marketing, networking

Guild Networking Works

Pictured is Nebraska author, Faith Colburn, from North Platte. She’s holding her book, Threshold, a Memoir, one of several books she’s published. Faith spoke on Sunday, June 25th, at The Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room in Seward, Nebraska, and gave a wonderful presentation.

Networking works. I cannot stress this enough. You’re a writer. You’re an introvert. Nobody gets that as well as I do. But when you go out and mingle amongst other writers, you will grow in your knowledge of writing, in your knowledge of marketing, in who you know, and who knows you! Today’s event at Red Path was a wonderful example.

Faith and I know each other through The Nebraska Writers Guild. She is one of so many writers I’ve met in the Guild, who I respect for their quality of writing, their work ethic, their support of other authors, their willingness to better themselves, and their willingness to get involved in the work of the Guild. Faith is currently a board member of The Guild, and she’s also the Winner of the About a Nebraska Town writing competition I sponsored last spring. She’s smart and high energy and I’m here to tell you… if you’re looking for a wonderful speaker for your library, club, event, or anything where you want to hear a wonderful story about Nebraska people from a Nebraska author… you should absolutely consider reaching out to her. Prairie Wind Press.

The owner of Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room, Jeanne Wiemer, also a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, graciously provides a wonderful room in her lovely business in Seward so we can promote Guild members who speak on the third Sunday of each month throughout 2017. The art is always fresh and changing and the wine is excellent… I recommend the De Chaunac. I provide cookies, those who attend the free events, titled Sundays at Red Path with NWG Authors, can purchase a glass of wine and enjoy this free event, an hour with a Nebraska author.

I’d like to see more people attending because it’s always a wonderful experience. There are generally several NWG authors in the audience there to support the Guild, and they almost always bring a friend or relative. This time, Nebraska author Margie Lukas brought her daughter, an artist, who networked with Red Path to create a showing of her work there at the Gallery. Another Guild author, Dee Schmid has attended the last two events. At the previous event, Guild author and past president, Hugh Reilly spoke about the trips he guides through Ireland. Dee and I plan to go next year. (We’ll even take our husbands!) We certainly wouldn’t be doing that if we hadn’t been at the event… or met in the Guild! And this morning we have a new member of the Guild. Her name is Vickie, and she was in attendance at the event at Red Path yesterday. I hope to see her in the fall at the next Guild conference. She already knows five members of the Guild.

Oh, and we all learned something about marketing, research, blogging, and each other. Faith talked about Sell Sheets and Scream Teams. Dee, during discussion, talked about asking librarians to do reviews. I always learn little things from other writers.

So, when you see opportunities such as Sundays at Red Path with NWG Authors, or 6 Corner Events, or if you hear about authors speaking at a library near you… go. You have no idea what connections you may make because of it. Oh, and keep your eye on Faith Colburn. She has a new book coming out this fall titled The Reluctant Canary. She read some scenes from the book and this is surely a story that will give you a wonderful glimpse into the dirty thirties and the big band scene of the day, as well as hard-scrabble life for those trying to make it and what they had to do to survive.

marketing

Controlling your Style?

In The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White, style is defined as “the sound ‘words make on paper’.” I love this definition! Of course, in our world today, our “paper” ranges from digital books, social media, texts and Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Our style labels us. The question I have for today is… are you in control of your style?

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Every time we type something on our “paper” of choice, we set our style, our logo, our “sound.” We affect our audience, and oft times, narrow our readers. Thin our herd, so to speak, for better or worse.

Now, far be it from me to define right or wrong regarding opinions of… well, anything. I mean, who the hell am I, anyway? Just a person. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have opinions. And opinions on writing, I’m willing to voice sometimes, but I have some degree of knowledge on the topic and therefore my opinions have a least some validity. Yet, they’re opinions… not facts. So this post really is an opinion… but as much, a point for your consideration.

So, my opinion is, as a writer, I think it’s best to have some idea how I want people to see me since I try to promote my books using social media. I need to be in control of my style.

I see others who step right off the political cliff and wave their party’s flag all over the internet. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that. Everyone can do whatever they want to do… I’m happy to live and let live. My question is, are they aware they’re labeling themselves? Are they in control of their style… or as we’ve become accustom to saying… their brand… like we’re cattle, or candy bars… “Now with Extra Caramel!”

At the same time, we can ask if broad appeal is the be-all-end-all to marketing, or can we break the barriers and just go balls-out with our social media, tell the world just how we feel about every little thing like it’s our job, and damn the torpedoes… “like me or don’t!” Shrug. What-ever.

For me, posting my opinion on any social media forum, whether it be about politics, parenting, fashion, movies, religion, sexual orientation… anything really, in our ultra sensitive climate, is as good as flipping the bird to those who don’t agree with my opinion.

Is that who I am? The kind of person who walks around saying whatever I think regardless of the company I’m in? It’s something for me to consider. It’s something for all of us who write books to consider.

And what about manners?

There was a time when manners were a big deal. Do you recall the clichés used to help us remember our manners? Don’t put your elbows on the table. Never discuss politics or religion in polite company. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Don’t chew with your mouth open, or talk with your mouth full. Don’t interrupt. These were things my mother taught me. We can go back a bit further in time to more rigid manners, such as when men stood if a lady left the table or room. Gentlemen would open doors for ladies, or help them with heavy loads they were trying to carry. Children gave up their seats to elderly. Women went to the restroom to powder their noses.

The more I think about “manners,” they aren’t such a mystery. They’re just acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration for others.

A lot of these rules have gone the wayside, such as not wearing white after Labor Day. Many old-time manners were stuffy, and certainly, life is different now… I mean women can open their own doors and carry heavy things, and wearing white shouldn’t offend anyone. That’s a good example of why manners got a bad name. Wearing white had nothing to do with kindness or consideration for others. Goodness, if that offends you, just going to Wal-Mart would cause you to have a mental breakdown!

I’m fine with silly rules going out the window. But manners… in their true sense of being considerate of others… I think it would be nice to start thinking about those more. Which takes me back to establishing our style on social media. Is it really our moral responsibility to school others about our opinions on politics and religion on Facebook or Twitter? I mean, sure, if that’s one’s job… if I wrote books on politics, then yes, that would totally be the style I wanted to establish. But if we write mystery or romance or young adult fiction… poetry, memoirs, plays… or hey, how about if we just run a business? Is that the style we want people to associate with us? Is that our label? Maybe people who do this don’t consider social media as their marketing tool. Should they? I guess that’s the question I’m asking.

If I truly felt I couldn’t possibly keep my opinions to myself, and believed it was my responsibility to educate people about my opinions on whatever topic, I’d want to use appropriate methods for persuasive argument.

I’ve been reading a book called, Keys for Writers; one of those college books kids pay too much money for when they take creative writing or journalism classes. It’s a useful little guide. There’s an entire section about writing an argument—the point of doing so is to persuade. Not force… persuade. In this section of the book, there are many great points about how to argue a topic in writing, such as making a clear claim, and supporting it with specific evidence, but here’s another point they give about how to make a good argument: One should establish common ground with their listeners or readers, and avoid confrontation.

Establishing common ground and not being confrontational is a style I’d like to be known for. It’s not my job to wag a finger or marshal other people’s opinions. I don’t believe doing that would make me a better-selling author, and I do believe social media colors my style.

Again, if that’s your style, that cool, as long as you’re in control of how you “mind your manners” in public. On paper, whatever paper our era recognizes, make your “sound” count. Your sound is your style. I’d say it’s best to be in charge of it.

But that’s just my opinion.

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Feng Shui—Fresh Face

This is a year of changes for me. Little changes, but still, I’m moving around the furniture in my life. Do you do that? Rearrange furniture? Yes? No? It’s an absolute necessity for me. Something deep inside me is always searching for Feng Shui, or a fresh face, something new, different… something other.

I used to think it was because I got bored, but I do believe it’s more to do with trying to get things right and find the appropriate spot for everything from furniture to clothes to websites, jobs, hobbies, and activities. Life changes. What’s right for one time in your life isn’t necessarily right for other times. Play groups with parents and toddlers makes no sense for me at age 54, but at twenty-eight, I spent a lot of time in groups of that sort.

So, what’s changing for me? My weight, for one thing. I’ve lost forty pounds and hope to lose anywhere from twenty-five to forty more. Having said that, clearly my diet has changed. So has my outlook, my self-esteem, my level of energy, my clothing, and the plans I’m making. I know now I can walk for blocks and blocks and I won’t need to rest. I can stand for long periods of time. How I plan vacations and parties are changing based on my ability to wear different things and do more. I may even, at some point, wear a swimsuit in public without feeling like everyone is embarrassed for me. Already, I don’t cringe as much when I see pictures of myself. Change can be incredibly positive.

Like poorly arranged furniture, cluttered or infringing on walkways, can make a room uncomfortable, I decided my old website was feeling the same way to me. I considered trying to rearrange things, but frankly, I just needed an entirely now house, so to speak. A coat of paint wasn’t going to do it. So, here it is. New walls and arrangement and similar pieces of furniture, but in different styles. Hope you like it. So far, I do, but it’s highly likely in a few years, I’ll change things again. It’s just how I roll. Let me know what you think. Oh, and follow me if you want to get email notices when I create new posts about new books I’m working on.

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My Writing World

Writers know there are elements of a good story. Good setting, good character development, rising action, evoking empathy and worry for characters, a satisfying ending, and the all-important tension and conflict. Tension and conflict has never been something I’ve struggled to achieve. It runs rampant and wreaks havoc in my stories, it drives my characters to near madness, and it keeps my readers on the edges of their seats. Whenever I hear a speaker at a writing conference or class talk about the importance of tension, I’m reminded of something from my childhood. Paper dolls.

A creative type from the get-go, I used to make my own paper dolls. I had entire families of cut out dolls and was always on the hunt for a good piece of sturdy paper to make a paper doll out of. Once my characters were in order, they needed clothes, which I drew, complete with tabs, and laboriously cut out with my little round-tipped scissors. Yes, I’ve been creating characters since I can remember, in one way or another. But the most telling memory that shines a light on how from my early years, I knew how to create a story, is that one paper doll in particular was of constant use in my played-out scenes.

The Blue Lady.

She was drawn on a sturdy piece of a dark blue file folder. Her hair was wild, and her mouth maintained a permanent frown. Her eyes were fierce and crazed. She wore too much make up and her voice was loud and screechy. Very bossy. Very mean. Demanding. Judgmental. Angry. She didn’t have a name. She simply was, The Blue Lady.

I used The Blue Lady to bring tension and conflict into the scenes I acted out with the other paper dolls. The boy and girl dolls would be playing nicely, and along would come The Blue Lady. Party over! Two lady dolls would be shopping, and then they’d run into The Blue Lady. Day ruined. The dark blue broad rarely allowed a moment’s peace for the other cut-out dolls.

If you’re a psychiatrist, you may have some opinions about this. But if you’re an actor or actress, you know dramatic scenes are the juiciest to play. Think about the stories you’ve loved. Even the sweetest romance has conflict and tension. It really isn’t a story if something isn’t overcome. Even children’s stories have problem’s to solve. Real people must solve real problems. It’s called life. Writers are keen life-observers. They’re people watchers. Conversation eavesdroppers, situation-supposers, dream-analyzers, what-if wonderers.

I think all children when they play pretend, know this. It’s like when you hear two little boys play “Who would win?” One boy says, “Who would win in a fight, a lion or a bear?” Or, “Who would win in a fight, an elephant or a rhinoceros?” And ultimately, it may come down to the most classic of all little boy arguments, “My dad is stronger than your dad!” See? Conflict and tension. It’s the heart of all stories. It’s part of every day our lives. The room is dirty… that’s tension… I clean it and in so doing, have overcome the obstacle. I’ve won the battle. A school child doing difficult homework or having an argument on the playground is dealing with or overcoming conflict and tension… every single day, these things happen. It may be as simple as solving the problem of what’s for dinner, or as complicated as deciding to leave your job to find another or dealing with a difficult neighbor. Life is rife with tension and conflict of varying degrees.

So, welcome to my writing world. It’s just like every other writer’s worlds. Filled with problems and solutions, characters and settings, beginnings and ending. And forever and ever, it shall be, for all writers throughout time and history. It’s just like everyone else’s world… just written down by someone who’s been paying close attention.

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The Man with a Green Scarf, and a Story About France

A couple of years ago, I visited France with my friend, Delores. We joined up with another friend, Bev. I’d never been Europe, so this was quite an adventure for me, but Dee and Bev are worldly, and both speak French, so I chose the right people to discover the country with.

We stayed a few days in Paris, then visited Le Mans, Normandy, and Mont Saint Michelle, but spent the majority of our time in the medieval village of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe. The town had cobblestone streets and a castle captured by William the conqueror… twice. The village, if it could talk, could tell tales about a couple of King Henrys, the Hundred Year War, The War of Religions, and Huguenots devastating the castle. The last village census cited around 2,300 people, a town very much the size of the one in which I live, proving, even when I travel 4,500 miles, I’m still a small-town girl.

Today, I want to tell you just a little bit about one “character” we met in Fresnay. I think his actual name was Daniel, but they called him Bidiue (pronounced Bid- Doo– eee). I’m sure this isn’t spelled correctly, but it’ll work here. They told me the name Bidiue meant, town drunk.

I know. I go to Europe, visit Paris, dine on Duck Confit in Le Mans, see Omaha Beach at Normandy, and then, drink wine with the town drunk of Fresnay. What the heck? Well, this was Bev’s next door neighbor and we chose not to snub him. He’s a human being, after all, and I’m really glad we included the little fellow. It meant the absolute world to him and his wife, who I’m pretty sure they called Catay. Neither of them spoke a word of English, but drinking wine is the universal language. And truth be told, Bidiue reminded me of my Uncle Eddie. Little. Kinda smelly. Sorta dirty. I sure hope at least some people were nice to my Uncle Eddie like we were nice to Bidiue.

The first night in Fresnay when we sat outside drinking wine and enjoying the weather, we encouraged Bidiue and his wife to join us. They lived right beside Bev, and there they were, sort of watching us. “Come over, have a drink!” Dee and I called, wanting to meet the locals. What a great way to discover characters for stories, and these two were a couple of characters, to be sure!

They sort of snuck up to us like stray cats, afraid we’d shoo them off. But the longer we sat with them, the more they settled in and realized we weren’t going to make fun of them, or be mean. I suspect that’s what they were used to. What happened though, was they were just so darned grateful. It was bittersweet. Every kindness we showed them they practically cried over. Bidiue even sang for us. I wish so badly I had a video of it. Just imagine a wavering little old voice with lots of vibrato, belting out a French tune of some kind. I applauded! He beamed. His wife looked on proudly. This is truly one of the best memories I have of France. It was so unique.

There are more stories of Bidiue and I may tell them some day. I believe I’d really like to write a story about Catay and Bidiue, but it would probably be a sad tale. They looked to live a hard life, hand to mouth, so glad to be included and eager to impress in any way they could.

The last day as we prepared to leave, Bidiue gave me a gift. Keep in mind, he had little. Their home was like a lean-to on the back of a house. I don’t even know if they had running water or electricity. But he came to the door and asked to see me, then handed me a ball point pen. That was my gift. He seemed really proud of it. He said a bunch of things to me in French, then teared up and ran back to his home. Catay watched from their doorway. I remember taking the earrings out of my ears and going over to give them to her. I hugged her. It was quite touching. None of us able to understand what the others were saying. Me knowing these were probably the people in this town who were shunned and considered a problem. Them looking at us as Americans, these odd, loud people who sounded so strange.

Oh, it was a peculiar little scene. And surely, I remember it more poetically than it actually occurred. That’s what writers do, after all. That day, Bidiue also called into the local radio station and dedicated a song to me and Dee. I couldn’t understand anything the man on the radio said, except “Americans.”

So, why tell you this story now? Well, a couple of years ago when I came back from France, I noted that I had stories to tell. I’ve been mulling them over for a couple years now, and I finally got around to publishing one of them. It’s called The Man with a Green Scarf. This short story is based on an actual conversation we had in Fresnay with an elderly man we met near the Chateau. The rest of the story is the imagination of this writer. I love the scenes. I love the memory. I loved my time in France. And I hope you’ll buy the ebook on Amazon today, so you too, can know the tale of, The Man with the Green Scarf.