“So, I’ve been thinking that it might be a lot of fun if we got together to have a dish of ice cream. Does that sound like a good idea to you?”
“Absolutely! I love ice cream. That sounds like terrific fun.”
“Perfect, I’m going to do some research and find the best ice cream I can, at the best price, and I’ll let you know what I discover.”
“That would be great. I don’t have a lot of time to figure this stuff out, but I love doing fun things. Thank you for coming up with these great ideas. We’re going to have a good time. You’re so good at organizing this stuff.”
“Thank you, it’s my pleasure. I love planning fun things that people enjoy.”
***Research, Planning, Research***
“Hey, I did all the research. I found a really great place that has picnic tables in the shade, and they serve delicious ice cream, and it’s affordable, are you still interested in an ice cream party?”
“Absolutely! Thank you so much for doing all that work. That’s really cool.”
“Great! Here’s all the information. I thought I’d invite a bunch of other friends to join us for ice cream. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes! Ice cream is always more fun with friends.”
“Wonderful! I’m going to send you an email with all the details and a map, and I’ll put it on my website, and my social media, too, so you can find all the information easily, and sign up to join the ice cream party. We’re going to have a good time.”
“Fantastic! I’ll look for it and follow your instructions to meet everyone for ice cream. I’m really looking forward to this. It is very exciting.”
***Two Months Later***
“Hey, don’t forget, I need to have your RSVP for the ice cream party. The nice lady at the ice cream shop said that she’s really excited for us to have our party at her shop, but she needs plenty of time to plan. So, please RSVP as soon as you can, okay?”
“Of course! I’ll check my calendar and let you know right away.”
**** Two More Months Later****
“I’m really sad. You didn’t RSVP for the ice cream party. In fact, no one did. So, I had to cancel the party. It was unfair to the nice lady at the shop to hold that big room open for us for so long. She really wanted to help another group. They were very excited to have an ice cream party there, too.”
“How terrible. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. It’s too bad no one signed up for the party.”
“I noticed you didn’t sign up, either. I thought this party was something you wanted to do. Can you tell me why you changed your mind about it? If you tell me what I did wrong, I can fix it, and redesign the ice cream party so it’s more interesting and fun for you.”
“Well, I didn’t like the location…”
“Where would you like to go instead?”
“I don’t know, but I didn’t like the place you picked.”
“Okay, what else did I do wrong?”
“Well, it was too expensive…”
“I understand, money is tight for a lot of folks right now. What would you rather pay? What’s a fair price for an ice cream party?”
“I don’t know… but your price was too much.”
“Okay, what else did I do wrong?”
“Well, I didn’t like the flavor of ice cream you suggested…”
“That makes sense, there are at least 31 flavors of ice cream in the world, not everyone likes vanilla. What flavor of ice cream do you like?”
“I don’t know… but not vanilla…”
“Okay, what about chocolate? Do you like chocolate ice cream?”
“No, I don’t like chocolate, either…”
“Fair enough. Vanilla and chocolate can be pretty dull. What flavor of ice cream would make you happiest?”
“I don’t know… but not chocolate or vanilla…”
***Long. Awkward. Silence.***
“Okay then. I got nearly identical answers from about forty other people. I think I’m done here.”
“What do you mean? I thought we were all going to have fun at an ice cream party?”
“I’d love that, but it’s impossible for me to make the party fun, if you won’t tell me what kind of party you want. I can’t read your mind, and I can’t guess at what flavors of ice cream you like… and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Planning an ice cream party that no one wants to attend has been a lot of work. Ice cream parties are supposed to be fun, not work. So, I think I’m done.”
“What? What do you mean? I thought we were going to have an ice cream party? What will we do now?”
“I don’t know. Send me an email when you figure it out. If your version of an ice cream party sounds like fun to me, maybe I’ll join you.”
“But that’s a lot of work.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why I’m not doing it anymore. It’s a lot; and to be honest, the failure at organizing an ice cream party people don’t want to attend is worse than writing books no one wants to read. At least I have fun writing books… and that doesn’t feel like work to me.
“So, I’m just going to go over here and sit at my desk, quietly doing stuff that makes me happy. When you decide the best place to have an ice cream party, let me know.
“I might join you… if it’s not too far away… and if it’s affordable… and if the place you’ve chosen has the flavor of ice cream I like.”
What does normalcy look like to an Indie Author? Spending afternoons surrounded by a herd of authors, soaking up their inspiration, and connecting with readers of every age. Unfortunately, as it did for nearly everyone else on the planet, the past almost three years meant a full-stop on normal. This is a challenging thing for an extroverted author who thrives on spending time in the company of other people who also enjoy words. It was a struggle. I tried to focus on writing during this time of seclusion, and I was fairly productive… I published a book of poetry, two writing workshop workbooks, and collaborated on a children’s picture book with my husband. Also, for the first time in many years, I was able to “win” at NaNoWriMo. But life just wasn’t the same. I found that I craved interaction with people… especially other writers.
So, I worked to fill the gap by creating a series of Virtual Book Festivals. I was a “green-broke mare” on Zoom when it all began. I stumbled through the learning curve, and eventually, it became almost second nature. Laughing and talking with readers and authors made the days of quarantine far more bearable. I was able to spend time with my “tribe” each night and felt a little more connected to the world because I could see their faces, hear their giggles, and groan at their silly jokes. I discovered some new-to-me authors… people whom I wouldn’t have known existed before the pandemic. Some of these folks have become friends, some have been welcomed into my tribe… and Drake even became close with a few of these wonderful souls. It was a fantastically fun experience… but still, it wasn’t the same. I missed their hugs, I missed the exchange of energy that happens when you get a room full of creatives together, and I missed meeting readers and hearing what types of stories they would like me to create next.
In January, I tentatively began going back into the world, participating in festivals and fairs, and connecting with humans in-person again. I cannot begin to tell you how much I’ve missed these events. I began with a little pop-up shop experience in Brooklyn, Michigan. Cairns Creations & VIP, is an eclectic shop owned by the incredibly energetic, Stacy A. Saxton. Fellow Indie Author, Douglas S. Pierce introduced me to this opportunity, and I had a great time. Douglas and I shared the afternoon with Marianne Wieland, met some readers, and sold some books. I was a little shaky out of the gate, but soon, I regained my stride, and I remembered how it all worked. I began to feel comfortable back in the saddle of public events again… yet still a bit tentative with it all. You never know how the riding season will go when you’ve been away from the reins for a while.
March brought me to a familiar pasture, as I returned to the Michigan-Made Market at Leon & LuLu’s in Clawson, Michigan. This specialty boutique (which was built inside the renovated roller rink I frequented as a pre-teen) is one of my favorite places to spend the day. The energy is spectacular. The employees, the owner, the people who come to share their talent, and the visitors who appreciate what we do, always make my time there worthwhile. Making the day even more special, was my dear friend, and fellow Indie Author, Kate McNeil, who spent part of the day visiting and laughing with me (she took this photo). I’m looking forward to another event in this special space in June.
April ushered in Spring with an event to support a local animal shelter at the American Legion Hall in Lapeer, Michigan. For anyone who knows me… or meets me, for that matter, you’ll know that I usually jump at the opportunity to do anything that serves animals. On this day, I got to spend time with my good friend, Erik Rurikson, with whom I am collaborating on a fantasy novella, and some other super-crafty people. Seriously, the things people can make with their imagination and their hands fascinate me! We had a good day and helped some deserving animals feel a little bit safer in the world. I was having so much fun petting dogs and eating Girl Scout Cookies, I forgot to take photos!
May sunshine brought me to my first outdoor paddock in a very long time. Although I was out of practice setting up my tent, and couldn’t have done it without help this first time out, I feel confident that I can do it now on my own, forever. Great trainers make it all seem so easy! Thank you, Andrew. It always feels good when I can participate in an event that lends support to a charity or school. This time, I was pleased to lend my day to the Kearsley Marching Band in Flint, Michigan. I was a little disappointed by the absence of the band, but the day was still a ton of fun. How could it not be? I shared my tent with fellow Indie Author, Andrew Allen Smith. We’ve been friends for a while, and I simply can’t think of a better way to spend my day than laughing and talking about writing and life with this gentleman. The sunshine welcomed us, warmed us, and stayed all day. The visitors we encountered were kind, energetic as they trotted through the sunshine, and many were interested in our books. We spoke to several for an extended period, and the conversations were quite enjoyable. The rain waited until just a few minutes after we packed up and were on the road before it sputtered from the sky. Gratitude for the delay was abundant in my heart. The high energy of the day reminded me again, why humanity is one of my favorite things about life. I’m excited at the thought of returning next year to do it all again.
This past Saturday, I spent the day with two author friends, D.M. Taylor and Clay Boura… and met a bunch of extremely talented authors that were new-to-me at the Macomb Intermediate School District’s Author Festival. Although it rained heavily shortly after we arrived, the rain didn’t stay long. Fortunately, we were indoors. However, we got to enjoy the reverberation of thunder’s hooves upon the glass dome of the foyer. It was a spectacular sound. I was pleased to meet several children, some of whom wanted to become authors themselves, one day. I also learned a bit about the weather from Owly, the mascot of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). I had a lot of fun. It’s hard not to when you get to hang out with such wonderful people and gallop through an afternoon filled with the written word.
I have many more events scheduled this summer and autumn, and I feel I’m ready… seat in the saddle, hands on the reins – not too tightly – ready to canter through the days of wonderment as I introduce readers to my books. I hope to see you at one of these lush pastures. If you don’t find a book on my table that interests you, I hope you’ll stop anyway and say hello. To me, each of you is like a carrot to a mare spending her days grazing in the warm sunshine… a special treat to be cherished.
During the past year of COVID isolation, many Indie Authors – indeed, most Indie Authors – have been forced to cancel plans for fairs, festivals, and bookshop signing events. For those of you who are unfamiliar, these events are the best way for Indie Authors to meet new readers, make (what we hope will be) a lasting connection, and sell books. These events are not only for the readers, but for the authors, too. It is a way for Indie Authors to network with other authors, gain valuable insight into craft concepts, marketing tips, and simply build new friendships with people who “get it”. One who writes, after all, is a specialized brand of unique. We talk with our imaginary friends regularly, and they tell us some of the most fascinating stories, that we are then compelled to record and share. People who don’t engage in this process may not fully understand. But the other writers – oh yeah – they get it. So, events where we can connect with both the storytellers and the readers of the world are critical to our sanity. One fuels the process to continue, the other legitimizes it.
Over the past year, I’ve been privileged to host three very different Virtual Book Festivals. Why? Because I noticed that Indie Authors needed another option for outreach. Because I noticed that readers were complaining about a lack of new book discovery. Because I missed my tribe. And, because I live by the philosophy that says, “You don’t get to complain if you don’t take action.” So, I jumped in the deep end, and launched headlong into what has been, and might become, one of the most positive community engagement opportunities I’ve ever done.
That first Virtual Book Festival, back in June of 2020, was a bit shaky, to say the least. Zoom was new technology to me, and I didn’t have what I would call a solid outline. I’d hosted in-person festivals in the past, and even produced fifty-four episodes of a TV program spotlighting and interviewing Indie Authors, but those are vastly different from entering into a digital world, attempting to achieve the same ends. I designed a loose format of interviews and readings, hoping that it would all work out. That first Virtual Book Festival simply reinforced the fact that, creatively, I cannot survive as a Pantser! I enjoy the flexibility structure offers… and the back up plan when things don’t go so smoothly. So I tried again in October.
The Autumn Virtual Book Festival was similar in many ways, but different, too. In my very Plotter nature, I made a plan, devised a theme, and tried to build games and prizes that supported the idea. Some of it went well, some of it didn’t. It turns out that there is indeed such a thing as over-planning, and over committing to too many subplots. It was a fun festival, with nearly sixty-five separate events, each author getting two days of airtime… but it was difficult to convey the core of the message – extraordinary books and authors – to readers, and it was exhausting for me. So, I did what I do with my writing, I enlisted the help of editors and beta readers that I trust, and I killed my darlings. After that process of evaluation, I figured, what the heck, I’ll take what I’ve learned, and try again in February. After all, one doesn’t stop writing simply because one doesn’t sell thousands of books with the first two offerings. And, I wasn’t doing anything in the middle of winter, anyway.
So, I revamped my plan. I reduced the number of events, scaling back to just one per day (instead of two or three), combined authors in genre groups, rather than in individual segments, and added an element of fun and mystery with a Blind Date marketing platform. To create a greater level of security, and (I hoped) to create a more welcoming (and less intimidating) interaction, I limited the onscreen video to presenting authors and backstage crew. I added mini-workshops to support aspiring writers and authors with their craft, and changed the contest/prize schema to once per day, rather than once per week, with three fun bonus prizes, and a super bonus prize for the really courageous who chose to be silly along the way. Again, some aspects of this festival were more effective and engaging than others, and I learned a lot. The most important lesson… what is a creative marketing hook for me, is a decisive challenge for others, even after I explain my vision. Will I ever do a Blind Date event again… perhaps not. It was a tricky wicket for some. However, not to be deterred completely, and because plotting is certainly my strength, even before February was over, I began planning for the June 2021 Virtual Book Festival… in the event that there was interest to continue from the authors. It turns out, there was some interest… so, onward ho!
Now, as I’ve once again launched my skiff into an unknown sea, I find myself in the doldrums of self-doubt and continuous creative self-recrimination. Am I actually providing a thing – writing a Festival Story – that people want? I know that my motives are equal parts selfishness in my own discovery of new authors and their books, and a sincere desire to help those in my tribe to be more successful and thrive in this unusual preoccupation we share. Yet, in the dead air of day, with the tell-tails laying flat against the canvas… I begin to hallucinate mirages of mutiny on the horizon. Yes, I’ve got cabin fever, as do a lot of us… but is that reason enough... is another Virtual Book Festival solution enough... to outweigh the investment of my, and everyone else’s, time, attention, and money? The promise I made to myself was that I would continue until I was told to stop… as with my writing.
And yet, one must consider the perspective that silence may also be the answer that should direct one’s action; at least until the voices are brave enough to deny and decry. After all, if it can happen to Dr. Suess, can’t it also happen to me? Is that a risk that’s worth taking in the promotion of myself? In my promotion of others? In my practice of writing?
I have set my sails, plotted my course, and made the commitment. Once more, I will cast my dock lines aside this June. Beyond that… the sea is a fickle mistress, and perhaps my time and energy as lighthouse keeper will become moot.
I'm madly in love with bookshops; big, small, big box, and Indie. I'm the person that, when you take me shopping at those large warehouse stores, I always seek out the book tables while you find the bags of bulk shrimp. I've been known to stop at garage sales, just to see if they're selling any books (far be it for me to abandon homeless books!), and I have been known to browse at a bookshop for up to five hours at a time (to the complete frustration of my husband); and come home with an armload of books. I read them all, eventually. And it doesn't matter how full my shelves are, I will always buy more. You can never have too many books. Books make the best gifts, no matter the celebration. They're great as birthday presents, holiday presents, and "please forgive me for being stupid" presents. Seriously, there's not an occasion in this world that a book doesn't perfectly fit and the perfect gift.
My favorite bookshops though, are the Indie Bookshops. These are wonderful escapes, carefully curated by souls who love books just as much as I do - perhaps even more - although that's doubtful. The moment you walk into these spaces, you know that someone with a severe love of the written word has created a place where kindred souls can easily find each other, no matter their profession, hobby interests, or age. Three of my favorite Indie Bookshops are right here, in Michigan. I love each of these for different reasons. And I recommend you visit them all!
Toadvine Books; Berkley, Michigan is owned and operated by Luke Janes. He's a wonderful man who brought his love of bookselling with him from Denver. He had a shop there, too. Luke is super-knowledgeable about books. He's has a special affinity for information about rare and unique titles. He carefully curates each box of books, to be sure that it fits his standards of excellence, and the literary dreams of his visitors. The shop is small and inviting; with gentle jazz or classical music playing on vinyl, from a real turntable! It's a very intimate place with beautiful wood shelving and floors, and high-back, comfy chairs placed strategically throughout. Toadvine Books offers a wonderful collection of used and new books, and they have a very special collection of rare and unusual books, as well. There is a large youth room at the back of the shop, filled with books for children, as well as a hearty collection of comic books and graphic novels. Luke also offers a prominent set of shelves near the front of the shop to showcase local Indie Authors. If you haven't been to Toadvine Books, I highly recommend the trip; you won't be disappointed. You can find Toadvine Books at 2783 Coolildge Highway, Berkley, Michigan 48072 The phone is 248-439-0409; and you can reach them at ToadvineBooks@gmail.com. The shop hours are Tuesday thru Saturday, 11am - 6pm; and Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. Luke offers curbside pick up and advance ordering via phone, Facebook, and email. Be sure to call him to learn about any COVID restrictions or changes in their bookselling processes.
Book Cottage, Jackson, Michigan is owned and operated by Nancy Lemler-Oakley. She's a wonderful woman, and a terrific author, in her own right. Book Cottage is an eclectic mix of both new and used books. There is a large shelf near the front door where Nancy displays books written by local Indie Authors, and she also has a large children's section with toys, games, and puzzles, including the Michigan Chillers series. As you walk through the shop, you're enticed by the overflowing shelves of books, all easily organized. But the extra gem here, is that Book Cottage also hosts a market area with consignment items. Here, you can find wonderful treasures from toys to glassware, clothing and tools. The fun thing is, you come in looking for books, and leave with books AND an unexpected extra treasure or two. Nancy hosts events throughout the year to showcase both local authors and local consigners... it's always a delightful surprise to discover something new at Book Cottage. You can find Book Cottage at 4500 Francis Street, Jackson, Michigan 49203. The phone is 517-768-8030 and you can reach them at BookCottage@gmail.com. The shop hours are Monday thru Thursday, 9am - 5pm; Friday 9am - 7pm; Saturday, 10am - 4pm, and Sunday, 12pm - 4pm. Nancy offers curbside pickup as well as advance ordering via phone, Facebook, and email. Be sure to call her ahead to learn about any COVID restrictions or changes in their bookselling processes.
R&B Used Books; Grand Blanc, Michigan is owned and operated by Beth Dumity. This shop has been around for over fifteen years, and it keeps growing each year. Beth has organized her gargantuan collection of used books into eleven rooms, each one holding shelves full of one particular genre. You'll find both paperback and hardback books here, and she accepts books on trade for store credit. One of the most fascinating things about R&B Used Books is that Beth rescues books from donation sources - both private and organizations - and finds them new, forever homes. She has a non-profit organization that gives back to the community with the love of literature. Her goal is to provide books to anyone who wants to read, and she does a stellar job at it! R&B Used Books also has a generous space to support local Indie Authors, and, something extra-special; Indie Author, Boyd Craven is the author in residence at the shop. Much like a shop cat, you may find him on any given day, sequestered in his writing space, crafting his next book. The wonderment of having a resident author is that occasionally, when Boyd comes up for air, you can ask him questions about his books, his writing process, and when you're hooked - and you will be, quickly - he will gladly sign books for you. His entire catalogue us hosted at the shop, of course. Make sure you visit R&B Used Books... but plan on spending a few hours. There are literally THOUSANDS of books at amazing pricing! You can find R&B Used Books at 12830 Saginaw Road, Suite F, Grand Blanc, Michigan 48439. The phone is 810-695-7762 and you can reach them at Beth@RandBUsedBooks.com. The shop hours are Monday, by appointment only; Tuesday thru Saturday, 11am - 5pm; Thursday, 11am - 7pm, and Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. Beth offers curbside pickup as well as advance ordering via phone, Facebook, and email. Be sure to call her ahead to learn about any COVID restrictions or changes in their bookselling process.
I had a good time at this year's Women Who Write Book Festival. It was an interesting change to be surrounded by other women authors. The festival was held in Grand Rapids, at the Salvation Army Center there, and organized by a group called "Hook A Sista Up", a group in Grand Rapids, that fosters writing and other entrepreneurial pursuits of women.
The center was a great space to hold an event like this. The room was large, and the tables were laid out to make easy travel for lots of people. There were large windows which let in great light, which is a bonus when books are involved.
I was thrilled to not only showcase my books, but also share books written by Andy Lockwood and Donald Levin. One of the pure joys I have, being an author advocate, is getting exposure for authors where they wouldn't normally find readers. Participating in events like this make that possible. It was a great day, and each one of us sold books!
I had only two disappointments with the day; slow traffic and too short a day. I was expecting many more people to be at the event, given how much pre-advertising was done by this group through social media. I was surprised to see so few people. However, one thing I did notice was the poor on-site marketing. I've noticed this with many events... not enough signs on the street, in front of the building, or in the lobby so passersby who aren't on social media can discover the event. Also, I think that because the day was so short - it ended at 3pm, fewer people were able to find us and attend. Perhaps a longer day next year might go over better. It was a two and a half hour drive for me... which made it a bit frustrating that I didn't have a greater opportunity to reach more readers. I think if the event were to be extended, either starting earlier or ending later, might help with foot traffic. Other than that, it was a great day!
The bonus to the day... My table sat next to the spectacular Peggy Christie and I bought her latest collection of short stories; (book review coming soon.) I look forward to the opportunity to try this event again next year!
A special thank you goes out to Bailey Lockwood for helping me discover this event. I appreciate you, muchly!
This is an event that I look forward to every year. It is spectacularly well organized, in an fantastic location, and partnered with the SterlingFest event... all things that make this a super-fun day. The Sterling Heights Library is the sponsor of this event that brings together 70 Michigan Authors of nearly every genre known to literature. The tables are nicely spaced under the portico in front of the library, extending toward the Police Station, and overlooking the Arts & Craft show. The number of people who walk through this event every year is staggering! This event is so well-trafficked that the city provides for parking lots in outlying areas, and has shuttle buses to bring people in. There are food vendors, musical acts playing throughout the day, and so many friendly faces, it's hard NOT to have a good day at this festival.
My favorite part of the day, aside from the new readers I get to talk with, is the time I get to spend sharing the day with my tribe. I'm thrilled to say that out of the 70 authors that were in attendance, I am friends with about 75% of them already! I was able to catch up with my friends and have a great day in the sunshine, surrounded by books. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday!
My husband, amateur photographer, Dave Plopa, took some photos, posted here... and he caught me and some of my friends having fun on video, too. A huge thank you goes out to him for all his love and support!
I'm excited to attend this fun event next year!
Photos and Video provided by Dave Plopa Photography
So much of life (and book festivals) is throwing noodles at the wall to see what sticks. What slides down the wall to the floor, you let the dogs eat. What sticks, teaches you that you got something right, and then you reproduce the steps you took, and enjoy the fact that you get to eat more great pasta than you let the dogs eat. There are so many factors involved in this experiment, it can be challenging. The definitive recipe book for this has yet to be written.
Which Pasta Company Makes The Best Noodles?
Do I have the right brand of pasta at the start? This is a tough one. You want to choose a brand that you think people will notice, one they are familiar with, one they've experienced before. I really thought I covered this detail well. The brand I chose was well-known, and large enough to be seen from all four directions... but I guess it wasn't familiar to enough people, because some still had trouble noticing it. So, perhaps not the right brand of pasta. Not a terrific start to dinner.
Are there obstructions between the pantry where you keep the pasta and the stove where you eventually will cook the pasta? Do you need to step over things like trucks, piles of sand, broken pieces of flooring? This is difficult to predict. Of course, if when you make plans for pasta night, and you know you're renovating the kitchen the same day, you probably don't want to cook pasta that night, and maybe do burgers on the grill, in the back yard instead. But, if you made plans for pasta dinner in advance, and the ceiling falls in, damaging the floor in the process... well, there's not much you can do about that. Unforeseen issues may arise, stuff you can't plan for, but you go ahead with your pasta dinner anyway, because you promised people you'd make pasta. So you dodge the cracks in the floor and the piles of drywall, navigating carefully around them to get to the stove, working hard not to spill the huge pot of water. Stuff happens that we can't control sometimes; but we make the best of it.
So, you've got a really nice pasta dinner planned, and you've told everyone you know. You sent out colorful, nifty invitations. You've told them about the kind of sauce you'll be using, the mountains of cheese that will be available, and you've even offered meat or meatless options. You tell every one of your friends, and you invite them to tell their friends, because after all, a pasta dinner is so much fun, you want to share it with as many people as you possibly can. You spend time posting flyers at local meeting places around town, places that don't usually serve pasta (and some that do), you send out several emails and redundant social media postings about the snazzy dinner you're hosting, and you send letters to the local media to let them know how cool your pasta dinner will be... you can only hope everyone will tell the world, or at least everyone within a twenty mile drive.
Pasta Dinner Day
So, you've got your pot of boiling water filled with noodles on the stove, and you add a bit of salt, just to make sure the pasta will cook evenly. You make sure there's plenty of garlic bread, and extra cheese... just in case. You set out the tables and chairs, and make sure that everyone has easy access to the bathrooms... again, just in case. You put out six large signs on the roads to direct people to the kitchen, and another just inside the door, hoping people will see them and make their way to your table in droves. You grab the camera, and get ready for some fun pasta dinner hi-jinks because, let's face it, your friends are the BEST at having a good time when they get to share pasta and talk about EVERYTHING they love about noodles.
Your Friends Arrive Hungry, But...
This is a good thing. You've cooked the pasta and thrown it against that wall. Most of it sticks, but there are a few pieces that fall to the floor. But, with a golden retriever and a little terrier, there's no worry of ants ruining dinner. So you press on. All is going well, you're all set up around the table, ready to share a splendiferous meal with a crowd of pasta enthralled people... but no one shows up. Well, okay, a few trickle in here and there... but not nearly as many as you had planned on, or hoped for. You're disappointed, of course, everyone is. You had really hoped that your friends would scream about this pasta dinner from the rooftops, but it appears that they didn't tell anyone. Or maybe your friends don't have any friends who like pasta, or at least, not this particular brand. You hoped that the local media would scream about it, too, but... crickets. So, everyone packs up and goes home, frustrated and feeling let down because you promised them a remarkable pasta dinner with tons of people, and it just didn't work out that way. You feel a little like a fraud and a lot like a failure.
The Next Day
After contemplating the pasta dinner over a cup of cocoa, and going over where things went wrong, you come to a few conclusions.
First, you should have anticipated that not everyone likes your brand of pasta. They're not used to seeing the green box, and so they didn't really notice the trouble you went to in buying the best brand you could find... while staying within your budget. You probably should have thought this through and asked people ahead of time what brand of pasta they preferred. That may have enticed more people to come to dinner.
Second, you should have checked more than six months in advance to see if any demolition work was planned for that section of the kitchen before you chose the date for your dinner. And in fact, you did, but either the renovations that took place wren't planned, or the workmen didn't bother to tell you... it's hard to nail down the truth on that one because contractors can be so unpredictable.
Third, you realize that you should have had more signs, more cheese, more bathrooms, and more time to take photos. Perhaps a clown or pony rides would have helped, too. But, you had a limited budget based on what your friends were willing to kick in for this awesome dinner, and there wasn't anything left for fun frills like that... so, dinner wasn't all that much fun. None of your friends offered to help, either, and you felt rude and awkward at the idea of delegating or asking for more money. A couple people even left the dinner early. Disheartened, you pack up your leftover pasta, and go home. The leftover pasta, and cheese, and garlic bread are all spoiled now, and you've lost a ton of money, and there's nothing left to give to charity. At this point, even the dogs aren't interested in cleaning up what's left.
Out of desperation, you write a note to all your friends. You tell them that you had planned to host another pasta dinner party in a few months, but after the utter failure you just experienced, you just aren't sure that's such a good idea. So, you ask for their feedback. You ask them to hide their identities so they can feel at ease in being brutally honest. After all, false feedback doesn't help anyone make a better pasta party. What you get back is indeed, brutally honest. But it's not incredibly helpful. There's a lot of critique, but not many specific suggestions on how to improve. Frustration looms large.
Finally, after much thought, a review of the financials, and a conversation with the dogs about their lack of interest in pasta, you make the decision NOT to host another pasta party. Although it's a lot of fun, it's too much work for just one person. And let's face it, you're not as young as you used to be. You contemplate that perhaps the dinner would have been more fun if you had spent more money on things like a balloon animal guy, a marching band, and a gigantic full-page ad in every newspaper in town, but you didn't want to ask your friends to pay more than the pasta dinner was actually worth; 'cus you know, that's all sorts of fun once, but then who wants to spend that kind of money on another pasta dinner party, like EVER?
There's a lot of sadness when you stare at the leftover noodles the next day, and even two days later when they're stinking up the kitchen, and realize that perhaps no matter what you try, people will NEVER like your pasta. So, you accept it and move on. Thinking that perhaps making chocolate chip cookies and only sharing them with your closest friends is a better idea.
I've always believed in the idea of doing what works and not doing what doesn't work... so, no more pasta dinner parties for me. But... I still like pasta. If you're hosting a pasta dinner party someday, I'd love it if you would include me on the guest list - and you can be sure, I'll tell the world!
Translation: Although fun for me, The Summer Indie Author Book Festival 2019 was a complete and utter failure. Pages Promotions will not be hosting another Indie Book Festival. If you already reserved a table for future planned events, your refund will be processed shortly. We appreciate your patience. Thank you.
This was a fun day shared with some of my favorite Indie Authors. We had hoped it to be a full weekend, but alas, the storm clouds had other plans for Sunday. Books and Rain are not good friends, so we chose to make it Saturday only, and avoid any unpleasant arguments between the two. And still, we had a great day!
It's a treat to spend festival time with other authors. Working together, we get to offer a greater variety of books to readers, reach out to people who perhaps wouldn't have discovered us or our books, share time "talking shop", and simply having fun hanging out.
Rochester puts on a fun festival, and I plan to return again next year. There were lots of fun events for families, chain saw carving, Irish Step Dancers, Civil War Re-enactors, classic cars, pony rides, and so much more. The event was well organized. They were super-nice people, and very accommodating. The staff made it easy to find the event space, with plenty of signs. We got to pull right up and unload at our space. That's always a bonus. Books can be heavy, and it's nice to avoid the long walks from parking lots with boxes. They did a good job publicizing the event in local media and on social media. Foot traffic was good, despite the disparaging weather.
We met some wonderful people, and sold some books. Meeting readers is something I think every writer enjoys. We get to learn about what they like to read, and perhaps get some new ideas for an upcoming project. The young readers are so cute. Their faces light up when they see a cover that catches their attention. They encourage us to continue on our literary paths. It's nice to imagine these new readers as adults one day, surrounded by books.
Lessons learned from my first "in the wild" festival:
1. Wear water-proof shoes, just in case it rains.
2. Make sure the canopy has well-anchored sides to reduce wind effects.
3. Bring extra cash for the AMAZING french fries you might encounter.
4. Always bring good friends to share the day!
A Huge THANK YOU to Donald Levin, Brenda Hasse, and Charles Stern for making it a fantastic day!
This was my second "running with the Penguins" and I had a blast!
Last year, I participated as a speaker on several panel discussions, read from my short story collection (okay, DRAKE's short story collection) and volunteered in the bookshop a little bit. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and I came home tired... good tired.
This year, I took a different approach... I didn't participate on any panels, and focused on experiencing the Con as a writer instead. I still volunteered at the bookshop... I'll always do that... but this year, it was nice to get out to some of the panels and sit with the "regular" people rather than present. It's a different type of exposure to an event that has so much to offer. I enjoyed having this different perspective. It was fun.
I took part in a panel on pitching your MS to whomever... this was a great way to be reminded that a pitch, whether in an elevator or at a festival, is NOT necessarily your back cover blurb. I knew this already, but of course, who among us doesn't need an occasional refresher course?
I attended a panel that discussed the wonderful writing of Ray Bradbury and how he influenced other writers of that genre. I also attended a session devoted to the mechanics of writing a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. I loved this session because this is something that's on my list of writing projects. I've toyed with it for several years, but couldn't quite grasp the nuts and bolts of the build. This session was extremely helpful in showing me an effective flow process. Now, that project is again closer to the front burner... not like I don't have enough irons in my creative mind's fire already!
There was a lively discussion about Tropes. This session was particularly helpful for me... not because I'm confused with what tropes are or how to use them, but because I'm planning a major collaboration project that focuses on using tropes as a momentum vehicle for the story's progression. I'm being cagey about this right now because it's a great idea, and I'm still working on the specifics with a team of outstanding writers. But, stay tuned, because more details will be leaking out shortly. Tease? Me? Never!
There was also a very supportive discussion about attaining your MFA on your own terms... DYI. Hearing about the positive aspects of designing your own degree program was a great reminder that the writer doesn't necessarily need a "credited" program to learn more about craft and thrive as an author. There are a lot of accelerated workshops and low residency retreats that can fuel the writing flames just as effectively, without the long-term commitment or cost of a degree program. The information given to us regarding programs and pricing was helpful, as were the tips and tricks of how to choose the best program for your style of writing.
The discussion group I enjoyed the most, I think, was the panel on Subversive Fairy Tales. This was a delicious romp through the world of what is and isn't a fairy tale, and the history behind them. So many people equate these stories with a Disney-esq approach, and it was refreshing to hear that other writers loved the original, darker tales, as I do. The Grimms Brothers didn't have talking animals in their stories, and they frequently didn't end happily ever after - regardless of how strong the orphan was at the end of the story. This conversation stimulated yet another story idea... and this is exactly why I enjoy Cons so much. You never know where your next story idea may come from, but you're certainly to locate many of them at a Con, if you sit, listen, and watch for a while.
Rounding out the event was time spent with fabulous authors, hearing them read, discussing craft, marketing approaches, and books, in general. I was honored to hear many authors read their work, including Michael W. Lucas, David Erik Nelson, Mary Lynne Gibbs, Jean Davis, G.S. Scott, Brigham Vaughn, and Clif Flynt. Cons are wonderful for networking and making new friends. I even got to play with baby Kit throughout the weekend!
The staff at The Westin in Southfield were exemplary, as usual. Kindness and cleanliness permeated the weekend. The staff got involved by collecting ribbons to show their support, and every one of them had a smile and a "hope you're having a great day" to add to the experience. This truly is a wonderful venue to hold a Con, and I can see why the organizers of Penguicon keep coming back.
Authors, Books, and a Baby... a great way to spend a weekend... even considering the wee bout of ConCrud that came home with me. Will I do it again next year? You Betcha!
I enjoyed my time at this event. The event was well planned-out, super-affordable, with a nice diversity of vendors. There were three book tables (mine and two others), spaced well throughout the room, which worked to everyone's benefit, I think. There was plenty of space for people to walk about without feeling claustrophobic, and nice table neighbors. An added bonus, there was the opportunity for families to bring their children to have photos taken with the Easter Bunny. This event had everything going for it, except there was one major problem... a lack of marketing common sense.
The only place I saw any promotion at all was on Facebook, and there wasn't very much of it. I shared whenever I could, but the organizers should have done more. I'm a member of LOTS of online resources to list events in Michigan, and I didn't see this event listed anywhere.
The event was held at a very nice German Community Club, the facilities were wonderful, clean, warm, with food available and lots of parking... but not one sign out front to let people driving by know that there was something exciting happening inside. The club is situated in Sterling Heights, off Utica Road, with lots of free parking, and plenty of traffic going by, but no one was turning in because no one knew that we were there! There was an "A" frame sign out front advertising the club's Friday Fish Fry, but no sign advertising this event. The event organizers put a hand-written sign on the front door - but no one could see that from the road.
The fact that it was the day before Easter, and a particularly rainy day, didn't help the declining visitors... but certainly, there would have been more people visiting had they known the event was happening. Many vendors were frustrated and went home early - which is never a good sign.
I sold some books, some people signed up for my newsletter, and I had a lovely conversation with my table neighbor... but I'm not sure I will attend this event if they host it next year. At least, not unless they promise to do some more promotion. It has lovely potential, but potential doesn't become real without marketing.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!