Good ideas come along on a pretty frequent basis, only to fall prey to fear of the unknown. You are excited to understand and implement your idea, but are afraid and unsure of how to begin. From something as simple as reupholstering a chair to the complicated process of protecting your intellectual property, any task can be daunting without a little savvy on the subject. Here, experts dispel the mystery and share advice on accomplishing a few things you’ve always wondered about.

How to Publish Your Own Book

If you’ve ever had a great story idea that you’d like to see in print but feel the stress and high stakes of the conventional publishing world may not be for you, self-publishing can be a viable alternative.

 Finding a publishing service is just the first step. Jerry Hanel, author of the Brodie Wade series, says that in addition to choosing a service, in today’s rapidly shifting world of technology, it’s important to wisely choose a format: e-book or paper. Royalties differ for each.

 “Whichever services and media formats you choose, you will want to make sure that you get a fair royalty for your work,” Hanel says. “No matter what, and I can’t stress this enough, never pay to have your work published. Anyone who can’t help you sell through the existing royalty system is most likely just taking your money.”

 Hanel says that when the time comes for you to invest financially in your self-published book, some aspects are worth the money. “While I’m all about doing things on the cheap, there are two areas where I’ve learned to never skimp,” he says. “First, hire a talented editor that specializes in editing for the genre of your story. Second, hire a great cover artist that is respected in your genre. While those two things won’t guarantee you success, having a poorly edited book or poor cover art is the sure death knell for an indie author wanting to break into this very crowded market.”

How to Reupholster a Chair

It’s ripped. It’s stained. It smells like old food. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of that beloved chair. Instead of chucking it, breathe new life into it with a quick reupholstering.

“First thing I do when I start a piece is to photograph front, back and sides of the chair,” says Tony Brown of Antique Restorations Inc.

 After taking pictures from all angles, Brown advises to remove the chair’s fabric carefully – using the old fabric as a pattern for the new can save a lot of time and trouble – before removing the foam and checking any webbing on the frame for tightness.

 Next, put on new seat foam and wrap it in dacron to shape it. Brown says the same procedure is used on the back of the chair as on the seat.

To put the finishing touch on your favorite chair, Brown advises to “lay out old fabric on new fabric and cut and apply it to the chair with a staple gun. Then apply gimp, cording or nails for trim and to cover staples.”

How To Move Overseas

Newfound artistic insights could be displayed by moving overseas. But you “can’t just show up,” an anonymous Oklahoma attorney explains.

“You need to understand what the country requires in the sense of visas,” the lawyer says. “Many countries nowadays, after 9/11 particularly, require them for the same reason the U.S. does.”

If you have a future overseas home in mind, the consular offices and embassy would be able to answer all questions about moving to their particular country, the lawyer says. Preliminary research is necessary because of wide-ranging requirements.

The firm recommends investigating what the country might be looking for in a newcomer, such as a certain skill set. Fortunately, old dogs can learn new tricks.

How to Start Your Own Nonprofit

Many people have a strong desire to help others in their own way, but are just unsure how to get started. Running your own nonprofit can be an intimidating – but rewarding – adventure. Marnie Taylor, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, recommends starting by learning from others.

“Do your research,” she says. “Talk to nonprofits with similar missions currently serving your community. If possible, partner with an existing organization to have a greater impact in a shorter amount of time.”

Next come the nitty-gritty details. “If you feel you are unique, check that the name you want is available with the Secretary of State,” Taylor says. “Draft bylaws, including the structure and board for your organization. Write and file your Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State, then file with the Internal Revenue Service to obtain your 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Complete the rest of the necessary filing, such as registering with the Tax Commission. Then, make a difference!”

How To Brew Your Own Beer

If after finishing a previous task you find yourself in need of a beer, yet still in DIY mode, Gail White, owner of The Brew Shop in Oklahoma City says, “If you can follow a cake recipe, you can brew beer.”

At The Brew Shop a basic fermentation kit can be had for $39.99. White says this includes all the reusable equipment needed for home brewing. The beer you start with is a matter of taste. White suggests starting with a pre-hopped extract kit, which range in price from about $17 up to $50, with most in the low $20s.

“It’s a good way to get your feet wet,” White says.

You mix two cans from the kit with boiling water and add the yeast. This takes two weeks to ferment and two weeks in the bottle to carbonate. The bottles are an additional expense, but White says you don’t need to buy everything at once.

“Buy the fermentation kit and extract kit with one paycheck and come back in two weeks for the bottles,” White says.

How to Read the Stocks Page

Plenty of people have investments – through their retirement portfolios, for example – but their eyes begin to blur when looking at a stocks page. Finding the stock code itself is the easy part – but how is your investment faring?

Aaron Pepin, senior financial consultant for BOSC Inc., helps define a few terms for amateur investors and other folks keeping a watch on the market.

“The stocks are listed conveniently in alphabetical order and most of the information columns are self-explanatory,” Pepin says. “For example, the 52-week ‘HI’ and ‘LO’ is the stock currently at its annual peak/low or somewhere in-between. ‘Close’ is the price at which the stock closed the day.”

But while the investment pages in the newspaper can be simple to decipher with a little knowledge, Pepin cautions that this isn’t the stock’s full story.

“Stock listings in the newspaper are the Reader’s Digest version of the company’s performance,” he says, “a day-to-day report card determined by market investors. A box score, so to speak. It won’t give you the turn-by-turn, but it can still work like a map.”

How To Hem Your Pants

The supplies are easy enough to come by: a ruler, tailor’s chalk, steam iron, ironing board, needle and thread or sewing machine. But hemming your trousers correctly takes time and precision.

“It’s not a five-minute job, if you have no experience,” says Charles E. Woods, owner of Sir Charles the Tailor in Midwest City.

Woods has custom tailored and altered clothing for more than 30 years. He suggests the best way to hem your own trousers is to find a reputable tailor.

But if you are compelled to undertake the task yourself, he says, “There is a lot to consider, if you want it done right.”

Don’t use another pair of pants as a template in marking the pair that need shortened. Woods says pants have different inseams and don’t make a good guide for a new pair. Consider what shoes you will wear most often with the pants.

“Heels are going to make you taller and flats are going to make you shorter,” says Woods.

And perhaps most importantly to avoid wearing high waters, once you mark the desired length Woods warns not to cut along that line. Fold the pants under at the line, iron and stitch in place.

How to Obtain a Patent

If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing your original idea manifest on the shelves of supermarkets, in a science lab or on a late-night infomercial, the first step after invention is protection, and the only way to ensure that is through a patent. While this may be common knowledge, the actual how-to of obtaining a patent often is shrouded in mystery. Phil Free, a shareholder with Hall Estill Law Firm, lays the process bare.

To begin, Free says, “You must file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, together with the required filing fee.” However, he warns, the process can be arduous. 

“A patent is a grant from the government, and it may take years to convince the USPTO your invention is deserving of patent protection,” Free says. “Patents are granted only for new inventions that would not have been obvious to those skilled in the field of the invention. It is important to remember that, in the United States, you must file your patent application within one year of the first public disclosure or offer for sale of the invention.”

 Because of the intricacies involved in obtaining a patent, Free recommends getting a little assistance from an expert. “The patent process is very legally complicated, so you may want to hire a registered patent attorney or agent to help you,” he advises.

How To Bake Bread

Bread making has the reputation of being difficult, but Farrell Family Bread manager Rick Miller says that learning just requires patience.

“You want to be prepared to have several failures before your ‘eureka’ moment,” Miller says.

Using high-quality ingredients, especially organic and/or untreated flour, is crucial, Miller says. Untreated flour still contains wild yeast and it further enhances the wheat flavor.

But there is one ingredient that you can’t buy.

“You can’t measure how much love goes into a loaf of bread,” he says.

Miller also says to be aware that every little factor, even your kitchen temperature, affects your bread. He advises new bakers to learn from their mistakes.

How To Join The Circus

Turns out that Oklahoma is a great place to live if you dreamed your whole life of joining the circus. Hugo, dubbed Circus City by its Chamber of Commerce, is headquarters and winter home of three traveling circuses.

Joining the circus might be easier than one would think. There are many jobs to do in a circus that don’t include being a trapeze artist.

Jim Royal, general manager of the Kelly Miller Circus says, “We require many, many skills besides just being in the ring. We have cooks who feed our people, purchasing agents who buy materials, mechanics, office personnel.”  

If you can’t walk a tight rope, train a lion or contort your body, there’s hope. The circus even employs a schoolteacher. Royal says it is as simple as sending in your resume.

How To Interpret Modern Art

Interpreting modern art sounds daunting. Mary Ann Doran, owner of M.A. Doran Gallery, says that anyone can interpret art, however. But any work needs context.

“The more you learn, the better you can explain something that might appear to be unattractive, nonfunctional or just totally different from a ‘pretty’ picture,” Doran says.

To learn more, Doran suggests reading, exploring galleries and museums and asking questions. Even abstract art that might not appear to be “about” anything still has a story.

“Modern art is an invitation to explore what the artist is trying to convey, why they selected certain materials and used different media, moved away from ‘traditional’ or ‘conventional’ images and materials,” Doran says.

An invitation indeed.

How To Arrange Flowers

Sitting down to enjoy your perfectly baked loaf of bread (if you’re lucky), you might notice that your table lacks pizzazz. Toni Garner, owner of Toni’s Flowers in Tulsa, says that making your own flower arrangement is not too difficult.

“Anything is possible if you have a vision,” Garner says.

Garner suggests that a budding florist should first determine his or her arrangement’s style and placement in the home. Magazines can provide inspiration, she says.

The flowers can be selected next, noting whether they are in season and the correct colors. Garner says that it helps to lay all your flowers out before you begin.

“You can start with something simple in a narrow vase and then do several of them, like a contemporary series, to make a statement on your table,” Garner says.

How To Complain to the BBB

Another useful life skill is knowing how to vent your frustrations with a company in a practical way. But how many people actually know how to log a complaint with the Better Business Bureau?

An easy way to make your voice heard is to log your claim online through Step-by-step forms walk you through the process. Put your complaint with the specific company in writing, and the BBB sends it off to be reviewed and responded to by the company in question. This typically takes a few weeks.

Keep in mind, however, that the BBB’s mission is resolve disagreements, not stick it to the man.

How To Crash a Wedding

If making your own beer seems like too much work, crashing a wedding might be a more palatable pastime.

“Wedding crashers come for the free liquor and for the fun dance,” says Phil Long, an event producer whose resume includes annual fundraising events like the Mental Heath Association in Tulsa’s Carnivale.

He offers ironclad advice. First he says, observe what the wedding party has on. He’s spotted crashers at his own events from across the room based solely on their attire. Then wait until the music is rocking and the spirits are flowing.

When it’s time to strike, he says, “I would pull my shirttails out, loosen my tie, ditch my girlfriend’s handbag, take her shoes off and get on the dance floor like I had been there all night long.” Simply put: Blend in.

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