Stories that Make Music (Featured Authors)

April Featured Authors Blog Header

April’s Featured Authors bring a little music to our blog! This month we are highlighting stories of musicians and artists. From a Californian street musician to a prodigious drummer’s biography, Lulu’s April Featured Authors are sure to have you tapping your toe along to the beat.

Katie Ferrara

First up is Katie Ferrara. Katie is a singer/songwriter and street performer who has been working in LA for over 10 years. Her book, Stories from the Street, started as an additional gift for her Kickstarter backers, but as she worked on the book, it became its own unique look at her art and experiences.

The book uses Katie’s experiences and personal stories to build a deeper connection with her fans, while also offering inspiration for entrepreneurs. Through her stories, Katie offers insight into the traits a performer needs. And the common advice all aspiring musicians, artists, and creators need to hear as they grow their craft.

Stories From The Street  By Katie Ferrara

Stories from the Street By Katie Ferrara

Stories from the street is a collection of 14 stories developed from the personal diary of singer-songwriter Katie Ferrara about her experience “busking” (or street performing) to pursue her dreams of traveling the world as a working musician. The book features some of the obstacles Katie faced as a busker and how she overcame them. Among the story settings are Katie’s favorite locations in LA such as the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, Melrose Trading Post, Downtown Burbank, and various farmer’s markets. The author also tells of her travels to the UK and Italy in 2016, where she performed her first European festival in the city of Ferrara, which coincidentally shares her name. If you are a musician, an entrepreneur, or anyone who is looking for an adventurous and inspirational story about achieving success, read this book!

Check out our Facebook Live Featuring Katie’s book:

Full Transcript of our interview with Katie Ferrara:

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a street performer and singer/songwriter from Los Angeles. I’ve been playing music for over 10 years on and off and have been doing music as a career for the last 5 years. It hasn’t been an easy journey

Any fun facts you’d like your readers to know about you?

I love cats and cooking food with lemons.

What inspired you to publish this book?

I started my music career as a street performer and wanted to share my experience traveling around LA and abroad. I also thought it would be interesting for fans to have a glimpse of my personality because it’s hard to get to know an artist just from their Spotify page or website. With so much music being released these days, what really sets an artist apart from the crowd is their story and personal connection to fans.
I also wanted to inspire creatives and entrepreneurs to follow their dreams using the stories. There are things I’ve learned from street performing that have not just been applicable to music but too many different aspects of my personal life-how to be patient for example, how to listen, be kind, help people, how to not give up, how to ask for help, etc.. These are all skills that anyone pursuing their dreams needs to master.

Tell us about the creation process and self-publishing process of this book.

The book cover design is actually a drawing based off of a photo by Fabio Furlotti who is a   photographer from Parma, Italy. He took that iconic photo of me while I was playing at the Ferrara Buskers Festival a couple of years ago. Ferrara is a city in Italy which also happens to be my last name. It was a very special experience for me to be able to play at that festival and spend some time in Italy. I wanted the cover to be inclusive to my fans. Fabio has supported my music so much and it was special to use his image in the making of the book. My graphic designer Ian Branch, ( who I use for all my album covers)  turned the photo into a drawing and came up with the writing style. I wanted something that had elements of travel on the cover.
The chapters were organized based on the order of my experiences. Every time I would busk, I would go to a café and write what I did that day on my iPad. Later on, I came up with titles for each short story as I went back and summarized my free writing. I wanted to call the book “Stories from the Street” because for the past 3 years the street had been my stage for performing.
Originally, I was only intending to write 10 pages worth of short stories as part of a Kickstarter reward for my 1st EP. I ended up going overboard and writing about 100 pages.

What advice do you have for aspiring performers?

My advice would be to follow your own path whatever that may be and don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing in the industry whatever that may be. In the LA music scene and some of the big cities especially, there is a lot of pressure on social media to be posting that you are constantly doing something. You have to go to tons of shows, submit high-quality music videos, get expensive production done, etc.. You have to follow a traditional artist path where you are paying so many different people to boost you to fame and stardom. This isn’t sustainable.  I think if you are going to be successful in music or in any creative field, you have to find a way of making money that is UNIQUE TO YOU.
I’m not saying everyone should become a busker and do what I did. In fact, many people who read this book will probably do that.  My point is that everyone’s journey is going to be different and you can copy what everyone else is doing or find something that works for you and STICK WITH IT. They key is being committed to your craft and being happy. Your happiness will spread like wildfire and people will catch on.

Anything you’d like to share with your readers about what it was like writing about your own experiences?

I have to say that I feel more confident in myself because after writing this book I can look back on the last few years of my life and feel like I accomplished a lot. I see where I am now and can tell that I’ve grown so much as an artist. When I was writing about these experiences,  it was also like I was reliving these moments again and again in my mind. It brought me a lot of understanding of who I am as a person. Separating my thoughts and feelings onto a page, much like songwriting, helps me navigate what’s really going on in my head.

Do you have any plans to publish more books?

I definitely have plans to publish 2-3 more volumes of these books. I wanted to release this first volume of stories to see what my fans would think and figure out what kind of an audience I have.
I’ve traveled to so many new places in the last 2 years that it’s time to start writing again! As soon as I finish my album release I will start working on volume 2!

Where can people keep up with you?

The best place to keep up with me is at
🎶 Facebook and IG @katieferraramusic

Matthew Ratzlaff

Next, we have Matthew Ratzlaff. A Canadian author, Matthew loves to hear people’s life stories. In his book, Whale: The Oral History Of Canadian Drumming Prodigy Ryan Loerke, Matthew records his interviews with drummer Ryan Loerke. A prodigious musician and artist, Loerke’s story are one of triumph and tragedy.

Whale encourages anyone and everyone to find and follow their passions, to have a vision of what that passion looks like, and to be persistent and patient in pursuit of your dreams. Telling the story through interviews brings us closer to Loerke and shines a brilliant light on this spirited musician.

Whale: The Oral History Of Canadian Drumming Prodigy Ryan Loerke

Whale: The Oral History of Canadian Drumming Prodigy Ryan Loerke By Matthew Ratzlaff

In 2003, in the quiet vacation city of Kelowna, British Columbia, eighteen-year-old Ryan Loerke jumped at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to drum professionally for major label-signed rock band Stutterfly. Over the next decade, Ryan would embark on a spirited journey with Stutterfly, Secret & Whisper, and other musical ventures that seemed destined for stardom. He would play big stages in the States and Japan, shoot music videos, get supplied with industry-leading drum endorsements, and experience the highs and lows of fighting to stay alive in the America-dominated alternative music industry.

Check Out Our Facebook Live Featuring Matthew’s Book:

Full Transcript of our interview with Matthew Ratzlaff:

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am originally from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada (where Ryan Loerke (pronounced LER-kee), the subject of my book, currently lives) but am currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba with my wife Emily and cat Georgie where I work in the mental health field.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am originally from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada (where Ryan Loerke (pronounced LER-kee), the subject of my book, currently lives) but am currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba with my wife Emily and cat Georgie where I work in the mental health field.

Any fun facts you’d like your readers to know about you?

During my undergrad Psychology degree in Vancouver, BC, I was a volunteer writer and photographer for UBC’s independent student newspaper The Ubyssey and a highlight was when I got to interview Anthony Gonzalez, the singer and primary writer of the well-known French electronic rock band M83. During our postgraduate degrees, my wife and I lived in Dublin, Ireland for five years and took advantage of the cheap Ryanair flights to do short trips all over Europe. In Summer 2018 I survived my first Olympic-length triathlon in Manitoba. We live in Winnipeg, which has one of the largest annual temperature fluctuations of any city on earth, in the winter the frozen Red River has the world’s longest outdoor ice skating path, and Winnipeg is what Winnie the Pooh is named after.

What inspired you to publish this book?

I have always enjoyed talking with others about their life stories and I’ve been fortunate in my life to encounter some very talented and interesting people. Prior to this book (Whale: The Oral History of Canadian Drumming Prodigy Ryan Loerke [Lulu Press, 2018]), I did a shorter interview-style book with a relative of mine called The Width of a Piece of Paper: A Young Man’s Experience as a Care Aide for People with Mental Disabilities (Lulu Press, 2013). This was a very fulfilling experience, and the interview-style format (“oral history”) seemed to work well. I thought about who else I knew that I could interview for a book, and my prolific drummer friend Ryan Loerke (of Secret & Whisper, Spiritbox, Shreddy Krueger, and many more) came to mind.
Over the years Ryan had casually told me many stories about his life as a professional rock musician and the realities of life on tour and trying to stay alive in the competitive music industry. He was willing to carve time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about the highs and lows of his whole drumming career, and Whale was the end product! It showcases Ryan as not only an incredibly talented and dedicated drummer who rose to prominence from a small Canadian city but also as a very honest, funny guy who is a great role model for other aspiring musicians.

Tell us about the creation process and the self-publishing process of this book.

I had a good experience using Lulu Press to make my first book (The Width of a Piece of Paper), and so I confident to use them again for Whale. Because I do these books as a hobby, using Lulu allowed me to have full creative control and to go at my own pace.
The title of the book (Whale: The Oral History of Canadian Drumming Prodigy Ryan Loerke) is admittedly a bit of a mouthful! “Whale” was chosen as the main title because during our conversations, Ryan used that word frequently to describe his hard-hitting drumming style (ie, “whaling” on the drums). For the subtitle, “oral history” refers to the transcribed interview style of the book, and “Canadian drumming prodigy” was fitting because Ryan’s exceptional musical talent launched him into the professional drumming arena at the young age of 18 years old.
The chapters are arranged to follow the progression of his musical career in a roughly chronological order. I was able to include lots of black-and-white photographs, artwork, and other images (all with permission) throughout the chapters which really brings to life Ryan’s experiences that we discuss. At the start of the book I include a preface where I share my experience of growing up as a fan/observer in the Kelowna music scene that birthed Ryan’s professional career. I also include a handy reference table that includes a summary of all of Ryan’s main band projects, recordings, and band mates that appear throughout the book.  
The book cover design was fun and I tried to capture the raw energy of Ryan’s live drumming with the photographs and angular font. The photograph of Ryan on the front cover, passionately whaling on the drums and hair flying, was taken during one of his music video shoots for his rock band Secret & Whisper, and there was a convenient space at the top of the image to fit the book title. The back cover includes a color photo of Ryan’s band Secret & Whisper at the pinnacle of their career on stage in front of over 20,000 screaming fans at the Loud Park Festival in Japan and hopefully entices readers to want to open the book and find out more.

What advice do you have for aspiring journalists?  

While I am only a hobby journalist, in my experience so far I can say that we all have people around us with amazing stories to tell if we show interest and are willing to listen. The old adage “start with what you know” is definitely relevant for journalism. If you are connected to certain people in your community who have had unique experiences or intensely dedicated themselves to something, that’s a great place to start. It also helps if you the journalist are somewhat familiar with or passionate about the topic (such as me growing up in the same vibrant local music scene in Kelowna as Ryan Loerke), as it will enrich your lines of questioning and make the reading more interesting and “alive” to your audience.
It definitely helps to have a vision for your project and a rough outline of what you want to cover. But with journalism, especially when you’re doing a book-length project, it’s good to be flexible and allow for surprises. For example, with Whale there were many times where my conversations with Ryan took unexpected turns or we had moments of spontaneous humor that helped the book take on a life of its own. I the author am learning new things about Ryan along with the reader, and what is important for Ryan to talk about sometimes isn’t what I myself had quite envisioned, but that’s OK!|
Lastly, it’s good to aim high with your journalism project, but keep it within your means. Make sure you and your interviewees are enjoying the process as you work towards the final product, and pace yourself, as it can be very time-consuming and emotionally exhausting. Put in the extra effort to make your project understandable and accessible to your readers so that they can feel like excited participants in your story. Make use of all resources you have available to you, including other people familiar with your topic, as it will make your final project that much more credible, well-rounded, and interesting.

Anything you’d like to share with your readers about your experience gathering these interview-style stories?

This Whale project was definitely a labor of love, but I had a really fun time along the way. I did about 35 hours of recorded interviews all over video chat with Ryan Loerke about his musical career between 2015 and 2017, which I then transcribed myself using free audio programs (such as ExpressScribe). Each hour of interviews takes about 3 hours to transcribe, so you can do the math! I then edited the script and shuffled around some topics to make it as readable as possible. The audio file for our first-ever interview unfortunately crashed, so later on we had to redo that interview material (thanks Ryan!). I reached out to a lot of photographers, band mates, and family of Ryan to gather photographs and other art for the book, and I was so impressed and grateful for how many people replied to me and were willing to share their material for the book. But my favorite memory of gathering these stories is simply all the time I got to spend getting to know Ryan better and how much we laughed and reminisced about our experiences with music and how much that shaped who we are today. I was sad when our visits were over!

Do you have any plans to publish more books?

I would love to do more books in the future, whether interview-style or otherwise, when I’m able to dedicate the time to it. Being creative is a really important part of my sense of fulfillment in life and who I am, so I’ll definitely keep at it. For now I’ve just been enjoying having Whale finished and some of the local promotion we were able to do for it in Kelowna, BC. In addition to releasing the book through Lulu Press (paperback and ebook), in Summer 2018 Ryan and I were able to have the book made available through Mosaic Books (a local independent book store) and Kelowna’s regional library, as well as do a really fun book launch event and get some promotion of the book through local TV, radio and print media.

Where can people keep up with you?

Right now I have a fairly low profile online, but my email is included in my author profile in the book and readers are welcome to contact me if they have any questions or comments. If anyone likes the book, please rate it and comment in the Lulu website and tell your friends about it! Keep an eye out on the Lulu Press website, as I’m sure I’ll use them again for any future self-published books. And if you’re into heavier music like rock and punk, please check out some of Ryan Loerke’s awesome musical projects (eg, Secret & Whisper, Shreddy Krueger, Spiritbox) on iTunes or YouTube!
If possible, it would be awesome if you could do a quick shout-out for his metal band Spiritbox. In February they released a new single “Belcarra” and their 2017 self-titled album is available through their Facebook page.
Here are links to others of Ryan’s recent music projects in case you wanted to include them in your Facebook post:

♫ Count Me In – “How’s Your Heart, Kid?” (2018):

♫ Yard Sale – “Focus on the Better Things” (2018):

♫ Shreddy Krueger – “Deeper Darker” (2016):

If you’d like to find some more amazing authors,
check out our complete Featured Author Series:

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