I am, to all intents and purposes, an introvert with excellent theater skills. I play an extrovert when necessary, and even convince myself to enjoy it from time to time – but it takes a lot of prep work and energy, as any good performance does. I thought writing books would be a nice way to express my creative side with a buffer between myself and my audience. Imagine my surprise when I discovered how much marketing, talking to people, blogging, sharing and tweeting is expected from an author these days!
OK, I know, I can be shockingly naive.
I envisioned myself just so…
When the reality was going to be more like this.
Once convinced by countless resources that a social media presence was necessary, I turned to my darling marketing and sales guru of a husband. He took a look at my first few blog posts, pointed out that I could analyze the numbers to see what my current viewers liked, and helped me “identify my market” and other consulting buzzwords. He then told me “You’re still going to have to talk to people.” Crap!
But I love writing for kids!! LOVE IT! So I’m putting myself out there. And honestly, I’ve had some great experiences in the past week.
First, my daughter’s school invited me to read an (unpublished) picture book to the kids. So last Friday morning I showed up at Kiddie Academy of Upper Freehold with clean hair, no food in my teeth, and a stapled manuscript. I had a fabulous time with the preschool, pre-K and Kindergarten classes!
Best thing about kids – they are brutally honest. I knew that if they didn’t like the book, I’d be able to tell. But they laughed and paid attention and asked questions about “what happens next?” We talked about how great it is to have an imagination and to be able to make up stories – and about how every one of us can be a story-teller. We also talked about weddings and booby traps. To understand that, you’ll have to read the book. (Agents? Editors? Intrigued?) Kiddie Academy was kind enough to put links to my blog and Facebook site on their Facebook page (which all of us parents check all the time. How else are we going to know the letter of the week for Show and Share?) and website, and to put a picture of me on the main desk. I feel like a celebrity! It was a great way to draw new followers to the blog and a super affirmation for me at the same time.
Then, this Wednesday, I headed out to a NJ SCBWI (that’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meet and greet in Cherry Hill, NJ (a 40 minute drive for me). My anxiety was pretty high for this one – it’s not easy for me to be surrounded by new people – but I was so happy that I went. It was a really encouraging group of writers and illustrators- published and unpublished – with so much to share. The event was moderated by writer/illustrator Kathy Temean, whose WordPress blog offers excellent advice for those interested in children’s books. I also connected with members of the South Jersey Writers Group and got business cards from a number of new friends. (Note to self: It is time for a business card. Zazzle has some really cute writerly designs. Get on it.) I gained some new followers, followed some new blogs myself, and found a wonderful source of camaraderie and information on agents, editors, social media and more! Plus, good beer.
I’ve been trying my best in social situations like work parties and weekend get-aways to do a little self-promotion without feeling too awkward. I’ve made some great connections this way – like the former literary agent I met over the white wine social hour at the luscious Rittenhouse 1715 hotel in Philadelphia. Tomorrow, my family hosts our annual Mardi Gras party. We boast the most authentic Louisiana cooking north of the Mason-Dixon line, thanks to my husband. (Though I fry the alligator!) And whether I want to or not, I am going to make sure to bring up my career, blog and Facebook page in conversation. I’m sure that drinking Hurricanes will probably make it easier. Plus, I can hide behind a feathered mask!
All this Putting Myself Out There has definitely been stressful for me. So, you may wonder, is it worth it to play against type? I can only say that I have gotten such positive feedback on my Raising Readers series of posts, that it is worth it to me just for that. I’m so happy to help parents bring a love of books to their children! I’m up to 476 followers since starting on January 13th, so I guess I must be doing something right. That is a nice affirmation, too.
But let me tell you, when that first book deal comes (and I know it will), I’m celebrating somewhere private and quiet.
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Laissez Bon Temps Rouler readers!