Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm gonna get philosophical here...

This week marked two major anniversaries in US history - the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. Unless you spent the week under a rock, you've been inundated with video clips and interviews, musings about how the event shaped the country, and speculation galore of how different our lives would be if the event never happened.

But this begs the question - aren't our lives shaped continually by millions of events which are outside our control? True, some are momentous ones, like the delivery of a speech which encapsulates a national mission or the murder of a young, charismatic leader. But I'll go out on a limb and say that as individuals, we should be more focused on the events and actions that are within our control. Small events sparked by our own choices may seem insignificant, but they shape our daily lives at least as much as huge national events.

On a daily basis, we can choose to engage in individual acts of generosity or stinginess, to behave in a way that is cruel or kind. We can offer the gift of friendship or we can turn our back on loneliness and need. We can lend or withhold encouragement and support, and we can speak our mind in the face of injustice or we can keep silent and allow injustice to reign unchecked.We're intelligent people; we understand how our behavior affects someone else and in turn influences their behavior ... and that it spreads from there like the proverbial ripples in a pond.

So my wish for all of us as we begin preparations for Thanksgiving is this: May we live well enough that one small act of ours might result in thankfulness in someone else. And may that person pay it forward and pass it on.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flying on a dream through book club night

This week, I had the pleasure of being a guest at a book club discussion. They'd read Risking Exposure as their October selection and invited me to join them. I was driven over the river and through the woods to the home of Laura and Charlie, where I was treated to a fabulous home-cooked pasta dinner and hospitality galore. Amid the banter of these book club members, Laura, Margie, Sarah, Hildy, and Sandy, long-time friends and founders of the Dietrich, talk kept circling back to writing, the power of stories, and my book. They spoke about it animatedly, with passion and curiosity and obvious appreciation. I sat in the glow of the idea that perfectly intelligent people had read my book and wanted to discuss it! What a trip.

Laura left me practically speechless. She brought out her print copy, dog-eared and well-loved and laid it on the table, turning the bent cover back to reveal a first page covered in her notes. I was astounded. She'd obviously spent many hours with this book, perhaps as she recovered from recent knee surgery. I could picture her curled in a corner of the couch, the open book nestled in her lap, with a pen nearby to jot down her thoughts. She even had favorite lines, which she quoted with relish.

The entire evening was surreal, an experience that was as encouraging and uplifting as any I've ever had. I hope to be able to pass on that kind of support to others in their creative endeavors.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Enjoying the ride

I've always enjoyed connecting with other writers, listening to their work, encouraging, sharing ideas and struggles. When I had my first magazine article published in Highlights High Five, several friends purchased copies and asked me to autograph my story. Ditto for my short piece in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs - I gave signed copies to family and friends. But I had no idea how much fun it would be to sit at the "local authors" event at Barnes & Noble and have people ask me to sign copy of my book!

I shared the event with Wendy Tyson, author of two mystery novels which are both being serialized, and John Dziak who has edited and published the work of the late Dick Zborovian, capturing personal stories of miners' lives in Black Lung. Meeting them both was great - and they came with their own fan clubs which increased foot traffic for me too!

I had some amazing support. Long-time friends and neighbors Joanne and Tony Cantafio drove from Scranton for the event, just to be able to walk in the door and have me sign books they'd already purchased online. Gerri Misunas, a PT I worked with 30+ years ago, stopped in to buy an autographed book even though I haven't seen her in a decade. Nicole Decker, an old friend of my son's, drove over an hour to buy a book and have me sign it even though she works four miles from my house and could have stopped in there any time. Truly, I am blessed to have folks who care that much to go out of their way to offer support.

And get this - my fabulous book cover designed by Michael Rausch caught the eye of the cashiers at the front registers. Both of them came back and bought autographed copies of Risking Exposure for their own reading. I encouraged Michael to enter the cover design in a contest. It's that good, and he's that talented.

On Tuesday, I have the honor of attending a book club/dinner meeting with a group who read Risking Exposure as their October selection. I don't know what to expect. I'm just enjoying the ride.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's working ... and not

I have a pay-it-forward and pay-it-back philosophy, so the business end of marketing doesn't come naturally to me.
But I've been fortunate on several counts -
-I live in a geographic area where the local newspapers are quite willing to run homespun press releases and grant interviews to no-name self-published authors like me. The Times-Leader, Wyoming County Examiner, and Abington Journal all shared my excitement with their readership, and I am grateful for that publicity.

-My friend and fellow Dietrich Writers Group member Hildy Morgan dedicated most of her weekly column in Advance to my book a couple weeks ago. She is an unbelievably generous, kind soul.

-I've contacted my local Books a Million and Barnes & Noble chains to see about getting my book in their stores. I learned that they won't order copies for their shelves because the publisher is print-on-demand and won't accept unsold copies as returns. That means potential readers have to order it through Amazon or through the customer service desk at the BAM or B&N store. So much for seeing my book on their shelves.

-BUT, B&N has local author signing events a few times a year. I'm signed up to participate in one this Wednesday night at 6pm in Wilkes-Barre. I bring the books to sell and I benefit from the publicity they've created.

-Hildy's book club read Risking Exposure as their October selection. I've been asked to come to their meeting on the 12th as they discuss the book. An amazing opportunity for me.

-I've been invited to do a brief presentation and a full-day book signing at Fort Mifflin on the Delaware on December 7th during their WWII re-enactment weekend. I've never been part of something like that before either.

-I've been invited to do a feature presentation and book signing at the Dietrich on March 9th, talking about the process of taking my book from idea to finished product. I'm donating a number of books to the Dietrich for that event, and anyone who wishes to purchase a copy can do so there at the retail price. That way, the Dietrich benefits $8.99 for each copy sold, a small payback to a non-profit which has supported my writing efforts for several years.