Monday, December 31, 2007

Why New Year's Needs a Makeover

It's really odd how the language and ritual of bringing in the New Year have become so completely cliche and hackneyed. There is positvely nothing new about it. It's what we did and said last year, and the year before and the year before that. "Happy New Year!" and "So did you make any resolutions?"

The parties and gatherings are the same--glitter, noise, drinking, noise, and the obligatory midnight spit swapping-- not 11:52, mind you, but midnight. Followed by lots of sleeping and parades and football on New Year's Day.

Doesn't it make more sense, in the true spirit of invention, to do something different each year? Why not break out of tradition, expectations, assigned holiday behavior? What better way to sincerely invite in change than by breaking out of a rut?

So, here is the big question--
What do you want to invite into your life in 2008?

And how might you declare that on New Year's day? How will you make that known in some real or symbolic way what you want for yourself in the next 12 months? First you see it, then you go after it.

So rather than raising our glasses to you, because that's so overdone, Robin and I are lighting an entire runway full of candles for your takeoff. Here's to YOU and all you are dreaming up for yourself. Yeah, get those engines running. Buckle up and get ready for an breathtaking 2008.

Thanks for being such a wonderful part of our 2007! We have had a grand time, and look forward to much more of it in the next months. Cool stuff coming. The Shrinking Violets are back on duty!

Happy New You--
Mary Hershey

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Holiday Message from the Shrinking Violets

Dear Friends,

Robin and I are going to do a "show" versus "tell" here by bidding you all a brief adieu for the holidays. As introverts, we need to learn how to manage and allot our vital life energies. The holidays are a time of year that we need to be especially sensitive to the cumulative effects of frequent parties, shopping in crowds, mass transportation, visiting relatives/relatives visiting, and large groups of people coming by to sing on your porch. All marvelous events, and we are grateful for our life bounty.

So, where and when we can, we will tuck ourselves away, plug in and ready ourselves. We encourage you to do the same!

We will check back in with you on New Year's Eve to make a toast to you all! And, we promise much more to come in 2008. Do come on back.

Shalom, Namaste, Merrily & Merrily,

Mary & Robin

Monday, December 3, 2007

More Cool Introverts in Children's Literature

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.

For months now we've been running a marvelous quotation from Ursula Le Guin in our sidebar, and we thought it was high time we give this amazing woman her due.

Ursula Le Guin was born in Berkely, California in 1929, and is the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber. Ms. Le Guin recieved her B.A. from Radcliffe and her M.A. from Columbia University. She later studied in France where she met her husband, historian Charles Le Guin.

She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, short stories, most often in fantasy and science fiction. Her works explore Taoist, anarchist, feminist, psychological and sociological themes. She has recieved several Hugo and Nebula awards and was awarded the Gandalf Grand Master Award in 1979 and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award in 2003.

Ms. Le Guin has an impressive body of work for children and young adults:
The Catwings Collection 1988-1999
The Western Shore 2004-2007
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else 1976
Leese Webster 1979
The Beginning Place, 1980
Solomon Leviathan's Nine Hundred and Thirty-First Trip Around the World, 1984
Fire and Stone, 1989
Fish Soup, 1992
A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, 1992
Tom Mouse, 2002

On writing process:
Ms. Le Guin's attitude toward creation is of discovering, not controlling, of listening, not forcing. She likens writing to archeology-- "the material, the story is there: it exists. You find it; you mine it out; you carry it up in buckets or in teaspoons, lay it out upon the table, push around the potsherds, ponder where they fit; fragments of gold leaf, bone, corroded flesh, the rim of a cup in buff grey or brilliant green, a knot of hair and faded threads, or on exquisite glass vessel entire . . . There is a story here, but it is up to the writer to make it whole."

"The mindset for writing, for me, is silence of the mind. An unbusyness. A listening. A bit like sitting on a California hillside in the evening hoping the deer will walk by."

On at what point she will share a work in progress:
"When it is done, as far as I can tell. With my husband first. Then my editor."

On whether is is hard for her to get useful, honest critiques:
"No. I am just afraid of them."

In an 2003 interview with Erika Milo, of West by Northwest magazine, she was asked:
"You once said, 'artists are performers-- they want a response.' What is is like to balance the desire for response against being an introvert?"

"Well, sort of fun, actually. The Hermit Crab creeps out of her shell and becomes a Ham for an hour. Then returns to her shell, happily, and slightly enlarged by human contact."

* * * *

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!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Shrinking Violets 'Out' YA Author Cecil Castelluci

Welcome to our new feature at Shrinking Violets! We're going to be interviewing some people whose placement on the I/E-Vert Scale may really surprise you. We're outing some innies here! (With their permission, of course.)

Our first guest is the luminous and electric Cecil Castelluci who blew onto the YA scene in 2005 and hasn't stopped moving yet! She is the author of Boy Proof (2005) , Queen of Cool (2006), Beige, (2007) and The Plain Janes (2007). She has a number of new projects under contract.

In 2005 she was named a Flying Start by Publisher's Weekly, and also recieved an Honorable Mention in PW's annual cuffie awards as Most Promising New Author.

Cecil is also a film writer/director, dancer, actor, and indie rock performer. She has two CDs out and has traveled on tour across the US and Canada.

* * *
MARY: Robin and I think we're pretty darn good at spotting other introverts. You got by us! When we've seen you in social settings, your EQ (energy quotient) is high, you are extremely quick-witted, and you seem to thrive in the company of others. But you consider yourself an introvert? Can you help us understand that?

CECIL: I suppose that it's because I always feel as though I am very small and so I'm easy to miss or overlook. So, I have to really make my presence known. I feel as though I have to overcompensate. Also, I think it's one of those things where it's like I just have to do it really big or I won't do it at all. I get very shy and need the smelling salts in certain areas. Like when people tell me to stand up in a room when they call my name. I don't like it when they point me out. But I guess I don't mind when I am pointing myself out. Then I feel as though I'm in some kind of control, and can retreat, when necessary. Also, being on stage is like not real at all. It's me on stage. It's as though there is a wall in front of me.

MARY: Was there a time in your life when you were more typically introverted in your interactions with others? (Quieter, more reclusive, etc.) What led to the change?

CECIL: I think I never was introverted in the way that you typically think. I get very shy and embarassed and am convinced that I am always doing / saying the wrong thing. But really, if I wanted anything, I had to speak up or be left out, because I was so small. Speaking up is more of a survival skill. Like, yes, teacher, I would like another cookie!

MARY: As a writer, does being an introvert tend to affect the voice of your main characters? Or, are you able to as easily write from the voice of an extravert, i.e., are you bi-vertal? :-)

CECIL: I may actually be bi-vertal. Maybe that's what I am. I get very shy in very strange situations and moments. That said, Egg in Boy Proof and Katy in Beige are both introverts. Even though it seems as though Egg is an extrovert because she walks around wearing a costume everyday, it's really a way for her to shield her very soft self. Katy is very internal. She thinks a lot about doing and saying daring and outrageous things, but she doesn't. It's all in her head. She's very self-conscious and uncomfortable.

MARY: In addition to being a writer, you've worked as an actor, a musician and even danced in music videos. Has that been a stretch for you, or is performing comfortable? How did that evolve for you? Any tips for introverts that you can share about getting more comfortable in the spotlight?

CECIL: Like I said earlier, performing is very comfortable. Sometimes I'll even talk in voices and stuff. I think it's a way of distancing myself and keeping my inner shy girl all protected. I say, stare at the spotlight! All you can see is the veins behind your eyes and it's not like anyone else is there at all!

Also, I always remind myself that no one else is going to go out there and be the best me. Only I can do that, if that makes any sense. So, if I want to have / do/ be out in the fabulous literary glitterati world, I have to go out and have / do / be out there.

MARY: Do you have a favorite fictional introvert character? (books or film)

CECIL: The brother in (the film) Little Miss Sunshine.

MARY: If you had to be stranded on a desert island for a year, would you rather be stranded with an introvert or an extravert?

CECIL: I'd rather be stranded with a person that knew how to build a fire and make a house and split a coconut. I wouldn't really care if they were an introvert or an extravert as long as they enjoyed alone time. 'Cause I really like and need my alone time.

MARY: What do you like best about being an introvert? The least?

CECIL: I like the fact that I can spend a lot of time alone and I am perfectly happy about it and that I can amuse myself and that I am comfortable with that. What I hate about being an introvert is the panic and dread that comes days, sometimes weeks, before I have to go somewhere and know that I have to be "on." I am a nervous wreck before hand, convinced that no one will talk to me. That I will say and do everything wrong and make a terrible fool of myself and that everyone will hate me.

For the record, I always end up having a lot of fun, and mostly it is usually totally fine.

MARY: If you could have dinner with any extravert in the world, who would it be?

CECIL: Carol Channing or Phyllis Diller.

MARY: What's your favorite way to recharge your battery when you've blown your wad?

CECIL: Baths. Baths. Baths. With aromatherapy stress reducing smelly bath stuff, a great book to read and a glass of wine.

* * *
Thanks, Cecil, for this great interview-- and on behalf of Robin and all our readers, a very happy birthday to you!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Miss Viola on Promotional Double Life

Hello dahlinks! Miss Viola here.

I’ve just returned from a week at the most marvelous spa in Sedona with one of my best friends (you all know her as the famous hostess of a hugely popular TV show and magazine) only to find my inbox heating up faster than the last episode of Desperate Housewives.

I currently write YA fiction novels but would like to delve into writing erotica/adult romance in the future. I know I'll need a pseudonym for this venture (and have come up with a name already), but how can I promote books from opposite genres? Sign me Steamy in Stanton

Dear Steamy,

Just as you will spend twice as much time writing, you will now have to spend twice as much time marketing. And unfortunately, in this case, one genre cannot build upon the other.

No, no, just like a Michael Jackson before and after photo, you will need to create two completely separate personas for yourself and your books. And really, you might even consider using two separate computers, so that the two will never come into contact with each other, rather like Madonna’s bre@$ts when she wears those leather brassieres.

No, no. I jest. It’s all this talk of erotica. (Is it hot in here or is it just moi?)

Sometimes when authors write for different genres, their pseudonym is an open secret. For example, when a NYT bestselling author began writing dark mystery thrillers in addition to romance, her publishing team came to me and I advised her to write the mysteries under a pseudonym, then let everyone know that it was her in a wink::wink sort of way. Unfortunately, this won’t work in your case.

Logistically, you will need to do everything that you are currently doing for your YA books, then turn around and do just as much work under a different name and targeted to different marketing contacts for your erotica.

One thing that will save this from feeling like a frustrating duplication of effort is that they have significantly different distribution channels. For example (other than in California) school libraries buy very little erotica, so your marketing efforts for that genre will be much more consumer oriented—a website, online contests and giveaways, that sort of thing. Also, many erotica authors keep a low public profile, preferring to connect with their readers over the web in order to maintain their personal privacy, so oftentimes booksignings and readings are less of a factor for this genre than YA.

However, children’s book writers who also write erotica are not uncommon. One famous NY agent I know told me that half his stable of children’s authors were writing or had written erotica at one point in time. For example, no one knows that Dr. Seuss and Henry Miller were one and the same, do they?* Or that the woman who wrote the Nancy Drew mysteries also wrote under the name Anais Nin.* If they can keep them separate, so can you.

And that’s all I have time for today, my dears! I’m off to give poor Marie Osmond a brush up on her dancing lessons!

*[Robin here. After a number of emails this morning, Miss Viola wanted me to put in a post script for her. She says: (and I quote) Dr. Seuss and Nancy Drew was a joke, darlings. Call off The National Enquirer!]

Monday, October 22, 2007


Dear Friends,

Welcome to the new Milestone Monday feature dedicated to sharing important posts and passings in your journey. The trek to publication and success of any kind can be a long, arid haul. This is our opportunity to give you a hoot, a holler and some cyber-confetti to cheer you on along the way. And, to remind you that you are not alone in this!

Robin and I want to throw out the first handful of e-confetti to Milestoners, Farida Dowler, Tony Dowler and Kimberly Lynn. (Insert sound of blowing horns and near-deafening cheers here.)

Farida, aka Alkelda the Gleeful, reports that she lined up three storytelling gigs all at once! Strong work! Robin and I think we'd need both CPR and an IV (introvertous fluids) if we attempted that. Good on you, Alkelda! May your storytelling talents and prowess become legendary.

Tony Dowler is working on a game about the Renaissance with wicked cool ray guns and robots. He's been talking about it on message boards and unveiling rough drafts for a few buds. Just last week someone Tony doesn't even know “name-dropped” his game as an influence on their own work. Sweet! You can check out Tony's work at

Kimberly Lynn shared a great story that I think is best told in her voice.

“Three years ago, I attended my very first SCBWI conference. I was signed up for a manuscript and portfolio critique with Gaby Triana and Frank Remkiewicz. No one other than my family and a couple of friends had ever read my writing up until that point, so I was utterly terrified of hearing 'the truth.' I was so afraid in fact, that I actually considered getting back into the elevator, but then I thought about how rude it would be to leave them sitting there waiting with no explanation. (I can be so silly!) When I walked toward Gaby Triana, she said, “Are you Kimberly?” I smiled and shook her hand. She said, “Wow! Great writing! Do you have an agent?” Totally not what I had expected to hear! She recommended her agent but when I checked his submission guidelines later, he didn't rep fantasy - which I love writing! Rats. Anyway, it was a moment I will never, never forget. My portfolio review with Frank Remkiewicz went really well too. He said I needed to get it “out there” to publishers. Did I get it “out there” after that? Nope. Let's just take this one baby step at a time.”

Kimberly Lynn also reports that she was asked by her SCBWI Regional advisor to write the Illustrator Intensive article for the newsletter. It's her first published work! You can take a peek at it at and scroll down.

Robin and I have a milestone of our own to report. Over the weekend we attended the 55th Annual Santa Barbara Author Breakfast, which was a fun event. And they had quiche AND scones which is like heaven in a Prada bag. The event organizer put us at the same table, and it was the FIRST time Robin and I ever sat together, and didn't pass notes. <-“

Kimberly, Tony, Farida, thank you for sharing all your great accomplishments, and being the first to march in our Milestone Parade. We are raising out Diet Cokes, iced teas, mocha lattes, V-8 and mountain spring water in a happy toast to you each!

And be sure and keep those milestones coming for next month!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stop and Smell the Violets

I was supposed to post today, but I ended up watching my two-year-old nephew all afternoon (too cute--but a busy little guy!) then played visiting author at a local book fair this evening. The truth is, I’m a social flatline at the moment.

So instead, I’m going to invite you to take the few minutes you would normally spend reading this post and use it to recharge. Maybe…

…take a moment and remember the most tranquil place you’ve ever been, and let the peace of that memory fill you.

…think of something you’re grateful for, really and truly grateful for.

…think of the happiest thing that’s happened in the last twenty four hours and let yourself enjoy it one more time.

…give yourself the gift of doing nothing for the next few minutes, absolutely nothing—just be still, and breathe.

I hope this recharging moment brings peace to your busy day! Until next week…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Author Seeking Quiet Spaces

I had a perfectly balanced day planned-- an early morning stop at my favorite sacred space, followed by a cup of Earl Grey with bergamont, a sensible multi-grain scone (not chocolate chip), and some Anne Lamott to feed the mind and spirit. And absolutely no more than ten minutes on email. Swear!

Then on to the day's writing project, a piece in desperate need of resuscitation and revision. In the throes of deep rigormortis, if the truth be told of it. Partner was sleeping off a a long hospital shift, and rapscallion cats were entwined and down for the count.

Oh, baby, I had it made in the shade.

Enter the jackhammers.

An entire marching brigade of them outside my window in the hands what appeared to be three or twelve shouting, spitting, snorting, hawking, potty-mouthed gentlemen who spent the next few hours breaking up our neighbor's tile floor.

I think I might have survived the ear-rattling whirring, buzzing and blasting of their work. It really was the constant talking that nearly drove me to rush over and take a jackhammer to my own head. Put the poor girl out of her misery! Was there not a single introvert in the bunch?

Which led me to consider later, after throwing up my hands and going to the gym, what it might be like to live in an entire community of introverts, who most always would use their inside voices.

I found this short essay from a fun site called The Introvertz Coach. It's entitled "A Planned Community -- for Introverts!" Check it out! Call it Nirvana, Shangrila, or ecstasy. Just be sure and call me.

In the meantime, I'm back to work on my manuscript tomorrow, but earlier, way, way earlier. Off to bed. I'm up at 4:30!

Don't forget we have our first Milestone Mondays feature coming up! We'd love to post your news.



Thursday, October 11, 2007

Visibility Quotient

While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, sometimes calling something by a new name can help it smell a whole lot sweeter. And help us find a whole new way of looking at things.

Visibility quotient, for example.

I first heard this term used by Roxyanne Young of Smart Writers at the SCBWI National Conference this summer. Instead of talking about promoting, she talked about upping one’s visibility quotient. Basically, just get your name and the title of your book out there, even if it’s not in an active selling way. Just getting your name in front of people increases your visibility. And the more often you are visible, the better chance you have of someone becoming curious about you or your books.

Raising one’s visibility quotient can be as simple as being sure to have a signature line featuring your name and the title of your book, and using it every time you post on a listserv, forum, bulletin board, or send an email.

Roxyanne had a lot of other great ideas for upping your visibility quotient, and we're going to see if we can get her over here to talk about some more of them. But for now, I wanted to just introduce the concept to you because it's a very gentle way to help make people aware of you and your book.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Having a Marketing Plan

When you get a group of authors together and give them all a drink, one of the first topics to come up will be marketing. Specifically, the difficulty of getting marketing commitments from their publisher. With over 5,000 books published every year, clearly something needs to happen to make any given book stand out—thus marketing.

But to be fair, publishers have a limited amount of time, manpower, and marketing dollars to go around. With anywhere from ten to fifty books on each season’s list, prioritizing and budgeting are key. So what can a new author, or any author, do to help ensure their book gets a piece of the publishers marketing pie?

I think one of the most important steps an author can take is to demonstrate to the publisher that they are willing to be a partner in the marketing of their book. That they understand that both author and publisher have to work together to get this book into the hands of readers, that it must be a joint effort.

However, this can be really hard for introverts, as the mere thought of promotion tends to send us running for a bottle of antacid.

But we’ve demonstrated over the last few months that there are a number of things introverts can do that don’t require extroverted behavior or bold marketing moves but can still be effective in getting the word out to about their book. Armed with all the information you’ve learned here (and other places) I highly suggest you put together a marketing plan for your book.

In you marketing plan, you list the things you’re comfortable doing, you play to your strengths, and demonstrate your commitment. It’s a great opportunity to show how much you are willing to do to make this new partnership between you and your publisher a success.

Understand that a marketing plan is NOT a demand letter with the author stating all the things they want/expect the publisher to do for them.

It’s a statement of everything the author is planning to do to market their book, along with a few suggestions for joint promotion or marketing opportunities with your publisher.

So one of your tasks is to sit down and think what a brand spanking new (introverted) author like yourself brings to the table.

Your writing, which they’ve already shown they believe in. Your willingness to succeed, your enthusiasm and hopefully a small army of enthusiastic supporters—friends, family, fellow authors, the librarian you chatted up while doing your research, your child’s third grade teacher who found out you were writing a children’s book, your cousins, your local indie bookseller, where you’ve bought your books for years and are friendly with the staff, your small town newspaper or alumni newsletter, or church bulletin that’s always looking for bits of news to publish. (Remember, no book is as highly celebrated as a first book. It’s a momentous occasion and people will love celebrating that moment with you.)

Or perhaps you already have a couple of books out. In that case, you have a few more contacts to build upon.

An introverted marketing plan might include the following:

Create author website*
Feature contests and giveaways on author blog
Arrange blog tour with following popular blogs (then list them)
Print and mail 500 post cards to local schools, libraries, independent booksellers, and personal acquaintances.
Press kit mailing to local print media
Have promotional items made (this would be something that could tie in with your book in a clever way, like temporary tattoos, personalized pencils with the book title on it, magnets, etc.)

*Ideally you should have this up and running a few months before the publication date. It’s the #1 most important marketing tool you can have.

Not sure what else to put on the plan? Check back here to remind yourself which tasks you’re comfortable with.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Something New Coming Your Way: Milestone Mondays

Dear Violets and Vinnies,

Robin and I had a marvelously productive lunch last week at Chateau La Belle talking all about YOU, and how much we love this growing community of introverts. We've evolved into a virtual iPod--oh, fine, that's already taken. iCommunity? Anyway, we want to stay fresh, inventive, relevant and responsive. We've got some new things coming down the pike! We invite (read beg) and welcome your feedback.

For those of you that haven't sold your work yet-- but you will-- marketing begins now, not after your first sale. It starts with your recognition of yourself as a writer . . . not a future one, a wannabe one, an unpublished one, but a bonafide professional writer.

You MAY and should call yourself a writer without cringing, blushing, or losing hold of your bladder, if you write regularly, take classes, read craft books/blogs/mags, attend conferences, participate in a crititque group, read others' work. Face it, you are a writer! Stand in front of a mirror. Rehearse it. Swirl that imaginary martini (or diet coke) around in its glass. "Me? What do I do? I'm a writer." Claim it!

Now, being a writer that hasn't yet been published can be a lo-oo-ng trek . . . lots of work without praise or payday. That's where our new feature Milestone Mondays come in.

We want to give you a chance to feel a bit of the limelight on your skin now, in easy, supportive doses. We want to herald and trumpet some of your accomplishments along the way. Time for you to let the world now that you are up and coming, baby!

We want to hear about a promising rejection letter, or the completion of your discovery draft, or a writing class, or your article in the Trader Joes flyer, or the time that Arthur Levine/Wendy Lamb/Jodi Reamer told you that s/he'd like to see your whole manuscript. Let's start the celebrating of you now, huh?

Ready to get 'yer feet wet? What do you say? Send your milestones to me at News for Milestone Monday. We'll run them once a month. If you have a website or a blog, make sure you let me know so we can post a link. Look forward to hearing all about you!

Ars longa, vita brevis--
(Art is long, life is short)
Mary Hershey

Monday, October 1, 2007


For a lot of introverts, the absolute hardest part of marketing is trying to get the gig itself, the school visit, speaking engagement, newspaper article, whatever. It’s trying to talk people into booking you that’s the really hard part. The selling of oneself.

So here’s a suggestion: Don’t sell yourself, sell your buddies. And have your buddies sell you.

It’s called a co-op, and for introverts, it can be a wonderful way to operate in the promotional world.

Now, being introverts, you may be thinking, but I’m a solitary writer, how can I form a co-op?

The truth is, there are a number of natural groupings you fall into that might work.

Do you have a critique group?
A local chapter of SCBWI?
Perhaps you could pool together with other authors that write for your publisher?
Or other clients of your agent?

Maybe you just have three or four scattered writer friends, but hey, that’s enough to start an informal co-op.

It works especially well if the different member have different strengths and comfort zones. Perhaps one of the group is very comfortable around kids and enjoys school visits. Maybe another one is really comfortable teaching writing workshops, and a third is quite internet savvy, and the fourth was an administrative assistant in a marketing department a long time ago in a land far away.

So you pool your resources and talents. When the rest of you get school visit requests that you don’t want to act on, hand them over to the member of our group who does. Or maybe one of you is a picture book writer, who’s been asked to speak at a middle school—not natural pairing, so refer the school to the tween author in your group. There’s all sorts of natural divisions of labor promotion than can be handled by a group that are too intimidating when faced all alone. Consider:

  • Posting online reviews for each others books on Amazon and B&
  • If you have a blog, make sure and blog about your co-op members new books when they come out.
  • If you’re approached for a booksigning, suggest to the store a group signing, which is more fun for the author and the store.
  • If one of the co-op has a new book, consider writing a press release for them, or taking a copy of their new book to your local librarian.

I’m sure you guys can think of other ways to do promote books you love. (Feel free to add them in the comments!)

Another way to form a group is through a secondary interest. Maybe you know a handful of other humor writers, or fantasy writers, or historical fiction authors. Consider forming a group blog where you can all participate in building a community based on that secondary interest.

And here's one of the beauties of the co-op system. If you’re in a critique group or local writers group together, or clients of the same agent or publisher, chances are there will be genuine admiration for each others work, so everything that you do to promote your fellow member will flow from a genuine place.

And it won't be about you.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Catch All

Because sometimes there’s just a bunch of little things...

Interesting tidbit #1:
In last Friday’s NYT, there was an article called Shy on Drugs, and it discussed the blurry line between shyness, a normal trait, and social anxiety disorder, something that requires medical attention. But what really caught my eye was the fact that :

“By the time they reach college, up to 51 percent of men and 43 percent of women describe themselves as shy or introverted. Among graduate students, half of men and 48 percent of women do.”

I thought this was a fascinating statistic, especially since the prevailing wisdom claims that only 25% of the population are introverts. Of course, including the word shy in there skews things a bit, but I still thought it was interesting.

Interesting bit #2:
Kate diCamillo has always been an amazing author, but now she’s my hero for another reason. Posted on her website under “Speaking.”

In case you can’t read it, it says:

Regrettably, It is difficult for Kate to balance the amount of time she spends writing with the amount of time she spends on the road, talking with her readers, whom she adores.

Because Kate is overwhelmed, we are not currently booking new speaking engagements.

And lastly, as an addendum to Ms Viola’s post Monday about School Visits, in this month’s SCBWI Bulletin, there is a terrific article by Alexis O’Neill on the very thing we were talking about: Increasing Invitations for Middle Grade and YA Writers.

Alexis makes a couple of excellent points that I thought were worth mentioning here. She warns against glamour or my journey school visits, claiming that stories of our road to publication aren’t enough anymore in today’s highly pressured school visit environment. Schools need material that tie into their curriculum or standards. If MG and YA authors want to increase their school visit potential, they need to look to their state’s educational standards and see how they can tie their books into those guidelines.

This does two things. It can generate more school visits, which is good if you’re wanting that, and it does something that my introverted self loves: it takes the focus off of me and puts it on the material. That’s always a much more comfortable place for me.

So if you haven’t read your SCBWI Bulletin, check it out. If you’re not a member of SCBWI, and you write or illustrate for children, consider joining!

Until next week!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Miss Viola on School Visits

Dear Ms. Viola,

I was recently invited to speak at an Elementary school during their Young Author's Day in Feb and she asked about my rates. For one, I write for teens, not children. Especially 3rd graders, so I don't know if she was unaware of the genre I write for.

Despite that glaring fact, it got me to thinking about doing high school visits. I'd like to start doing those, but I don't know what to charge. How do I figure that out? Being a "newbie" speaker, should I charge a flat rate or by the hr? What do I talk about and for how long? Should I tailor my "speech" for different class levels, or just stick to high schools and junior high?

Any suggestions and advice would be greatly accepted. Thank you.

Please sign me YAing it in Elementaryville

Congratulations, dahlink! You’re in demand!

Or at least, beginning the process of such.

One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of school visits occur at elementary and middle schools. Remember, the bulk of YA is read by kids fourteen and younger, often 12 and under! (ie: middle school and below) Some YA authors are able to do a great many school visits with great success, but the bulk of their actual appearances are not at high schools. If your YA novels are mostly rated G or PG, it will be much easier for you to present to younger audiences.

If you’ve decided your material is suitable for younger audiences, you’ll want to develop a small wardrobe of speaking basics, dahlink, just like the little black dress and classic white blouse.

Since they are in the throes of learning it, the elementary grades are always interested in hearing about the writing process itself, especially straight from the horse’s mouth author herself: pre-writing, first draft, revision, and polishing. They are always enthralled to hear just how many drafts professional authors have to do, how many changes their editor demands requests. It’s also a fun idea to bring visual aids:
A copy of a revision letter (so they can see how long it is)
Pages from a mss marked up for revision
Some galley pages or page proofs, so they can see how it evolves into a book
Copy edited pages
Any cover or interior art or sketches
Any fun themes or motifs from your novel that can be turned into physical props, hats, bugs, toilet seat covers, historical objects, etc.

Older, middle school audiences will have mastered some of the basics of writing and will be interested in funny problems you ran into writing the book, the inspiration for the story (especially if it deals with their age group) the frustrations a working writer might run into, expounding on interesting subject matter you touched on in your book.

Middle school crowds are a much tougher sell in terms of keeping them entertained, but luckily you can use more sophisticated approaches and techniques. Also, since they will be your actual target audience, you can focus more on the books content rather than the process.

As for what to charge: Well, dearest newbie speaker, the immediate answer would be nothing. For your first few school visits, you charge nothing. After all, you are still feeling your way and trying to build a successful presentation package. You’re experimenting. Therefore, gratis visits are often the norm for this stage. After you have a few visits under your belt and you know what you’re doing, you can charge, usually in a range of $100-$400 per day, at least until you start building up rave reviews and thrilled testimonials. Then you can begin charging the bigger rates of $500 plus per day.

An excellent place to do comparative fee searching is on children’s publisher’s websites. They often have a section devoted to School Visits and many list the authors available and what their fees are.

Good luck! If you follow these tips I have no doubt you’ll have scores of schools clamoring at your door! Now I must fly! I’m off to prepare a Certain Famous Pop Singer for her upcoming court appearance!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And The Winner Is...

Wow. Did we have a bunch of awesome entries or what! Excellent job guys! Reading your entries totally perked up my week!

In fact, there were so many great entries, we decided we have three winners! So, without further ado, the winners are...

First Place - Terry P with Hush Little Baby Don't Say a Word, Mama Understands You're An Introvert.

Second Place goes to Neriza with two hilarious entries: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide and Tuesdays with More Me

And last but not least, Third Place goes to Alkelda the Gleeful with The Five People You Avoid In Heaven.

As we said, the prizes were an SVP mug, a copy of either Mary or my newest book, or a ten page critique (probably from me because Mary is crazy busy right now.) We'll let the 1st place winner have her pick, then the second place winner, then the third, so Terry, email me with your prize choice, then I'll contact the rest of you.

And thanks again for playing!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ms. Viola on Marketing your First Book

Dear Ms. Viola,

I happened upon the Shrinking Violet site today while frantically googling/searching/sweating to find a magic wand with which to help me promote my young adult fiction book. My small publisher (his company, not his stature) would like me to take the dreaded "local author" approach with bookstores around my area. I am terrified at the prospect. Is it okay for me to place a blonde wig on my 260-pound husband and have HIM do it? He is an extrovert. He is not afraid of anything (except snakes) and I think he could fit into my grandma's old dress. He could plug the book, show up for the book signings and I could stay at home in my office where I belong. If you don't think this would fly, what advice would you/could you give me to help me approach these places and still keep my hair from falling out....more?

Karen Chicken Livers Laven


Dear Karen,

Thank GOD you've contacted me! Your sign-off reminded me that I have the most superb Chicken Liver Canape recipe that I've been mad to try. Hilary is dropping by my loft this weekend for a strategizing session. The canapes will be brilliant with a peppery little California Zin. And just between us girls, Hil is having a bit of an issue with the hair dropsy as well. More on that later.

First off, lovey, we need a whole new spin on what you're calling the "dreaded local author approach." Sounds like a nasty plague. Let's turn that on it's arse, shall we, Karen? Change your language, change your world.

I feel certain JFK wouldn't mind at all if we borrowed his famous "Ask not..." charge and gave it a quick makeover: Ask not what your bookseller can do for you, but what YOU can do for your bookseller.

One can only assume, Karen, that you have written a book that you adore, and you want to share it. It is your gift to your community. They would be silly eejits not to claim you! (Can you tell I'm just in from a lovely country week in County Wexford?) . Booksellers want to sell books. See how this is a chummy little win-win? You and your booksellers want the same thing. It's even what your shorty pants publisher wants!

Robin posted a bloody marvelous blog from some booksellers recently that bears this awfully important truth home. You needn't go jelly-kneed about approaching them if remember that you are coming to help them, not coming to ask them to work for you. You must be madly creative to have written this book, so leverage darling, leverage! Make that work for you! What genuis way can you come up with to help get your book out there and moving?

Here's an idea from the top of my shiny raven locks. (No dropsy here!) On the day or week your book comes out, you might want to go to your local indie and take some cookies or tea (or canapes) for the staff, and host a drawing for three or five free books or ARCs. You could set up a lovely display near the counter, even just drop it off. Patrons could simply drop their business card or name and number in the bowl. It's easy peasy for the staff, plus they get treats. You get off the hook. You create a buzz. Local Author. New Book. Contest. Repeat by all the stores you can hit in a day, or a week.

Take a few moments to pat yourself silly on the back and drive to your local library and high school. Donate a signed copy and leave a treat for the hardworking librarian(s). Nothing too sticky, mind you. Those girls are militant about that.

And, buddy up, lovey! Who else might you know that has a book coming out at the same time? What might the two of you be able to do together?

All right now, all you Violet and Vinnies out there. I want to hear from every single one of you on Karen's behalf. What ideas do you have for the poor lamb? While I do relish the idea of her husband in her grandma's knickers and a blonde wig, I don't want Karen one single moment of joy that a book launching brings. You're about to birth this delicious baby, please don't let your self miss out on any of the celebration.

Love and hugs,

Ms. Viola

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Embracing Our Quirks

There was a very interesting article in this week’s Newsweek, You and Your Quirky Kid by Lorraine Ali. The article talked about kids who were slightly out of step with the norm, and the pressures they and their parents can find themselves under to try to bring them within “normal” ranges. It touched something inside me, probably because as an introvert, I’m used to being looked at as if slightly odd when I opt out of loud social events that 75% of the population seems to love.

Frankly, I’m a little disturbed by this push for normalcy. The most troubling issue is who gets to decide what normal is, anyway? We’ve already discussed at length here on this blog that what’s normal for an introvert is markedly different than what’s normal for an extravert. According to many un-informed extraverts, all introverts are abnormal or socially backwards. Not!

As I read the article, I shuddered to think of all the creativity in science, mathematics, art, writing, music, that would have been missed if all great, unique minds had been pressured into normalcy.

The author talks about a boy who has bonded with a tricycle rather than the other kids, or the child who’d rather spend recess talking to the hamster rather than playing dress up with the others, or, my personal favorite, the kid who preferred the plumbing pipes and pushbroom to his peers. I’m willing to bet you dollars to donuts that each of those kids is an introvert, which we all know is not abnormal behavior, but rather very normal behavior indeed, if one is an introvert. In fact, their choices didn’t seem irrational at all to me, but perfectly understandable.

The truth is, we really are all odd in our own special way, and part of our social success is dependent upon us stumbling upon others who are odd in similar or complementary ways to our own.

I was also really struck by a quote of one of the experts interviewed for the article. Mary-Dean Barrringer of the All Kinds of Minds Institute had this to say about assigning labels. "We're absolutely appalled by this diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome," says Barringer. (Asperger's is a high-functioning form of autism, marked by obsessive interests and impaired social interaction.) "These are very highly specialized minds, and to put a syndrome on it and treat it as an aberration does damage to kids and families. There are still challenges there on how to manage it, but why not call it a highly specialized mind phenomenon rather than a disorder? That label alone shapes public perception about uniqueness and quirkiness."

As an introvert, that statement really reverberated with me. It spoke to all the mislabelling of my “quiet” behavior over the years. I think we introverts need to look at new labels for ourselves. I'm thinking perhaps we exhibit The Quiet Phenomenon, rather than shyness. What do you think?

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's Time...For a New Contest

We've noticed a number of new readers are finding their way here lately--and we're so happy to have you! Welcome!

We also realized it's been a long time since we've had a contest around here. We thought, in honor of all our new visitors, we would have another contest this month.

The contest goes like this: Take the title from a favorite book or song, and rewrite it from the Introvert's perspective. Some examples:

Mama, Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Extroverts
Where the Quiet Things Are
The Higher Power of Introverts

The contest will run until Wed. September 19, and we'll announce the winners on Thursday September 20.

There will be cool prizes, too. The winner will get to pick from a Shrinking Violet Mug, one of Mary or Robin's newest books, or a 10 page manuscript critique!

So let the entires begin! Since introverts are such a creative group, we're very much looking forward to seeing your entries.

Also, in other news, Mary and I have decided that the issue of being an introvert is just too big to try and limit to one area. And while our main focus will probably be marketing for introverts, we are all too happy to talk about other life issues that affect us as introverts; families, children, work situations, etc. You name it. If an introvert experiences it, we're up to discussing it.

So remember, if there's a topic you liked discussed, just drop Mary or I an email and we'll get right on it.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Jonathan Rauch & the Introverts' Rights Movement

I want to thank Jen Robinson for a blog she posted earlier in the week about Shrinking Violets, which led to a marvelous link from one of her readers, Monica, to a 2003 Atlantic Monthly magazine article entitled Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch. Don't you just love blogciprocity? We're sending Jen and Monica SV mugs to thank them!

This "astonishingly popular" article struck such a chord with the Atlantic Monthly readers that three years later, it is the most frequently visited on their website. I've excerpted a part of AM's 2006 interview with him here. Do yourself a favor and read both the original article and the interview.

Robin and I will see if we can get an interview with him here. A-hem, Jonathan! In the meantime, enjoy, friends!

"We love people—we're not misanthropic for the most part. We just can't socialize with them all the time. We want to hold their hand or hug them or just sit quietly and read a book with them.

I was tongue-in-cheek about the introverts' rights movement, but the main principle would just be that it should be as respectable for introverts to be who they are socially as it is for extroverts. We ought to be trying to make extroverts conscious and not uncomfortable about the fact that we're here. Extroverts should understand that if someone is being quiet it doesn't mean they're having a bad time; it doesn't mean they're depressed; it doesn't mean they're lonely or need psychiatric help or medication. A lot of the battle is making the extrovert world more aware. The onus is on us to do that. Maybe this article is a start. One thing you'll notice about the article, by the way, is that it addresses extroverts. I think that's very much the strategy; we need to tell the world who we are. The first step is to understand who we are ourselves, but the second step is to educate extroverts. This is stuff extroverts need to know. They're driving us crazy. We need to tell them."

Monday, September 3, 2007

Finding My A-a-a-a-h-h-h in Southeast Texas

As Robin mentioned in her last post, I'm in Texas this week with the Mother Ship (partner's mother) who needed a hand with some things. I would swallow hot coals for this woman, but so far it's mostly been going to SuperWalmart (my first time ever-- kinda scary!), Target, church, and the vet.

And all the rest of the time has been mine . . . to walk to nap to write to read to brainstorm to meditate to levitate (I can try) and to daydream to my muse's content. I am storing up solitude and quiet like frequent flyer miles. I will be in desperate need of them this month. When I look at my calendar for this Fall, I want to crawl under the couch and hope no one will notice I'm missing for a very long while.

But I'm going to just stay present for now in this absolutely marvelous place of balance and plenty. My well is full. Volume is low. Ideas are fresh. And plenty. I think I've got the idea, or the "hook" I need for a series proposal. (Robin, we've got to talk!)

And, I'm still got two days left. Wish you were here. But only if you're an introvert and you like seriously fine BBQ.



Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hug An Extrovert aka A Case of Blogger's Remorse

This is going to be a quickie, drive-by posting since I'm stuck smack in the middle of Deadline Hell and Mary is presently riding a west bound hurricane and praying it will drop her off in Texas.

Energy Sucking Aliens.
Oops! Did I say that out loud?
Sorry about that.

The thing is, some of my very best friends are extroverts. Honest!

In fact, one of my sons is an extrovert and--here's a twist--was born into a family of introverts. Poor guy. He's all about getting energy from connecting with people and feeling revitalized that way and the rest of us are all about trying to eke out as much private space as possible. Someone was playing a mean karmic joke on that boy.

But our point here at SVP is not to demonize extroverts, but to try and help articulate what it feels like to live in a world where the prevailing social preferences aren't necessarily one's own. And obviously we'll be focusing on the introvert's perspective in that regard.

So it's not that we think extroverts are Energy Sucking Aliens, it's just that they feel that way sometimes. But really, we love us our extroverts!

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Word about Self Care for Introverts

Robin's last blog entry was a veritable feast of fabulous promotion and marketing info-- wow! Graci, Robin, and thank you, Cynthia Leitich Smith. You girls got it going on!

While we are digesting it all, I thought you might indulge me in a a few words slightly off-topic. Not so much about promoting your work, but very important to your well-being, and as such, our collective survival as introverted creativists, writers, artists.

If you haven't yet gotten your 2008 edition of The Introvert's Guide to Self-Care & Sanity in a World at Maximum Volume, allow me to share some intel from mine. (Okay, I just made this whole book up, but someone should write it, for god's sake.)

So, we're just going to continue and pretend I got all these tips from The Introvert's Guide, okay?

Tip #1: If you work in an office with others, and have an empty chair near your desk, get rid of it! Or, stack it high with papers or projects. It discourages others from hanging around your desk too long. Introverts work better without a lot of interruptions. If you work at home and have family and friends that can't seem to respect your work time, keep a basket of unfolded laundry next to you, or maybe an errand list. When your interrupters arrive, give them work to do. They'll stop dropping buy as often. This one comes with my personal guarantee.

Tip #2: You absolutely don't have to say yes to every social invitation you get. Truly. If you do, you are begging for a melt-down, and that's just never pretty. Pick the kind of events that work best for you-- time-limited ones during the day vs. night, or maybe ones centered around an activity like bowling, movies or mud wrestling, and not just endless hours of the dreaded Small Talk.

Tip #3: If you ever end up being held hostage on an airplane next to an rabid extravert who won't stop talking, and they don't seem put off by you putting on headphones, how about trying this? Start talking non-stop to them about any senseless thing that comes to your mind. If you run out of things to say, make them listen to you read out loud long excerpts from a fascinating article from the in-flight magazine. Some extraverts are looking for introverts to charge upon-- if they mistake you for another Chatzilla, chances are they'll be pulling their little pillow out and closing their eyes soon.

Tip #4: Honor and celebrate the quiet, low volume, solitary activities that you love and need. They aren't non-activities, and they aren't a sign of your stunted social development. Sitting by yourself listening to quiet music or no music and just watching the shadows move across the walls is as valid an activity as a Dodger's Game with your entire family. It's even cheaper, easier on the environment, and kinder on your HDL, too.

Tip #5: Be or find this kind of party host: The B-E-S-T party I ever went to was given by this marvelous, madly extraverted woman. The party was spread out over several rooms at a club and included a talent show (I know! I almost fled screaming), wild dancing and a lot of talking/drinking/people talking really LOUDLY. At this point you're wondering why this was the best party I ever went to? This amazing host had set aside an Introverts Room! It was a quiet, slightly darkened room with a fireplace, snacks set out, softer music, and reading material. There were several of us that were in there. I loved it.

Got tips? If you'd like to see one of your survival tips published in my made-up 2008 Introvert's Guide send them on to Hey, Mary, I've got a good one!. There will be prizes, of course!

Later, friends! I'm off to re-charge my battery. :-)