The end of the blog but not the journey

Recently I was talking with a friend about what to do with the Ana’s Miracle Blog. I mentioned I only posted 11 times last year and that I felt like I didn’t have as much to say as I used to.

He asked me, “How long does a blog need to go on?”

It was a question that hit me in the face like a frying pan (or maybe just a water balloon.) Internet culture dictates that a blog should go on indefinitely, but does that need to be the case? I realized that maybe it was alright to stop updating this blog.

Why I created this Blog

I created this blog back in 2007 to help my mother as she wrote her book Missing Mila, Fining Family. The book was publish last fall and she ended up using several of my entries. Mission accomplished!

The blog was also an experiment of sharing the story online. I knew the internet was a powerful medium and I wanted to tap into it. While the blog never gain a huge following, (and thats ok!) it did connect me with a few very important people. I have come to realize that the blog wasn’t about being connected to thousands of people, but connecting with people who shared a deep interest in the story.

It’s All About The Connections

Thanks to the blog I was reconnected with John Younger who was my very first camp counselor over 20 years ago. Over the past 15 years we has been working as a TV and Film producer. In the fall of 2010 we decided to work on a documentary film together, called Identifying Nelson/Buscando A Roberto. We are still working on the film but I have come to realize that it is the next iteration of sharing my family’s story. The reception we have gotten so far has been pretty remarkable. We have gotten some good press, several speaking engagements, and a greater interest in my mother’s book.

I feel like the journey of sharing this story is, in many ways, just beginning. It’s like throwing a stone into water. It makes waves that carry on for sometime, which are invisible when you start. I am very excited to see where all the ripples take us.

What to do with the blog?

Internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver often talks about the idea of digital bread crumbs. Digital content that we leave behind for people to find and learn about who we are. In that spirit I’ve decided to not to delete the blog but just to stop updating it. It is my hope that this site becomes a bread crumb that will lead people back to me, the book, and the film.

I want to thank everyone who has read my words over the past couple years. Writing here has been an incredibly moving and rewarding experience. If you are just finding this site I please feel free to reach out to me and check out our other projects.

“Losing ones family obliges us to find our family. Not always the family that is our blood but the family that can become our blood” ~ Sean Connery in Finding Forester

Missing Mila, Finding Family: An International Adoption in the Shadow of the Salvadoran Civil War.

Identifying Nelson/Buscando A Roberto

Back from El Salvador, overwhelmed, excited and exhausted.

Update: This was originally posted April 5th, on Kickstarter but since not everyone gets those updates I’m reposting it here.

John Films/Directs an interview

Wow, what an amazing week. When John and I first started this project we had no idea what to expect. In fact, after completing kickstarter in the Fall, we debated a lot about the best way to start this project. Then about a month and a half ago I received an email from Pro-Busqueda telling me about the Day of The Disappeared in March. John and I weren’t sure what to expect but we knew we had to be there.

This week has been beyond anything either of us could have imagined. For 7 days, we met other disappeared youth and their families. We talked with government officials including the president of El Salvador and the first lady. We interviewed survivors from the war who told us personal stories of suffering and loss. It was an emotional roller coaster.

Amazingly, despite all the terrible things that have happened to this country and its people, there is still so much beauty. The strength and courage of the people who live here is unbelievable. While many remain skeptical about the possibility of long term change, their view of what happened is remarkable.

I was floored when a survivor of one of the bloodiest massacres in all of Central America said to me: “Maybe I have suffered more than others, maybe others have suffered more than me, but what’s important is finding the missing children.” This is coming from someone who as an 11 year old child witnessed his entire village wiped out and then was tortured by military forces. He is not bitter or angry. All he wants is for the disappeared to be found.

John and I know that the footage we got was special. These stories are truly amazing and deserve to be heard. Our initial reaction was to post the videos online, as soon as we got home, so you could see for yourself. However I’m not sure if this does the stories justice.

One thing I have learned from John is that the way you introduce people is important. We want to make sure everyone understands the significance of what was said and it is presented in the best way possible. This of course means sitting on the footage while we sort through it, clean it up and edit it.

Balancing the editorial process with the excitement we both have for getting these stories out there is hard. From the start, we wanted this project to be as open and transparent as possible. All of our footage would be online right now if we thought it was the best way to approach the subject matter. As we work on the next steps we will be looking for creative ways to share our experiences and footage with you. I’m not sure what form that will take but we will let you know as soon as we can.

The Hardest Question to Answer: What’s next?

Funding Graph

After an amazing ending to our Kickstarter project, people have been asking me “What’s next?”.

It’s a great question and a hard one to answer. How do we keep up the momentum and gain more support for our project? Films are typically done with little or no interaction from the outside world. Is there a way we can include everyone in the making of this film?

We would love to make the filming process as interesting and engaging as possible. This is something John and I have been talking about at length. We have some ideas about how to accomplish this. For example we want to broadcast as many of our interviews as we can over the internet. This allows everyone to watch and ask questions during each interview. We might do this in a type of web series. We are still trying to figure out what the format of this type of show would be.

I wish I had more of a concrete idea about all of this, but I think this is part of the process. This type of interactive filmmaking is a very new concept, and it’s hard to say what the correct approach should be.

Looking for ideas

Keeping to the ideals of the project, we would love to hear your feedback about any aspect of this project. What would you like to hear about? What would you like to be part of? What parts of the story are most interesting to you?

I’ve talked with friends about everything from what the web series would look like to a music score or the film. If you have some ideas or questions I would love to hear them. Please feel free to contact myself or John if you want to talk about anything.

A Week in El Salvador

This week I’m in El Salvador visiting family. I’m going to go through old family photos and build a list of people to interview. It’s been really interesting reconnecting with everyone. I even learned that my grandfather helped build the Panama Canal!

I’ll have more thoughts and photos from my trip in the next couple days. Hope everyone is doing well and is getting excited for the holidays.

Becoming One Family Video: An Emotional Interview With My Sister and Adoptive Mother

In August (I say May in the video but it was really August) my older sister Eva came to visit. I sat down with her and my adoptive mother Margaret to talk about how we became one family. It was a really powerful and emotional conversation. They talk very openly about their feelings and what it was like getting to know each other.

This was the first interview we did for the documentary film I’m working on. If you enjoyed this video check out our project page on kickstarter.

Watch me speak at#140conf LA

Just a reminder that on October 5th at 3:40pm I will be speaking at the #140 Character Conference in LA. I’l be sharing our story and talking about the documentary film. The event will be broadcast live you so you can watch me and all the other great speakers.

Speaking at #140conf Boston: Thank You Everyone for Your Support!

Image by Steve Garfield

On Tuesday I spoke at the #140conf in Boston. It was an amazing event. I shared my family’s story about how we were separated during El Salvador’s civil war and our journey to reunite. I also talked about how we are using social media and the web to bring our story to more people. I hope to have a video of it for those of you who weren’t able to attend.

The response and feedback from the talk was overwhelming at first. It’s always been our dream to share this story with the world and getting such a strong reaction was so encouraging. Thank you to everyone who came up after to talk with me. It was great meeting all of you and your kindness means the world to us.

Check out the Identifying Nelson page to learn more about the film and how we are using social media. You can also pre-order the DVD on kickstarter.

Here are some of the talks I enjoyed the most.

The Rock Star Panel

It was every interesting to hear this group. I drew a lot of parallels between what we are doing and what they are doing. In some ways we both entertain people. I’m not sure that’s the best way to describe what our family’s story is about, but they are similar.

The most interesting thought was by Ted Cohen (@spinaltap) who said something to the effect of “I tell the artist that it’s not just about one spike in attention and that you have to manage it and keep it going.” This is so true. You can’t just get a little attention and call it a day. You need to build on it and keep it rolling!

Crowd Sourcing Cancer

This was another emotionally charged talk. Alicia C. Staley (@stales) had just lost two friends to cancer and was understandably broken up. I’m so glad that she decided to talk and share her story.

What was interesting to me is that she is in a similar and yet different position as me. We are both trying to share our stories and connect with people. The difference is that there are many other people who related to her experiences. The challenge for me has always been that there are only a handful of people who have experienced what I have. I don’t have that community to turn to, so I have to find people who connect with the story in different ways.

Look for Work

I thought Chris Brogan‘s (@chrisbrogan) most profound thought had nothing to do with social media. He said “Look for work, not jobs.” I think he nailed it with that statement. This puts the responsibility back on you. You have to go out there and look for meaningful ways to provide value. We can no longer expect someone to tell us what to do.

What Were Your Favorite Talks?

AJ Leon (@ajleon) wrote up his favorites in a post Humanity, Serendipty. What were yours?

Financing the Dream: Using Kickstarter to Make it a Reality

Exploring Our Options

Making a documentary is no small task, both financially and work wise. It was clear from the start that this project would require a capital investment if it was going to reach the level John and I dreamt of. While the price of video equipment continues to fall, it is still out of reach for most people. Since neither John nor I are independently wealthy, we were going to need to find a way to raise some money. But, where to look?

Traditionally we had few options. We could find some big investors in the TV or film world. John knows and has worked with organizations that might be interested in our story, but that might mean giving up some control. Neither of us like that too much since our goal for the project was to open source it on some level. We could try to pay for it ourselves but that might drag the project out as we scraped together the funds. Thankfully in today’s world, there are better options.

The Kickstarter Revolution is a web site that crowd sources funding of art related projects. Instead of getting a few people to give a lot of money you have a lot of people give a little money. I love this idea because it really takes advantage of the distributed and viral nature of the web. It opens up a whole new dimension of funding to independent projects.

We Are Live!

Over the past month, John and I have been working to apply to kickstarter and get our project idea together. We’ve worked tirelessly over the past few days to get ready. I’m proud to announce that our page is live!

Please check it out and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating to the project that would be awesome, but don’t feel obligated. Even more valuable than money is that you share this project with others. Maybe you aren’t in a position to help (I completely understand whats that’s like), but someone else might be. Spreading the word will help us make the dream come true.