Friday, June 29, 2007

Where the Heck We've Been

Dear Violets & Vinnies & Friends of all sorts,

'Lest you think we've both been kidnapped by a wild band of Renegade Extroverts-- let me reassure you that we-- uh, wait-a-second, we HAVE been hijacked by a bunch of E's!

And, we're both just now making our way back to our lives, and can't wait to catch up with one another (Hi, Robin! I've missed you BIG) and all of you!

I've been off watching my partner race her bike across America and you'd think out of consideration for me, she could have raced out and back. Like maybe turn around in Colorado or something? But, no! She made it to Atlantic City in record time, and I've been off picking her up and driving her and her totally wasted teammates home. Gawd. What a bunch of wild thangs.
Congratulations, girls, you were AWESOME.

Robin has been on faculty this past week at the celebrated Santa Barbara Writer's Conference where she joined Ray Bradbury, Carolyn See, Gail Tsukiyama, and a host of other stellar authors. I am quite certain she has blowing the socks off writers with her expertise and deep love of the craft.

Robin and I are looking forward to debriefing and rebooting over the weekend, and then we will be hitting the trail running with some great upcoming Shrinking Violet blogs.

Stay tuned for some fun plans for a Shrinking Violet Get Together at SCBWI Nationals, more of the Coolest (and Hottest) Introverts in Children's Literature, Shrinking Violet Favorite Hideaways, Ten Tips to a Quick Reboot, How to Train (read Torture) your Favorite Extrovert.

Back on Monday!

Mary Hershey

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Conference Survival Tips

So, are you all having a good Thursday?


Yeah. Sorry about that. See, I got all distracted with the conference I was attending, that I let that deadline slip on by. (There’s a funny saying somewhere about deadlines —something about loving the sound they make as they speed on by. That pretty much sums it up.)

So. With no further ado (or apologies) here are a list of conference survival tips. Please feel free to add your own survival tips in the comments! Us introverts can never have too many tricks up our sleeves where crowds are concerned!

  1. Give yourself time to get oriented in the hotel and understand where your room is, the meeting rooms, the elevators, and the bar dining room are. There’s nothing worse than wandering lost among throngs of people talking very loudly.

  2. Plan some down time into your conference schedule. Yes, you’ll be tempted to squeeze everything in, but then you run the risk of short-circuiting. Pick a couple of workshops or luncheons and plan on spending them alone in your room doing some recharging; yoga, a nap, deep breathing. It’s astonishing how much even an hours break can refresh you so you’re ready for the rest of the day. Yes, you will miss something, but your focus will be much sharper for the events you do attend.

  3. Consider going offsite for lunch one day, again, just to step away from the crowd.

  4. Stay hydrated. The fuzzy-headed disoriented feeling from being dehydrated is not something you need to deal with on top of the crowds. Hotel air can be really drying.

  5. Stay fueled up. Pack protein bars or nuts or some kind of snack that will help keep your blood sugar on an even keel.

  6. Try to get your normal number of hours sleep. You’re drawing on enormous energy reserves, just being in a crowd like this. Honor the toll that takes on your body.

  7. Pick an aisle seat if at all possible. That way you only have people on one side of you.

  8. Consider treating the entire experience as a conference AND retreat. Pick mornings or afternoons to attend workshops, then give yourself permission to use the other time to retire to your room and apply what you’ve learned immediately, while it’s still fresh in your mind.

So those are my survival tips. I’d love to hear some of yours!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Conference Survival Guide - Strategizing

I was supposed to be in here yesterday with a blog, but it’s that time of year again. School’s out, the days are longer, and kids are running rampant everywhere. A sure indication that it’s summer, and summer means Conference Season.

The majority of, but not all, writers’ conferences are held during the summer months. Certainly the national ones are. So here at SVP, with summer comes the need for an Introvert’s Conference Survival Strategy and Tips. Because as someone once said, writer’s conferences are hundreds of writers getting together and pretending they’re extroverts.

All that pretending and socializing depletes our energy meters way fast. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves running on empty by the end of the first day of a four day conference.

But the thing is, conferences are wonderful opportunities to learn from the masters in our field, hear what publishers and editors are looking for, and they can be a prime chance to “interview” agents before we sign on the dotted line and hand over our business to them.

Not to mention how wonderfully satisfying it can be to be in an entire hotel of people who speak a writer’s language; who don’t think you’re crazy when you talk about hearing voices in your head, or who know what the acronyms SCBWI, POV, BIC actually mean. It can be a time to meet other writers, possibly forming new friendships or having wonderfully crunchy discussions over writing craft. So even for the most reluctant introvert, they are not to be missed.

They should, however, be strategized. And part of the strategizing begins before you ever set foot at the conference. First you need to choose which one you plan to attend. Every summer I am torn between going to the Annual SCBWI Conference or the RWA National Conference. I know I cannot do both. They are usually too close together, maybe two weeks apart, and it takes me at least a week to recover from the first one.

Somewhere in there, either before or after you decide which one to attend, you have to decide what your goal is for this year’s conference experience. Are you wanting to immerse yourself in craft? Try to get a feel for different editorial styles and preferences? Find a new online support or critique group? Begin an agent search? Once you know what you’re hoping to get out of the conference, it should be easier to decide which to attend.

The next step is to prioritize your Must See speakers and workshops for the conference. Even though I have been going to conferences for eleven years and have been published for the last four of those, it’s the craft part of the conference that gets my juices running. That is the part of the conference that is the most inspirational to me and that has the greatest takeaway value. That doesn’t mean a person can’t do all of it, but it does mean that it’s very, very smart to prioritize your goals.

I usually accomplish this by pouring over the conference schedules of speakers and workshops. Circle the workshops that you simply MUST see, the workshops and speakers who made you excited about the conference in the first place.
My next pre-conference tip will probably be somewhat controversial. If the conference offers pitching sessions or mss critiques, seriously consider NOT participating in them. Especially the pitching session. The few times I had a pitching or critique session scheduled, I was so nervous it completely consumed the focus of my conference experience. I spent the first half worrying about it and the last half disappointed that I hadn’t been offered a contract on the spot. (A secret dream of nearly all of those who are new to that experience.) So I have chosen to excuse myself from that part of the conference because it just winds me up way too tight and saps my already limited energy.

See if you can find another introvert for a roommate. To me, that is even more important than if the roommate snores. I can always put in earplugs, but it’s hard to turn off someone else’s social energy on demand. A fellow introvert will understand.

So once you know which conference to attend, who you’ll be attending it with, and what you’re hoping to gain from it, it’s time to look for ways to survive it. On Thursday, I’ll discuss those Survival Tips for the actual conference itself. Be sure and check back then!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ask Ms. Viola: On Switching Teams

Helloooo, helloooo, darling Violets & dashing Vinnies!

I'm back from my travels in India where I've been hot on the trail of a remedy for our poor reader "Call me Ishmael". If you recall, Ish has somewhat of a delicate problem that is interfering with her ability to do public speaking. Do hold on, my love, Ms. Viola won't let you down. We did find one promising concoction, but it did have an eensy side effect that you might find a irksome if you're not partial to hairy lobes. That Lord of the Rings look is very chic in some areas if you can pull it off. We'll keep working away on that for you!

This month's winning question comes from our reader named Sam. I can't tell if Sam is a Vinnie or Violet, but in matters of Intros and Extros, it doesn't much matter!

Dear Ms. Viola,

Do you think it is possible for an extrovert to transform into an introvert? Can I learn it? Are there books, tapes, or coaches that can help me with this? I'm a writer, and I have a hard time with the whole isolation bit. I spend way too much time going to blogs, text messaging, hanging out at the gym, wondering what all the other writers are doing, etc. Plus my girlfriend is a Major Introvert and I'm driving her nuts. She thinks I'm needy. I like to think I'm just friendly, but--
Could use a hand here!

Dear Sam,

Let's not have you change your stripes, darling, they can work for you-- trust me. And while you can dress a zebra in paisley, it's just a very bad idea. Now, a nice little paisely clutch to go with the stripes and offset the big hooves is fine, but not an entire ensemble. I shudder, Sam!

Seriously, the world of writers is full of extroverts, and I'm sure you will find that many of them have found ways to both write and fill their social well. If you are constantly being pulled out of your work by the need for a blog fix, it may be that you are running on battery that hasn't been fully charged. Which might very well be true, if your Love Connection is an Introvert and you aren't getting enough kissy kiss face time.

Before you sit down to write, Sam, check your battery! It's somewhere under your hood--metaphorically speaking, of course, and comes with a handy dipstick. Or, is that how you check the gas? I never can remember. Anyway, Sam, are you charged? Have you gotten the social time that you absolutely need? E's need lots of input/output and connection with others. If you need to, leave your writing, go take care of it, and then come back. It is very difficult to be creative when you are a quart low, or in the red zone. Oh, my-- just call me Jiffy Lube Lola. I can almost smell the grease. Tre' butch!

Now, Sam, have you thought about a collaborative writing project? That might be another option for you to consider. Or, perhaps, writing with another writer, even if you are working on different things. You can take your laptops down to a House of Joe and work side by side. Write a little, chat a little, write-chat-write! Perhaps that would allow you to create and be stimulated?

Sam, dear, do stay in touch and let me know how you are doing!

I'm longing to stay and chat, but Phil and O need some face time from me themselves. Until next time-- do write and let me know how I can help. I'm here for you.

Ms. Viola XO

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Vroman's Bookstore Secret Weapon, Kris Vreeland

It is our privilege to introduce you to Ms. Kris Vreeland, of Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California, winner of our 2007 Independent Bookseller of the Year Award! Okay, this might not exactly be her picture, but it could be. You get that kind of superhero feeling about her. And, does anyone really know what she is up to after she gets off work? She could have another gig fighting the-- uh, well, you-know-whats. (Okay, fine, I promise to post her real pix as soon as I get my mitts on it. )

Without further ado-be-do, here she is! Ka-pow!

"I haven't been with Vroman's since it first opened in 1894, though I have been coming to the store as a customer for the last 22 years when my husband and I moved into the area. I have been with them for 2 1/2 years. I'm a buyer and Children's Department Manager.

I have always loved books, especially children's books. My first book memory is of my father reading me Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne when I was about 3 years old. I read the story so many times to my younger brothers and sisters that I can still quote the first couple of pages verbatim when anyone asks.

I had my first job at sixteen at the Montgomery Public Library in Montgomery, PA. The staff consisted of the the head librarian and me (It's a very small town). Since then I've worked in a college library, an elementary school library, as a storyteller, a sign language interpreter, a teacher, a docket clerk for a law firm, in development (fund-raising) in the non-profit sector, an adminstrative assistant for an advertising director (as well as several odd jobs tucked in the middle of things).

Now that my children are grown, I love working at Vroman's in the Children's Department. We have a wonderful staff and great customers. It's very exciting finding all the new gems in children's books. What fun to pass them on to the next generation of book lovers!"

Thanks, Kris! And, congrats to you--

And, heads up, Violets, our esteemed ( and quite strange) life coach, Ms. Viola, will be back with us this coming Thursday. If you have a question you'd like to ask her, you can click on the link in our sidebar. If Ms. Viola picks your question, we'll send you one of our SV mugs. (Known to arrive full of chocolate!) Until then, friends-

Mary Hershey

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Top Ten Reasons To Shop at an Independent Bookstore

10. An independent bookseller would never, ever send a child to "... go check in the Business Technology section" for Charlotte's Web.

9. Because independent bookstores are smaller, one is less likely to loose one's children. One can also keep an eye on the children while looking at other sections.

8. An independent bookseller does not carry Madonna's latest effort, nor the one by Terrell Owens, nor any other poorly written book (even if it ends up on bestseller lists. An independent bookseller has principles and really good books on the shelves.

7. They have used books for sale as well, intershelved with the new (I like bargains).

6. When you ask for A Seed is Sleepy they don't look at you like you are crazy.

5. The children's section is much tidier and more appealing (although I blame the parents for this, not the chain book stores...)

4. The independents don't have tons of candy at the front counter to tempt you while you are waiting. (Okay, maybe that's just my personal issue!) The indies assume you have higher order tastes in life. They'd be wrong, but I like the assumption.

3. An independent bookstore is likely to have a handy list of all of the titles in the series that you're starting, in order. And they'll have all of the titles, too, not just the new one.

2. An independent bookseller chooses her own manager's picks. They aren't forced upon her by "the guys at corporate".

And the number one reason to shop at indie bookstores is...

1. If you go in to an indie bookstore and ask for that book with the green cover with a title that had something to do with bananas and light bulbs, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

And The Winner Is...

Actually, we like to think of all of you who visit SVP as winners, but today we’re also announcing the winner of the $25 Booksense gift certificate for participating in our NIBM festivities.

First, I’d like to thank all that participated, whether by stopping by a bookstore, linking to the NIBM announcement, or contributing to the Top Reasons to Shop at a Indie.

So a big round of applause to: Ruth McNally Bradshaw, Cynthia Jaynes Omololu, Charlesbridge Publishing, Jen Robinson, Jennifer J. Stewart, Linda Urban, Charlotte, and Mary Quattlebaum.

And the winner is...

::drum roll please::

...Charlotte!! Charlotte, email me ( and I will get you your Booksense certificate on its way to you!

Thanks again to everyone who played along with us. We'll see you again next year for the Second Annual National Independent Bookseller Month!

Also stay tuned for upcoming list of Top Reasons To Shop at an Indie!

(Winner was chosen by a Random Number Generator, namely my son. From my computer I called out “Pick a number from one through eight, and he picked seven.)

Monday, June 4, 2007


I think I’ve discovered a new syndrome, and I’d like to claim it before the medical texts get a hold of it: bi-social syndrome.

Please note that it is most emphatically not a disorder, but rather simply a condition, a state of being, a state of swinging wildly (okay, sometimes not so wildly) from the state of embracing social activity to running far, far away from it.

And I have it in spades.

Of course, it took me a decade to figure this out, let alone name it, but now that I have, I wanted to share it with you.

In bi-social syndrome, one can go along perfectly fine, interacting socially with the world on many levels until one day, WHAM! one slams into a brick wall and one can no longer form a single social thought, let alone deed. Selective memory asserts itself and any and all social commitments are easily forgotten, and excuses multiply as to why we can’t put any new ones on our calendar. Sometimes, it is so marked that even emailing is too much of a social effort.

I have recently bumped into such a wall, which is why Mary has so graciously been posting alone for the last week or so.

For introverts, hitting this wall is a clear sign that it’s time to go inward. In fact, we are often unable to do anything else, but face inward. Many times it is a sign that our batteries need recharging, that we missed the blinking light on our internal indicator that warned we were getting perilously close to extending too much of our Self in our interactions with people.

But not always. Sometimes it can be brought about by stress rather than an excess of social interaction. Remember, the key indicator to whether or not one is an introvert is how one recharges and collects their energy. Much like the turtle, I turn inward when feeling battered or vulnerable, or even just exhausted or overwhelmed. Truthfully? It feels like I have this little spiritual shell that I draw inside of when I’ve hit my anti-social cycle, or hermit phrase—as I prefer to call it.

And it doesn’t have to be horrible, upsetting types of stress, either; it can just mean being handed one more thing to think about, cope with, or accomplish, that tilts us out of balance. So it’s not about not wanting to fulfill that role or meet our other social obligations, which often bring us much joy, but more like a law of physics—the source must replenish before it can be drawn upon again.

So for any of you out there who happen to bump into this invisible wall, be aware. It’s merely bi-social syndrome and nothing to be overly concerned about. A short time filling your well and honoring your need to recharge is all that’s required.

And if you’re lucky like I am, friends and family will not only understand, but help out and pitch in when it strikes.

Thanks, Mary!!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Spotlight is on our Independent Bookseller of the Year

Congratulations to KRIS VREELAND of Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California, our 2007 Independent Bookseller of the Year. Let the confetti fly and clapping resound!

Kris is the children's buyer and kid's department manager of Vroman's Bookstore which is the largest and oldest Indie (since 1894!) in Southern California. As our Bookseller of the Year, we will be posting a bio and pix of Kris very shortly, and she will be receiving a gift certificate for dinner at her favorite Pasadena grub station.

And for nominating her favorite bookseller, we will be sending Linda Urban one of our Shrinking Violet coffee/tea mugs. Thanks, Linda for letting us all know about Kris!

Hats off as well to our panel of judges and all our 2007 nominees. A simply amazing cast--

Robin & Mary