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Guest Post (and Giveaway): How I Marketed My Novels

AND THE WINNER IS: GINI!! I’LL GET YOUR SIGNED COPY TO YOU ASAP!

J.D. Frost is a familiar name to anyone whose read this blog for awhile. He’s done a few guest posts here, and he’s a regular commenter. I had the privilege of meeting him, and his wife Donna and step-granddaughter Lizzie, when they came to our France retreat this year! When I heard that his latest mystery novel had just been released, I jumped at the chance to offer him a guest post. In celebration of the launch of his second novel, I’m offering one copy of his new book to a lucky reader. Scroll down for more info. And in the meantime, please enjoy J.D.’s article on marketing his novels.

How I Marketed My Novel 

by J.D. Frost

jd frostIn August, 2014, Ardent Writer Press published my first novel, Dollface. In October, 2015, the same company picked up Face2Face, the second book of the Moses Palmer trilogy. At some point the muse in your ear will give way to a negative, nagging marketing gnat, constantly in your ear, capable of annoying you for days and quieted only by elbow grease. I’ll share with you some of the work I did, what I learned my first time around, and my plans for this second at bat.

My first success began with an effort to obtain a review. Many newspapers, the Atlanta Constitution, the Birmingham Post Herald and a host of others no longer do reviews. My book is set in Chattanooga. I read the Chattanooga Times Free Press and found a wonderful lady, Susan Pierce, writing often in the Life section. She is a Jill of all writing that sometimes includes artistic events. She had occasionally reviewed a book, even some self-published works. I emailed her using the same pitch I used with agents, asking if she would read the book. She agreed. I autographed a paper copy and mailed it to her. Two weeks of silence followed. With nothing to lose, I emailed her again. She told me she loved the book. A 3/4 page review, including a picture of me and my dog appeared in the Sunday edition. I was very lucky. I haven’t seen another book with such a complimentary introduction. Get a review in a local publication if you can! One television station, WDEF, called my publisher after seeing the paper and at 5:30 a.m. I was interviewed on the local morning show of Channel 12. I emailed Mike Miller, who hosts Round About Chattanooga on WUTC, the public radio station. I cited my newspaper and TV appearance. He insisted, rightfully so, on reading the book. I sent an autographed copy and he then agreed to an 8 minute interview on his program. Your paper may no longer review. Try to get something in a local publication and use that as a publicity springboard! I am back in touch with Ms. Pierce about my second book.

Book signings can be so disappointing. I did three: at the Hamilton Place Mall Barnes Noble, at McKay Used Books in Chattanooga and McKay in Nashville. You scoff at the “used book” monicker. The store was incredibly busy―on a football Saturday no less―and McKay’s staff was wonderful to me. They placed me between the door and the book stacks, square in the path every customer walked. My wife helped me with a wonderful display that we used at all my signings. We ordered a 30×48 inch banner we mounted to the front of the table. We stuck an 18×24 poster of the cover on foam core board and placed it on an easel by the table. On the foam core, the “frame” of the poster, we printed “Set in Chattanooga.” We put two small posters on the table along with twenty books. I tried to make eye contact and speak to every person. If you use a plain table and you SIT, don’t expect much. I had bookmarks printed. To everyone, especially those who showed no interest, I offered a free bookmark. Use Bitly or some similar service to obtain a short link to your book like this one: http://amzn.to/XVKhpp or this one, http://amzn.to/1GnmdjX. Print those on your bookmarks. I didn’t sell a ton of books. At my worst event, I sold three and at my best, 19. But I announced those book signings in every media, publication, blog, etc. I could. Any event gives you a platform for publicity!

My friend Michael Gillibeau, author of A Study in Detail, invited me to a fun event, Noir at the Bar. It is similar in some ways to a poetry slam. You’ll find announcements of similar events across the country. We gave a free beer for every book sold. I hope to stage such an event in Chattanooga. We will use actors to perform scenes from our writing―you need more than one author. Mike used the event to raise money for a library. He obtained a lot of great publicity like this. No surprise there is a dog in my book, since dogs appear in mysteries as often as elves in Christmas parades. I hope to raise money for a shelter.

In another fund raiser, I plan to donate a dollar to the animal shelter for every copy I sell, Kindle, Nook, or paper on a particular day. If I gain the support of the animal shelter, I think I can convince the WDEF TV and some other outlets to make some announcements for us. The five Petsmart stores in the area support the animal center. If the shelter buys in, I will ask the stores to allow me to put up a poster, announcing that donation for copies bought on a particular day or two-day period.

Those are my strategies. You may notice that I have ignored the oil tanker floating in the middle of the wading pool―social media. I classify the things I discussed above as “local strategies.” To get really big results, to get a lot of sales, you need a much broader reach. My abilities in that arena are so limited. Like anyone, I can dabble but with my first book I didn’t have a lot of success. I may seek the help of a consultant.

My thanks to Charlotte for inviting me. She did a wonderful job with content editing on Face2Face. You’ll find my first book, Dollface, here and the second leg of the trilogy, the book Charlotte helped me with, is here.(Editor’s note: he didn’t need much help.) Do yourself a favor and read Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. It is here.(Editor’s note: thank you!!!!) Mike Gillibeau’s book is here. I hope some of this helps. I don’t mind sharing because we writers are not competitors but brothers and sisters.

Giveaway!

And now, the details of the giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment. Tell us what book you most recently read and something you liked about it. That’s it! I’ll draw a winner on November 17 (that’s two whole weeks away–tell your friends, you do not want to miss this book) and post the name here.

14

Merry Christmas 2014! I Have a Wee Gift for You

Merry Christmas! Light_candle_hanukkah_264769_l

I hope you are happily opening presents, snacking on cookies, and enjoying the company of family and friends.

I know you are busy today (me, too) and so I'm not going to take much of your time.  But I do have a free gift for you.  It is….ta dum….a book of writing prompts, one for each day of January. Download it now and you'll be set to begin a consistent writing practice when 2015 dawns.

All you have to do is go here to download it. That's it.  You can go now and I'll say, once again, that I hope you are having a wonderful Shutterstock_pencilholiday.  But if you would like to stick around and hear the story of how this book came to be, feel free.  

One of my former students, Amanda Michelle Moon, asked me to put together a book of prompts based on my Tumblr blog for the Noisetrade site and I was delighted to say yes.  (By the way, you can see the interview I did with her when her book came out earlier this year here.)  Noisetrade is a beautiful site, and its a place where you can discover new authors or music by downloading a sample of their work, or a short book, like mine.

My book features a short introduction about ways to use prompts, and then the prompts themselves–31 of them, one for each day of January.  And best of all, it is free, free, free!  So go download it and tell your friends as well.

And have a Merry, Merry Christmas!

2

Guest Post and Giveaway: Tamara Holland

Update, Winner Announced:  The winner of Tam's book is…..Alexia Stevens!  Alexia, I will give your name to Tam and she will make arrangements to get you the book!

It is my privilege to introduce you to my wonderful cyber-friend Tam Holland!  She and I met on Twitter over a conversation about raisins.  Yes, raisins.  Rumor had it that eating raisins before bed prevented trips to the bathroom.  Anyway, we've been buds ever since we debated that notion (I still claim it works).  And once we discovered we each had a granddaughter about the same age, our friendship was sealed.  And here's the exciting part–she has a new book out!  It is historical fiction of the sort you've likely never read before and is already getting rave reviews. And…..drum roll….we have us a giveaway!  Tam has agreed to give a copy of the Ebook to one lucky reader.   So read her brilliant thoughts on Twitter and I'll give you details of the giveaway at the end. 6 Reasons Writers Need Twitter TamHolland

by Tamara Holland

I got on Twitter in 2011. Reluctantly.  Up til then, I'd been looking cynically, judgmentally, unfavorably upon all of social media.

Since then?

I've sent nearly 60,000 tweets.

Why?

Because Twitter rocks for writers.  Here are six big ways it does.

1.  Immediate support, instead of delayed rejection.

This is the thing that grabbed me first and hooked me instantly. Twitter is responsive, immediate, interactive.  How much better does that feel to writers than what we've done traditionally: toiled away alone on a piece, sent it somewhere to see if someone liked it enough to publish  it, waited forever to hear back . . . and then usually heard, "Sorry."

You know how much better instant positive feedback feels? Tons better. Life-saving, spirit-saving, enthusiasm-producing tons better.

On Twitter, when you follow and are followed by cool and supportive people, you will get immediate responses to the 140-character missives and questions that you send out. This feels wonderful. It feels like someone is listening. Like someone cares. Which can make all the motivational difference in the world to a writer.

 2.  Tribemates

I believe whole-heartedly that when you tweet authentically (as in, not just canned/automated tweets about your book-for-sale, and not in some "branded" form that does not really express who you are and what you're actually dealing with), you end up communicating on Twitter with wonderful, like-minded folks who become your tribemates. The people who say, "It's okay, I've been there, too," about the hard parts. Who say, "Want to meet for coffee?!?!?!" when they read you've just tweeted about landing in their city.  (This has even happened to me at the Copenhagen airport during a lay-over on a flight from New York to Rome!) Who say, "I would LOVE to review an advance copy of your book, if you'd be willing to send me one." Who, like Charlotte, say, "I'd like to feature you on my blog." Folks with whom you become fast friends and meet in real life when you can. Folks who  know you for how you tweet about your life, and like you for it.  And you, them.

 3.  Creative play

Twitter was made for writers. Tweets are 140-character bits of writing.  Over and over and over again. You can do all kinds of things with them. The possibilities are endless. Communicate with your friends in little "walkie-talkie" tweets back and forth. Or blast out your take on how things are going in any particular situation. Dream out loud. Send people inspiring messages.  Chronicle something cool or interesting or frustrating.  Participate in any number of "microfiction" groups — like when I play along on Fridays with "Friday Phrases," using the #fp hashtag.

Aside from being fun as hell, what's also great here is that they are all easy, low-stakes, fast-paced ways to keep practicing and practicing and practicing the art of writing. And, because the character -length of tweets is relatively short, they are especially great brevity-training exercises.

 4. Business opportunities

It's on Twitter where I've bonded with several fellow authors who publish serialized fiction at the very cool jukepop.com. (Check it out . . . vetted fiction of many different genres, which readers access for free and support with their votes.) JukePop itself has a strong, author-supporting Twitter presence, which is still relatively rare in the Old World publishing houses. Even better, many JukePop authors are also big tweeters, and support each other . . . offering words of encouragement, passing along news about your writing in their own tweets, and becoming "behind the scenes" friends who do even nicer things like reviewing and writing blurbs for your books and pulling for each other in life-outside-the-fiction activities.

 5. Style liberation Photo (37)

For the three years before I began drafting  The Road Presents Itself, I read about life in ancient Rome. Visual snippets of scenes would pop into my brain. I had a sense of many of the characters, and a bit of the plot.

But I had absolutely no idea about how the story was going to tell itself.  

On the plane to the writing workshop where I was going to do drafting, I got the sense it was going to be the protagonist talking. He did. When Tiberius started talking through me as I wrote, he talked like a 21st century guy. And in the present tense. And often in sentence fragments. In a story that ripped along.

 I'm pretty sure Twitter hatched that.

Because I think that two years of reading and tweeting tens of thousands of tweets changed the way my brain's neural pathways  hear, process, and expect narrative.

I no longer care for, or even "trust," most third-person narratives.  I just don't.  Because so much of my writing and reading is social media-based — where we read and write in the "I" — my brain now resonates to "I," instead of to the removed "he" or "she" or "they" in older narratives. Now when I read most third-person fiction, I feel an impatience.  (There are exceptions, of course.)  But usually, I feel irritated that I don't know the imaginary person, the omniscient third, who's telling the story. We don't know THEIR backstory, their predilections, etc.  They are god-like. Removed. They make choices about  how the story goes, without us having access to knowing why. Which at this point in my life and writing career seems to bug the heck out of me. I'm looking for more transparency.  When a first-person narrator is telling you the story, you are also knowing them through what they are doing themselves in the tale. This is what feels comfortable and right in narration to me now.

And there's more.

I no longer want to put up with being explained in too much detail what happened. That's right — happened. As in, in the past. Already occurred. Which is what past-tense is. And, unfortunately, most fiction (especially historical) has too much detail for my mystery-based, thriller-based brain. What I want is characters I love, and a story that moves. That's it. The very fact that something's told in the past tense builds in a distance, a layer of removed-ness, that makes it feel far away . . . which makes me feel like I'm missing something. It's not happening now.  It already happened. And inside, my brain asks, "SO?"

In short, writing in first-person present tense is the way fiction feels right to me now. It never would have, before. And that is because of Twitter.  

 6. The "traditional" business model

 "Tradition" is in quotes here because selling your fiction via social media is still, of course, very new compared to the Old World models of publishing and publicizing.  Still and all, there are already experts and ("experts") who will be happy to tell you the "ways you must" (read: traditionally) market your fiction on Twitter.  With certain hashtags. Through certain groups. At certain times. With certain kinds of tweets. Etc. But because I am more of a "make up your own rules" writing and marketing gal, I'll  leave  that to them, and to you to find in ways that help you best.

You can follow me on Twitter @tamholland. I'd love to follow you back!

Tamara Holland is a writer, mixed-media collage artist, bartender and former post-conviction death penalty attorney. Her previously-published books include two non-fiction books about the art business, and a children’s book. For the past six years, her art company Bean Up The Nose Art has been where she’s played and marketed six greeting card lines as her own distributor and with national licensing deals. She tweets almost non-stop as @tamholland, and posts on Instagram as @tamholland123 and @tiberiusroad. She's the happy mother of two now-grown-up married people, and grandma of Zoe Rose. 

And now, for the giveaway.  All you have to do is leave a comment, answering the following: what's your favorite social media site?  Add a few words about why if you like.  We'll give you until next Monday, December 8th, to enter.  I'll draw a name that day and let Tam know the winner!

12

Committed Giveaway, Review and Interview: A Wonderful Memoir on Creativity

Winner Announced! Using this random name picker, I fed in all the names, pressed go and waited for the winner's name to come up.  Ready?  Drum roll! The winner is J.D. Frost!  J.D., I'm emailing your email to Patrick so the two of you can coordinate.  Thanks to all who entered!

Contest Extended! I want everyone to have a chance to enter, so I'm continuing the contest until Monday, Nov 24!

Committed         CommittedCover2

by Patrick Ross

(Before we go any further, be sure to read all the way to the end, because, pa dum, we have us a giveway, yes we do!)

Several years ago now, I ran across Patrick Ross's blog, The Artist's Road.  Patrick had just returned from a cross-country trip wherein he had interviewed all manner of creatives and was posting videos and commentaries about each artist.  Well, this was right up my alley, and I started commenting with enthusiasm.  One thing led to another and Patrick and I became fast internet friends.

I've watched him as he totally and completely committed to an art-centered life, earned his MFA, and perhaps most exciting of all, published his memoir about the trip.  And so I am thrilled to introduce that memoir, Committed!

The book details his trip across country in quite a bit more detail than his blog posts did, with candid stories about his own search for a creative lifestyle interspersed as Patrick drives between interviews.   I found the interviews with creatives–ranging from writers to artists to musicians–fascinating and inspiring, but what I really loved was reading about Patrick's interior journey.

It's a compelling story.  The book begins with a scene you won't forget, detailing a family blow-up that ends with Patrick taking his two children, in their pajamas, away from his parents' house to a hotel. Throughout the remainder of the book, we learn of his troubled relationship with some of his family, and how that has impacted his own creativity in a negative way.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the segment as Patrick's daughter Marisa came along with him on the interviews as they also journey to SCAD (the highly regarded Savannah College of Art and Design).  Marisa, a devoted and talented artist, checks out SCAD as a potential college for herself–and learns a bit about her own creative journey in the process.

Because of my own interests, I've focused on the creative side in this review and interview, but Patrick also copes with–and is open and honest about–his bi-polar diagnosis.  This condition has a bearing on his creativity, as he struggles to create an art-committed life that also allows him balance.

The book is just wonderful.  It is a brave piece of writing and also a fascinating, meaningful one.  So go read it.  But first, have a look at the interview with Patrick below.

-How did you get the idea for this trip?  In the book you explain that you had funders concerned with copyright law, but I'm wondering if your creative self, as opposed to your lobbyist self, had something to do with the initial concept? I talk inCommitted about my love of driving, and how when I was about twenty-one years old I drove from L.A. to Washington, D.C., to begin my new life. I had always wanted to try the trip in reverse, but through states I hadn't driven before. When I realized the road trip would get me out of town during the build-up to the legislation, it seemed a perfect plan!

–I recall from reading your blog regularly that after you returned home from your trip you did quit your job and return to free-lancing.  Did that satisfy your creative desires? Largely, yes. I had to leave that job because they never would have tolerated me spending time writing for myself rather than the organization, nor taking the time to get an MFA. I gave notice to my board the moment the trip was over, but stayed on board about four months while they recruited a successor. In the spring of 2011 I was able to take classes at The Writer's Center and apply for MFA programs, and I started one that summer. By 2012 I was ready to return to full-time work (income needs) but I had developed enough of a writing discipline to continue to write while doing a day job. 

 

Patrick Ross–The trip was several years ago.  How have you changed since then?  Has your vision of an art-centered life changed? I've learned you can embrace your creativity without it automatically meaning that you're embracing mental instability. Seems an obvious conclusion, but it wasn't to me before the trip.

 –What impact did earning your MFA have on you and your creative life? Committed wouldn't exist without the MFA; it's as simple as that. Every chapter has the fingerprints of one of my instructors on it. That said, my book profiles some artists with rich educational backgrounds in the arts and others with no formal training; they're all producing art and living art-committed lives. I think the MFA came at the right time for me; leaving that job gave me an opportunity to indulge my muse a bit, and I know the lessons I learned in the program will carry forward into future books.

 –I found your personal story the most compelling part of the memoir.  Was it difficult to share it? Difficult would be an understatement. The original scenes I wrote were very journalistic; the narrator was not really a part of the story. When I first wrote about being bipolar I was already a year into my MFA, and while I shared it in a workshop I told myself at the time that it wouldn't actually be in the book. That's how I was able to first write about my family as well, by telling myself I was doing it solely to better learn how to tell the story but that it wouldn't be included.

 –Some of the personal parts you share were very brave–how did you family react to the book? My wife and children have been very supportive throughout the rocess. They were always invited to read any draft they wanted of any part of the book. I don't know how I'd feel about someone writing about me, but they have been great.

 –I am so curious to know what happened with your family.  Did Marisa get into SCAD?  She did! She's now a sophomore there, studying photography, and she now has a very nice camera. She took the author photo of me that's on the back of the book, and she has a photo credit on the copyright page. SCAD ain't cheap, however; it was her impending tuition bills that prompted me to return to a full-time day job.

 –And finally, in the book you describe a "failed" novel you wrote.  It sounded fascinating to me.  Any plans to return to it or fiction writing? Philadelphia novelist Michael Swanwick tells me in Committed that he wrote out his garbage before writing work that was publishable. When I returned from the road trip I dusted off that manuscript and read through it. I was surprised at how much I liked it. But the last four years I've focused on growing as a writer, so I don't think I'd want that manuscript published even if a publisher wished, because I'm not the same writer. I do plan to return to fiction someday, but there is so much for me to explore in the creative nonfiction space right now. My focus at this point is on historical biography writing, including an essay that will appear in The Montreal Review in January about a father-son cartography duo who created an amazingly artistic atlas, the Atlas Maior or Great Atlas, the most expensive book of the 17th Century.

Giveaway

Thanks, Patrick!  And now, here we go.  All you have to do to win a copy of Patrick's book is leave a comment, telling me which you read the most of–novels or memoirs?  I'll give you until the end of the week and then gather up names and use my handy-dandy random name generator to choose a winner. 

  

10

Winners of the Birthday Giveaway! (With an Explanation and a Question)

File0001840689115Before I reveal the three winners of the birthday giveaway, an explanation and a question.

The Explanation

When I started this project seven years ago, it was the style to name your blog. (It still is, to a certain degree at least.)  So I came up with the idea for the name Wordstrumpet.  Inspired by one of my favorite blogs at the time, the Yarn Harlot, I thought that combining "word" and "strumpet" would signify that I was a lush for writing.

Turns out lots of people don't know about strumpets.  No, a strumpet is not a sweet delicacy, but rather a wanton woman (so perhaps some might indeed call her a sweet delicacy).  Oh, and that reminds me–my original tagline was "wanton for words."  Geesh, that's cute.  And I'd forgotten it until now.

And then, because I put the two words together, another unexpected thing happened.  People also called it Words Trumpet.  As in, trumpeting your words for all to hear.  This became a delightful surprise and never bothered me when people mis-read it.  Hey, it worked both ways, right?

(I'm pretty sure you can assign deep psychological meaning to how people read the name, what each person sees in it. You Words Trumpet people–clean and sparkly brains.  Wordstrumpet folks–not even going there.)

But then a couple of years in I realized I needed to brand myself and that using the title Wordstrumpet, however you read it, was not doing that.  So I changed the name to Charlotte Rains Dixon.  (When the blog got redesigned, there was supposed to be a tiny Wordstrumpet in the corner of the banner, but that got lost somehow.) 

The Question

Funny, though, some people still think of this blog as Wordstrumpet.  And its awkward, when people ask me the name of my blog to say, "Charlotte Rains Dixon."  Its root name is still Wordstrumpet and since that is its birth name, I'm fond of it.  (I'm wanton like that.)

Over the next few months, I'm planning to do some freshening up of the place and so here's my question:

Should I go back to calling the blog Wordstrumpet?  Or should I keep it as it is, Charlotte Rains Dixon?

If I decide to do this, it would probably read something like "Charlotte Rains Dixon's Wordstrumpet" in the banner.  Too much?  Good idea?  (Bear in mind name recognition is a good thing, a very good thing, when it comes to selling books.)

The Winners

Okay, thank you for taking time with my self-indulgent questions.  I know you only read this far to find out who won (chosen by random name generator), and here you go:

Walter Ruggieri--25 page manuscript review

Maureen Lee–Digital download of Emma Jean's Bad Behavior

Leigh Lauck–Signed copy of Emma Jean's Bad Behavior

Please email me at wordstrumpet@gmail.com with the words Contest Winner in the subject line and we'll make arrangements for the giving of the gifts.

And please, leave a comment, answering my question. I'd love to hear your opinion!

Photo by aconant.

24

Winners of Christmas 2013 Giveaway Announced!

Hi.

Hope you had a great Christmas–I did.  

Okay, so we've got that done with, let's get to it:  announcing the winners of the Christmas 2013 giveaway.  Here we go:

Dani wins the 25 page critique.

Leigh wins the Moleskine journal.

Mary wins a copy of my novel.

Okay, but that's not all.  I've decided to give away 2 bonus presents.  Let's call them New Year's gifts.  Why? Because both of the recipients mentioned that they wanted it in the comments.  And both of them are loyal, long-time readers who I love and adore.  So here goes:

Zan Marie wins a critique of 25 pages.

And so does Don.

I can't wait to read your work and/or send you your gift.

If you are a winner, please contact me with Christmas 2013 Winner in the subject line and I'll make arrangements with you.  If you won either the novel or the journal (Mary and Leigh, here's looking at you), I'll need your physical address.  

(By the way, I used this site to pick the names.)

8

Christmas 2013 Giveaway

Christmas_ornament_green_268996_lI haven't done this for a long time.  

So, because of that….and because it's Christmas….and because I truly love and adore every single one of my readers….

Let's celebrate with a giveaway!

Yay, rah rah as my sister and I used to say.  (Don't ask.  There's no reason for it.)

First, the good part–the gifts.  I'm giving away three total, one per winner:

1.  A critique of 25 pages of your manuscript.

2. A moleskine journal.  These are my favorite, though I use all kinds of other notebooks for journals as well.  If I were you and I won, I would choose the violet cover shown in this link, but you can go for basic black as well.

3.  A copy of my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, personally signed to the lucky winner!  (Or, if you prefer, you can get it in Ebook format.)

Second, what you gotta do to win:

Promise you'll write at least 1000 words a day every day in the new year.  Kidding! (Though its not a bad idea.) 

What you have to do is leave a comment completing this sentence:  All I want for Christmas is…..

That's it!  How much easier can you get?

I will choose the winner via a random name selector on December 27th.   Because I can't guarantee how things will shake out, I'm also going to disperse the gifts randomly as well (though if you've really got a hankering for one, tell me that, too and I'll see what I can do).   

So please, comment away!

Photo by mammuth.

26

26 Acts of Kindness, One of Which is a Giveaway

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Update:  Amber Hart is the recepient of the coaching session!  Amber, email me and we'll discuss details.

For the entire Christmas season, I've walked past the Salvation Army bellringer by the front door of my grocery store.   He's a cheerful sort and always greets me.  I smile and say "hi" back.  And I shrug and say "Sorry, I can't contribute because I never carry cash." And then I walk on.  I go about my way, feeling guilty but not guilty enough to do anything about it.

Until yesterday.  When I finally went out of my way to make sure I had cash I could contribute and I ran back to put $20 in the bucket.

Why?

Because of Sandy Hook.

Because it was my first act of kindness to honor the memory of the children who died there.

Let me explain.

Yesterday, newswoman Ann Curry tweeted her #20Acts idea–that each of us could commit to doing 20 acts of kindness to memoralize the Sandy Hook children.  I thought it was a great idea which would aid me in turning the helplessness I felt into some kind of action.  And so I tweeted about it and then went to take a shower.

Upon my return, I had a tweet from a producer at NBC News, saying he wanted to talk to me about my tweet.  This may be hard for you to believe, but in many ways I'm a very private person.  And the thought of being on TV terrifies me.  Is there a stronger word than terrify?  Because if so, that's the word I'd actually choose.  However, I had just written and published my post on choosing the word fearless as my word for 2013. 

And so, heart pounding, I emailed him.  My phone rang literally three minutes later and I had a nice chat with this man.  He was working on a story on the #20Acts for the news that night or the next.  But, here's the deal.  He ended up not interviewing me, because I hadn't done anything yet.  Granted, it was still morning in my time zone, but I didn't even have any plans formulated that I could share with him.  (I hasten to add that he didn't exactly tell me this, but I inferred it by our conversation.)

How lame is that?

Pretty damn lame. 

And so I resolved to follow through.  And I knew immediately that my first act would be to finally, finally, finally, give that bell ringer some money.

I've been thinking about acts of kindness every since and I've realized that in a weird way, they are linked to being fearless.  Because sometimes being kind feels scary.  What if the person you're being kind to rejects your overtures?  What if you end up looking silly?  What if it makes you feel uncomfortable?

What if we all make an effort to find out if these fears are true?  (Because, you know, they really aren't.)

This morning I thought and thought about what my next act of kindness would be.  And I realized that I don't have much to give, but I could give what I do have–and that is a coaching session.  I will read up to 20 pages and discuss them with you in a phone conversation.  Or we can talk about overcoming writer's block.  Or whatever you want.

I wish I could give a coaching session to every one of you.  But I can't.  So I'll choose one person in a random drawing from the comments.   I'm asking you to leave a comment detailing an idea or two for an act of kindness that you can perform.  This will give the rest of us ideas, too. I'll draw a name on Friday and announce the recipient on the blog that morning.

I look forward to reading what you plan to do.

PS:  Many people are now changing the hash tag to #26Acts of Kindness, to also honor the teachers who died and I'm following suit. But in the interest of journalistic integrity, I do note that the original idea from Ann was #20Acts.

Note: only the commenters who actually write about an act of kindness will be entered in the drawing.  The idea is to spread this and encourage all of us to take part.  You don't need to have done the actual act yet, but please plan on doing it for certain.

Photo by C.P. Storm

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It’s My Birthday Week, and I’m Giving Someone a Present

It's been quite some time since I gave stuff away. Cake_birthday_party_240688_l

And since July 17 is my birthday (no, I'm not telling you which one, a lady never divulges such things) I figured it was about time.

So, first the gift.

I had a hard time deciding what it should be.  But since I love getting books more than any other present in the world, I decided I'd give you what I love getting.

But which book?

Should it be a copy of the Rust Hills classic, Writing in General and The Short Story in Particular, which I just recommended to a client?

Or should it have an all-around motivational bent, like The Fire Starter Sessions by DanielleLaPorte?

I couldn't decide.  So I wimped out.  And decided not to decide.  Thus, the present is a $20 gift card to Amazon, which ought to get you the book of your dreams.

Next, what do you have to do to win the present?

Well, now, that's a good question. 

All you have to do is answer this in the comments:

If you could wave a magic wand and have anything in the whole wide world that you wanted for your next birthday, what would it be?  Bear in mind, there's no limits here.  You could have anything your little heart desires, such as a bestselling novel, world peace, the entire Amazon catalog in a wood-lined room, a Ferrari, a Grand Tour to Europe, and so on.  I'm talking true, mad, deep desires.

You have until Friday the 20th to post a comment.  I'll use a random selector to generate a winner and post the results this weekend.  Good luck!

Photo by blueblitz.

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