Sharing the Gift of Literature

“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

After completing the seven book series “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, my ten-year-old son, asked:

“Do you ever get that sad feeling when you’ve finished a good series and you can’t continue (to read) because there are no more books?”

My heart leapt!

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy

I started to think about my childhood introduction to literature, which began with the first book in the Lewis series, read aloud by my retired neighbor.

My sister and I met our neighbor, Mrs. Olsen one day, while following our dog Cassius on his daily treat rounds.  Cassius performed in a traveling neighborhood show, singing for cookies.  As it happened, Mrs. Olsen kept a stash of human cookies as well and our visits became a routine thing.

An avid reader, she encouraged and inspired us, by reading stories during our visits.  When she read “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and it was like nothing we had ever heard before.  We began looking for excuses to visit more often, not just for cookies, but anxious to hear more of the adventures of Lucy and her siblings.

C.S. Lewis, according to his Biography, http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/cs-lewis.html and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends who shared a writers group called Inklings, which met in a pub.  Can you imagine being a butterfly on the wall for one of those discussions?

Mrs. Olsen, also a fan of Tolkien, read us “The Hobbit” as well, yet another story my son now loves.  As we all anxiously await the film version http://www.thehobbit.com/index.html due out this fall, he has begun reading the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.” – Descartes

I am certain I would never have fallen in love with literature had it not been for the kindness of my dear neighbor, Elisa Mitchell Olsen, who also taught me many lessons about life, character and the importance of having a mind of one’s own.  I only recently learned she had spent her career working in Publishing, not surprising.

The last time I saw Mrs. Olsen, in 2001, she was a guest at my wedding.  Sadly, while my family and I were living in Italy, on February 21, 2009, she passed away.  I am forever grateful to her for opening my eyes to the wonderful world inside my imagination, a gift I have since passed on to my own children, as they will for generations to come.            

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#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.

http://www.youtube.com/watchv=bu5qbaMXxh0&feature=share

I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Maintaining Momentum

Thought for the week: We all spend time in the writing ditch; how you get out of it is up to you.

In the midst of writing and re-writing my first novel, “Seeing Scarlet”, a second novel materialized. Initially, I denied it time and energy due to WOCD, writer’s obsessive compulsion disorder, refusing to write novel number two, because novel number one was not yet complete.

However, this new character, Janice Morrison, would not go away. Every time I stalled out writing Scarlet’s story, Janice would tap on the back door of my brain.

“Hay, it’s me again, Janice. Got a second?”

“No, I’m busy. Come back later,” I grumbled.

“You still working on that book? Come, on! I’ve been waitin’ long enough here to tell you something. You won’t believe this one.”

Janice would just not hear me and I refused to listen because I was busy being stuck in the ‘writing ditch’, a place where you cannot move forward or backward, without digging yourself a deeper hole.

Frustrated anyway, I finally took a woefully needed break from Scarlet and tuned in to Janice. Before long, I had written twenty-five thousand words of her story. Now that number is nearly double. My second novel, “Secret Agent of…God?” is character driven, focused, true to the tale that I set out to write and is a narrative that technically told itself. The best part…it was fun to write again.

I learned something valuable from Janice. The protagonist sets the tone of the story and decides where it will ultimately go. In Scarlet’s case, I had tried to mold her into someone she had no interest in becoming. I became confused, thinking I was writing my story at times, but Scarlet is definitely not me.

I let Scarlet’s issues stew on the back burner for a bit and worked on Janice’s predicament and other projects, short stories and flash fiction for contests until one day, an answer to Scarlet’s problem presented itself.

While watching my eight-year-old outrunning ten and eleven-year-olds at her running camp, being fiercely competitive at all things, easily able to outsmart me with minimal effort, she was already so confident and different from me, at her age. I realized something, I gave her life and shared a few genes, but I can never take credit for how amazing she is, all on her own.

This triggered my ascent. I needed to accept Scarlet’s individuality as I have my daughters. As Scarlet’s creator, I owed her this much. When I began blending in this new perspective, a bright and more vivid character emerged.

Ask yourself if you have another tale to tell, at least temporarily. Write poetry, even badly, create a children’s book, draft a short story, pen an article about anthills. Meanwhile, let your character quandary simmer until a solution comes bubbling to the surface; when it does, simply stir in the spice you found before your ideas burn out or evaporate. At the very least, a fresh story will keep you company and give you something to chew on while you wait for a figurative tow truck to conjure a productive way out of the ‘writing ditch’.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come: Seeking Support: Surprises and Stumbling Blocks; The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell!; The ABC’s…Author Websites, Blogging and Contests, Oh, My!