Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dream A Little Dream For Me!

A friend, starting her business, yesterday asked me if I had any marketing advice. Internally I laughed because I too have the same question… how does one market themselves, their business (in my case, a book), and not seem desperate, and instead, seem confident?

Part of my answer was this: “A few days ago I was digging in my yard and a man walking his dog asked me if I had a landscape background. In the past I would have said that I was a Landscape Architect, but instead I told him I was a writer.” Talking Chick-Lit with a man old enough to be an uncle was a bit uncomfortable, but… that’s what I write!

 It was a huge step for many reasons. Firstly, I am passionate about Landscape Architecture, designing landscapes, gardening, relating to people in this way. Secondly, and most importantly, I realized that if I want to be a writer or an author, I have to see myself that way.

Many friends are in the same place. Our children are old enough for us to go back to work or invest in ourselves so that we can change careers. Listening to many people’s stories, I have to believe that this is a prevalent experience for women in their late thirties, early forties. I sometimes think about organizing a business fair for women who have ideas, products, or skills to sell, but need to make connections within the community. Sometimes all it takes is a cup of coffee and a point in the right direction. I know that without a shadow of a doubt if someone approached me and asked me how to get a landscape design business started I would throw every last piece of information I possessed at them.

Fortunately I have great friends and some of them are marketing people, so they’ve given me tips. I have read oodles of articles on the internet, and all the data seems to be the same. You have to ask for support. You have to have a product you are confident in selling. You have to get your business name out there in as many places as you can.

So at this moment, I am marketing myself. In fact, I am asking you to market me as well. I am proud of the fact that I have sold over a hundred copes of my book. Many of the people that I have talked to about the book have had great things to say, so I feel confident when I tell you that Charlottes Restrained is an entertaining book.

I’m crossing my fingers right now that you will click on the link: and look at my website. You can read a synopsis of the book, you can click other links that will take you to Pinterest where I’ve created a story board, and you can read book reviews (on Amazon and Goodreads). You can literally click a button to buy the book. (If I were willing to beg, this would be where I would tell you that the book costs $2.99, which is less than a cup of coffee at most places!)

If you haven’t read it because you don’t have a Kindle, there are Apps to load Kindle books on other devices. (Also, Charlottes Restrained will be available on Smashwords by the end of April 2013.)

I want to share the following story because I want to express my passion for writing and for becoming a better writer. I also need to share a part of me, which is what I do in my blogs.

In October of 1980 my family moved from a small logging town in Washington State, to a Navy town on the Puget Sound. I cried the whole way, which was only an hour or so, but I did cry the whole way. When my father retired from the Army in 1977 we lived in El Paso, Texas. I have a clear memory of asking my parents if we would ever move again, once we moved to Sleepy Town, Washington. The answer was “No.”

To a child, that meant “No.” As in, never.

I built the framework for my life around that one word. So, when that changed I was angry. I didn’t care that there wasn’t a job for my father at what had been our church (he was a Catholic Deacon). I didn’t care that the church in Bremerton had a full-time position for him. I only cared about the fact that I was being uprooted. Again.

So, I defiantly stood before a new group of teens in my English Lit class and was introduced by my teacher, whom we’ll call Mr. A. Suddenly a boy stood up and started singing, “Cecilia,” by Simon and Garfunkel. He had the worst voice, but he made us all laugh. Turning a stressful moment into a bearable moment. Whenever someone sings that song to me, my throat chokes up with the gratitude I felt for my friend Danny.

Leaping back for just a moment, as a child my single and sole passion was writing. In the fifth grade I wrote a series of stories that the teacher read weekly to the class AND the students looked forward to them. I felt so proud. I put so much work into them. “Writer” was burnished onto my psyche.

Now we leap back to Mr. A and my 10th Grade English Lit class. Having moved often left a lot of holes in my education. Mr. A was teaching a poetry block. As students we were supposed to be interpreting the words. I had never read poetry, had no idea that we were supposed to read between the lines, make inferences based upon social or political values. I was absolutely clueless.

Mr. A returned a paper I wrote with a big fat red F on it and a note. He asked to see me. So, I bravely walked to the front of the class where I received a serious dressing down for not having applied myself. He wasn’t the sort of man who allowed a student to explain themselves. To him, we were making excuses.

To make friends and meet people I signed up for the school newspaper. Mr. A was our advisor! He appointed the Editor of the paper, the students elected other positions, and I was to be one of the reporters. After class he took me aside and told me that I had no future in writing and that I ought to join another club. Well, I was a defiant fifteen year old. Internally my blood boiled, I cursed him, and then I set about proving him wrong. I have to tell you it was a tough year.

Fortunately he took a sabbatical the next year. His replacement, Mr. Spadoni, gave me hope. He was a tall man, awkward looking, awkward in his skin, enormous dark eyes that projected fear initially, and had a soft voice. At that juncture in my life, I completely identified with him. Maybe he understood that, because he appointed me Assistant Editor of the paper.

I will give a shout out here to Silvia Reynolds Klatman. She was a senior, the Editor of the paper, and she was well liked. She forged a friendship with Mr. Spadoni, and this man went from dork to acceptable-adult. Because she believed in him, we believed in him, and in return, he believed in all of us. My experience as Assistant Editor felt epic. It felt like John Steinbeck or Hemmingway. It felt iconic.

At the end of the school year Mr. Spadoni appointed me Editor of the school paper for the following year. I was so excited, and couldn’t imagine ending my high school career in a better way.

On my first day of school I walked into the classroom where the school paper was run and there sat Mr. A. Fifteen months or so had done nothing for his demeanor. He predicted failure and doom. Sadly he was right. I wasn’t a success. I was barely mediocre. F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to mind. It isn’t me being hard on myself. It is me being honest. I let him take the wind out of my sails.

My first major in college was Journalism. I was determined to put all this nastiness aside and move on. But life presents paths and I chose the one less travelled (Robert Frost would be proud of me). I received a scholarship to study engineering and mathematics. I needed the financial support, so I changed majors.

When I sat down in front of my computer one September morning in 2006, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t write a book. All past criticisms gone. I was almost done when I thought about how to get it published. After nineteen submissions (and rejections), MacGyver decided to self-publish Charlottes Restrained for me as a Christmas present. He knew I needed the nudge.

Sitting here writing this, two important, okay three important thoughts jump out at me. Firstly, the reason we had to move my sophomore year in high school was because my father dared to change careers and he needed to take big leaps to make that happen. While it made me angry, I do believe that I learned a great deal from him in retrospect. I understand that one person impacts a group or family, but sometimes that has to happen for a collective happiness to exist. The second point is that help comes in many ways, but we have to be open to asking for help. The third is that regardless to Mr. A and nineteen submissions (and rejections), I have faith in myself, in my book, in my writing.

I cannot help but think of a scene from Pretty Woman, where a man walks down Hollywood Boulevard shouting, “Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.”

Writing is drama, so I suppose it takes someone being willing to be dramatic.

“I’m asking for you to help me make my dream come true.”

Thanks for reading.