Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Blog or Not to Blog...

That is the question most writers are faced with at some point in time. Should they invest the time and energy into a blog so they can connect with their readers? Or simply spend the time writing or pursuing other promotional activities.

For one, even though we’re introverts, we are comfortable writing (or so I’m guessing, otherwise we wouldn’t be you know--writers) so using the written word whenever possible to do our promoting for us is always smart. Even smarter, doing it from the relative “call your own shots” environment of the internet. Because, to restate one of our mottos around here, The internet is an introvert's best friend.

So how does one decide?

Do you like chatting? Do you have things to chat about, besides what you had for breakfast that morning and whether or not you were late dropping Petunia off at school? Because if you’re a writer who’s blogging, your blog will also be a professional representation of who you are, not just a personal diary.

Blogs are not about you, they're about what you can give your audience. The very best blogs inform as they entertain. What “takeaway” element are you giving your readers?

And speaking of audiences, who do you expect to read your blog? Fellow writers? Readers? Librarians? Kids? And whoever you’re intended audience, how do you plan to attract readers to your blog in the first place?

Remember, blogs aren’t always about promoting; they can be about building a community, sharing common interests, connecting with people, offering a service.

What will keep your readers coming back? What is your purpose in having them come back (besides having your site meter register high numbers)?

Even if your blog has a relatively small readership, don’t make a mistake of thinking it’s a place to say private things. Anything you say in any e-form can always find it’s way into the most unexpected hands! If you know that you don't tend to self-censor very well, then perhaps a public forum isn't your best choice.

While you really don’t have to blog every day, it helps to be consistent at least. Say, every Monday and Thursday, for example. (Don’t look at my personal blog because it is a very good example of NOT being consistent OR regular. Do what we say here at SVP, not necessarily what we do.)

Still not sure? Give it a try, but perhaps anonymously. Or simply practice in a word document and save your entries. See how that goes before you commit fully to a blog. You might just find yourself addicted.

Or not. And that's okay, too, because one of our other favorite mottos around here is "Know thyself."

Monday, November 26, 2007

We're Ten Thousand Hits Old and We've Got Contest Winners!

The firecrackers are starting to sizzle and spit! Are you ready? Here come the winners for our 10,000 Hits Contest!

1st Place goes to Liquid Amber, winner of the tre chic Banned Book bracelet from Vroman's Books in Pasadena. I'm wearing mine today. Love it tons. Way to go LA!

2nd place to Anne Marie, who will receive an autographed copy of Robin's lastest book Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos. And don't forget, you can also designate another recipient if you want to donate the book to a school, agency, child, or White House Library.

3rd place goes Stephanie Humphreys! I'll send you (or your designee) a signed copy of The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Death and Lands in California. Atta girl, Stephanie!

And, last, but never least, 4th place honors to Rebecca Langston George! Hip hip soufle! Rebecca, you have your choice of chocolate OR a 10-page manuscript critique from Robin. Anyone else out there willing to admit that this would present a real conundrum?

I need our four esteemed winners to email me with your address so we can get your booty out to you.

Danke, arigato and graci, good friends, for joining in our celebration and being part of our SVP world. We are truly having the time of our lives here, and look forward to the next ten grand, or gazillion. (I'm working on my abundance issues.)

YOUR fans,

Mary & Robin

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Six Things This Introvert Is Grateful For

That turkey is the official food of Thanksgiving—all that tryptophan makes everyone sleepy and mellows the extroverts out, making them much more tolerable.

Ipod earbuds, which come in oh-so-handy, even when I’m not listening to anything.

Pop out turkey thermometers that tell you exactly when that sucker is done and therefore eliminates any guesswork that may lead to an epidemic of salmonella among your guests.

The wonders of internet technology, which allow me to engage in marketing and promotion in a much more manageable way.

That Mary and I have met so many kindred souls through this blog. We had no idea when we started it how many wonderful people we would meet—and all introverts!

That I’m living the life of my dreams—the very life I dared to want when I was fourteen, and that I feared was way too distant a star to reach for.

How about you? What are you grateful for?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Our 10,000 Hits Shrinking Violet Contest

Dear Friends,

Our Shrinking Violet official blogmeter says we are getting closer and closer to 10,000 hits. Wow! To commemorate the occasion, Robin and I are hosting a celebratory contest. If you'd like to enter, all you have to do is post a reply here (just say hello or whatever you'd like!) before the meters rolls over to 10,000. You can read it at the bottom of our blog. Easy squeezy.

Once the meter turns over, we will close the contest, and then we hold a random drawing from all the entries.

First prize: Nifty cool Banned Book bracelet. A must-have accessory.

Second prize: Autographed copy of Robin's THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS
mailed to you, or your favorite kid, an after-school program, your favorite teacher or librarian.

Third prize: Autographed copy of my book THE ONE WHERE A KID NEARLY JUMPS TO HIS DEATH . . . mailed to you, or your directed donation.

Fourth Prize: EITHER Robin will come to your home, critique your manuscript, walk your pets, and bake you her amazing lemon cake, OR we'll send you some great chocolate. We haven't quite decided on this one yet. It will be a surprise. ~:-)

So, get 'yer replies in, folks-the meter is rolling!


Edited to add:

I've been trying to leave a comment for this post since MONDAY, but blogger wouldn't let me in! Argh! I'm giving up and adding an addendum to Mary's original message.

Mary is a terrible tease! Even so, if anyone would rather have a 10 pg mss critique instead chocolate, I'd be happy to oblige, especially, if like me, you're trying to avoid all this chocolate that certain temptresses wave in front of you.

Although I'll do it at my house if you don't mind.

Kimberly Lynn, I'm hoping your groceries survived!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Are Your Goals?

At some point, you discovered you wanted to write. So much so that you gave up lunch hours or sleep or time with friends and family to pursue your dream.

Almost as important to your writing life as that commitment and discipline is self-understanding: What do you hope your writing will bring you? Peace, contentment, satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, riches, fame, a full time job?

Knowing what you want out of writing will go a long way to helping you understand what sort of commitment you need to make to marketing and promotion.

The truth is, very few writers make a living wage. That’s not to say that you can’t, only that statistically, many don’t. But perhaps that isn’t an issue for you. Perhaps all you want is the opportunity to work on your craft and tell your stories. Conversely, maybe writing is meaningless to you until you hit the NYT list. Or maybe you just want to sell enough books to guarantee you get another contract.

All of those goals are perfectly terrific goals, as long as they're yours, and not someone else's vision of success that you’ve assumed like an ill-fitting pair of hand-me-downs.

Clearly, the marketing and promotional needs of the person who wants to hit the bestseller lists will be markedly different from those of the person who just wants an opportunity to tell their stories in their own good time when they’ve been crafted to perfection.

An important step in your writing journey is to sit down with yourself and really explore what role you’d like writing to have in your life. What you expect from it. Here are some questions to get you started thinking along those lines.

  • What is it you enjoy about writing? The creativity? The freedom? The discipline?
  • Why did you start writing? Because of the voices in your head? You wanted to earn a little extra cash on the side? It was the only path you could find to fame?
  • Why do you want to get published? What do you think that publishing will bring you that writing has not? Make a list of those things you hope being published will bring you. Be honest, and then study that list carefully. Is what you want really something that can be obtained through the publishing industry?
  • Where does the act of writing fit in your life? Would you do it no matter if you ever got published? How much does it take away from other things you love? Are you willing to keep making those sacrifices? Could you do it eight hours a day, five days a week? Could you perform under the pressure of writing to a contract that paid your mortgage?
  • How do you define success in general? How do you define success in your writing? Money? Critical acclaim? The contract in hand? A bestseller list?
Now study those answers. How many of them are focused on the act of writing, and how many of them are focused on the act of being successfully published, because they are two distinct and separate things.

If you find that many of your goals are publishing oriented, then chances are promotion will have a significant role to play in your career. It is a rare, rare thing to get big contracts and hit bestseller lists without an enormous marketing effort, usually a cooperative one between the publisher and the writer. That's not to say it can't happen. It can. But if it's integral to how you define success, best to know that now so you can “grow” that particular skill set along with your writing skills.

If, on the other hand, your answers are more focused on personal, artistic satisfaction and a creative outlet, then maybe marketing and promotion won’t have such a big role in your career. And isn’t that a comforting thought!

So spend some time with these questions and see where the answers take you. It might not be where you expected.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Introverts Need to Grow

I'm just back in from a week at Bike Camp, where I served as the Soigneur (swan-yay) to a dozen plus studley chick athletes. My mission was to keep them fueled/watered/happy, and drive the Snack Wagon behind them as they rode countless miles each day. It's a fascinating psychological study to bring that many adult women together, throw them into an intense and physically challenging situation, and then watch the E's emerge and the I's retreat.

Unfortunately, I was one of the BIGGEST I-verts that wanted to retreat. And, um, I was on duty.

After the first day, I was dying to take cover. Anywhere. In the dishwasher. Under the bed. In the trunk of my car. Any place where I could find five minutes alone. I felt as pathetic and pruny as ET with my heart light fading.

It would be so much easier if I were the kind of person that thrived in standing shoulder to shoulder with 2-15 women in a small kitchen while everyone talks at once, and 2-15 women need me to help them with something. All at the same time. For seven days. I love these women, too. Dang it is frustrating.

There are so many lessons in the natural world. If we didn't have any of the religious or philosophical works in print, all we would need to do is pay attention. I love the parable of the man that watched a cocoon in his garden day after day, seeing the movement of the new creature struggling inside to get out. When the man couldn't stand it anymore, he took a small exacto knife and made a tiny, neat slit in the cocoon, just to give to give it a little help out. And, in doing that, he interrupted the essential time the butterfly needed to kick its legs which reduces edema, so it can fly. He ended up crippling the butterfly.

(For those of you with particularly tender hearts, here is an alternate ending. So the man feels really terrible and hires a personal trainer for the butterfly, and gets those legs in fighting shape, and they all live flutterily ever after. :-)

There are a number of truths here, but the one I'm drawing is the reminder that not only do we need space to weave our cocoons, we need incubation time, uninterrupted time, and finally, struggle time. We need room to kick and flail, heave and push our way into our final form.

I dig being an introvert. I love all the stuff that comes with it, too. I'm reminded again this week that I need to review my owner's manual now and then. To extraverts, we may seem high-maintenance, moody, or delicate, or high-strung, or even wack-- it's none of those.

We're highly evolved self-sustaining creatures. Our work is complex. We need space and place to complete it.

We may look delicate. But delicate like the carbon fiber bikes I followed all week that weigh less than a box of Splenda and can go upwards of 50 mph on wheels the width of your pinky nail.

(I'm really jazzed that I got a bike analogy in here at the end. Wasn't sure I'd be able to pull it off. Feeling very sporty now.)

Do take especially good care of yourselves--

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Even Violets Get The Blues...

It is my turn to post and the truth is, I am a social flatline right now. I had to stage an emergency rescue attempt this weekend to drive up to school (long five hour drive past cow fields and, well, more cow fields) where one of my sons contracted mono. And of course, it had to be one of the worse cases of mono the E.R. doc had ever seen. Poor guy. (He's doing much better now!)

And I don’t know about you introverts out there, but for me, even when dealing with medical personnel and school personnel, I have to flip my On switch. I can’t just relax and interact with them, I am very aware of having to be On. Which, when combined with the sheer logistics of the venture, (parking illegally near the dorms, packing up all his worldly belongings in under five minutes, then bribing a few dorm mates with $20 bills to help me haul stuff to the car, all at a fevered clip) is enough to render me a flatline.

Which is a long--if dubious--way to try to tie this into introversion. And while the connection is there (even if it is a bit shaky) the truth of the matter is—I simply don’t have a post in me today, guys. Sorry. Plus, I’m catching a cold. At least, I hope it’s a cold. If it’s mono, just shoot me now….although my son swears his doctor told him by the time everyone is 30, they’ve had mono, either knowingly or such a mild case they didn’t recognize it. Here’s hoping….

In the meantime. Mary is still whooping it up with a bunch of girl bikers at training camp. Remember to clap if you believe in introverts, or she might just wither and fade away!

Also, don't forget next month's Milestone Monday's are coming up, so be sure to email us with any milestones we can share!

Monday, November 5, 2007

S.O.S. from the Shrinking Violets!

Help! The Shrinking Violets-- aka Mary and Robin, have been abducted by bands of Wild Energy Seeking Extraverts. Eeeek! Our inner batteries are dwindling by the moment. Code Red!Code Blue! (Pant, huff,wheeze, sputter. . .)

We NEED your collective and life-sustaining introvert mojo sent our way. Do you have an extra pint or two you can spare?

Please-- can you hook us up??

Perhaps you can send it to us via this blog-o-sphere . . . our lights will begin to flicker, slowly turn to hum, and we'll be back in the saddle on Thursday. Perhaps a tad emotionally anemic, but back in the saddle in marvelous company once more.

Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Introvert and the Real Girl

Mary and I went to see Lars and the Real Girl last weekend, and I have to say, I highly recommend this movie, especially if you’re an introvert.

The movie starts out with poor Lars, a single man in his mid-twenties who’s living in his brother’s garage. His main form of social contact is peeking out the window and watching while friends and family knock futilely on his door. Mary and I spent so much of the film leaning over to each other and saying “He’s such an introvert!” that we nearly conked heads a dozen times. (Or maybe that was because we were both reaching for the popcorn. I forget.)

At one point, he’s put off his sister-in-law’s dinner invitation so many times that she literally tackles him in the driveway in an attempt to drag him to the dinner table.

But even when she wins and he’s there at the table, he’s so overcome by the social demands of the situation, he can barely eat.

And then, he gets a life-size doll as a girl friend, and while it’s hilarious, it is also incredibly touching and a huge testament to the human spirit’s ability to try and heal itself and break through our own limitations.

As I writer I was so struck by the brilliant subtext of the movie. Really, the entire thing is subtext when you think about it. It was a genius way to write about the struggles and travails of an extreme introvert. Normally those sorts of conflict tend to be so internal, the story ends up just being a man talking to himself. So if you’ve ever received feedback from someone suggesting you to find a way to make your internal plot more external, I point to this movie as a prime example of that.

But really, the movie is worth it if for no other reason than how thoroughly the writer (Nancy Oliver of Six Feet Under fame) gets introverts.

And I must confess to also loving the delicious irony of it: that the most human movie I’ve seen in a long time--one that showed us the endearing quirks, foibles, and vulnerabilities of mankind, as well as how love and tolerance can be found in the most unexpected places--starred a life-size plastic doll.

Now what does that say about the human condition?

If you get a chance to see it, let us know what you think!