occasionally I might have a hard time hearing someone talking, or I might miss something or whatever. And so I can look at the captions and see if you know try to correct myself or, you know, check my accuracy. And yeah, so I have seen some pretty bad interpretations on our transcript on on Zoom and on otter, where things just don’t come out. Right. It’s, it’s definitely for people who speak like standard slow American English once you have any kind of an accent or any kind of, if you speak too quickly, then the captions pretty much everywhere are a lot harder to understand. But they like I said, I still think they’ve gotten a lot better, which
Michael Hingson 24:48
I only asked that just out of curiosity because I know that the service is there to do automatic transcription or captioning. And I’ve never, never asked anyone exactly how well it does, except I’ve heard that it does a good job, but I’ve never compared it to like otter or something. And I bought otter for teens. And the reason I did that is so that it is now set up and integrated with Zoom. So it automatically starts when I opened a Zoom meeting. And what I do usually is unless there’s a need to I will stop it. But it automatically starts when I come into a meeting that I that I initiate, and that’s great, because then I don’t even have to think about it. And it’s a an effort of volition if I want to stop it.
Kelly Brakenhoff 25:42
Oh, yeah, that’s great. I didn’t realize you can set it up that way. That’s awesome.
Michael Hingson 25:45
Yeah, the otter for teams. Home, I think, unless the price has changed, it was like $240 a year. And if you’re a nonprofit, or whatever, it’s half that. So it’s not even a lot of money to do it, which is what’s great.
Kelly Brakenhoff 26:00
That is That’s awesome. Well, thank you. So the more users that use things, then the cheaper the price for everyone. And I think that’s what we’re seeing now with a lot of these tools.
Michael Hingson 26:12
It is ironic that we have to go through something like a pandemic to see things become more available, and for people to start to see that maybe some of the tools that say a person who is blind or low vision, or a person who is deaf or hard of hearing uses might very well be relevant for the rest of us. I’m still amazed that in driving with people using cell phones, we don’t find more automatic use of the verbal technology voiceover for Apple and talkback on an Android, I’m surprised that we don’t see more use of those verbal systems. In the driving experience, there’s no reason not to do that, and do more to keep people’s eyes on the road. Unfortunately, we’re going the other way, we’re getting more driving experiences with touchscreens, which means somebody’s got to watch the screen, or look down and then quickly look back at the road. Why should that even have to happen today? Because we have such good voice technology. And we can also have good voice input technology to go along with it.
Kelly Brakenhoff 27:21
That’s an excellent point. That’s, that’s so true. Yes, there’s definitely you know, all the fancy touchscreens. But when I got my latest car, I had to sit in the driveway with the owner’s manual for an hour just to figure out how to reprogram the clock. So you definitely don’t want to be doing any of that while you’re on the road. Well,
Michael Hingson 27:42
if you and I, I love Tesla’s and I think that the technology is great, it is demonstrating the state of the art technology that’s out there. But it’s all controlled by a touchscreen, which means a blind passenger, I can’t even do what a passenger would do to tune the radio or turn on a podcast or turn on whatever the services are available, much less anything else, because it’s all touchscreen. And there’s no reason for that today, we should be able to keep people’s eyes more on the road. Even if you have the Tesla copilot function, which can take over a good part of the driving experience. It’s not an autonomous vehicle software, but it can help with the driving experience. People should be keeping their eyes on the road not watching a touchscreen. And I’m still amazed that we’re not seeing more people recognize the value of audio input and output.
Kelly Brakenhoff 28:36
I did not realize that I wrote in my first Tesla just a few months ago, and it was really neat, but I didn’t I guess I just assumed that they had voice input things. I mean, wow, that’s that’s really shocking. as fancy as that whole system is that is very surprising. Well, let me let me rephrase that Ilan and say, hey,
Michael Hingson 28:59
well, let me rephrase it a little bit. There is availability of voice input for some things, but it’s not an automatic process. So you have to invoke it, then you have to do something, I think to make it work every time you want to use it. What I’m saying is, it should be as much a part of the driving experience as anything else. And I’m saying it should be more part of the driving experience than using a touchscreen, it should be automatic. And we don’t do that. We’re too young to eyesight and we think that eyesight is the only game in town. Just like I’m sure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing would say that most people think that hearing is the only game in town. And in the in reality is neither is true. Exactly. I’ve said for years that I’ve said for years that people with disability, well, people who have eyesight, have their own disability and that is their light dependent. They can’t do things without light Thomas Edison as the Americans with Disabilities Back would define it developed a reasonable accommodation for light dependent people when he created the light bulb. Let’s get real, and I and I don’t have the stitches. Lee it’s true. You know, it’s it’s unfortunate that people are so locked into doing things one way that they’re missing opportunities to make driving safer. But there you go.
Kelly Brakenhoff 30:22
I love that. I love that idea. I love that idea. I think that should be used to make that a thing as a political movement. I love that.
Michael Hingson 30:31
Yeah, well, we got to get Elon to go along with it.
Kelly Brakenhoff 30:34
Well, you know, he’s kind of busy with Twitter right now. So maybe that all wrapped up, then he can he can focus his brain power on this?
Michael Hingson 30:43
Well, once he gets it set up, and if he’s gonna do Twitter, then we’ll start doing tweets. Oh, there you go. There you go. What a world we live in right now. So you said that you’ve done a lot of writing, you’ve been very much involved in writing, since college and so on. Why do you like writing so much?
Kelly Brakenhoff 31:07
Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s just how I think how I process things. It’s communication, talking to people talking to people like you. That’s just kind of how I think it’s just, just what I do is is who I am. That’s a pretty simple answer.
Michael Hingson 31:26
We’ll put Hey, it works. It works. So you said you just pretty recently got involved in starting to actually write books?
Kelly Brakenhoff 31:36
Yeah, I think it was 2014. I joined NaNoWriMo for the first time, which for people who haven’t heard of that, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s in November, where, gosh, by this day, by last year, I think it was around 750,000 people around the world, try to write 16 167 words a day for 30 days, and you come up with a 50,000 word manuscript by the end of the month. And that was signing up for that challenge was because I’m kind of competitive. So if I sign up for a challenge like that, I’m gonna do it. So that was like the thing that broke the barrier for me of just having ideas and just wanting to write and whatever and actually finishing a manuscript for the first time. That’s what kind of gave me that push to actually do it.
Michael Hingson 32:33
So what did you publish your own books? Are they published through a publisher or what?
Kelly Brakenhoff 32:38
Yes, they are. They’re self published, I tried for about a year to publish my firt, or to find an agent and all of that for my first one. And then at the same time, I was also checking into self publishing. And I don’t know I think just a lot of factors kind of all converged. And I just decided at the end that self publishing was was the way to go. I’m kind of a control freak. And I like to, I like to have the my input into how to make you know, I hire my whole team. So I have an editor and a cover designer and and proofreaders and all of that stuff. And I get to decide what the finished product ends up to be. And it turns out that, yeah, I’m kind of bossy I guess.
Michael Hingson 33:23
You have a publicist who helps with the PR, and all that. I do.
Kelly Brakenhoff 33:27
I do. It’s a it’s called creative edge is the one that I use. And, and they’ve really, I’ve really enjoyed being part of that group.
Michael Hingson 33:37
I met Mickey a couple of months ago, actually, for the first time, he was introduced to me by someone else that we interviewed on the unstoppable mindset podcast. And she said, you know, he works with a lot of authors who might very well have interesting stories for you. And so that’s how we met him. And we’ve actually started working with him as well. We’re just getting started. But having written thunder dog, which was, and we’re blessed by the fact that it was a number one New York Times bestseller, and then was published by Thomas Nelson part of HarperCollins. Now, but then we self published our second book, which was called running with Roselle, which was kind of more for youth, but more adults by it than then kids do. And it’s the story of me growing up and Rozelle growing up. And then how we met after she became a guide dog in training, and she became my guide dog, and you know, kind of went from there, but I love writing, but I haven’t done that much of it. We are starting to work on a third book, and that’ll be a lot of fun. And we just got a book contract for that as well. So that’s pretty exciting.
Kelly Brakenhoff 34:46
That’s great. Congratulations. I didn’t know that. That’s awesome.
Michael Hingson 34:51
But But I’m curious. You’ve written I guess basically what two different kinds of books children’s books and mysteries. How do you do mystery How do you come up with a plot? And how do you? Do you make it all come together? Because I think mystery writing has to be if you do it well, it has to be a real challenge to come up with a not only a plot, but create all of the scenes, do all the things that you need to do. And essentially, keep the solution hidden until the end of the book unless there’s some value in presenting that earlier. And it’s really how you get there.
Kelly Brakenhoff 35:30
Yeah, that’s a funny question. Because I definitely write in extremes. I mean, I write 70,000, word mysteries, and then I write 500, word picture books for the children’s books. So very different, very different approaches. But yeah, the mysteries and thrillers are kind of the things that I have always read my whole life. So I thought when I wanted to do that first NaNoWriMo challenge, I decided to kind of mash up all of my experiences. Like I said, I’ve lived in Hawaii and Nebraska, the East Coast, Seattle. So I kind of took all of those different elements working at a college and I put them all together into this murder mystery. And I got about two thirds of the way through and realized exactly what you said that writing a mystery is hard. It’s actually one of I think, the most difficult genres to do because exactly for the reason you said, you want to make that mystery puzzle complicated enough that it can’t be solved too early. Mystery readers are very smart people. And so it’s very challenging coming up with enough suspects and clues to keep people guessing until the end. I guess I just love a challenge. I think it’s it’s fun, but it’s also just what I love to read and write. So a read so it was kind of the most natural thing to write.
Michael Hingson 36:59
I think you just hit on it. Essentially. mysteries are puzzles and puzzles are as good as it gets. Who are your favorite mystery writers?
Kelly Brakenhoff 37:10
Oh, I have so many.
Michael Hingson 37:12
Yeah, me too. Yeah.
Kelly Brakenhoff 37:15
I think like my, you know, the ones I kind of grew up with was like Sue Grafton. So that letter A is for those Jana Ivanovic. There’s Stephanie Plum Siri
Michael Hingson 37:27
plum. Hey, come on. We all love diesel, but that’s another story.
Kelly Brakenhoff 37:30
Oh, yeah, diesel’s awesome, too. Well, I’m sure being you live. You said you live in New Jersey, right? Oh, yes. Yeah. So you’re very familiar with tenants. Definitely. Trenton definitely fun. And then I also just love like John Grisham and James Patterson and Michael Connelly. I mean, gosh, I just, that’s all. I haven’t really met very many mysteries that I didn’t like.
Michael Hingson 37:54
Yeah. My my favorite still is Rex Stout with the neuro wolf series. Oh, yeah. Yeah, they I’ve never solved any of his books before the end. And I worked at it. I love Mary Higgins Clark. But I was able to basically figure out all of the, the mean people in that before the end of the book, still, they were fun to read
Kelly Brakenhoff 38:20
is fun, right? I mean, as long as it’s a good story, even if guests are having an idea of did it by the end, as long as the character still keep you in it. And a lot of times this setting is kind of a character to then I don’t mind, you know, reading to the end to confirm that I was right. I think what’s funny since I became a writer, and I don’t know, you can tell me if this is true for yourself. But since I became a writer, an author, I kind of ruined for reading, like I read a lot. But I read now to learn and to see what when I read a really good book, I love to pick it apart and and see why it’s good. And not just the structure of it. But like if I if that paragraph was beautiful, I’ll go back and read that paragraph several times and try to figure out what is so great about that paragraph, or when someone throws a twist or a turn in or I thought I knew who it was. And then at the end, I find out it was someone else. I just love that. That thrill of like, oh, you fooled me, you know, and I really like to think about all of that. But that means that a lot of times I’m not really enjoying the book. I’m like studying the book. And so I have found that if if I really get so sucked into a book that I am not doing that, that means that it’s a really, really good book because if it took me out of my analysis into just enjoying it, then that’s a me that’s the mark of a very good book.
Michael Hingson 39:53
Sue Graf passed away from cancer did her last book ever get published? Because I don’t think she finished it, did she?
Kelly Brakenhoff 39:59
It did not odds are one of those.
Michael Hingson 40:01
Kelly Brakenhoff 40:03
yeah. The sad things. Is it never it’s, it’s not finished. I don’t even know how far she got in it. But it wasn’t finished enough to be published. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 40:12
yeah, I guess that’s kind of what happened. But her mysteries were definitely some of the best. And we read them all. And some twice, which is always fun if I if I want to read a book a second time. And I don’t have that many hours in the day that that’s easy to do. But if I want to read a book a second time, then I know that there is something about it that I must have enjoyed. And we read here, a lot of books on audio, audible and other sources. The reason we do is that instead of watching TV, we pipe books through the house, my wife has learned to listen to audio. So we listen to books together. What I’ve been occasionally finding are editor mistakes where they said something and then later on referring back something, they say something different. Somebody messed up in editing it, and I don’t see it often. But I do occasionally see it and I always find them. Which is a fun.
Kelly Brakenhoff 41:15
It is it’s i It’s funny, because, you know, even though my books are self published, I work really hard not to have those kinds of errors. Yeah, they go through an editor, at least one editor, numerous BETA readers, numerous proofreaders. And then, you know, six months after I published it all open it up, and I see a typo. And it’s like, at first I used to get so frustrated at that. And then now I saw something one time on Facebook, it was like, cheers to you, you typo you made it through three rounds of editing, 10 proofreaders and you still made it you you go, you know,
Michael Hingson 41:58
I when I was in college, we used in freshman and sophomore physics, a series of books called the Berkeley physics series, because it came out of there. And I had a dorm mate, who looked in detail at every single book, looking for a mistake, because he said a lot of books, there are editing mistakes. And he said he finally found one in one of the Berkeley physics books, but he said it was so fun looking just to see any error. And he couldn’t find them in the Berkeley physics series. It was just incredible that he spent that time. On the other hand, he was an excellent student. So I guess he learned from it as he was reading.
Kelly Brakenhoff 42:43
Have a niece who’s a doctor and they actually some textbook company paid her. I don’t know if she just got free books. Or if she actually got paid her last year of med school, they they paid her to go through the as she was going through the textbook to note down any errors that she found.
Michael Hingson 43:03
See, it’s always good to to read as much as possible and proofread as much as possible. And you’re right. There’s nothing like a good editor to help.
Kelly Brakenhoff 43:12
Right, exactly, exactly.
Michael Hingson 43:14
So how hard was it to write your first mystery? Oh, must have a lot
Kelly Brakenhoff 43:22
of courage. And it was a lot of it was a lot of I think I must have gone through 10 or 15 jobs. It took me five years to finish it, it was ugly, there was a lot of tears. But you know, you just learned so much I kind of consider it like getting a master’s degree. I just did it at home with my, my own process. But you know, I just had to learn a lot. You have to be humble, you have to be willing to accept criticism and advice from other people. But I feel like it taught me a lot. And of course, then the second book teaches you even more and the third and you know, each one you do, I think you just learn more, either about yourself or about writing. I’d love to read books about writing craft and how to do better. You know, I want every single book that I write to be better than the last. I think most authors are that way.
Michael Hingson 44:15
They get easier the more you write. That’s a
Kelly Brakenhoff 44:18
funny question, because I’m right in the middle of writing my fourth mystery right now. And I’ve been stalled for quite a while. And what it’s taught me is just about myself and my process and what I thought my process was versus what I’m finding. I thought I could speed it up, but it’s actually making me slow down. So that means that I was not speeding it up correctly. If that makes sense.
Michael Hingson 44:46
Yeah. Well, and I don’t know whether it becomes easier or not. I have been very blessed when we did thunder dog. I had someone to collaborate and help with it Susie Florrie And that happened because she actually found Me, because she was writing a book called Dawn tales, which was 17 stories about dogs who had stories. And she wanted to include Roselle in that. And she did. But as we discussed my story, she said, You should really write a book. And so we got started down that road. And I met her agent who became my agent, Chip McGregor on thunder dog. And we, we had a good time and collaborated well. And I think that there was a lot of value in that for me, because I know that I don’t have the writing experience as such. But I know what’s good when I read it. And I also know that I can add value. So we really had a very collaborative process of writing thunder dog, a lot of it is hers, and a lot of it is mine directly. And we blended the two which was great. Now with the third book that we’re getting, which is getting ready to do, which is going to talk about fear and controlling fear and people learning that they can overcome fear and not let it blind them, if you will, to being able to make decisions. The working title is a guide dogs Guide to Being brave, and I’m doing that with a friend of Susie’s Carrie, Carrie Wyatt can’t. Because Suzy is in a Ph. D. program. Yeah, we love the title. We’ll see what the publisher does. We’ve got a contract for it. We’ll see what the publisher does with it over time. But so far everybody likes it. That was a carry creation, because I was going to call it blinded by fear, which was more accurate in some senses. But I think a guide dogs Guide to Being brave is a lot better title.
Kelly Brakenhoff 46:35
Yeah, it reminds me of that one. Is it the Art of Racing in the Rain? Yeah, yeah, it kind of reminds me of something like that, where it’s it’s a little off of what the theme of the book is, but it’s still engaging, and it makes you want to know more about it.
Michael Hingson 46:54
It was a good book. And so
Kelly Brakenhoff 46:57
you said something that really resonated with me, you said, I know, it’s good when I read it. And I think that’s a big obstacle for beginning writers. And is that usually, if you’re a writer, you’re a reader first. And so I’ve read tons and tons of great books, and I know what great literature is, and I know what a great story is. And then when I write my first one, it’s not very good. So you kind of have that, that huge gap between what you know is good and what you’ve produced. And so it’s, it’s, it’s hard, you have to overcome that, that feeling of, of my stuff is really bad, you know, and then you have to work really hard to make it as good as, as you want it to be, you know, as good as it is to be able to actually share with the world, you know, to get up to that level of what your your bar is the bar that you’ve set. And so I think that’s something that stands it’s a barrier to a lot of people. And that’s where I think a good editor comes. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 48:05
Yeah. Well look at John Grisham. You mentioned earlier the first book he wrote If I recall was a time to kill but it was the third one published the first one that he wrote, and it was published was the firm and then I’m trying to remember what the second one was. Was it the Pelican Brief the Pelican Brief right? And then A Time to Kill, which was the Jake Brigantes initiator, if you will. But if you look at all of them, you can see how the the books evolved over time in his writing style. So it’s it is a natural progression. And I mentioned Rex Stout, a Nero Wolf, if you go back and read fair to Lance, which was his first book, and you compare it with especially much later writings, you can see changes, but you can see where everything is starting from and you get engaged in in fact, fair Lance was not the first mirror wolf book I read. by a longshot. It wasn’t the first, but having gone back and read it. Even though everyone in the book all the characters developed a fair amount and since then, and his writing style improved. It was engaging. Mm hmm. Well, tell me about your mystery series,
Kelly Brakenhoff 49:26
sir. Um, it’s about a college administrator named Cassandra Sato and she lives in Hawaii. She gives up her her life in Hawaii to move to Nebraska because she wants to accept her dream job at a tiny college called Morton college in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. And she and her eventual goal is to become a college administrators or college president. So she thinks this is you know, the Path is gonna get her there. But of course, moving from Hawaii to Nebraska is a very, very large cultural, cultural shift. And so she encounters all kinds of problems, discrimination, barriers, everything. And a few months into her job, a student turns up dead on campus and see has to be part of the group of people who figures out what happened to the student and then find justice.
Michael Hingson 50:28
Yeah, come on. Cassandra really did. And she’s been hiding a whole series. Yeah, that’s
Kelly Brakenhoff 50:33
the end of the series. It was Cassandra.
Michael Hingson 50:35
That will come later on about the hundreds book, right. That’s awesome. When Karen and my wife and I are talking about who did it in various books, we, we usually do things like that. We’ve been reading a lot of the JE NACHA as well, we read a chance to but the JD Robb books, the in depth series, have you read those. And so I read very many of those now, we we oftentimes will spin a story how Eve Dallas really did it. Or Roark did it and had just a lot of fun with it. But again, a great series of books is there’s a lot of sex in those books, but they’re still taking Ross. Yeah, they’re great mysteries.
Kelly Brakenhoff 51:20
Yeah, a lot of times people like the ones that I write well, obviously, I have four kids and grandkids. And my kids would cringe if I if they had to read a sex scene that I wrote. So, you know, my kids were like, high school and college age when I started writing. So I decided all the sex in my books, there’s gonna be behind closed doors, and yeah, nobody, nobody wants to have their mom. Yeah, no.
Michael Hingson 51:46
I’ve, I’ve talked to several authors who say that who, one who said I would never any more, I would never let my daughter or my wife, wife read the books, or I changed the sex so that they could read them. But the value of having them read them as they’re great critics, and so it’s worthwhile. But yeah, it is fun to to see how people react. But, you know, a mystery. Doesn’t need to have all the violence thrown at you right out in the open, which is why puzzles are so great. At James Patterson tends to be a little bit more violent, but not nearly as violent as he could be. So we we’ve always enjoyed Of course, the Alex Cross series.
Kelly Brakenhoff 52:33
Yeah, it’s there’s such a huge variety in Yeah, the violence level and all that stuff. I myself, I have a pretty vivid imagination. I don’t really need people to spell some of that stuff out for me. My mysteries are technically like cozy mysteries, which kind of means that there’s no like blood on the page. There’s no swearing, there’s no sex. So like, even you know, high school kids can read them and, and that kind of thing. So I guess that’s just, I just write what I like. So that’s only because I like to read. So that’s what I like to write.
Michael Hingson 53:12
Come on. That’s only because Cassandra is trying to hide everything, but we know the truth.
Kelly Brakenhoff 53:18
That’s right. She’s really Voldemort.
Michael Hingson 53:21
Yeah, she’s really Voldemort. Speaking of another good series of books
Kelly Brakenhoff 53:28
that’s that’s a whole different ballgame.
Michael Hingson 53:30
But but you know, looking at the Harry Potter books, again is another one where going from Book One through Book Seven, just how it evolved. And they’re so fun.
Kelly Brakenhoff 53:42
They are they’re definitely one of my I, I like all genres. So yeah, I loved Harry Potter Lord of the Rings, Narnia. I mean, you name it, it’s I thought during the pandemic that I would just read all day every day but it turns out I actually have to do other stuff too.
Michael Hingson 53:59
So I hate it when that happens.
Kelly Brakenhoff 54:02
There is no laundry fairy I hate to be the person to tell you this but there is no laundry fairy,
Michael Hingson 54:07
I haven’t found one either. And I get to do the clothes washing at our house which is fine. So for me, I love the brainless activities on Sunday. So there are three tasks that well for that I do on Sundays. It starts with doing the laundry or starting the laundry. Another is we I take the cat box out we use a litter called litter one it’s not sand, it’s all pine kernels. And you buy them and they come in a disposable box. So we just use in different new box every week. And it’s about the same as using regular sand that you buy in the in the store. But at the end of the week, you just throw the whole box out and put a new one up and the cat is very demanding when it comes time to change the box. So that happens on Sunday. I take the trash out on Sunday. And then we have a little If we do get housecleaning help during the week, Karen’s in wheelchairs, he has been in a chair her whole life. So it’s kind of hard for us to do some of those things. So we do have a housekeeper that comes on Thursdays, in fact, and today’s Thursday. So Jeanette is here, but we have a robot vacuum and I do the vacuuming again on Sunday with the robot in our bedroom, because that’s also where Alamo my guide dog sleeps. So we get all those. So those are my four tasks on Sunday. And they’re they’re all pretty brainless in a sense. So I can read while they’re going on, which is fun. And Karen is a quilter. So she’s usually in sewing. And and she’s reading the same thing I read. So it’s a question right now, who finishes which JD Robb book first?
Kelly Brakenhoff 55:44
Yeah, that is definitely the the good thing about audiobooks is being able to multitask on some of those things that you don’t have to pay so much attention to.
Michael Hingson 55:54
Tell me about your dupe the deaf dog ASL series.
Kelly Brakenhoff 55:58
Well, that is the second series that I started after I finished the mystery novels, I kind of had a moment where I realized that I, you know, I started my own publishing company. And I just had a thought, I mean, it’s kind of cliche, it was actually a dream that just came to me of like, what I could do with this publishing company, if I just kind of unleashed it. And so I came up with the idea of, of this orange, English spaniel dog who is deaf and all of the people in his or all of his family can hear. And so it’s just about different experiences that he has as the only person in a family of hearing people, and trying to get deaf and hard of hearing children to see themselves and their everyday life experiences on our pages of our books. But I also want kids who can hear to understand what it’s like to hear differently. We just finished the third book, and I’m actually actually we just finished the fourth book, the third book just came out. But the fourth book is in production right now. And I had no idea when it started, what it was going to end up being but it’s actually turned out to be more successful. And I would say even more fun than my mysteries, the mysteries are kind of like my thing that I enjoy. As far as, like you said, creating the puzzle and, and the challenge of it, but the Duke, the deaf dog ASL series, is kind of what I feel like I’m taking my 30 Whatever years of interpreting and hanging around with really cool Deaf people, and then like sharing that with the world.
Michael Hingson 57:49
So it’s not a mystery series.
Kelly Brakenhoff 57:53
No, it is not. They are picture books. So they’re only like less than 500 words. And each one is a different situation that do gets into so there’s like a different message. And each one more than 90% of children who are born deaf or hard of hearing have parents that can hear I did a lot of research to before I started the books, and there’s very few books for young children that have deaf and hard of hearing characters. Once you get into like high school age, or even beyond, there’s more books that have deaf and hard of hearing characters. But at the kindergarten, first grade age, there’s very few books. And you know, my kids had lots and lots of choices of books to read. So I feel like deaf kids did have lots and lots of choices, books that have characters like them in there. So each book has a different message like the first one was called nevermind. And the message is that everyone deserves to be included in conversations. I mean, how many times do we tell people nevermind when they ask us to repeat ourselves? Or maybe we have, like a older parent or spouse who doesn’t hear well, or even like someone who’s just a little bit slower to act, or to understand a lot of times we just get impatient and say forget it. I’ll explain later. And this book like after I published that first book, I’ve had so many deaf people come up to me and tell me stories of times when they’ve been told nevermind. And they thanked me for sharing their stories because they want hearing people to understand how hurtful those words are and what it feels to be left out. So I have a pretty long list of situations I’ve seen throughout the years that I plan to incorporate into the books and I I’m only stopped by my amount of time and and money to hire illustrators at this point.
Michael Hingson 59:55
Back to mysteries. Of course there’s the cat who series Lily and Jackson Brown and also Rita Mae Brown and sneaky pie Brown. But in thinking of the cat who books, why not have a Duke, the Duke, the deaf dog series, solving mysteries, and also deal with all the frustrations that Duke has of trying to get his humans to listen? And how he has to figure things out, not being in a hearing world himself.
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:00:27
Yeah, that’s a good thought. I’m actually like I said, I have so many ideas that it’s really limited by my time and money, but um, the picture books are more like so Duke’s a dog. Right? It’s more like he’s like a pitbull, like, they stand on their hind legs. And they kind of like even his dad wears like a tie. So they kind of are like human, but they’re dogs. But it’s a nice way to be able to show diversity and like breeds of dogs and colors of dogs and abilities and body types and stuff without actually having like different children in there. So it’s kind of like, like, I don’t know, if you remember the Mercer Mayer series, little critter. That’s kind of what I thought of, as I
Michael Hingson 1:01:13
was able to read them. Yeah,
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:01:15
that was like my, my model, I guess of who I thought of it’s like, so Duke is more just like a character, a fictional character. But I do have a couple of other ideas for series for like middle grade age kids. And those would be mysteries, and those would use some characters. I have a couple of young characters in the Cassandra Sacco series. I did a Halloween short story last year called scavenger hunt. And that two of the main characters in there were 10 year old kids. And so I think I want to do a separate series with them and have those be mysteries because I agree, I think I can incorporate a lot of the things that I know about the Deaf community and Deaf culture and ASL into a mystery, and they get kind of fun that way. And
Michael Hingson 1:02:05
it’s great that you’re using this opportunity to teach people more about deaf and hard of hearing. And not only as a culture, but as just as much an included an inclusive part of society as everyone else. I am concerned when you’re talking about do looking like a character and looking a little bit like people. I just don’t want to see a new book coming out about do the deaf dog ASL series goes to Animal Farm just saying. But Duly noted. So So you you did one of your books. As a Kickstarter campaign?
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:02:43
We did. Um, the the most recent one that just published in January, I did my first Kickstarter campaign.
Michael Hingson 1:02:51
Now why did you do that? What brought Kickstarter into it.
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:02:54
I went to this conference last fall in Las Vegas, and I met some authors who publish their books first on Kickstarter, before they release them more widely and other stores. And listening to them made me realize that Kickstarter might be a good way for me to reach new readers. The nice thing about Kickstarter, which I think you said that you’ve supported a couple of campaigns, honestly, before I had gone to this conference, I did not think starter was something I needed to do, I hadn’t really gone on there, I hadn’t pledged sponsored anybody else’s project. So I just kind of went into it blindly. But I realized that the cool thing about Kickstarter is you get to develop a direct relationship with people who want to buy your product. So in my case, it’s a book, but I’ve gone on there. And since then, I’ve supported all kinds of different projects. I’ve done a board game, and a coloring book and a purse. And I mean, there’s so many neat, creative ideas that people come up with and put them on Kickstarter, just to see. So then the the customers can come on and pledge money towards that product and say, Yes, I think that’s a great idea. The world needs that. And I’m willing to plunk down my money to pre order that thing that you want to make. And so if enough of those people say that they’ll pre order the product, then the project is successful, and it funds and then the person who listed the project goes ahead and makes it. So that’s been really exciting. But you have this direct relationship where the creator is sending you messages and keeping you updated on the progress like, okay, you know, we’re finished in publishing, you know, in the case of publishing, you say, Okay, we finished the illustration and we’re waiting for them to be printed and then I actually personally boxed everything up and mailed them to the people with personal note and some extra stickers and everything. So I think I’d really enjoy that contact with people and that communication because it goes both ways, then people can actually respond to me. If I just sell stuff on Amazon or in the local bookstore, I don’t really know who buys my, my books. And so the Kickstarter has been a really cool way to just kind of, I guess, learn more about what people want and what people like about them. And it’s kind of a neat way to have this direct relationship. It made me I funded my first project successfully, we raised $2,500, which was enough money to buy some hardcover books. In the past, I haven’t been able to afford doing those books, as a small publishers. So it’s great to be able to order those books and get those into people’s hands they came with, they’re very well done on nice thick paper with really vivid color illustrations. And then there’s photos on each page of different ASL signs. And the photos are really clear. So it was definitely worth I guess, the experience. So I’m actually going to be doing another one in July for the, for the next Duke book. But as a person, like you said, you you have a contract to do your next book. And so you get a lot of times authors will get paid in advance, this is kind of almost the same thing where I’m making this idea. And then I’m, like pre paying some of the costs that it cost to produce the book, like, you know, the illustrating, or the printing, or all the different things that are associated with making the book, it’s like a way for me to almost get like an advance except this directly coming from the customers instead of from the publishing company.
Michael Hingson 1:06:48
But I wonder if publishers have ever had, as traditional publishers have ever used it as a way to explore what people think of of a book that they’re going to be putting out? Or another way to look at it is, as you’ve been an as you went through the Kickstarter program for the first project, did you get input in any way from the people who were contributing? Or who were pre ordering the book that helped you shape any of the parts of the book that you wrote?
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:07:19
That’s a good question. i The book was pretty much finished when, before I started my project, because I wanted to shorten the length of time between when I closed the project and when I was able to deliver the books. But there are some people who are publishing books on Kickstarter, who don’t have them finished. I don’t know if you’re familiar with an author named Brandon Sanderson? Yes. Well, he did a Kickstarter in March, where he offered four secret books that no one had ever gotten to read before except his wife. So he made it into he calls it a year of Brandon Sanderson. And so every month in 2023, there’s going to be a secret book box that comes out. And people pledged money to get a book a month, or like a box a month for a year, with like, either an ebook or a physical book, or a hardcover book. I think there’s T shirts and pins and all kinds of swag. But he’s such a successful author. And he did this so well, um, his video on the, the platform was so engaging, he’s such a great guy. He’s such a great author, he has such a following that in less than a month, he raised $41 million, with 185,000 people backing his campaign. Now, to give you a comparison, I had 50 people backing my campaign. So I mean, how cool is that? Like, she brought 185,000 customers to Kickstarter and to publishing and so, you know, he’s a person who is like a hybrid author. So he has some traditionally published books and some self published books, but his little $40 million enterprise, they’re just, you know, he’s basically starting a company just to do those book boxes next year. But the funny thing is, on his Kickstarter, there was no covers like he didn’t show anything. He it they were all secret like he authors, like our fans like him so much that they just bought everything sight unseen, because they were like, well, the front and center sins are in it. I’m gonna like it. So I’m gonna pay for it.
Michael Hingson 1:09:36
Well, with 185,000 people, that’s basically a little over $100, maybe about $130 or so, or $120 or so per person, which is pretty interesting. So there’s a lot of investment and a lot of commitment for people to want to do that. So there’s a goal for you in the future. Oh, that’s right. That’s right. That’s a good goal. But I love the fact that you have really worked to engage people in that you have such a great mission of educating people about deaf and hard of hearing and that you’re trying to really help so many people, and you’re very committed to it. And that really is as good as it gets. And definitely appreciate that you’re doing that.
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:10:27
Thank you, I think it’s been really cool to, I love being an interpreter. And I love writing. And it’s been great to be able to put the two things that I love the most together, and kind of come up with this, this cause you know, that I just believe in with my whole heart. And I really think the world would be a better place if everybody just learned enough sign language to talk to their family and co workers and classmates in school. And I don’t want people to be left out.
Michael Hingson 1:10:55
And I think that’s as laudable as it gets. And I want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been doing this for quite a while the time passes, and we’re having a lot of fun with it. But I really appreciate you being here and helping us learn more about what it’s like to be unstoppable, but learning about new cultures, getting so many new ideas, and I definitely hope that you’re going to come back when you get another book published or whatever, and tell us about it. And we’d love to hear about Kickstarter campaigns and so on. So you definitely need to keep us posted.
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:11:28
I definitely Well, thank you. I didn’t realize we’ve been talking so long. But yeah, you’re just really easy to talk to. So it’s been wonderful. Thank you for for having me on.
Michael Hingson 1:11:37
Well, thank you. And again, for people listening, please reach out. Why don’t you give us all the contact information? Or how can people learn about you as well as learn more about your books and going to get them and so on?
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:11:50
Sure. Um, my books are on sale pretty much anywhere, um, the ebooks of the mysteries are exclusively on Amazon, but everything else is you can get it directly from my website, which is Kelly Brakenhoff .com. If you pretty much k e l l y b ra k e n h o f f.com. And then I’m on a lot of social media, whatever. So hit me up, come to my website. It’ll take you everywhere else that you need to go to about me. Well, Kelly,
Michael Hingson 1:12:27
thank you for being on unstoppable mindset. This has been absolutely fun and enjoyable. And I hope it is for everyone who listens. And you’re right. We’ve gone on a long time, but it’s worth it to, to hear the insights and all the things that you have brought us. So thank you for for doing this. And for all of you listening, please reach out. Love to hear what you think about this. I’m sure Kelly would love to hear as well. So reach out to both of us. I gave you my email address at the beginning but again, it’s Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or visit my podcast page, Michael hingson.com/podcast. And Michael Hingson is M I C H A E L H I N G S O N So Michael hingson.com/podcasts, and give us a five star rating. If you go there or wherever you’re listening to the podcast, I’d love to get your input. We’d love to hear what you think. And Kelly for you and anyone listening if you know of other people you think we ought to have on who have unstoppable stories to tell. We want to hear from you. So again, Kelly, for you, thanks very much for being here. And we’re looking forward to the next time we get to chat.
Kelly Brakenhoff 1:13:40
I like parts of that too. Have a great day. Thank you so much.
Michael Hingson 1:13:48
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.