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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Madeline Bocaro talks about being inspired to write about the life and work of Yoko Ono.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Madeline Bocaro about her life and career, her love of Yoko Ono, and the work that went into her new book, In Your Mind, The Infinite Universe Of Yoko Ono.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a passionate fan of music. I am a story-teller, sharing my insights and personal experiences with artists and musicians who are very important to me, and to history. They need to be remembered. I like to spark nostalgic memories for those who were there, and introduce the artists’ work to new fans.
After a brief career of writing for publications (and later retiring from day jobs) my writing became more frequent. I created a music blog (madelinex.com) and a book.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Yoko Ono has always been misunderstood because of perpetual mistruths. I felt that it was my responsibility to share her extraordinary life story. I have spent many precious moments with Yoko (we were pen-pals at first). She loved the fact that I understood her completely. She was happy to talk with me about her life and her important work. Writing a book was the best way to tell Yoko’s true story, which goes way beyond what most people know. I wanted to convey her positivity, grace, humor and kindness.
As a child in the 1960s, I completely identified with Yoko and her interactive art, which includes us all. This is the first book to include everything; her ancestry, childhood, art, films, writings, activism, feminism and insights to all of her music.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When I was a child, I published a monthly newsletter for the neighbors on my block. We had an interesting bunch of weird characters living there. I enjoyed writing about these people. The adults thought it was cute. I remember having an Obituary section, listing the deaths of Scooter the gerbil and Peppy the dog. I had written music reviews for some publications in the late 1970s. I started my music blog in 2002.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It would have been daunting to begin writing a book about Yoko from page one. It took a lifetime of unwittingly compiling her life story since I was ten years old in 1968. When I realized that my compilation of writings was enough for a book. It took about three years to flesh out and organize.
What made you want to write In Your Mind, The Infinite Universe Of Yoko Ono?
My book includes an abundance of detail and insight which could only come from growing up loving and understanding Yoko. We can all learn from her relentless positivity and effective healing methods (her survival mechanisms for dealing with extreme, undeserved negativity).
The love story of John and Yoko also needed to be told. People need to know why John Lennon loved Yoko above all else. They both understood the power and responsibility of celebrity. They always told the truth. Individually, they were extremely lonely, suffering and misunderstood artists. These two fragile people came together and saved each other. Together they were strong and invincible. They included us all in their story, and tried to save the world (a task that was much too big for them to handle). They were only together for twelve years, although it seemed much longer.
What were your biggest challenges with writing In Your Mind, The Infinite Universe Of Yoko Ono?
There were no challenges, because I did it completely on my own. Quickly realizing that I could not work with a publisher, I maintained complete control. Many publishers said that my subject (one of the most famous women in the world) was too eclectic. They would have restricted it from 550 pages, to only 250. I could not cut Yoko’s long, important life story in half.
Now my challenge is self-promotion. The book is doing well. I would have to sell 1,000 books in order to afford a publicist. I have sold almost that many on my own. The Beatles community has been very supportive, along with many of Yoko’s colleagues.
What was your research process for In Your Mind, The Infinite Universe Of Yoko Ono?
I have always known the importance of Yoko’s work. It was just a matter of compiling what I already knew.
A great deal of her own words are included, from published media sources in my vast archive. I can recall when Yoko had spoken about her life and work, and grabbed her quotes from various media in my collection (obscure and popular print, news and audio interviews, and her social media). I included Yoko’s own voice because she is always eloquent, poignant, observant and at times very funny. Most journalists did not allow Yoko to speak much about herself. They mostly asked her questions about John or the Beatles.
Not wanting to base anything upon speculation, I did not conduct interviews. The “talking heads” are only Yoko and John, their son Sean and a few others (all from published interviews) undeniably debunking all the mistruths with facts. They include Pete Townshend speaking of Yoko’s influence. He sees her as an agitator, a revolutionary, using peaceful techniques to shock us into a reaction, with a constant desire to save the world. Phil Spector is quoted, talking about the deep love between John and Yoko.
Paul McCartney’s little-known part in reuniting Yoko with John after their separation, and his words about his own relationship with Yoko after John’s death are invaluable. I assembled these perfectly fitting puzzle pieces to tell a true and cohesive story.
How did you plan the structure of In Your Mind, The Infinite Universe Of Yoko Ono?
The book is a collection of short stories I had written, some articles for publication and others to explain Yoko’s art, films and music to friends and fans. When I realized that I had enough material for a book, I organized it in a creative manner. It flows in a way that is not obviously chronological, but tells Yoko’s life story in a beautiful way.
It’s the first book that talks about all her music – every song. Rather than lump it all in one discography, I placed each album in her story when it was released, as each one has significance during different times in her life.
I enjoy biographies written by fans, rather than complex intellectualizations by analytical critics, researchers, professors or historians. My style is straightforward—illuminating Yoko’s personality and spirit. (Yoko communicated in very simple language, almost like haiku). Readers are finding Yoko’s cosmic consciousness uplifting and healing.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did In Your Mind, The Infinite Universe Of Yoko Ono need?
Wanting to maintain integrity, I edited on my own. I had several one-off sample books printed. Editing on paper was much easier, until I finally got it right. The fact that each chapter is a short story was more manageable than if it had started as the 550-page book that it became.
I broke a lot of rules, which readers find refreshing. You can see their amazing comments on the website inyourmindbook.com
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Do it yourself. Publishers are short-sighted and restrictive. There are many easy ways to self-publish today. You will also retain all the rights to your work. Most people will need an editor. It’s rough editing alone.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Perhaps I will answer the call of my readers, who are asking me to compile the material on my blog (concert and album reviews, musings about my life as a fan of music). Right now, I’m busy promoting the Yoko book, which is my mission in life!
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
“Yes, definitely.” is my answer to both questions. It is amazing that I accomplished this on my own. I don’t know where the drive and ability came from. Maybe divine intervention?
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