Putting Together a Book — How To Get Stories From Strangers

How I went out and found stories to tell.

Just because you have a good idea does not mean that people will magically find you and present you the stories you want.

I’ve been told by everyone who has heard about it that my book idea is amazing and necessary and courageous (I don’t believe it is on my part — it is courageous and brave of the ones who are allowing me to put their stories in it).

But even though everyone seems to think it’s a great idea, most of them are not sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment with me.

I get it. It’s a difficult topic to write about and share, I am a stranger to many of them, and here I am asking them to share their darkest moments and pull them out, examine them, write about them, and then give them away to someone. I am asking them to trust me with their secrets, which are no longer secret.

It started as a trickle.

I received a few stories from people whom I know in real life, who wrote down their stories and are allowing me to publish them. Some chose to use pseudonyms for anonymity, some are using their real names.

I continued sharing on social media and asking for people to retweet. Honestly asking for their stories and promising to treat them with respect.

I received a few more — from complete strangers. A few from people on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, some from others sharing it.

I started getting a couple stories from men.

I got some international stories, from places like Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

I thought it was picking up steam.

I just wasn’t getting enough stories to make into a book yet.

Then I got proactive.

Instead of just sharing my idea and asking for stories, I wrote and published an article about it in Thrive Global in order to get a wider audience.

Then I used that article as a way to show others I was serious about the project.

I combed through the #metoo tag on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. I found stories people shared and I contacted them directly.

I introduced myself and explained the project and that I was looking for stories. I asked for permission to share their stories.

Some said no, and that’s okay. No one is under any obligation to share their trauma with me simply because I ask them to.

Many said yes. Many wrote their stories in their own words, added information about healing and support, told their stories in graphic detail, sometimes so graphic I couldn’t help but tear up at what they have gone through and survived. What they have overcome to thrive in life now.

I understand why some people may not want to be involved, and I appreciate them sharing their stories their own way.

I have received stories from people who demand to use their real name, who want to call out their attackers and put a face to them.

I’ve received stories from people who never knew their attacker’s names. From people writing it down for the first time. From people who have been irrevocably changed because of their assault.

I went into this project knowing that the conversation must continue and thinking I might possibly be able to help the cause, help these people, open eyes and hearts of readers seeing these stories, how it can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Instead, I have been changed. I have been deeply affected by these stories and the brave people who are not only willing to share, but want to be a voice in helping stop future attacks.

People who are scared, but they do it anyway. The very definition of bravery and courage.

People who refuse to stay silent anymore, refuse to be a part of our society that blames the victims and tries to keep them quiet.

I am so very proud of those who entrust me with their stories. I promise I will not let you down.

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store