Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sarah Vowell, Violet Superhero

There are at least eight excellent reasons that I think you should take the nine minutes it will take to watch this video of Sarah Vowell, who is the voice for the superhero Violet from The Incredibles.

1. Sarah Vowell is a big introvert. And a New York Times bestselling author like each of us will be. Soon.

2. Sarah Vowell is so cool you won't hardly be able to stand it.

3. Sarah Vowell is extremely funny.

4. Sarah Vowell says things like "... I'm better with dead people."

5. Like Nancy Pearl, she has her own Action Figure-- two actually, and one of them is INVISIBLE.

6. Sarah Vowell makes Abraham Lincoln seem kinda, well, you know, hot.

7. Sarah Vowell does interviews on shows like Jon Stewart and brings down the house. Simply by being herself. What a concept!

8. Could there be a better name for a superhero than Violet?

What do you think, friends? Does she make the cut for our Shrinking Violet Hall of Fame?

Originally posted February 2008--updated December 2009

Just a quick hellloooo from my temporary digs in Texas-- hope you all have survived the holiday celebrations thus far! If any of you haven't, please report in! Your Violets stand by steadfast--ready, willing, able to offer some emotional and spiritual CPR.

Onward to 2010! I resolve to be as thoroughly me as Sarah Vowell is thoroughly her-- with all her marvelous eccentricities. Can you imagine the loss to the world if she tried to vanilla out?
Lord, I shudder at the thought. Any resolutions you'd like to share?

Mary Hershey

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Survival Guide For Introverts

1. Find a quiet spot in your day, even if it is just for five minutes, and allow yourselves to just be…still, calm, centered. At least for five minutes. A true gift to yourself.

2. Tell everyone you’re going Christmas shopping, but instead indulge in an hour alone with a warm, soothing drink as your only company. No, it's not being selfish; you will have more energy and heart to deal with all your holiday demands if you take care of yourself! Trust us on this.

3. Give yourself some time this holiday—even just fifteen minutes—to do some writing or dream or make big plans for the coming year.

4. If your time is too frazzled to actually make progress on your manuscript, consider personal journaling or maybe even character journaling. Journaling your character's thoughts and feelings can be a great way to stay connected to your WIP without having to actually produce pages. In fact, one of my favorite writing exercises one year was this: Choose a character you’re currently working on and write his or her Christmas wish list.

5. Don’t forget ear plugs. They can be a lifesaver. Especially when the TV is blaring, the kids are playing too loudly, or the snow-blower is going down the street.

6. Don’t forget to plot—plot for a few hours solitude, plot for a quick escape, plot to get everyone to leave early. . .

7. Naps! Either a long luxurious two hour nap where you sleep hard enough to get bed head, or quick refreshing pick-me-up of a 20 minute cat nap, allow yourself a luxury of a nap. Special Perk: Writer + nap = work. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve managed to convince my family.)

8. A plea on behalf of all the introverted children out there in the world—for introverted children, having to get up in Santa’s lap and TALK to this perfect stranger, usually IN FRONT OF other perfect strangers can be the 6 year old equivalent of public speaking.

9. Fill your holiday well by doing the things that make your holiday feel complete and yours. Remember, this is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation. It’s also a way to honor the spirit of the holidays in a way that has personal significance for you. Better yet if it is something that no one else really cares for: a local production of The Nutcracker, Watching Love Actually (my favorite Christmas movie EVER), a certain collection of holiday music that makes everyone else groan when you put it on.

10. Don’t forget to recharge your batteries—and no, we don’t mean Duracell or Eveready! We really can’t state this one strongly enough. It’s something introverts have to be vigilant about during the best of time, but during the holidays, it is critical! Take the time to recharge your battery! Do not risk depleting your reserves! (Yes, that’s an order. Or maybe just a sternly worded warning: Whichever makes you most inclined to follow it.)

11. Enjoy the dead zone between Christmas and New Years, when life kind of stops—or at least slows down. It’s a fallow, fertile time when we’ve just capped the year with a celebration and have yet to start the new year with all its resolutions, plans, and intentions. It’s a time for dreaming, reflecting, of reviewing and savoring. If you haven’t had a chance to refill your well or recharge your batteries, grab some time now, while everyone is in this lulled state.

Wishing everyone a fabulous end to 2009!


And our winner from last weeks additions to the Introvert's Wish List is . . .

Feywriter! For her brilliant idea of NO carpooling!

"10: No carpooling to the family event. Allow us to follow in our own car even though others have plenty of space in the suburban. We happen to like the familiarity of our own vehicle, and the lack of conversation."

Spoken like a true introvert! Feywriter, email Miss Mary and she'll see about getting that prize out to you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Introvert's Holiday Wish List

Dear Friends,

'Tis the season for the world to begin their conspiracy to drive the introverts completely, raving, off-our-nut mad. That there aren't more of us now living in treetops or stowed away in caves is a testament to our extraordinary ability to endure!

The holidays can exact a great price. An introvert pushed to the limits of socializing beyond their comfort zone may get ill, depressed, angry, start to overeat/undereat, appear fussy/cranky/insane/asocial, and become the topic of extended family whispering and speculating. The more you try to withdraw, the more the extraverts want to pull you in. They simply can't believe that anyone can enjoy their full complement of fa-la-la during the holidays in any sort of isolation. Unfortunately, holiday happiness seems to have a mandatory composition of bodies piled high upon the couch-- and days full of endless group herding, movies, board games, e-games, shopping, noisy meals, more shopping, decorating, baking, and talking till people's tongues have nearly dried up.

In the way that it is difficult for people to imagine Christmas without snow, the kind that we have in Santa Barbara, it is difficult for people to imagine (or allow) family or friends to have a quiet, private holiday.

Try and imagine this work conversation--
ME: "Hey, Sam, what do you have planned for your holiday?"
SAM: "All the kids are coming home--and they're bringing friends from school. Sue's family is flying in from Maine and we've rented a bunch of cots for the house, and an outoor inflatable jumper for the kids. Tomorrow we're all going to take the trolley around town and do some caroling. I can't wait! What do you got planned?"
ME: "Jill is working graveyard Xmas Eve, so I'm going to rent The Bell's of St. Mary's, pick up some lasagne from Piatti's and have a quiet evening at home. I can't wait."
PETER: "Wow, Mary, that sounds fantastic!"

Yea, right. You know what is going to happen. Coworker Sam will have an anueryism when he hears my plan, and will not be able to take another breath until I've agreed to at least come on the trolley ride, if not come for a sleep over.

As a public service, I've prepared an INTROVERT'S WISH LIST FOR THE HOLIDAYS. You can print t this out and leave it around the house, your work, or mail to your in-laws. We're linkable too, of course.

1. Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Headphones. I think they should come as standard issue with every introvert's birth. Essential holiday weapon, er, accessory.

2. Bail Out Coupons: Good for a no-questions-asked bailout from any holiday activity. Yes, more than one will be required. Sets of five sound about right.

3. Silent Night Video Store: No overhead music, no DVDs playing, no shoppers allowed to conference call family members to assist in selecting films.

4. More holiday cards, less phone calls or emails that require acknowledgments. I'm pining for more cards--I completely adore them.

5. No singing chipmunks of any kind. Even ones singing Single Ladies.

6. Gift certificates for things that we can do alone. Uh, couples massage? Gosh, think I'll pass. A non-talking facial or any spa activity is good, and book or I-tunes certificates are most appreciated.

7. World End to the Infamous Extravert Gift Exchange where every gift is up for grabs repeatedly, and it is the loudest, longest, most ruthless activity I have ever participated in. I suspect this is a favorite holiday tradition at Sing-Sing or Atica.

8. Much more singing of Silent Night and much less of Frosty the Snowman. More Bare Naked Ladies, less Burl Ives. (But, that's just me.)

9. A Stealth Cookie Exchange that takes place in the dark of the night, and no one actually comes into your home, or you into theirs. You just leave snugly wrapped, delicious cookies and fudge on porches. You get extra points if you aren't detected. (I would be so good at this!)

10. Your idea goes here!

We want to hear your number ten, eleven, twelve. What do all of you need to get through the season? Robin and I will vote on the best idea, and the winner will recieve a ::special:: holiday package from us! Leave your idea in the comment section, or email me privately right here!

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I am off in a couple of days to spend three blessed weeks in Texas with my partner's mom, and her wonderful pups, Hank and Lucy. Said partner must remain at home saving lives, which she does extremely well and shouldn't be pulled away from it. My time in Texas is always seeped in quiet, with lots of acreage for contemplation. It is a gift.

Robin and I are signing off our live broadcasts until after the new year, but we will be running some of our favorite entries from past months. Robin had some great holiday survival tips from last year that should make a reappearance, especially for our new readers. We hope you'll keep coming by during the next couple of weeks, and we'd love to hear from you.

We will be back in the flesh on Monday, January 5th. We've got some great things planned for January, including an interview with an author who you're NeVeR going to believe is an introvert. Don't miss it!

Wishing you each long stretches of silence, and deep pockets of joy--
Mary & Robin

Monday, December 7, 2009

Envisioning The Coming Year

I don’t know about you guys, but the holidays are heating up for us around here. Carols are playing, Salvation Army bells are ringing, kids are getting wound up and goofy. Yep, Christmas is just around the corner…

Mary and I would love to tell you all to just take a month off all your promotional and marketing duties, as well as shopping and cleaning and cooking and parenting and just recharge. But of course, we can’t in good conscience.

Plus your families would kill us.

What we can do, however, is share an idea for an activity that you may find spiritually and creatively uplifting, which may in turn help you recharge. An added bonus If you have kids, they can play along.

Here at SVP we try to give you lots of tools to help promote your books, get comfortable with the amount of promotion you can reasonably do, and gently stretch your goals to encompass the life you want to inhabit. A lot of this information is outward focused to meet the challenges of a promoting author. Today however, we’re going to talk about a different kind of activity—a highly inward-facing one: collages and vision boards.

Now before you roll your eyes and think you left all that back in grade school, let me gently point out that collages and vision boards are a highly effective tool in helping focus your creative energies—either in a personal direction or in a project-related one.

There are a couple of different ways to approach a vision board. You can create one that focuses on:

Personal growth aspirations for the coming year
Professional goals
Creative goals
Spiritual areas you’d like to work on.
Qualities you’d like to more fully embrace or invite into your life
Whatever whispers to you, that’s what you should use for the focus of the board.

But perhaps you’re more comfortable working on something to do with your work-in-progress, and that’s fine, too. Some story collages capture the overall mood and feel of the book.

They can also be representative of certain scenes or parts of the book, maybe even parts you're having a hard time nailing down. When you work on a collage, you let your subconscious take over and then, watch out!

You will likely find yourself drawn to elements that have no real place in your life or your story, but will instead invoke some hidden theme or motif. Embrace that.

Supplies Needed:

~ Assortment of magazines and old books
~ poster board or foam core board or even just a big thick piece of construction paper
~ glue sticks, double stick tape, scissors, stamps, anything that your imagination grabs hold of
~ A couple of free hours (probably the hardest to locate!)

But don't just take our word on the benefits of collages. No lesser authority than Carl Jung has claimed that our best work originates in play.

The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, which belongs also to the child, and as such it appears to be inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. – Carl Jung

We’d LOVE to see some of the vision boards and collages you create! If you get motivated over the next few weeks (even after the holidays) please do send us a jpeg of your collage/vision board and we’ll feature them here on the blog. (We can absolutely share them anonymously!) And while sharing your project is definitely not required, we might even have a prize drawing for all of those who participate. If you'd like to share, send your jpeg to us here at Shrinking Violets, and we'll do the rest.

So open up your mind and let your imagination GO . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Peacefully and Gently Promote Your Brains Out in December

I'm somewhat of an organizational savant, and I rely heavily on lists to keep me from spinning off into the next galaxy. Here is an actual* excerpt from my rather longish Holiday To-Do List from last December:

84. Have cat's teeth cleaned
85. See about buying matching urns for the cremated remains of me and spouse
86. Vacuum coils behind fridge
87. Promote my book
88. Iron tinsel and sort in bunches of 25

Unfortunately, I only made it to item #53 last year, which involved making yet another batch of Macadamia Nut Fudge. The last pan put me under the table. When I woke up from my sugar coma, it was a whole new year!

This year, I'm promoting promotion. It's moving up my list-- way up. Top ten, friends. I'm giving it a prime time slot in my month. And it does not involve me packing up books, projector, presentation, postcards, lucky skirt, miscellaneous schwag, and driving or flying anywhere. I am simply going to put into practice what we do best here, which means adjusting the spotlight.

December is laden with low-hanging fruit. Promotion during the holidays can be like shooting fish in a barrel. (Wow. I really hate that expression-- how about petting fish in a barrel? Kissing?) Hoards of over-caffed shoppers armed with plastic are madly chasing a meaningful and personal gift for everyone on their list.

An autographed book can be the answer to their prayers-- either your book, or one from any of the hundreds of authors you may know at this point in your career. But how do we connect the shoppers with the authors? Read on:

1) If you don't already have some, buy/order bookplates (the stick-on thingys that go inside a book that you sign vs. a set of dishes). Now.

2) Next, pick one, two or three authors or illustrators whose work you admire and would like to promote.

3) Contact the author/illustrator via email/Facebook/Twitter, and ask if they would provide signed bookplates for you to give to your contacts.

4) In whatever way that you connect with the world (blog, website, newsletter), spotlight this author's work early in the month. Let your readers know that if that if they buy a book by this author, you can get them an personalized bookplate. Word of caution: If you are wildly famous with squillions of followers, and suspect that this could result in a new full-time job for you, I'll trust that you will set some guidelines to manage this. Perhaps limit your offer to the first ten people that ask.

5) In whatever way feels comfortable for you, let your readers/followers know that you are willing to sign your own books or bookplates as well.

In addition to cool karmic networking and potential sales of your own book, this promotional idea can be used to keep you balanced and awash in good cheer this month. Set this idea loose on your own gift list. Was there a book you read this year that you loved? What if you bought it for nearly everyone on your list? Even if you don't know the author, contact them. Tell them that you're going to buy 5/10/15/20 copies of their book and ask if they'd sign bookplates. You can offer to send them plates and a SASE to make it easy-squeezy for them.

If you are balking at the idea of contacting an author you don't know, consider if is was you being contacted. Would you really mind? Hell, NO! I'd be really happy to do it for someone. And if they do mind, or don't get back to you quickly, move on to the next author on your Wish List.

A book is a completely perfect gift. An autographed book is a treasure. Books are easy to wrap. Easy to mail. Muscle for the mind. Light for the soul. No trans-fats or bitter aftertaste. No expiration date. And, best of all, it can be recycled over and over and over again.

I'm buying as many copies of Lynne Cox's Grayson that I can. It is such a gorgeous work-- an extraordinary parable. I'll be contacting her this week to ask her if she'll send bookplates. I'm betting she will! To go with my book gift, I'm adding a box of Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea (I bought nearly every box in the Continental US-- sorry!) and lush pair of slipper socks. Dark chocolate likely. It isn't even December yet, and my shopping is nearly nailed. I may have time to work on my novel-in-progress!

Count me as an author happy to send personalized bookplates to any of you that ask. I'd be honored. How about the rest of you? If you would like to make yourself available in this way, please email me here and let me know. I'll start the list right here in this posting. And include the way that people can contact you. Thanks!

Authors/Illustrators That Will Send Signed/Personalized Bookplates in December

Do you have a great bookplate? Want to share it with us? Send a photo or link to where you ordered it would be grand. I might even be inspired to part with one of my boxes of TJ Candy Cane Green Tea to the first person that does just that. And I'll add a surprise to go with it. :-)

Robin just popped in as I was writing this to point us all to YA author Sara Zarra's blog. She is proposing an Advent Off of social media for anyone that wants to hop aboard. Starting now through Epiphany. Fab idea.



**'actual' being a relative term for a writer of fiction

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Importance of White Space

This summer at SCBWI National conference, I was one of the nearly 3,000 attendees who was blown away by Sherman Alexie’s opening speech. It wasn’t only the power of his message, or the skill with which he chose his words, nor even his brilliant timing.

No, what struck me like a two by four to the forehead was his masterful use of white space. This man had no fear of letting the room fall silent. In fact, he not only let the room grow silent, but he let that silence build and build until it was nearly bursting with expectation. Then he would step into that void and boom! Connect.

Or conversely, he would say something slyly humorous, then patiently wait for us to catch up to him. You could hear the faint click of our synapses as they sparked, lagging a few seconds behind the speaker, then our laughter would catch up with his words. Or else he would say something funny, then wait for us all to realize the galling pain behind the humor. Clearly, this was a master at work.

And one thing I adore about masters is how we can learn from them.

For me, when I speak, I scramble to fill up every second with something witty, pithy, or meaningful. I experience moments of silence as extreme pressure, a reminder that the onus is on me to produce—and to carry everyone along with me. My presentation’s silent moments are fraught with panic. Sometimes I’m even afraid to be silent long enough to take an actual breath.

But Alexie’s presentation showed me the error of my ways. White space could be wielded as effectively as the most brilliant prose, and to equally devastating effect.

What you leave out is as important as what you leave in.

And really, this applies to all aspects of our writing careers; from our prose, to our presentations, to our blogs.

White space is not merely blank. Its existence creates the balance or emphasis. Without the judicious application of white space, we are in danger of creating something that is far too akin to static.

White space gives depth, adds layers, it creates room to breathe.

I knew all this from a design standpoint, but I had never, ever seen it put to such effective use in a speaking format before.

But white space is not for the faint-hearted. Your speech must be extraordinarily well written. Just a long pause between sentences won’t do; the silence must say something. In a presentation, white space creates drama, it can foreshadow what’s coming next, or leave something to the imagination for the participants to fill in. You want to be sure the meaning in your words will support the weight of all that white space.

But I also wonder if it might not be a chicken/egg thing. Does the importance of your words allow you to use white space? Or does the white space give meaning to your words? Both, probably.

I think that as introverts, we are especially drawn to white space. It connects directly to our souls, feeds our aesthetic need for silence and room to think and breathe. And since it speaks so directly to who we are, it makes sense for us to consider using it as part of our communication style...

Here’s wishing you lots of white space in the next few days as you navigate the joy and noise of the Thanksgiving holiday!


We also want to sneak in a quick announcement of our contest winner from last week.
Laura Salas is our winner for her inspired quote entry. She wins a copy of Rebecca Stead's WHEN YOU REACH ME. Laura, email Mary and she will get that prize out to you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Group Recharge

Photo by Charlyn W
In last week's post, Robin gave us all permission to step back from social media as needed, and learn to listen to the needs of our inner selves. I'd like to expand on that permission and offer us all a week off from promotion in general, so that we can fill up our stores. I'd love to have you join me!

When I'm recharging, I need a break from people, from noise, and from schedules-- but I never need a break from words. I crave them, all kinds of them. I have some of my favorite words stenciled in a few places in my house. If I lived alone and was not trying to be a considerate spouse, I would probably have many more. I would happily turn my walls in giant canvases for words-- words that inspire me, ones that never fail to stop me in my tracks, and words that make me smile. (For some fun ideas, check out Wall Words. Said spouse's eyes roll back in her head when she sees me looking at their catalogs. Prefers her words confined to books for some reason.)

I've been wanting to put together a collection of inspired thoughts about introversion for the longest time. I have not been able to find as many as I'd like, and a majority of them sound as if they were written very long ago, with an awful lot of doth-ing and goeth-ing. And by mostly about men, it seems. Surely, there have been some contemporary musings on introversion as well! So, for those of you who would rather not think about promotion this week, I'd love to invite you on a word-treasure hunt. I am looking for words to honor and inspire the contemplative in us each. Since you are mostly all writers, please feel free to send original quotations . My all-time favorite is the one from Ursula LeGuin, which we have had in our sidebar since day one at SVP.

Hardly anybody ever writes anything nice about introverts. Extroverts rule. This is rather odd when you realise that about nineteen writers out of twenty are introverts. We are being taught to be ashamed of not being 'outgoing'. But a writer's job is ingoing. --Ursula K. LeGuin

Here are a couple more that I love:

Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. -- Henry David Thoreau

Don't you think this second one would be nice on a living room wall? :-)
If you submit a quotation, we will enter you in a drawing for Rebecca Stead's phenomenal book When You Reach Me (Wendy Lamb Books), which I read while I was recharging this weekend. Read in one long, admiring bite.

Another great way to recharge is to reflect on all that you have accomplished vs. worrying about all that you need to get done. It is essential that we each master the skill of being present in real time. We all spend entirely too much energy traipsing through our past, or speed-skating a trajectory to the future. In doing that, we miss the vibrancy of N-O-W.

So let's pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly and have one of our Milestone Mondays. We'd love to have you share some of the good work that you've been doing, fun news, encouraging rejections, progress on your NaNoWriMo WIP, whatever you feel like telling us about. Since we are in our recharge mode, rather making a noisy ruckus with clapping, we're going to start a giant stadium wave for you! Since Robin and I are on the West Coast, we'll lead off-- ready, Robin? Here we go000OOOOOO!

Hope you all find a deeply satisfying way to fill your bucket this week. All the way to the brim!

Mary Hershey

Monday, November 9, 2009

Preaching to the Choir

While I was out of town and during my re-entry phase, my online time was greatly curtailed. I only blogged once or twice, tweeted rarely and updated by Facebook status even less. In effect, I took two giant steps off the grid. Oddly, I find that I’m not missing it that much. In fact, I’ve had a helluva time getting motivated to dip back in to Twitter. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I did. But without it, there is a great, lovely silence in my life right now, an absolute absence of noise and distractions, as if someone turned off that television that was constantly playing in the background.

Then of course, guilt set in. OMG, I’m not doing Every. Possible. Thing. to sell my books every single day. Panic! Horror! Guilt! Trust me, it’s raining self-recriminations here in Southern California.

Which in turn precipitates a whole new set of recriminations:

1. What if all the online selling and promoting basically takes place in an echo chamber? On all the sites I visit and all the twitter accts I follow and all the blogs I read, I see the same names over and over again. What if we’re all preaching to the choir? What if the only people listening are those who are also interested in selling their books. I mean, sure, a lot of conversation takes place, and they can be interesting conversations, but by the same token, it sometimes feels like the sorts of conversations one has at a single’s bar; they aren’t obscuring the reason we’re all there.

2. I know there are a few people who have achieved astronomical book sales through their blogging or brilliant platform building, but just how many of them write in my field—specifically middle grade novels? Not very many. In fact, maybe even zero. I know there have been some YA novelists who’s online presence has really helped them build a readership, but most of their readership is online, very few middle grade readers are, and if they are online, they’re not on twitter or Facebook.

3. Which leads me to wonder just how many books I’ve sold through my online presence. Ten? Fifty? One hundred? What if the emperor really has no clothes? Or is only wearing a pair of fancy underwear? What if those who’ve sold tons of books through their online presence are the true outliers and there is little hope of replicating their success? What if I’m channeling all this well-intentioned energy right down a drain?

In fact, this conundrum reminded me of a great book I read a few years back called The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. She talked about the sheer amount of energy women spent chasing an abstract ideal of beauty that was constantly shifting—and rarely shifting toward the women’s favor—and just how much energy woman lost in that pursuit.

So this week as I contemplated re-starting all my online engines, a similar concern was running through my head. What if all this energy is in pursuit of an unattainable goal? What if I spend so much time chasing the wrong goal?

Which all goes back to needing to find a way to balance our time and energy. I look at some of these people who tweet all the time and while I love their tweets I do wonder, when on earth do they write? It occurs to me that maybe it’s like those friends who used to like doing their homework with the tv on, versus those who do not.

And the reason I’m doing all this soul searching is, quite frankly, I’m tired. I’ve just come home from a long, hugely productive and overwhelmingly positive series of school visits, I have a book due in (gulp) four months, and a finite amount of energy to spare. I also know that I sold more books in those two weeks than I have sold in all my years online, so it just put me in a pensive mood about where we spend our energy.

For now, I think I have to be content to let my cyber-socializing swing in cycles. People who love and thrive on all the social networking as marketing tend to talk about the value of the conversation, and yes, there are extremely valuable conversations to be had online, fascinating discussions to participate in, and lessons to be learned. There are days when I love the heck out of all those cyber conversations going on out there. Usually when I am elbow deep in copy edits or galley proofing. But other times all those conversations are simply a huge distraction. Like when I have a book due in (gulp) four months. My blogging feeds my writing in that I blog about the writing process and wrestle with writing issues and demons there, so it is a good adjunct to writing. The other avenues are less so.

So I guess I'm struggling to give myself permission to back off my social networking for a while so I can write the next book. And on some level, it annoys me that I think I need permission. But that's what happens when you're raised Catholic--you need permission for everything. (Also forgiveness, but for now I'm talking about permission.)

However, since I have finally gotten to a place where I am feeling fast and loose with the permission giving, I thought I'd share some with you:

You officially have the Shrinking Violets Permission to lay down your social networking burdens and write. Or read. Or enjoy the ensuing silence. Starting now!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Helping Those Who Talk Less Get Heard More

Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead
McGraw Hill
October 16, 2009

If anyone has wondered whatever happened to our jet-setting introvert coach to the rich & famous, Ms. Viola-- well, wonder no more. I have found her! Apparently at some point, Ms. Viola was taken into the Witness Protection Program. Though they didn't change her glasses or hair, they did some excellent reconstructive cosmetic surgery. She is now quite fetching and goes by the name Nancy Ancowitz. Her new book has just launched to strong reviews. I looked at her Amazon sales rank, and it is #654, which coincidentally is the exact sales ranking as my latest book Ten Lucky Things (if you divide by 381). How. Amazing. Is. That! I'm going to have to call her. Oh, wait, I hate the phone. Never mind.

"Currently winning our race for most intriguing book title of 2009 is the oxymoronic "Self-Promotion for Introverts" by Nancy Ancowitz (McGraw Hill). The "how to" book is filled with tips (rehearse is a favorite). The author's tone is supportive and she does not argue that introverts should become live wires. But what else would you expect from a book whose subtitle is "the quiet guide to getting ahead"? --The New York Times, October 28, 2009

Here is a link to a video with the author, which is a yet another example of an introvert using the buddy system to deflect the spotlight. It's five minutes long, but worth watching for the important message about negative self-talk, for which many of us have been awarded a Ph.D.

Ms. Ancowitz clearly has mastered what an introvert needs to know about self-promotion. She has spoken at New York University, Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institution, and a wide range of corporate and professional organizations. She writes a blog on the topic for Psychology Today. Her media coverage also includes careerjournal.com, the executive career site of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsday, Monster.com, CNN.com, WABC-TV Eyewitness News, and Self, Woman’s Day, Marie Claire, and Gotham magazines.

Like Ms. Viola, Nancy's client list is full of movers and shakers and power brokers. But unlike Ms. Viola, who had a eensy (read mammoth) propensity for name-dropping, in Nancy's case, I think she strives to make the point that introverts are everywhere, and often in the top echelon of the business world.

Back in her digs after coaching/speaking/consulting, she recharges and feeds her muse as a playwright. Her Cemetery of Lips (I cannot believe she snagged this title before I did!) was selected into the CUNY Human Rights Theatre Project, the New York International Fringe Festival, and the Six Figures Theatre Company Artists of Tomorrow Festival. A staged reading of her Hablo, Diablo (translation: I Speak, Devil) played to sellout audiences at Makor (the West Side Center of the 92nd Street Y) and was featured in New York magazine.

I think a lot of us battle with Bragoraphobia-- fear of bragging. The book addresses this neatly, and has a quick quiz to assess where you stand. Believe it or not, there is something between self-aggrandizement and hiding your light under a bushel. Least that's how Nancy "c's it."

"Let’s dispel some myths about self-promotion. First, you can be a nice person and promote yourself. Next, you can promote your-self without bragging, or at the other extreme, begging. You can also do so without stretching the truth, talking someone’s ear off, or pushing. You don’t have to be self-centered. You also don’t have to be an extrovert to do it well; instead, you can let your quiet strengths shine through and do it your way. This book is about helping you fi nd your way.

Let’s look at the differences between effective self-promotion and bragging. Simply, self-promotion at its best is articulating the overlap between what you have to offer and what your target audiences need. It enables you to solve more problems for more people by letting them know about you. Bragging is talking at people, and it’s all about you. It’s not connected to your conversation partners—instead, it’s as if they’re not there. You’re just talkingabout how outstanding you are, the phenomenal achievements you’ve made, and the fancy people you know. Note the glazed eyes around you. After all, isn’t it tiresome when someone tries to impress you? Time to refresh your drink?" (Excerpt from Self-Promotion for Introverts)

So you're probably thinking at this point that I'm going to raffle her book off, don't you? Uh, you'd be wrong. :-) Not going to do it-- least not yet! What I am going to do is offer one of you the chance to join our stellar team of SVP Field Reporters, which includes such luminaries as Jennifer Hubbard, Sherrie Petersen, Boni Ashburn, Emily Wing Smith, Elizabeth Loupas, Irene Latham, Mar'ce Merrell, and Yat Yee Chong. We're looking for a volunteer reporter to contact Ms. Ancowitz and interview her for Shrinking Violets. It can be a phone or email interview, or if you're feeling flush, fly to New York and interview her in person. Whatever works! This is such great practice for getting yourself out there in the world. And we are a supportive and gentle audience. Who's game?

Lastly, I want to take this moment to officially WELCOME Robin back home from her two-thousand-week long school visit to Katy, Texas. Well, it felt like two-thousand. Lordy, ma'am. Way too long to leave us. You were missed! Sleep it off, girlfriend.

Hope you each have a fabulous week. Do something that moves you closer to your publishing dreams, will you?


Monday, October 26, 2009

Following Up On "The Katy Challenge"

Remember how I said I wanted to use this upcoming series of Katy school visits to embrace public speaking? Yeah well, remind me you need to be careful what you wish for. :-) My first presentation right out of the box was speaking to a group of 300 school kids—one of my biggest crowds ever.

But here’s the thing: It was a piece of cake! Much to my surprise, I was totally and completely comfortable. I looked everyone in the eye and didn’t need to use my notes once. I was also able to crack jokes and add spontaneous bits.

This was especially good news since the weekend before I felt like I kind of stumbled at an adult event. I was only speaking in front of a group of about 40 adults, and for only two minutes, but when I got up there I found I was hyperventilating and ended up cutting my talk short (no mean feat when it was only two minutes to start with!) So apparently the take away lesson here is that I am fine in front of a group of 300 kids, but forty adults can be problematic. Not ALL adult groups though, because I was able to speak comfortably in front of the crowd at the Dallas art museum.

I think part of it has to do with why I’m there; I do better with a firm sense of purpose. I need a focus. But I also think it gets back to the fact that we all have comfort zones. For me, those are speaking in front of kids or teaching something. I’m also pretty comfortable on panels, and have been right from the start.

That doesn’t mean I am giving up on improving my adult game. I think a big piece of that depends on the nature of the gig. It will also be helped by expanding what my concept of “entertain” means. No, I’m not hilarious, or not intentionally so anyway. But from speaking to so many kids I’m also learning there are other ways to entertain: I can inspire, validate, inform, share secrets. It’s about using my strongest skill set first—writing a compelling speech—then finding a way to get comfortable delivering it verbally.

Practice is key. Not just knowing the material inside and out, but practicing pauses and questions, inflections and gestures, even practicing the spontaneous bits, just to see how to break into and out of them.

So Operation Public Speaking Jedi Master is almost accomplished. I’m going to use what I’ve learned from this week’s success as a launching board for conquering the next set of public speaking goals.

It’s kind of funny. The other day someone was saying how they were so fascinated by how I could write the intrepid, adventurous Theo AND the timid, cautious Nathaniel Fludd. The truth of the matter is, I am both of those people. At heart, I am a most decided weenie. Even so, when responsibility calls and I do finally step up to the plate, I enjoy the adventure and challenge of it all. There are simply too many great things out there that I would miss out on if I didn’t push myself. So instead of holing up at home for the rest of my life, I have to look for ways to embrace my inner Theo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Introvert Goes to the Kidlitosphere Conference

by Jennifer R. Hubbard

I was privileged to attend the Third Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Washington, DC, on October 17, coordinated by Pam Coughlan (MotherReader).

I arrived the day before, to take advantage of the Library of Congress tours (both the regular tour and the Children’s Literature Center, as well as a sneak peek at some rare books). Our group of book-lovers was so reverent, so interested in the architectural symbolism, so fascinated by the grandeur of the main reading room, that the tour guide wanted to adopt us. Yes, we were the people that ask how you get a reading card not out of idle curiosity, but because we think we might actually apply for one. We were the group that pored over rare copies of Aesop’s fables to compare the illustrations and printing styles, the group that asked whether that rare copy of The Wizard of Oz originally came with a dust jacket. A good time was had by all.

Oh, yes, and there was a conference too.

If you want a Tweet-by-Tweet account, Gregory K. Pincus posted a transcript of the October 17 tweets from the conference. Several of us also wrote blog posts A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy, Galleysmith, Dog-eared and Well-read, Charlotte's Library, Writer Jenn on the much-awaited FTC session, so I won’t repeat that here. As MotherReader said, the rest of the conference moved thematically from the “inner blogger” to the blogging community to the reading community at large. The sessions focused on questions bloggers should ask themselves (such as, What is my blogging mission?); ethical questions (FTC aside, what should I disclose about the sources of my review copies, and other connections I may have with writers?); authors’ and publishers’ approaches to blogging (What do we have to say and how can we best say it? How do we wear all these different hats?); social networking (How can my blog become part of larger conversations? What do I bring to the table?); and literacy (What can we, as writers and readers, contribute to the cause of literacy?).

On that last topic of literacy, Ernestine Benedict of RIF gave this staggering statistic: Twenty-nine million children still don’t have access to books outside of school. But Laurel Snyder jumped right in with a brainstorming idea about trying to hold mass read-ins, and the enthusiasm in the room was delightful to behold.

It was a full and absorbing day, and this introvert was flagging a bit by the cocktail hour. However, at dinner, the conversation revolved around books, the easiest subject in the world to engage a writer--even an introverted one.

* * * * *

Jennifer R. Hubbard's first novel, The Secret Year will be published by Viking in January 2010. (You betcha we'll be launching her here!) She also writes short fiction for literary magazines, is an avid walker/ hiker, and is deeply committed to the study and practice of chocolate. Jennifer is also a card-carrying introvert and can be found incognito on the streets of Philadelphia.

* * * * *

**News** from Robin on Day One in Katy Texas, where she is starting her two week long school visit tour. Her message? "T o o t i r e d t o t e x t." Oh, dear! I believe the poor thing's first session today was 340 students, followed by an equally ginormous amount this afternoon. I'll keep you posted on how she's doing--

We have a raffle winner for author Laurie Helgoe's Introvert Power-- congrats to S A Putnam! If you'll email me here, I will get that signed and sent off to you.

Lastly, if you have a new book coming out this year and you'd like it considered for a Shrinking Violet Launch, don't forget to let us know. We'd love to shine our "softlight" on you! Promise it's painless. Please send me all your books specs, your official launch date, a brief bio, photo, and what you plan on doing to celebrate your launch day.

Jennifer, thank you so much for this excellent write-up of the Kidlitosphere Conference. Hope you are having a terrific recharge session back at home.

Have a seriously swell week, friends!

Mary Hershey

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meditations from the Mosh Pit: An Interview with Laurie Helgoe, PhD.

Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

by Laurie Helgoe, PhD.

Sourcebooks Inc. 2008

“’Most Americans, whether introverted or extraverted, have learned to look like extraverts,’ writes psychologist (and introvert) Laurie Helgoe in this well-written and well-reasoned analysis that challenges the perception of introverts as a silent, problematic majority. The author reveals that 57% of the U.S. population identify as introverts and are so commonly misunderstood because many of them have become adept at mimicking extraversion (becoming a ‘Socially Accessible Introvert’) to get by…. Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Here’s a well kept secret: Introversion is not defined by lack. Introversion, when embraced, is a wellspring of riches. It took me years to acknowledge this simple reality, to claim my home and value all it offers.” (excerpt from Introvert Power)

LAURIE HELGOE is an author, psychologist, and serves as an assistant clinical professor at the West Virginia School of Medicine, Charleston, supervising and lecturing psychiatric residents. She has specialized in personality development and what she calls the psychology of desire. She is the ninth of ten “mostly LOUD” children and the daughter of a Lutheran minister, a brilliant and bombastic eccentric who installed wall-sized speakers in the living room that blasted classical music. As a child, Laurie shared a bunk bed in the hallway of her family home with her little sister (insert sound of collective wince from every SVP reader).

Like so many of us, at first glance, nothing about Laurie’s professional or personal resume would lead you to believe she might be an introvert, with the exception of her writing career. In addition to her years as a therapist, and her work teaching, training, and lecturing, she has worked as a commercial actress and model. Laurie has appeared on a number of television and radio shows and is frequently profiled and quoted. In short, she is living the life that some of us are struggling with, or struggling to imagine living in the future.

It’s been a rich week for me having had the opportunity to conduct a live phone interview with Laurie and to have sat for hours spellbound and occasionally tearful reading this powerful work.


Mary: What was it like being an introvert in a family of ten children? And, are any of your siblings introverts?

Laurie: Fortunately, there was a 22-year span between all of us kids, so we weren’t all home at the same. But as a result of growing up in the midst of such a large family, as a child, I developed a real love for boxes, purses and secret places. The culture of my home was very extroverted, but I think our I/E ratio is about half and half. My oldest brother is an author as well.

Mary: As a child, did you know or understand that you were an introvert?

Laurie: As a pastor’s kid, I had to learn to smile and be pleasant while the church people fawned over all of us. I fell into self-denial and tried to be a good extrovert. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s when I was going through analysis that I reconnected with the person I was. It was such a freeing time for me.

Mary: How have you managed being to survive and stay balanced being “on stage” both literally and figuratively?

Laurie: I love immersing myself in a different role. Besides commercial modeling and acting, I’ve also been active in speech, and theater. I enjoy the structure, and having a script. Also, I relish having the stage and knowing no one will interrupt me! I know that I will have time to express myself. I love that! One of the leftovers from my childhood was the habit of speaking in only half sentences. One of my friends pointed that out to me. I was so used to being cut off, that I’d just put half a thought out there. I’ve had to work on that as an adult.

Mary: Do you have any suggestions for us about educating our families/partners/friends about our style?

Laurie: I think the biggest step is getting grounded in other assumptions. Namely, that being an introvert is healthy. As an example, one extroverted assumption is that going out after work is fun. A new assumption is that many of us need time alone after work. We need to unhook ourselves from old messages. An assumption that I’ve challenged with my husband is that we all need to eat together and converse each evening. I’m suggesting that we can do that some nights, and on other nights, the kids just eat when they’re hungry. It is very empowering for us to challenge the old assumptions about the way things should be.

Here are some other messages and assumptions that that stand to be challenged:

· Parties are fun.

· Being popular is important

· It’s “who you know”

·Networking is essential to success

· It’s not good to be alone

· It’s important to be a team player

· Most people are extroverts

· The more the merrier

Mary: We spend a lot of time here at SVP helping one another learn about introverts. Is there anything you can help us understand about extroverts?

Laurie: Like introverts, extroverts are subject to stereotypes, such as “Extroverts are shallow.” What's important to understand about them is that they need social interaction to fill themselves-- to recharge, in the same way we need solitude.

I have a tendency to occasionally just disappear in my home, which is hard for my husband, who is an extrovert. I’ve learned that if I do that, he may feel abandoned, worried or confused. Learning to cue your extroverts a little better can be extremely helpful. Let them know that you are going to withdraw for a while. This also protects your space, so they don’t come looking for you.

Mary: Your website domain is Waking Desire. What can you tell me about that?

Laurie: Desire is a big theme in my life. I have found that desire is a trustworthy guide. I want to help people reconnect with those wishes and passions that they have suppressed. I’ve devoted my psychology practice to “rehabilitating desire”: helping clients revive desires that have been assaulted by external demands, and restoring their trust in their own desire-based motivations.

Mary: What are your thoughts about the internet and social media for authors?

Laurie: The internet is a wonderful tool for us! As I said in the book, in cyber-space the rules of engagement favor introverts. I enjoy blogging and commenting on blogs, especially when it is idea-oriented vs. just plain social. And I do like Twitter. I like putting out my thoughts in concise bits. But, I don’t follow others-- I think I am following one person! I personally don’t like Facebook. I find it over stimulating. But I know many introverts do enjoy it.

Mary: What has been the hardest part of marketing and promoting your work?

Laurie: Short radio interviews are the worst. I have to really stay on my toes with prepared talking points. I will often schedule pre-interviews with the host so we can flesh out our interview. I don’t like “tennis ball” media events where the conversation is short and fast. Since introverts need to think before we talk, the uncensored “off the cuff” stuff is hard. We can sound flustered and dim. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to take every interview offered. I stopped doing TV interviews where they take unscreened calls.

Mary: If you could have dinner with any introvert, living or historic, who would you select?

Laurie: Probably someone nameless—such as the people behind cameras who shoot film. I’ve been mesmerized by the Planet Earth series and the lives of those who live in solitude while filming. I’d also love to have dinner with Vincent Van Gogh, who was such a tortured introvert. Oh! And Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, and Henry David Thoreau.

Mary: Tell me about the consulting you do with writers that I saw on your website called Book It! Consulting.

Laurie: I believe that everyone has figured out something that the world needs. I want to help writers draw that out, with the intention of getting it published (not self-published). What is the thing that the writer needs to tell? I hear a lot of authors say that publishing is “anti-climactic.” That’s not been my experience at all. I love all the surprises that come with it.

Mary: Do you work with writers of both fiction and non-fiction?

Laurie: I’ve worked primarily with non-fiction writers, but would be very open to working with fiction writers. I’m good at dialogue and character driven work.

I’m also doing a seminar in Columbus on November 6th and 7th and would love to have any of you join me. You can read more about it by by clicking here.

What I love about leading the seminars is summed up in that moment when a participant's book comes to life in the minds of everyone in the room. And the moment consistently happens to every participant. I believe that we each carry a book (or many books) inside us. We just need to figure out what it is and get it out!

What I am most proud of about the seminars, is that, after the seminar, the participants write. And submit. And begin the writing life. After my first seminar, the participants kept it going by starting a writers' group -- and they're still meeting!

Mary: I’d like to close with one of my favorite passages from your book, if I may, and ask that you consider coming back with us again this year. Reading Introvert Power (which I bought on my own) has been a bit like discovering the Dead Sea scrolls. I’ve indulged myself to capacity, and I want to savor all that I’ve experienced and read. But we’d love you to come back and share with us about designing a room of your own, taking a retreat, the movie rx, and the art of changing your mind. We’ve miles to go!

Laurie: I'd love to come back!

“Introverts are energized and excited by ideas. Simply talking about people, what they do and who they know is noise for the introvert. He’ll be looking between the lines for some meaning, and this can be hard work. Before long, he’ll be looking for a way out of the conversation. But when an introvert is hanging out with a friend, sharing ideas, he is in his element. The conversation is ‘mind to mind, rather than ‘mouth to mouth’."


If you'd like to read more about Laurie, here is a link to an interview she did with Psychology Today magazine last month. And you can also follower her on Twitter!

One of our SVP followers this week will be the lucky winner of an autographed copy of Introvert Power, which appears to be flying off the shelves! If you haven't signed on yet as a SVP follower, we hope you will! We don't want you to miss out on any of our raffles.

Lastly, congratulations to A. L. Davroe, winner of PJ Hoover's new novel, The Navel of the World, launched on Monday. A.L., if you contact me off line, I'll get that right to you.

I hope you'll join me in thanking Laurie for her generous interview! Hope you all have a truly divine week.