How to Host a Book Launch Party

I had the privilege and honor of introducing and interviewing my friend Satin Russell at her first ever–book launch party. Never having hosted a book launch party before, she relied on her experience as an audience member to inform her own. It came off without a hitch, was entertaining and helped spread the word of her coming works.

How Satin Threw a Book Launch Party

Like writing styles, you have to find the method that works for you. Start by choosing a venue that suits your personality. Satin’s was at the small bistro Crave, in the charming town of Amesbury MA, which is noted for it’s thriving art community and plethora of downtown eateries. Crave’s warm and inviting ambiance with a eclectic selection craft beer and small batch whiskeys reflects Satin’s easy going, fun nature. The very knowledgeable bartender introduced us to some fine tasting bourbon and new whiskeys-added bonus for us cocktail lovers.

Typically, a book launch would occur at a book store, your home or rented venue, but thinking outside the box served Satin well. Crave graciously open early 12-3, before their dinner service. They even donated a gift certificate for the give-away. It proves-never be afraid to ask. The venue earned new customers, well worth their time accommodating this event.

Invite family, friends and fellow writers who will chat, nosh and take great enjoyment in bearing witness to your success. Surrounding yourself with those who love and support you is a smart move for a launch-if no one else show up at least you’ll have fun. Though this is a celebration don’t waste this opportunity make sure you publicize it. Market your launch event. Send out press releases, invite local media, and put up notices-everywhere.

Decide how you’ll actually run the event. Satin chose to have me interview her. This allowed her to relax and mingle before hand since she was nervous about standing up there by herself. She started with a reading then we interspersed the questions with a few short excerpt introducing the audience to the characters. We’d written the questions in advance, refining until we thought we’d covered everything the audience would be curious about. She is an eloquent speaker, at ease and funny. She ended with taking questions from the audience. I don’t think it could have gone any better.

Self-publishing isn’t an easy task.  It takes guts and faith in yourself. Satin’s commitment to pushing through the doubt, embracing all that you need to learn–hiring an editor, a cover artist, a format specialist, and marketing, impressed all of us.

I hadn’t thought much about throwing a book launch party before–my work is not quite ready for prime time–but I’m glad I got to see first hand how it could be done. Since then I’ve done a little research. Here are a few good resources if you are exploring how to host your book launch party.

Bookbaby’s How to Throw a Book Launch Party That Isn’t a Waste of Time

Writer’s Digest 9 Steps to Hosting a Book Launch Party

The Book Designer’s 12 Tips for Successful Book Launch Parties

Tiana Warner’s The Complete Book Launch Party Checklist

White Privilege: Riots and Protests and Fears, Oh My!

Some people seem to think that when an issue stops making the front page that it has stopped being an issue–I’m looking at you white people. Black lives matter and you need to listen to what they are saying.

Why you? Because you’re blessed by white privilege. Because through no fault of your own you were lucky enough to be born to the majority. Only when you own your privilege can it be mitigated and the playing field leveled for all. Isn’t that fair? Isn’t that one of the first tenets of childhood–be fair.

And do not mistake the actions of rioters for those of protestors. Voices heard long after the moment of heightened rage are no less outraged, their tenor is clear–stop marginalizing the lives of young black men. That is just the start.

Disparity Limits Opportunity

So long as people (again…looking at you white folks) deny that institutional racism placed both Brown and Wilson where they were and are, societal mores stagnate. We’ll never progress past what separates us-anger and resentment. We get ever more defensive, take sides–which divides us even further. Stop digging in your heels as if the recognition of your privilege will cost you something sacred. Fairness is like love, unquantifiable, there’s more than enough to go around.

A little self-reflection may help. When what you “believe” denies others their reality, you are the oppressor. How it happened, and why it is happening still are the results and the consequences of our political system, educational system and the economic disparity that continues to divide and depress communities, people of color, and the poor–regardless of race but disproportionately to anyone not white.

Stop throwing blame back in the face of those oppressed. Looking at the bigger picture doesn’t abdicate personal responsibility, we own our actions, but recognizing the systems that created the inequalities are where we need to start in order to change them. Disparity limits opportunity.

These systems don’t operate in a vacuum. We are not meant to blindly believe in our political parties, or elected officials. We have the right to protest and demand fairness, equality, and the equitable distribution of power. It is our duty, especially when you are in the majority. We (wave your hand in the air with me pale faces) have the power and responsibility to vote to protect those our privilege of majority hurts. You have the power too my friends of all ethnicities (well, you know when congressional districts aren’t being redrawn to deny it).

Everyone must regard the process with respect and acknowledge that it can and should be the means with which we enact change. You do matter, your vote and voice matter. Protest are part of that process. Riots are not. Rich white men (looking at you Koch brothers, Wall Street and the GOP) you need to back the fuck off. Your interference is a form of looting and no less senseless and destructive to the fabric of our communities as riots. Clearly, money and politics do not mix. Voting money out of our system is the only way to ensure all voices are heard.

Start with a no-brainer–NO LOBBYING ALLOWED. Then, stop screwing around with voter rights GOP. Really? Come-on, suppression of voting rights should not be a political strategy. If you can’t win on the merits of your political policies, change them, not who gets to vote. Let’s set real term limits, get rid of PACS, and contributions by companies…I could go on, and on here.

Ugh! Politics, I know, who wants to face that lot. No matter your agenda, liberal, conservative, moderate, be fair to all. Politician’s used to understand that the most important tool in their arsenal was compromise. Now, it seems to be derision, fear-mongering, and illusion.

We the People

Every life matters, Brown’s and Wilson’s. If you don’t work to better the lives of all members of our community the entire system will remain unbalanced and inherently unfair. This is not what our country stands for.

We the People? What a mixed message American culture has. What symbol stands uniquely for America more than the Statue of Liberty? Do you know what’s written on the brass plaque just inside our lovely lady liberty? A sonnet,  “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. The second half reads,

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Do you remember that? Remember when being the melting pot of the world was something we took pride in? Now, we’re tearing families apart, building walls to keep them out instead of opening our arms to welcome them in. Why? When what has been taken away from us by the richest in our nation, why do we blame our brothers and sisters? The need to defend what little we have comes from a false narrative written by the true oppressors. The financial crisis a majority of Americans find themselves in is excuse of those with the money, not those struggling beside us. 

True Colors

Like science deniers (do not get me started on that) many whites “believe,” there is no validity to white privilege. That they are not recipients of privilege by the very virtue of being white. They are truly color blind and not in an altruistic state some like to claim either.

Color-blindness is a deficiency of vision, an inability to see differences, a fault in development. Not seeing what others value of themselves is an insult. Color blindness is denial of anothers right to be seen on their own terms.

Of course we are different and we should be, culturally, ethnically, musically, athletically, and by every other defining facet to being human. That’s the fun stuff, our differences. It’s what makes us interesting and challenging.

Geez, I’m white, I can’t change that, but I can own it.

We can change the lens with which we view the world. Not to be blind to the differences but to see them more clearly, learn from them, be enriched by them. By focusing on our differences you bring attention to the contrasts, negative and positive.

Do not put the weight of educating yourself about race on people of color. They have enough to deal with. You can be a better ally by taking on the responsibility of educating yourself.

Try these resources:

http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/08/ferguson_how_white_people_can_be_allies.html

http://mic.com/articles/97900/10-simple-rules-for-being-a-non-racist-white-person

http://www.tolerance.org/supplement/white-anti-racism-living-legacy

http://bmoreantiracist.org/white-people/29-stupid-things-white-people-do-and-what-we-can-do-instead/

 

I recently came across this food blogger who is addresses racism in a much better way than I ever could. You know, without hitting you over the head with her opinion like I do. People are much more likely to hear you if you aren’t screaming at them about what jerks they are for not thinking the way you do. 

So, for an excellent discussion on race (and bonus! delicious recipes and lovely photos) check out the eloquent Julie Ruble at Willow Bird Baking.

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo Preparedness

It’s NaNoWriMo preparedness time!

November kind of sneaks up on you, so fair warning, as of today Oct 4th, NaNoWriMo is a mere 4 weeks away.

For you local writers seeking a state of preparedness that might stave off panic come November 1st, we have pre-NaNo write-ins three weekends in October.  Use them to plot, develop ideas, or characters, bounce questions off the group, get website or book recommendations, pretty much anything having to do with novel writing-you ask we’ll do our best to answer.

For my web-based writer friends I recommend these resources to help you prepare. Check out the WriNoShore website, Wednesday Woo posts for even more writing links.

Obvious, but chock full of helpful information to get you started is NaNoWriMo’s own website,

http://nanowrimo.org/forums/writing-101

Chuck Wendig’s books and blog are a favorite, be forewarned he is loose with the crude language, and I love him for it.

http://terribleminds.com/

http://www.livewritethrive.com/

An interesting search engine I’ve just started exploring,

http://hiveword.com/wkb/search?q=plotting

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/novel-in-30-days-2011

 

Are you new to NaNoWriMo?

The WriNoShores are a regional writing group that germinated and grew from our NaNoWriMo experience. While we have a distinct identity from NaNoWriMo for the month of November  we are devoted to participating in NaNoWriMo as the North Shore region of Massachusetts.  We’ve discovered over the years that each region has their own way of doing things, though the basics are the same.

The ML (Municipal Liaison) arranges for places to hold write-ins during the month of November, ours has NaNo Prep Write-Ins several weekends in October to help one another with plot ideas and familiarize newbies with the process. We have a variety of write-ins held in libraries, coffee shop, tea shops, and private homes and attended by anywhere between 2 to 20+ writers.

I can’t stress enough how productive our write-ins are. We are very dedicated to helping you reach you word counts which we do by holding word sprints. Word sprints are 20 minute focused writing sessions, often back-to-back with fifteen minute breaks between sets. It is amazing how the energy of all those writers pounding out the words helps you concentrate. It is rare that someone doesn’t find this event works for them, truly, most are pleasantly surprised.

As anyone in our group will attest, we are convivial, but serious minded, kind, accepting, and helpful. We strive to be productive, yet balance that with copious amounts of tea, coffee, and chocolate, administered as necessary.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask, here or on our NaNoWriMo regional forum.

 

 

Online: Be Yourself not Anonymous

I don’t know about you, but when I see a comment by “Anonymous” I automatically discount its worth. If you don’t value your time and words enough to put your name to them then why bother? Online: Be yourself not anonymous is what I’ve always believed, until I began thinking in earnest about marketing.

Accountability

I believe to achieve online equanimity, one’s words need the check of accountability provided by owning up to your actual identity. While this is true in theory, does it hold up when viewed under the lens of marketing scrutiny. Whether you’re selling a product or yourself – for what is our online community but one big concession stand – does anonymity hurt or help sales?

Authentic, But At What Cost?

What began as a reflection on the troubling vileness of comments left by incognito voices, has morphed into a marketing inquiry. If you’ve read any of my political posts you’ll have noticed I don’t shy away from expressing my opinion. I aim to be authentic, but at what cost?

Possibly, my true self may offend readers, does that mean I am sacrificing a potential sale? As I seek to publish, should I be more mindful of how my personal views influence the buying power of the public. Should I rescript my views whenever I blog, tweet or post to be more palatable?

Consider this—isn’t it equally important to be yourself when you are your own brand and sole proprietor of your business? Should you be an edited, fictitious, more marketable you? How much of yourself can you reveal before you risk repelling clients, customers, or readers with your personal views or politics? What about when those views have nothing to do with your product or business?

Boycott, Protest, and Media Blitzes

We’ve seen what can happen to a company that supports political candidates or issues that don’t comply with the social mores of its customer base. Calls for a boycott, protest, or media blitz are broadcast, and make headlines, but what results from these? Is it, any publicity is good publicity? Or are these actions detrimental enough to the bottom line to influence a business’s polices?

Should companies acquiesce to the demands of its patron’s or stand strong in its convictions? Does it depend on what stance, or policy the company is imposing? Are they speaking for themselves or the company? Do their politics affect their employees directly or restrict their employees autonomy? 

How deep do you dig into a company’s missions statement before you buy their product or services?

What Do My Values Say About Me As a Customer?

I admire how some companies have handled these uproars. Much to their credit, JCPenney stood firm in its support of choosing Ellen Degeneres, an openly gay woman, as its spokesperson despite some hater’s protests. And Target’s protection of a transgender persons’s right to choose their own identity and bathroom usage was admirable. I promptly made purchases at both establishments in solidarity.

However, I have often shied away from buying anything at Target because of its refusal to implement policy protecting women from a pharmacist personal views and judgement. Here is where I think the line is as to whether a company or individual can impose its values and morals on another.

A pharmacist, because of their intimate knowledge of your medical decision (by way of a prescription) is obligated to maintain your privacy. When they refuse to fill a prescription that goes against their own morals, they are crossing the line into patient/doctor confidentiality. An intrusion that is becoming more and more common as politicians seek to legislate controls over how and what women do to their bodies.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum. When Chick-Fil-A funded anti-gay groups I boycotted them. When Hobby Lobby purporting to hold it’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception ideals as sacred religious rights to the point of taking it to the Supreme Court, but were in fact, heavily invested in those products through their company financial holdings, and made a lot money doing it, I vowed never to shop there. Theirs was an astounding hypocrisy, yet not shocking given how white corporate America behaves these days.

Clearly, my values say a lot about me as a customer and, influence my purchasing decisions. I can’t expect others to not be influenced by what they value when deciding whether or not to do business with me or anyone else. 

A company that tries to rule over your personal life and demands conformity to their standard is one I’d try not to do business with. I think it is wrong for a company’s values to supersede employees or a customer’s rights. It’s that line of infringement that is the litmus test.

Does expressing my political views impinge on another’s rights? No. They might not agree, or like what I say, but I have no power over their ability to make value judgement of their own. They aren’t restricted by my views. Despite my fight to stop the sale of assault weapons, I would not bar a Republican, anti-abortionist, NRA card holder from buying my books because they have different values from I. 

How Much Virtue is Too Much Virtue?

Do you as a consumer consider a company or individuals politics, values, or religion before making a purchase? Do you have a list of companies you won’t do business with because of their carbon foot print or quality of life standards for workers? Do you make a purchase anyway if your wants or needs of a product countermand your convictions against the companies policies?

Does a company like Chick-fil-A, whose religious agenda is clearly and proudly part of their companies purpose statement— “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” —risk losing customers that don’t support their views? Or do people just not care when it comes to filling their bellies?

I will never eat at Chick-fil-A. Not because of their religious affiliation, I support them holding to their faith and values, and find many of their charitable initiative admirable, the exception is when they infringing on the rights of others. And since their company donations support anti-same-sex marriage endeavors, they have crossed the line.

How much virtue is too much virtue is in the eye of the beholder. Decide what you value, read widely about the companies you frequent and shop accordingly. How deep your research goes, and whether or not you strictly adhere to these self-imposed guidelines is on your conscious, not mine. 

 Being A Writer Means You are a Business

What does this mean for me, a blogger, sole proprietor, a writer who one day hopes to sell a few novels? Or you, the account exec who secretly writes a popular romance series of novels, or the middle school teacher who is a skilled erotica poet and earns half her salary in affiliated links?

It means you are a business and responsible for the bottom line. How closely you aline your business with your personal morals is another decision you have to make as an entrepreneur.

A secret identity to sell your wares in some instances is commonsense. A secret identity to be ugly, repressive, and argumentative is not. Hiding your identity to promote an agenda that is counter to your public face is subterfuge.

Be Yourself Not Anonymous

I started this post because I wondered, does transparency makes for better discussions? My want of openness is not a call for any person’s voice to be muted but rather a plea for clarity, civility and consciousness.

Being yourself online is hard, but if it can cure what infects the comment sections all over the internet, wouldn’t it be worth it? While (evidently) it may not keep me you from embarrassing myself yourself, I believe it does more to keep one honest and reflective than hiding behind the mask of anonymity.

Anonymity’s danger is it give one a false sense of entitlement to say whatever one wants. Aside from the few instances when this is a necessity to protect yourself from harm, it seems to me that we’d be better off without the ability to hide from ourselves or others.

Like the rules we set for our children when teaching them personal responsibility online “Never say online what you wouldn’t say to someones face or their mother.” That’s what I taught my children, and I’m determined to adhere to this maxim myself. Even as a business entity, I feel a responsibility to be open about who I am and what I believe.

I am Always Me

I can’t say I’ve never commented online under another name, but I have never done so to be dishonest. I am always me, and I believe it keeps me from saying much of what needn’t be said, out loud, to anyone. Though I do not shy away from expressing my opinion, I’m learning to temper it with an understanding of how it reflects on me.

That’s why I promise to always be me online. When I find my message or responses becoming vitriolic I know I need to step back and let my anger abate. If the message is still something I need to express, if the anger is justified and makes sense after I’ve cooled, then I’m prepared to stand behind my words, but I intend to be responsible for what I say and I hope you’ll hold me accountable for it too.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from accountability. You should have to own up to what you say, write or preach. whether you are an individual or a corporation.

P.S. I update and rework this post off and on as I reevaluate and need to clarify what I’m thinking. Many news items since I began have felt like prescient warning of the impact imposing ones values on others have. 

Given the results of Donald Sterling’s deservedly quick and complete ousting from NBA (just the beginning of a spate of business leaders being held accountable for their racist, and/or sexist remarks and behavior),  an the Hobby Lobby court case, the insistence that everyone conform to personal values not their own is a tough sell even when you share some of those values. 

The one guideline I keep coming back to is, how and when you stand up for what you believe in should be determined not just by your personal moral compass but whether or not it restricts others from following their own. 

 

 

 

 

 

Haverhill High Class of 2014

That title appears innocuous enough but it is my eighteen-year-old daughter’s graduating class and today is her last official day of high school. For me it is fraught with emotions.

I’ve thought of little else the last few weeks as she’s prepared her last essay, attended her last HHS production, and spent many hours on Facebook getting to know those who will become her new classmates at college.

It is hard not to reflect on the good and bad things that have happened to her, events that are significant in that they helped shaped how she responds to the world.

She recently shared two such event at poetry reading explaining how she had been bullied in fifth grade and turned to poetry to cope and express her feelings. Then, how the kindness of an entire class gave her the strength and confidence to read that poetry in public.

She’s experienced the worst and the best in people, and transformed those interactions into stepping stones to become the out-spoken, eloquent and poised woman she is today.

It is with great pride and confidence that I send her out into the world. Please be kind to her.

I know she will be to you.