Monday, July 30, 2007

The Coolest Introverts in Literature

Anne Lamott comes sliding in as Number Two on our List of The Coolest Introverts in Literature. Okay, fine, I admit it-- we started this list as The Coolest Introverts in Children's Literature with Cynthia Rylant as Number One. But we can't have a list without Anne Lamott on it. Seriously, man.

So, just this once, we're sneaking an adult author in on you. But the woman has a very active and articulate inner child, and gets kids like not many humans do. She's earned the spot in my book. I can just imagine her relief that she made the cut here-- phew! It was a close call, Anne, but you're IN. (If you email me at Yes, Mary I'm dying to have lunch with you! Love, Anne --it's on me! Dessert, too.)

Anne Lamott, familiar to many of you, is a hysterical, successful, dreadlock-riddled, prolific, irreverant, born-again Christian, New York Times best-selling author with a potty mouth and the spiritual consciousness of a modern saint. She is concurrently sarcastic, humble, deeply grateful, biting woman that puts her feet where her mouth takes her. She lives the talk. My favorite kind of religious person.

I have to believe that Anne Lamott is on God's Personal List of People that I'm Crazy About. She is painfully human and fully awake.

I'm taking liberties here to type her as an introvert, but I'll bet a month of Sunday collection money on it. Her writing speaks to the ever-so- classic I'd Rather Have My Uvula Pierced than Attend a Party Syndrome that so many of us have.

She is famous and beloved for her 1994 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life described in the LA Times as "A warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer's world and its treacherous swamps." If you've not read this and want to, and are tied up in in traction or climbing Mt. Everest this summer and can't get it, email me and I'll send you my copy today. Swear. Writers-must-read-this-book.

She has written six novels including, Hard Laughter, Rosie, Joe Jones, All New People, and Crooked Little Heart (the sequel to Rosie), and four best-selling books of non-fiction, Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Traveling Mercies, and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Anne has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has taught at U.C. Davis, as well as at writing conferences across the country. For a number of years, she contributed to, an independent on-line magazine, and you can still catch her archived essays there. Definitely worth the trip.

In fact, though I've bought and read most all of her books, fiction and non-fiction, I only have Bird by Bird left on hand. It is a personal policy of mine that any Anne Lamott book in my posession must be passed on. They are too rich and important to sit on my shelf. They belong out in the world being read.

As does this passage from her book on writing:

"There are moments when I am writing when I think that if other people knew how I felt right now, they'd burn me at the stake for feeling so good, so full, so much intense pleasure. I pay through the nose for these moments, of course, with lots of torture and self-loathing and tedium, but when I am done for the day, I have something to show for it. When the ancient Egytptians finished building the pyraminds, they had built the pyramids. Perhaps they are good role models: they thought they were working for God, so they worked with a sense of concentration and religious awe. (Also, my friend Carpenter tells me, they drank all day and took time off every few hours to oil each other. I belive that all my other writer friends do this, too, but they won't let me in on it." --Anne Lamott

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ms Viola: Last Ditch Promotional Efforts and Professional Promoters

Hello, hello darlings!

I’m just back from a mahvelous week at a spa where I had a chance to share a masseuse with Madonna and had a mud wrap next to Oprah! Luffly!

And now I’m refreshed and ready to tackle two excellent questions from my adoring fans readers.

What action can an introverted author take after his book has been "remaindered?" Here's my story in a nutshell. I landed a two-book deal with a major publisher, and they released my first book in paperback a year after it was published in hardcover. I was just informed that sales are poor and the hardcover version is going to be remaindered -- basically it's going out of print. Argh! Is it too late to do effective promotions for the paperback version before that disappears, too? (I'm afraid of your answer.) What can I do to keep it in print at this point? Also, my second book happens to be a sequel and that came out a year ago. Is there any promoting I should be doing at this point to keep my books alive?

Thanks, and sign me

Regretfully Remaindered

Dahlink, dahlink, dahlink! Email me privately with the name of your editor and publicist. I will be sure to stop by when I’m in New York next week and beat them with my new alligator clutch. Ach! They should have warned you, or at least given you a heads up that your book might be in trouble sales-wise!

Truly, remaindered is one of the most ghastly words in publishing!

However, it is never too late to do some promoting, especially since you do have a paperback edition AND a sequel. A question that sprung to my mind was whether or not your sequel will be going to paperback, too. Sometimes poor sales or lack of reviews will prevent a publisher from taking a book to paperback, so you might want to follow up on that. If they still have plans to take your sequel to paperback, that would be an excellent time to launch a full out promotional campaign for both books.

The good news is that children’s books tend to have a longer shelf life and be given a longer time period to find their audience than adult books. Having said that though, you’re clock is a-ticking. You may have to resort to some rather extroverted approaches to get your book noticed.

  • Do you have a website or blog? Can you brainstorm some creative ways to get the word out about your books? How about contests with free books as prizes, just to generate some buzz and word of mouth?

  • If you’re comfortable doing school visits, consider contacting local libraries or schools and see if you can get on their fall schedules so you can bring your books to their attention.

  • Also, are your books readily available? Are they stocked in chain stores? Do the local independents carry them? If not, consider stopping by and introducing yourself to the indie bookstores in your area. Prospective readers will need to be able to find your book.

  • Consider having bookmarks professionally made (they can be quite inexpensive) and hand them out to the bookstores you visit.

  • Or consider printing up good quality postcards and mailing them to independent bookstores and children’s librarians and school librarians in your state, or surrounding states.

  • Is there a cause or association that your book logically feeds into? Can you brainstorm ways to take advantage of that?

  • Do an internet search of some of the children’s book blog review sites and see if your publisher will send out some more review copies. If they won’t, consider doing it yourself. Remember, the internet is the introverted author’s best promotional friend.

Now here's another question from Go For The Gold Gary:

I’m sure a lot of us introverts are challenged by the idea of promoting our work. Ie read a number of books on the topic, visited a zillion websites, and tried a few suggested approaches that seemed affordable and right for me (a certifiable introvert) and my book (a tween-age fantasy). I published (by a small press) with the second book in the series coming out in May 2008. I toying with the idea of contacting a professional promoter and wondered if you have had any experience with such services? Thanks for any advise you can offer.

Darling, of course I’ve had experience with professional promoters. How else could I train them?

However before you proceed down this avenue, you have to ask yourself two questions.
1. Can you afford one? Because they aren’t cheap, and from your email, it sounds like you do have a budget. They will usually want a retainer, with a two or three month minimum, at anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500 per month.

The second question to ask is, What will they be able to do that you can’t? The truth of the matter is, that for children’s books, there are only so many angles press or publicity can take. Also, as an introvert, will you be willing and able to take advantage of the highly specialized contacts the promoter might have access to? What if they secure you a gig speaking to a room full of five hundred librarians? Is that something you’re comfortable with? What if—although the chances are only itsy-bitsy—the professional promoter gets you a spot on local television or radio? Would you be able to appear and be comfortable enough to make a good impression?

Although, frankly, the chances of an affordable professional promoter having those kind of contacts might be slim.

Probably the majority of their efforts will be getting your “story” into local print media and reviews. The thing is, no one can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Either there is a marketing angle to you and your book, or there isn’t.

As you said, there are tons of websites that can show you how to write a press release, then you can collect the addresses of the most promising and send your release yourself.

Here some other things I tell my clients to consider:

Does your publisher have a publicity or marketing person that you are in touch with? If so, you could work together to do much of the same stuff a professional promoter would do for you.

If not, it might be worth spending the money, but only if the professional promoter has proven, extensive industry contacts within the children’s market. Also, have them show you PR campaigns they’ve done for books similar to yours. Don’t let them show you a book that had a lot of support from the publisher, along with a big marketing budget, and lead you to believe they can mimic that for you, if the exact same elements aren’t in play with your book.

And that's all for this week!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

There's More to Introversion than Meets the Eye

I think if Robin and I stood on a corner and took a random poll asking people to describe the difference between introverts and extraverts, most interviewed would say something like "... introverts are shy and extraverts, well, not-so-much ..." Or, some variation of that.

What is so interesting about the work that came from Myers and Briggs who studied Carol Jung's work on I/E type, is that there are at least five different different dimensions or subsets of type. We can't be that easily packaged into talking/non-talking terms. Complex creatures we are!

From E (left) to I (right), the dimensions are:

Initiating------------------- Receiving
Expressive----------------- Contained
Gregarious ---------------- Intimate
Active---------------------- Reflective
Enthusiastic---------------- Quiet

You might be an introvert that is enthusiastic and expressive, and yet, you'll head straight for your interior space for reflection and recharging. Conversely, an extravert may be quiet and contained, and crave the stimulation of outside activities and connections to keep themselves well and balanced. This complexity and variety can lead many astray.

I do wish we came out of the chute with an owner's manual clutched in our tiny fist. Introverts, especially, need to know how to perform self-care in a world that has a default setting for extraverts. (imho)

When it comes to promotions, marketing, networking activities, yeah-- knowing what your strengths are is essential. But, it is equally important to know what feels like a one-way ticket to the Land of Dread. Do you know yet what you can comfortably do? And what you might be willing to challenge yourself to try? And what you just don't EVER want to do-- even if simply everyone in your writer's group is doing it?

I'm thinking back to a post that Robin did months ago that was really helpful. It was called the Comfort Level Inventory. If you missed that one, I'd really encourage you to go back to it. Seriously great tool to have and use.

In the meantime, do celebrate the amazing creature that you are. A self-charging being! Man, we were green before green was even cool. "-[]



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Professional Networking On Our Own Terms

Okay, so it's clear that a number of you won't be attending SCBWI National. Or if you are, you're keeping it a secret from us. With that in mind, I'd like to talk about technology's greatest gift to the introvert so those of you left at home have something to console yourselves with: Networking while all alone, whether at home in your most comfortable jammies or in your own preferred version of blissful solitude.

Really, how cool is it that we live in an era when we have access to publisher, agent, editor information, right at our fingertips. Not to mention discussion boards, forums, and other places to "hang out" with fellow writers, all with never leaving our computer chair?

I realize I'm preaching to the choir, here. You all must be fairly computer savvy; you found our blog, after all. Even so, I thought we'd share some of our favorite online networking spots, where we get the inside scoop, without ever having to actually talk to someone!


Great speech on authenticity in writing by the editor who discovered Harry Potter
Great source of dramatic writing theory by Cheryl Klein an editor with Arthur Levine Books
Cheryl Klein’s Blog
Anonymous Children’s Editor Blog

These sites are full service sites talking about everything from craft to editors to agents.
The Purple Crayon

Agents Kirsten Nelson’s blog – tons of great advice
Rachel Vater of Folio Literary Agency
Association of Authors’ Representatives,

Publisher Blogs
Harper Perennial

Author’s Guild,
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators SCBWI,
Novelists, Inc.,
Mystery Writers of America,
Romance Writers of America,
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America,
The Author’s Guild
Institute of Children’s Literature
Children’s Book Council

Monday, July 16, 2007

At Long Last! (And More...)

Now I would never be one to make any assumptions about whether a person is an introvert or not ---(sound of Robin spewing Diet Coke in the background), but I do want to gently point out that it took two months for our Indie Bookseller of the Year, Kris Vreeland of Vroman's Bookstore to cough up a photo. That's all I'm saying! :-] We might just have a Shrinking Violet on our hands. Hmmmm. You be the judge.

Thanks, Kris! We are happy to finally put a face to our Esteemed Heroine-- we appreciate all that you and Vroman's do to promote great books for kids. We hope your coworkers and patrons are giving you the royal treatment these days. And if they aren't, you just let us know. We have quite the withering glance, and we're not afraid to use it!

And, while I have you all on the hook, I have a message from Ms. Viola, our Life Coach and SVP columnist. She wants you all to know she is head-banging-bored with all her wealthy clients and their life "challenges". . . what to wear to dodge paparazzi, which are the best parties not to be noticed at, and whether publishing one's innermost private jail journal is a bit too much exposure. The Ms. wants to hear from you! Please send your questions about marketing/promotions/life for shrinking violets to Ask Ms. Viola. If we select your question, we will send you one of our coveted SVP coffee/tea mugs.

And, um, are Robin and I really going to be the ONLY INTROVERTS going to SCBWI Nationals in LA next month? Say it isn't so!

More later, of course-

Mary Hershey

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Conference…

As Mary mentioned, I was a workshop leader at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference a couple of weeks ago, where I taught a six day class on writing children’s novels.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. I really did! Me, Madame Introvert taught a six day class. In front of people! Very highly intelligent and creative people! And they were looking at me!

Very odd behavior for an introvert. Or maybe not.

I will confess, there were a couple of horrible moments. The worst moment was the opening of the conference, when all the workshop leaders were required to give a two minute introduction/speech describing their workshop.

Most. Painful. Two. Minutes. Ever.

So I talked really fast, pretended to make eye contact while really only staring at people’s foreheads, and got it over with in under 45 seconds. AND managed to NOT trip while leaving the stage, something a surprising number of people did. (It was an awkwardly set up stage.)

Another painful moment was the staff party where all the staff and agents and editors from the conference get together for a social hour. In true introvert style, I am SO not a party goer. But I girded my loins and sallied forth to do my duty.

I was only one of two new teachers on a staff of about 45, so again, total nightmare, everyone else knew everyone there. So I forced myself to walk up to two very nice women and introduce myself and just talk. Gawd it was hard! Especially because it turned out they were agents. But see, once I remembered I had a perfectly good agent and am not in the market for a new one, talking to them became much more comfortable. And they were equally happy to have someone to talk to, since they had just been trying to talk themselves into mingling. Even agents have a hard time mingling at parties. Who knew?

The third most awkward moment was walking into the farewell breakfast, a room full of 500 people, all at tables with their closest and most treasured friends. Well, okay. Maybe not closest and most treasured, but it sure seemed that way. It brought back the memory of every middle school dance I ever attended, clinging to the wall, simultaneously wishing and dreading someone would ask me to dance.

But I did manage to snag someone I’d met and ask if her table was full, and was invited to sit down and had a lovely time.

But why-oh-why would I put myself in the direct line of so much awkwardness?

Because I love to teach workshops. Yep. Me, an officially registered, card-carrying introvert loves teaching. Even though it means I stand up in front of a room full of people and they stare at me.

See, workshops aren’t about me, they’re about writing. Craft. Stretching oneself. Learning the tricks of our writerly trade. And that is something I can talk for hours about with just about anybody.

Which is just a long way of saying that many times, even as introverts, we have comfort zones that we can use to connect with other writers and industry professionals.

Sometimes it just takes a while to find them…

Monday, July 9, 2007

On Helping your Extravert Understand what You Need

One of the things Robin and I hope to accomplish in this blog is to help our readers have a better grasp of how both introverts and extraverts inhabit their space in the world. As an artist, YOU are your own most valuable tool. It is crucial that you understand how you function best, and what you need.

It is almost as equally essential for the people that love us to really get what we need to be at ease, to be fueled, to be able to work. How many times do you suppose you've tried to explain to your spouse/ significant other/friend, why you don't want to go to a party, a potluck, a picnic, a dance, wedding, RV show? And, how many headaches, backaches, deadlines, root canals, or dying pets have you waved in front of them to legitimize your "flaking out"?

When the real reason-- a completely valid one-- is that you may be nearly out of gas. Your psyche needs you to draw inside. How can you be expected to jump onto a congested interstate when any second your motor will sputter and cough and you will find yourself getting creamed by oncoming traffic?

Out of gas, your extravert asks? Aw, c'mon, they say, "it will be fun... you'll feel better once you get there! I promise! It's just what you need."

I offer a little in vivo experiment for you and your favorite extravert. Tell them that you will go to their party, but they have to stay home, in a room all by themself. Then frisk them, take their iPod, cell phone, pager, blackberry, and remove ALL communication devices from the room. Check for hidden writing pens, carrier pigeons, matches that might be used for smoke signals. Take the lightbulbs, too. Cut them off from all exterior means of recharge.

Expect to hear-- "You can't leave me like this! I'll go crazy!" You can reassure them, "Aw, c'mon it will be great... you'll feel better once I leave." ;->

Without putting too fine a point on this, I think you and they will get it. Their pleasure and personal recharge might be your nightmare and vice versa.

You have a right and responsibility to your introverted self to take good care of yourself, which means staying close to your energy source-- your INTERIOR self. Your extravert has the same right and responsibility to stay close to their EXTERIOR SOURCE.

Know thyself and honor thyself at home, at work, in your art. Blossom, dear Vi and Vinnies!



Thursday, July 5, 2007

Calling All Violets

Well, Mary let the cat out of the bag. We're considering a Shrinking Violet Get Together at SCBWI National this August and wanted to check with our fellow Violets to see who was planning on attending National, and if so, would they be interested in meeting face to face. It might be a nice way to arm ourselves with fellow introverts for the conference.

Now, we do understand this requires submitting a comment, and as introverts, that's not our favorite thing, but if you are interested in getting together, do give a shout out in the comments so we can get a head count!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Getting Ready for 5-0-0-0!

Our Shrinking Violet Promotions blog site is just about ready to receive it's 5000th visitor! Hoo-yah! Robin and I are all a'flutter. It has been such a fun few months here with all of you. We've been having an absolute blast.

Since we can't actually "see" who the 5000th visitor will be, but we want to celebrate it all the same, here's what we're going to do. The first three visitors that wish the site a Happy 5000! after the meter rolls over will win a Shrinking Violet mug. You can watch the visit meter at the bottom of the site.

We want to thank each of you for dropping by these last few months, for your great comments,, and insights, and for sending your friends our way.

So, watch that meter, and good luck! And, have a safe and festive 4th--

Cheers, friends!

Mary Hershey