A Reluctant Writer

Archive for the ‘Passage to Purpose’ Category

Faith, Angels, Miracles and a Catfish

Brigitte Murchison (left) and Teena Myers (right)

Brigitte Murchison (left) and Teena Myers (right) selling books at the Louisiana Book Festival

Rod, my husband, and I arrived late. Exhibitor’s Row at the Louisiana Book Festival was already filled with people. Last year, the festival started at 9 am. The winds were strong; temperature set at freezing and scarcely a soul on the Row save the authors hoping to sell their books. I was anticipating a similar experience and brought my camera to film idle authors talking about their books.

My table companion, Brigitte Murchison, had her half of the table decorated. A stack of Living in the Realm of Miracles and Angel Encounters sat next to a children’s book, Saint Cat and the Big Flood. Her adult book is similar to mine but focuses on miracles and angels. Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot  is filled with slice of life stories about people who found a reason to believe in God.

I missed Rebecca Gernon and Amy William’s presentation about their book, Amy Signs. I set up my half of the table, gave some instructions to Rod, who sells my book better than I do, and introduced him to Brigitte. “I’ll be back in an hour,” I said to Rod. “Alan Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is schedule to speak about The Duck Commander Devotional in 15 minutes.”

I had been hearing about the popular Duck Dynasty show on A&E, and their faith in God for months. I didn’t know they were from Louisiana. Alan was a Church of Christ pastor for 20 years but now works with his famous family. He misses his ministry, but his family’s fame keeps him busy speaking around the country. He spoke about his father’s struggle to build a business, and how they bootlegged their way into Walmart.

On the way back to my table, I spotted General Russel Honore standing behind a table on Exhibitors Row. He commanded the joint task force responsible for the restoration of order after Hurricane Katrina. Now retired from the military, he recorded found time to write a book – Leadership in the New Normal. I also saw Raheem Allen, whom I had shared a table with at a New Orleans Book Festival. Raheem wrote his first book at age 14; I Am Rick: Zanes Destruction. He was selling the sequel; I Am Rick: The Crystal of Life.  I planned to return with my camera.

Rod had sold a book in my absence. An avid reader, he left again to browse books. Brigitte and I barely had time to talk when he returned and announced, “Rebecca and her daughter are in the Barnes and Nobles tent signing Amy Signs.” Rebecca wanted me to meet her daughter, who had come from Nebraska. Once again, I left my half of the table in my husband’s capable hands.

Amy Willman and Rebecca Gernon selling Amy Signs

Amy Willman and Rebecca Gernon selling Amy Signs

“Take a picture,” Rebecca said as soon as she saw me. I snapped a photo and waved at Amy, the extent of my conversation, since I don’t know sign language. Rebecca’s workshop had a good turn out and people were asking for her book.  She pointed to her entourage. My son is over there. I joined the group and met Charmaine’s son.  Rebecca and Charmaine both have children who are physically challenged. I had made Charmaine acquaintance at the Free Book Festival I attended last month.

“Where is Rebecca’s son?” I asked Walt, Rebecca’s husband.

He pointed to an opening in the tent. “He stepped outside.” I had already spent too much time away from my table, so I excused myself. Upon exiting the Barnes & Nobles’ tent, I spotted Elvis. Ok, he was an Elvis wanna be, but I could not resist taking a picture.

I sat down, and my husband departed again for more book browsing. Josh, a friend from my church studying to be a sportscaster at Louisiana State University stopped to say hello with four friends in tow. Two of his friends, carrying better cameras than I have, were doing a school project. Josh suggested they interview me for their project. I was happy to oblige. The wireless mic didn’t have a clip, so John, an industrious student had borrowed a bobby pin. He might have had a better camera, but I had a better wireless mic. I talked about my book and why I was at the festival for five minutes, then reached for the mic to unclip it from my shirt. The mic was laying in my lap. “Did you get that?” I queried.

John grinned, “I got it.”

The student camera crew departed, and my husband returned. We noticed how many people had brought their dogs and regretted leaving our wiener dog home alone. “Look behind you,” he said. A woman was holding the leash of a beautiful black and white Great Dane. “You missed the guy with the Afghan when you went to see Rebecca,” said Rod.

A dog stuck his nose out from under an author’s table to yap his displeasure at a passing dog. “Is that a Husky?” I asked the owner. “She is a cross between a Husky and German Shepherd,” the woman replied.

A ball rolled in front of our table, followed by a dog trailing his leash. The owner caught his escapee in front of our table. He pointed at Brigitte’s angel book. “There are a lot of religious books here,” he said. I wasn’t surprised by that statement. There were a lot of religious books on Exhibitors Row the previous year when I was filming authors for the faith blog. “They are not really angels,” he said. “They are beings from an alternate universe. Sometimes they come to our universe and help us.” I smiled and tried to sell him my book to no avail.

Another woman stopped abruptly when she spotted our sign about inspirational books. She purchased my book, and was pleased to get a free digital copy, which I was giving away because I had not had much luck selling the digital download cards. She also purchased Brigitte’s book. Our conversation revealed what I suspected. She loved God, her church, and her pastor. She is my niche market. I sell more books at Christian events than any place else. But getting into a Christian venue can be a challenge. “Does you church have a women’s ministry? I also speak.”

“Yes, we do, in fact, we have a women’s retreat coming up.” I gave her Pastor a complimentary book.

I can tell the readers from the writers. The readers look at the summary of the book. The writers open the book to see who published it. The next customer looked for the publisher. She had a book, sort of; it was an audio book. “What did it feel like to be published?” she asked.

I was stumped for a moment. Unlike some of my author friends, it had never been my dream to be published. I wasn’t trying to get published when I ended up published a second time. We had a long conversation about publishing. I explained the changes in the industry and told her about different forms of publishing. She was appreciative for the knowledge I had shared with her. She paid me for my time by buying my book.

By the end of the day, I had sold one more book than I did last year, and my camera never saw the light of day. I knew selling a book would not be easy. At the last event, I sold one book to a priest. If I despise small beginnings, I will never have a big ending. As long as my husband can afford it, I will continue to sell books where ever I can.

You Forgot to Pay Me!

Teena Myers signing book for priest.

Teena Myers signing book for Father D.

“The school Donna works for is having a garage sale,” said Tina, my daughter-in-law. “I paid for the table, do you want to sell your book?”

I hesitated. Donna works for a Catholic school. My book is Protestant. Would they be offended? I’ve asked Catholic’s to tell me their story. Most decline. Three agreed. One changed her mind. The others did not give me enough information to write a decent story. I decided to believe the best. I am not offended by Catholics, so why believe Catholics would be offended by me. “Yes,” I replied and jotted down the time and address.

Saturday morning, I loaded my books into my waterproof crate on wheels and strapped a old DVD/VHS player on top thinking the player would be the only thing I sold. The complex of church and school buildings took up several blocks. When I spotted my sons truck, I knew I was in the right place and parked. The weather was gorgeous. Low humidity, with an expected high of 75 degrees. We were on a covered walk way, so no worries about rain or too much sun. A perfect day to sell books.

Donna has worked for the school for two decades and knew everyone. A man clad in black dress pants and light jacket stopped to chat with her.

He spotted my book. “This is great.” he said. “Are you the author?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I’ll be back in a minute I want to buy this book.”

I watched him walk away and wondered if he would return. Donna approached me. “That’s the pastor of the church.”

“A priest is going to by my book!” Tina, you have got to take a picture.

The priest returned and pulled a twenty from his wallet. Tina raised her phone. “Can we take a picture?”

“Yes, but no Facebook, please.” He put his wallet back in his pocket and graciously posed trusting we would honor his request. Sigh. I so wanted to put that on Facebook.

“I want you to sign the book,” he said. “I really like reading true stories.”

“I write the Faith blog for NOLA.com, would you allow me to write your story?”

“No, no media. I try to stay out of the media.”

Sigh again. I handed Father D his signed copy of Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot. Five minutes later it occurred to me that he did not pay for the book. “Tina, the priest took off without paying for my book.” The irony had us giggling. Donna joined us to see what was so funny. “Donna, your pastor just stole my book.” She started giggling.

I debated running after him to get my $15, but did not want to risk embarrassing him in front of his parishioners. I knew that he did not do it intentionally. He had the money in hand until I asked for a picture.

The DVD/VHS player sold next, and then Father D returned holding some beautiful bookends. “I just bought these bookends and realized I did not pay you for my book.” He handed me fifteen one dollar bills and explained, “I wanted to be sure you had enough change for your next sale.”

I didn’t have any more sales that day, but that is OK. I understand that my genre of writing does not appeal to everyone. I often pray that God will send people who will benefit from reading my book. If one book sales and that person is blessed, I count it a successful day.

An Almost Perfect Day

The weather man had said 70’s. He was wrong. I looked at the overcast sky and shivered, felt more like 50’s. I walked to my shared table on Exhibitors Row at the Louisiana Book Fest thankful I had brought my coat. Rebecca Gernon had already discovered anything lite would fly off the table. Copies of Amy Signs were placed strategically on the table pinning down marketing material. I proceeded to do the same with Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot.

Rod, my husband, left in pursuit of hot chocolate. Despite our strategically placed books, post cards and business cards managed to escape. “Yours”, I said to Rebecca. She retrieved the escapee. A post card floated off the table. “Yours,” Rebecca said to me. Then Rebecca’s large poster leaped from the table and slapped a woman walking by. We added more books to the table to keep the poster from attacking another potential customer.

An hour had elapsed since my husband left. I pulled my cell phone from my coat pocket and dialed his number. He couldn’t find hot chocolate, so he embarked on another pursuit. He was in the tent talking to vendors about my book. “If you are going to do that come get some marketing material to leave with them.” He returned took some cards and left. Rebecca grabbed some of her cards to pass out on her way to the bathroom.

While chatting with Walt, Rebecca’s husband, I saw the sun peek through the clouds. I pointed to the sun. “Look it feels a little warmer.”

“I’m glad you’re feeling it,” said Walt.

Rebecca returned with a funnel cake. I tested the batteries in my wireless microphone, and attached it to my camera so I could film people who had books about faith, beliefs or spirituality and waited for Rod to return. By noon, the wind had driven the grey clouds away. We sat under a crystal blue sky, dotted with fluffy white clouds and slightly warmer temperatures. The day would have been perfect if not for the wind. Rod returned and I left him in charge while I filmed authors.

First stop, Angela Bertone’s Mary’s Christmas, a full color children’s book. I knew Angela, so she was glad to accommodate the camera. Deborah Lynne who I had filmed at a writer’s conference was also happy to talk about her latest release. The next stop was not so cooperative. Vicki Salloum thought I wanted to sell her advertising. When she realized I only wanted to help her gain exposure for her book, we had a long conversation about the difficulties of marketing. The author of One Moment With God and a book about surviving divorce from a Christian perspective by Dr. Cheryl Brandon concluded my quest to film authors. I returned to my table to learn my husband had sold a book.

By 3 p.m. I was ready to leave. Rod had to be up early for work and the crowds had thinned. We helped Rebecca move the table into the sun and departed for a Mexican dinner before returning to New Orleans. Speaking to Christian groups work best for me. The sales that day were sparse, but I wasn’t discouraged. I am always humbled that someone would pay money for something I wrote. I consider one sale a successful day, and I sold more than one.

How Did I Miss “That”

books jam confA friend sent me an email about a regional book festival looking for authors to sell their books. I skimmed through the email. Sounded promising. No charge for the table. Last year, 900 attended. I sent an inquiry thinking I was too late. Free tables are a rarity that would be snapped up fast.

The following day, I received an email welcoming me and my book, Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot, to be part of the event. “You will be in a theater on Main Street,” he wrote. Nice. I would not have to deal with unpredictable weather. “The front of the theater is large glass windows making it easy for attendees of the festival to see you,” he wrote. Better than nice, good placement, we won’t be in a corner where no one can see us!

Luck? A blessing from God! Neither.

Rebecca, a friend and the author of Amy Signs, and I arrived at the theater. The email information was correct. We were in a nice lobby that faced Main Street with large glass windows. FREE BOOK FESTIVAL glared at me from the poster on the theater door. How did I miss “THAT”? FREE! Was that in the email? Why did they invite authors to sell books at a “FREE BOOK” festival?

I knew most of the authors that were already set up in the theater. A mystery writer, whose class on writing I had taken at a community college had just finished his twenty-fourth book. I must have made an impression at the writing class. He remembered me.

One of the authors, who I did not know, said he recognized me from the North Shore Literary Society. I hate it when people know me and I don’t know them. His book Random Allotment was a Faulkner, 2012 William Wisdom Creative Writing Finalist. He writes in his spare time and works full time as an attorney. We had a long talk about publishing. He had self-published through Amazon, and was frustrated that book stores would not stock his book. “How do publishers decided which bookstores to place your book in?” he asked.

His question told me that he knew more about being an attorney than he did about publishing. “Publishers don’t place books in bookstores. Bookstores are independently owned. They purchase books that they have a reasonable expectation will sale. And they rarely purchase books that are not returnable. Most self-published and print-on-demand books fall in that category, which is why bookstores won’t pick up your book.”  That answer started a conversation on marketing that lasted until my mouth was dry and begging for water.

I noticed a woman looking at my book and excused myself for a possible sale. Another long conversation, my mouth morphing into the Sahara Desert with each word. She left with a free magazine that contains a sample of my writing and a brochure about Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot. She wanted the book but didn’t have any money. Of course, she had no expectation of needing money at a FREE BOOK Festival.

“The theater is selling drinks and snacks at the end of the hall,” said Rebecca as she took a sip from her 16.9 FL OZ bottled water.

I grabbed my wallet and headed for the end of the hall. “How much for bottled water?”

“One dollar,” she said and turned to dig for one in the ice chest.

I thought that was cheap. Until she handed me a 4 FL OZ bottle of water.

Rebecca grinned. “I brought mine from home.”

I downed my 4 OZ’s of water while I surveyed the empty street in front of the theater except for an occasional car that whizzed by. The only people who had visited the theater were a few friends of the authors. I wondered where the rest of the festival was being held and if any of the 900 people from last year had returned or if this year simply failed to draw a crowd.

The children’s author who forwarded the email about the festival to me approached my table. “Everyone is at the library across the street,” she said. “Let’s grab some of our promotional material and let them know we are over here.” That sounded like a good idea. I grabbed some brochures and followed her out the door.

In front of the crowded library, a man running for mayor handed me a brochure and asked me to consider him at the next election. I handed him my brochure and asked for his consideration as well. Behind the library, free food was being served. My friend and I met a woman who had light brown hair, a six week old baby strapped to her chest and three elementary age children fidgeting by her side. My friend handed her information about her children’s book. I didn’t give her a brochure. I doubted she would have time to read my book if she bought it. Two of her children had fiery red hair. “Your husband must be a red head,” I said.

“No, he’s not.” She pointed to her daughter’s brunette hair. “His hair is that color. We think the red hair came from a great, great grandparent.”

Inside the library there was free everything you can imagine and a mass of people. I browsed the tables. Picked up two free poster of the Cajun Ten Commandments for my husband and the Children’s pastor at my church. Then I rounded the corner and ran into another author friend. “How did you get in here with all the people?” I inquired.

“I did a “Get Published” seminar a few months ago. They invited me to return for the festival. But I have not sold one book,” he said.

“Me either,” I replied. “I do better at Christian events and it doesn’t help that this is a FREE BOOK festival.”

I couldn’t find my friend in the crowd, so I headed back to the empty theater to see if she had returned. Her husband shook his head NO. I joined a conversation Rebecca was having with an author. He was an associate professor at a nearby University. Another very long conversation ensued. Rebecca returned to her table while the professor and I talked about racism and justice. He wasn’t interested in the book I was selling, but he was interested in the article I wrote about the different perception of racism I encountered at the Christian Community Development Associations national conference.  He was also interested in my first book, A Reason to Believe, about the seven appearances of God to Abraham and the faith he taught him. The book is no longer in print. I have been rewriting it and posting chapters to my personal website. He asked for links to the material which I was happy to provide.

I returned to my table. A woman walked into the theater. A customer? NO! Just another author who was in a different building across the street. Sigh.

I looked at Rebecca. “Are you hungry?”

“Yea, do you want a free hot dog?”

I have gradually changed my diet to hold my expanding waist line at bay. Hot dogs are not on my list of acceptable foods. “No, it’s 1:00 pm. I am ready to leave and eat a salad.”

We agreed that leaving an hour early would not be a problem, since no one had been in the theater except authors most of the day. I had everything neatly secured in my water proof box when the brown haired woman with the fiery red haired children walked in and stood in front of my table. This time I gave her a brochure.

When I returned home, I checked the email about the regional book festival. Yes, it said FREE BOOK festival. That is what I get for skimming instead of reading the whole email. The day was not a total loss.  I did have some interesting conversations with an attorney and professor, as well as a pleasant healthy lunch with a good friend.

Lessons in Marketing

20130817_124933I was a last minute addition to the author readings sponsored by the North Shore Literary Society (NLS). Somehow the bookstore was able to obtain the last four copies at Ingram in time for the event. NLS had been gracious to include me. I reciprocated the favor by volunteering to help with the all-day event.

In addition to reading from Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot, I was assigned to organize and be Master of Ceremony at the last event of the day – Poets Corner. Poetry? I knew nothing about poetry. I opened my internet search engine and and Googled poetry. My research gave me a new appreciation for poetry, but more about that later.

I had finished a low calorie diet a week before the event. Experience had already taught me to reintroduce foods gradually, but I thought it would be safe to put a little cheese on my omelet. NOT! I had picked up a friend and just started the 24 mile drive across the Causeway Bridge when a dull ache in the pit of my stomach told me I would pay for eating cheese.

Dallas, my friend, noticed my discomfort. I explained. She dug in her purse and produced a single dose of antacid. I devoured the tablets hoping for instant relief. NOT. Pain from the indigestion grew stronger cause me to break into a sweat. As soon as I exited the bridge, I pulled into a gas station. All they had was single packets of Pepto-Bismol, which did little to relieve the pain.

The cheerful founder of the NLS greeted me at the door. I wasn’t feeling very cheerful, but managed to smile. Then requested directions to the bathroom where I’d have a little privacy to pray for relief and decide if I would be able to read.

When I exited the bathroom, Dallas greeted me with a bottle of Maalox acquired from a nearby supermarket. I took several swallows and then set up my camera to record the readings and hoped I would be called upon to read last.

Most of the authors had never used a wireless mic. One author picked up the battery pack to speak into. Instead of clipping the battery pack to their clothing they left it sitting on the podium. When they walked away from the podium, the pack went swinging through the air. Another lady pulled the wireless mic from its clip. It fell to her waist before it ran out of cord. She picked it up and held the tiny orb in her hand to finish her presentation.

The wisdom of joining toastmasters this year was evident as some of the authors read from their book. Some stood awkwardly uncomfortable with public speaking. One author spoke so softly she could not be heard. Fortunately, I was asked to read last. By that time I was feeling much better.

After the readings Dallas and I went to lunch with one of the authors. I was careful to eat lite lest indigestion rear its head again. We returned for Adult Playtime to hear a reading of two of Rebecca Gernon’s plays: Winds of Change, a humorous story of New Orleans residents stranded in a dingy Arkansas motel during hurricane Katrina and Artistic Expressions, a semi-finalist in the Drury College (Springfield, MO) semi-annual play contest, finishing in the top 10 of over 300 plays.

By the time Poets Corner began I had caught my second wind. No longer weary and in pain I enjoyed being MC. My discoveries about poetry opened the event. Poetry preserved history until humanity developed a written language. The Greeks were the first to preserve their poems in writing. The word poetry comes from a Greek word that means “I create”. I also discovered that ancient medical doctors prescribed poems to their patients for healing their aliments. After 911 there was a phenomenon of poetry in New York City. In a quest to console themselves and others people left poems in public places all over the city.

I had never been a fan of poetry, but my experience as MC gave me a new appreciation for the art. The poems carried messages about our times, were filled with emotion and several were comical. On the way home, Dallas told me about some young people sitting in a nearby café who scowled and mocked the poets. Until an amusing poem about a woman with a bowling ball stuck on her toe was read. The young people listened attentively and applauded. I wasn’t the only one who found a new appreciation for poetry that night.

The pros outweighed the cons of the day. The cons. The book sales were dismal for all of the authors. The pros. We benefited by having our books placed in a bookstore. I also learned to be careful what I eat before speaking publicly. And it was a pleasant day with new friends and old.

Answered Prayer and Sweet Experiences

SCWC booksThe sales of Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot has slowed considerably the first half of this year. I expected as much. After exhausting invitations to read excerpts at the churches of the pastors in the book, I knew I would not have many options. Sales rise when I am able to speak, so I did two things to remedy the problem. I joined Toastmasters to improve my speaking skills. Having done all that was in my power to do, I prayed God would do what I could not do – open doors for me to speak.

The Southern Christian Writers Conference (SCWC) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama allows conference attendees to sale their books during the conference. I mailed my registration and talked to several friends about going as a group. Marlaine and Sandra already had plans to attend and invited me to go with them. Toni, decided to join us.

Four days before we left for the conference, God answered my prayer. I received an email from the SCWC with an invitation to give an inspirational ten minute speech about my experience as a writer. I immediately replied “Yes” and thanked God that I had joined Toastmasters. With some minor tweaking to fit the audience, the Ice Breaker I had given at Toastmasters was perfect for the conference.

God not only answered my prayer for speaking opportunities, he gave me some sweet experiences. I live an hour away from most of the Guild members. My socializing with them is done monthly in the few minutes before and after the Guild meeting. The four and a half hour trip to Tuscaloosa enabled me to form a stronger friendship with Marlaine, Sandra and Toni. Sweet!

We arrived at the conference early, so I could set up my books in the author room. Much to my surprise, a check was waiting for me at the registration desk; payment for my inspirational ten minute speech. Most of what I do is gratis. Getting paid is sweet!

I noticed that the signup sheet for dinner with Bruce Barbour had slots available. Two years earlier, a friend had signed me and herself up for the coveted dinner with Mr. Barbour, literary agent and founder of Literary Management Group, Inc. His family has published Christian material for four generations. He was full of interesting stories, and I regretted that I did not have my camera to record them. I signed up for dinner and hoped Mr. Barbour would give me permission to film him.

Of the three writers invited to give inspirational speeches during the opening session, I was scheduled to speak last. Marlaine said, “Teena, you must have the desert.” After listening to the two gifted speakers who preceded me, I wasn’t sure I had anything at all. I squared my shoulders and delivered my message, praying at least one person would be inspired. When I returned to the table Marlaine handed me a written note; “I was wrong – that was the appetizer, the meal and dessert. Wonderful!” If no one else was inspired, I was by that note. Sweet!

The rest of the day, I received positive comments from the conference attendees about my ten minutes of inspiration. The most encouraging comments came from one of the organizers of the conference and Bruce Barbour who said, “Thanks for sharing. That was great.” I seized that moment to ask Mr. Barbour for permission to video some of his exploits in publishing. He not only gave me permission to video his comments during dinner, he agreed to tell me his salvation story. Double sweet!! (Keep an eye on NOLA.com’s faith blog for that story.)

After the conference, Marlaine, Sandra, Toni and I went to a restaurant. Toni who had bathed us in prayer from the moment we left for the conference announced we should ask the waitress if she had any needs she wanted us to pray about. I thought that was a novel idea and wondered how the waitress would react. The waitress burst into tears. She was greatly distress that her bank account was overdrawn. We prayed for her. She left to place our orders. We took up a collection. She returned and burst into tears when we handed her enough money to get her bank account in the black. The perfect end to a sweet day.

A Near Disaster

Womens LunchThursday morning, I was clearing off my desk when my phone rang. The second ring revealed the callers identity. I recognized the name of the coordinator of a women’s lunch I was scheduled to attend on Friday.

“Hello.”

“Teena, we have a problem.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s in the paper.”

“What’s in the paper?”

“You are doing a book signing at the club. Did you put it in the paper?”

“No. I don’t know how it got in the paper. Can I ask why it’s problem?”

“President Bush visited the club and the place was mobbed. Now they have a rule that events cannot be publicized.”

The absurdity of my presence creating a mob at a private club made me giggle. “No worries,” I said. “My presence will not create a mob.”

“They are threatening to cancel the lunch,” she said.

That statement put an abrupt halt to my laughter.

“Do you know who would have put it in the paper?

My mind raced for an answer. “It must have been my publisher. I send them my schedule. Their marketing department sends announcements about any event I attend to area media. But this is the first time a media outlet published anything.”

I called my marketing representative to inquire if he knew who put the forbidden information in the paper. “We send announcements, but they don’t tell us if they use what we send.” I explained the dire consequences of obtaining a little publicity. He chuckled, “Most people welcome a little publicity. Teena, throw me under the bus. Tell them I did it without your permission.”

I called the event coordinator to explain what happened and asked for the name of the journalist who wrote the column that included the forbidden information. A few clicks of the mouse and I had the journalist phone number.  I explained the situation and asked if the forbidden information would run in Friday’s paper. She chuckled, “Most people welcome a little publicity.” To my relief, her column only ran on Wednesdays.

I found it ironic that the first time someone published five lines about me, it created a near disaster. More phone calls and a letter of permission cleared the way to have the lunch with Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot present averting the disaster. I have learned my lesson. If I am ever invited to a private club again, no one will know including my publisher.

Treasured Forever

Sign Jam ConfI open an email from Bent Pages Bookstore, a sponsor of the Jambalaya Writers Conference and read, “Can you bring books. The distributor canceled our order.” At first the message did not register. I read it again. Unbelievable! At last, a bookstore is willing to purchase books for me to sign and the distributor cancels the order.

“Yes, I can bring books,” I replied, then called the marketing representative assigned to my book by the publisher. He was also mystified. “The distributor has four of your books on their shelf.” Terry has come to my aide more than one time. He resolved the problem by calling the bookstore and selling them the books they needed.

books jam confI arrived at the Jambalaya Writers Conference to find ten copies of Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot on a chair behind my table. If I had brought books, I would have made more money. Bookstore sales yield a small royalty, in my case, a little over a $1 per book. So, why didn’t I bring books to sell? I didn’t write a book to get rich. Having your book in a retail store makes it easier for the consumer to find. I set the books on the table, laid out some post cards and debated on what to do until the booksigning began.

I have attended a number of writing conferences. The workshops yield the same basic information. No longer in need of an agent or publisher, I had grown weary of attending them. But I had four hours to kill. I choose several workshops on marketing hoping to learn something new I could do to market Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot. I exited the second session on marketing and saw Jane Trufant Harvey author of the Ask Him series of books and host of the video series Jump Start with Jane on thedailymass.com. “What have you learned?” She asked. “Everything I already know and am doing,” I replied.

Tim O'Brien addressing the Jambalaya Writers Conference

Tim O’Brien addressing the Jambalaya Writers Conference

The exception was the session with the keynote speaker, Tim O’Brien. The colorful Vietnam veteran strode to the podium. A hybrid of comfort and business, he wore a baseball cap, black tennis shoes resting on an orange sole with bright yellow laces and a business suit. I will never forget the theme of his presentation: What your character does will be remembered. His appearance may have repelled some, but the greatest wisdom tends to be hidden in unusual packages. I would not have read a story about the Vietnam War. After hearing O’Brien speak, The Things They Carried is on my reading list.

I left O’Brien’s session and took my place at the author’s book signing. The room quickly filled with people seeking to make purchases. The hour flew by as I chatted with people about Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot. Most of the crowd had departed to attend the next workshop when two Asian young men approached my table. One of the men, Paul, clutched the Program of Presenters handed out by the conference. He wasn’t interested in purchasing a book. Paul smiled broadly and spoke in broken English, “I want autographs of famous authors.” O’Brien who was signing books directly across from me had already left, so I pointed to Rebecca Gernon sitting to my right. Rebecca’s Amy Signs had been picked up nationally by Barnes and Nobles as well as many university libraries and she was a presenter at the conference.

Paul obtained Rebecca’s signature and then returned to my table. “I want autographs of famous authors.” Paul smiled. I returned his smile and wondered why he was standing in front of my table. Then I had an epiphany. Paul thought all of the authors at the conference were famous. I do not fall into the famous category, but didn’t know how to communicate that to Paul without being rude. After a second request for my famous autograph, I signed one of my postcards and handed it to Paul. His face lit up, and he exclaimed, “I will treasure this forever.” I left the Jambalaya’s Writers Conference contemplating if I should pray for fame to make that postcard worthy of being treasured.

 

 

 

 

 

Just What I Needed

Mary Cummings

Mary Cummings

I had reservations about bringing Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot to the Prayer and Purpose Conference at the Assemblies of God Campgrounds. The book sold well at the annual convention last November. If the same ladies attended the Prayer and Purpose Conference, it wasn’t likely I would sell many books. Also, my husband was working that weekend. I didn’t want to drive to Alexandria alone. I was thinking of passing on attending the conference when I ran into Sonya McLean, Women’s Unlimited Director, conference organizer and my pastor’s wife, at McDonalds. The subject of bringing my book arose and it was settled that I would attend.

My assumptions about selling the book quickly proved true. Zero sales the first day of the conference. As I walked into the church Saturday morning, a woman walking out stuck a check into my hand. My first sale of the two day event and I wasn’t even at my table. Sonya allowed me to read an excerpt and talk about the book later that day and a few more books sold.

I wasn’t disappointed by the dismal sales. I consider one book sold a success as I am always amazed that anyone would pay money for something I wrote. But I had planned to give the profits to Women’s Unlimited, which supports orphans and missionaries. I had hoped to give more.

While the conference attendees were dispersed into various workshops, I browsed the product tables that lined the walls. A book caught my eye – The Restlessness of the Call: Remaining Faithful Through the Process of Being Appointed, Anointed and Prepared by Mary Cummings. My husband bought me a Kindle several years ago, and I recently purchased an IPad. I seldom buy a printed book and returned The Restlessness of the Call to its place on the table. Then I made a mental note to look for a digital copy when I returned home.

The lady who had Mary engaged in conversation departed. Writing and publishing a book is easier than marketing and selling one. NOLA.com has millions of visitors annually, so I am always willing to help a fellow author gain exposure for their work. I offered to feature Mary’s work on NOLA.com’s Faith, Beliefs and Spirituality blog.

Mary BookMary is the founder of Shekinah Ministries. She is a speaker known for leading people into the presence of God and is a former president of the Shreveport Women’s Business Counsel. She is amazed at the way the presence of God changes us making the Glory of God her favorite subject. She also has a heart for missions and holds a BS Degree in Missions from Southwest Assemblies of God University.

As we chatted, Mary offered to do a book swap. I gave her Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot, and she gave me The Restlessness of the Call. I currently have two books on my Ipad that I am reading and a list of books waiting to be read. If Mary had not suggested a book swap, I might have forgotten about the book that caught my eye.

While I was putting things away after my trip, I opened Mary’s book to get a feel for its message. I read the words of a gifted teacher and reached for a highlighter. Point after point resonated in my own life and the challenges that I face as I wait for the fulfillment of things revealed to me when I was a teenager. Mary’s book explained what has happened in the past and gave me hope for the future.

Thank You Mary Cummings, your book was just what I needed.

A Book Fair to Remember

I backed out of the garage. While I waited for the garage door to close, I typed the address to the New Orleans Book Fair on my GPS. A neighbor tapped on my window. He pointed down, “You have a flat.” I leaped from my car to verify his assessment. Yep, it was flat. “Pull next door and I will put air in it,” he said.

I pulled into his driveway while he started the compressor. He knelt to examine the tire and found a nail. More air would be a temporary solution. By the time I left the Book Fair, the tire would be flat again. While he put the temporary tire that glared “do not exceed 50 mph” on the car, I debated staying home. Instead, I drove to my son’s house to borrow his car and suggested he bring my flat tire to be repaired.

The parking fee had doubled since the last time I had been in the area. A six minute walk later, I arrived at 725 Magazine Street and found my table. The author I was assigned to share a table with had not arrived yet. I laid out my books and magazines and sat down to survey my surroundings.

I smiled at an elderly man and woman who sat at the table across from me. Tales of the Saturni in block letters covered a mass of dead bodies on the poster to the left. A strange creature on the poster to the right chewed on the arm of a headless body. The skull and dentures in the center of the table were flanked by candles with pictures of Christ – a friendly face among the gore. I looked to my right. A small white poster stuck to one of the many pillars holding the warehouse roof in place announced in multicolored letters an expletive which began with F (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination) Time 2 p.m.

New Orleans Book Fair

Thin twenty some things walked by sporting purple hair and tattoos. Several young men with backpacks and dogs on leashes browsed the table next to mine. I debated whether or not they would buy the advance reader copy of Allen Ginsberg’s The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice clearly marked “Not for Sale.”  A plump woman dressed in black with magenta hair and studs in lips and eyes paused briefly in front of my table to chat with a friend. I was distracted by a tall, thin woman whose stunning red hair was woven into dreadlocks and adorned with a bright green headband. Then some ones time machine must have opened a worm hole. The perfect 1950’s woman walked by complete with belted A-line dress and pill box hat resting on shoulder length black hair. I doubted I would sell a book, but “people watching” was very entertaining.

My book caught the attention of a retired attorney. Rob in his short cropped hair, beige shirt and tan pants was not as entertaining as the multicolored hair, studded and tattooed people, but he was interesting. He had practiced law in New Mexico and Colorado before he came to New Orleans to start an Orthodox Church. While I chatted with Rob, a man from New Jersey handed me a twenty. He purchased Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot for his wife, a pastor, and said he would read it too. I promised to contact Rob after the holidays to write about his endeavors and then my table partner arrived.

Raheem Allen laid out copies of Zane’s Destruction. Fifteen year old Raheem, who had written and published his first novel, quickly became the talk of the event. At least that is what a woman from another table who had come to investigate said. Raheem made his first sale to the woman’s daughter. The support Raheem had from his proud father was touching. Daddy turned every book sale into a photo op.

The crowd was much larger than the Louisiana Book Fest in Baton Rouge, but I only sold one copy of Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot, and few people took the free magazine which contained an excerpt from the book’s introduction. I relinquished the table to a grateful Raheem and left early. I wasn’t discouraged. Books have niche markets. This was not my niche, but I might return next year, to people watch and sale one more book.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 350 other followers

%d bloggers like this: