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.