When I was 11 years old, I started a neighborhood newspaper (named, not so imaginatively, Neighborhood News). It was my first foray into self-publishing, if you don’t count the “novel” I wrote when I was eight. That 20 page homage to The Secret Garden (named, not so imaginatively, The Secret World) ended up in my school library, but that was because my teacher had the pages spiral bound within a laminated orange construction paper cover--I wasn’t involved in the publishing part.
I took my newspaper very seriously. My first headline was “Girl Stuck in Elevator!”, based on my friend Julie McAffery’s harrowing ordeal in our building. I wrote the advice column (both the questions and the answers), drew the comic strips, cribbed recipes from my mom’s box of Weight Watchers cards for the cooking section, shared neighborhood gossip in my own dishy version of Page Six, created classified ads (mostly to offer my babysitting services and try to sell old toys) and interviewed neighbors who had lived on the street for decades and could speak to how it had changed. I involved my sister as co-editor, which mostly involved my ghost-writing articles for her, something I was happy to do. I was a shy girl, but somehow writing made me bolder than I would be otherwise--it gave me the courage to talk to people, to sell subscriptions door to door.
I am hoping to tap into some of that same boldness now that I have plunged back into self publishing for the first time in decades, after having several books published by large presses. I recently released my novel, The Book of Live Wires (the sequel to my Bellwether Prize-winning novel, The Book of Dead Birds) as an ebook, and am trying to screw up the courage to knock on more people’s virtual doors. Self-promotion does not come easily to me--I am still a shy girl at heart--but I know it is vitally important, especially when publishing work oneself. And I love this book--I love how it gave my writing back to me (I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month in 2002 to get me out of my first ever case of writers’ block--you can read a bit more about my process in my first NaNoWriMo blog for She Writes), and I love that it helped me catch up with my beloved characters from The Book of Dead Birds. I am excited to share the novel with readers after all these years, even though I truly had written it for myself. You don’t have to have read The Book of Dead Birds to enjoy The Book of Live Wires--it is narrated by Darryl Sternberg, Ava’s love interest from Dead Birds and now her husband and the father of her baby, and is a novel about love, identity and family secrets. NY Times bestselling author Peter Nichols calls it “A dark, funny novel of singular and heartfelt characters, in a story that moves as swiftly and true as the flight of a hawk.”
My friend and first reader, the amazing Writing Warrior Laraine Herring, sent me a link to a great post by Justine Musk, Are Fiction Writers Screwed?, which is helping me redefine my relationship with marketing. Justine Musk suggests that rather than look at marketing our books as a selfish, horn-tooting, platform-building practice, we should see it this way: Making an emotional connection with those people formerly known as your audience whom you’re meant to serve both as a writer and a storyteller. That appeals to me deeply. That’s what writing is about--making that emotional connection, serving the reader with our words. It makes sense that marketing can be a way to do this, too.
I will be giving away several electronic copies of the book, as well as a grand prize--a copy of The Book of Dead Birds and a rare physical edition of The Book of Live Wires--through She Writes on Friday, and hope to see you then. It is my little gift to readers and this great She Writes community for all you have given me. Here I am knocking at your door--what else can I do to serve you?