Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia walks into a bar in Heaven, looking forward to a quiet glass of wine after a long and busy life. He orders his wine and as the bartender pours, he says:
Bartender: Can you believe how political Supreme Court appointments can be? When do you think they’ll get around to appointing your replacement?
Scalia: (sighing) Yes I can. The Framers of the Constitution made the process explicitly political by putting the Senate in charge. But they can’t avoid it forever either. I wish they’d just get on with it. There’s important work to do.
Bartender: But aren’t you an originalist? If the Constitution allows for the politicization of the appointment process, shouldn’t we just stand back and let it happen?
Scalia: Sure, but we don’t have to like it. And those Senators have to do their jobs…they don’t have to like it.
Bartender: Isn’t there anything the People can do to make the Senate get on with it?
Scalia: (smirking) Two words: Seventeenth Amendment.
Categorizing my work gives me a headache. When I think about it, I always get this scene from The Princess Bride running through my head:
The Battle of Wits
"You guessed wrong! That's what's so funny!!"
Picking the right category for your book is important if you want people to read it. Why? It comes down to marketing and targeting your audience. For instance, if you wrote a romance, it wouldn’t be a natural fit for horror readers, right? That’s not to say that a horror reader wouldn’t like your book. It just means that, for the purposes of selling the book, you want to put it in front the readers most likely to read it. Write a romance, market it to romance readers. Pretty simple, right?
Wrong! It actually gets really tricky, especially when you’re writing fiction that is aimed primarily at a female audience. General fiction vs. women’s fiction vs. chick-lit. Oh my! Ok, so here’s how this story pans out in my head.
When I started writing Wallflower Blooming, I wasn’t thinking about where it would fit on a bookstore shelf. I was thinking about the characters and what happens to them. I knew a few things. 1) I wanted to have a female protagonist, partly because I think women are awesome and partly because, well, I am one and so it’s a point of view I understand pretty intimately. 2) I wanted to avoid getting all romantic. I never set out to write a romance, not because I don’t love romance, but simply because I’m such a romantic sap that I wanted to challenge myself not to make it all about love. (those who know me will be chuckling here…don’t worry, I understand).
So I wrote the book. About half way through an unexpected thing happened…my characters took over. The book went in a completely different direction than I’d planned and guess what, it got all romantic! But here’s the thing...I like it! I like the way the book turned out. At the end of the day, my characters felt real to me and their struggles, believable. So I was happy.
THEN, on a whim, I entered my manuscript in a contest. I didn’t win (but the feedback was so immensely helpful). What DID happen though was that the judge called my book women’s fiction. Having come from a background working with victims, most of whom were women, I have strong feelings about the way gender is used to differentiate things and I resisted the label. Yes, my book is about a woman, but it’s still just fiction, right? Well, that explanation only works if you never want anyone to pick up your book. I, however, wanted to find an agent. And part of finding an agent entails understanding where your book fits in the overall scheme of book marketing. As an often light-hearted book about a woman character who finds herself romantically involved, I could see why that judge labeled it women’s fiction.
But the situation only got more complicated. One of my beta readers called the book chick-lit! And I sort of scratched my head and thought, “wait a minute, I’ve finally accepted women’s fiction, can’t we just stop there?” So, I had to consider whether my book is actually chick-lit. And this led me to the question: “What the heck is the difference between women’s fiction and chick-lit???”
There are about a zillion articles on this very topic, which made me feel a little less clueless. Here’s one I liked. http://agencygatekeeper.blogspot.com/2010/07/romance-womens-fiction-or-chick-lit.html So, the gist seems to be that chick-lit and women’s fiction both focus primarily on situations involving women. But chick-lit tends to be more light-hearted and appeals to a younger audience. Women’s fiction tackles deeper issues and appeals to a broader range of women.
Well, that didn’t help and I’ll tell you why. Wallflower Blooming tackles women’s issues...some lighthearted and romantic, some deeper. It’s an entertaining read, but still thought provoking. It’s got some romance going on, but it also deals in family struggles and personal growth…and, oh yes, small town politics. It’s been read and enjoyed by women ranging in age from 18-86 (so far). So you tell me. Women’s fiction or chick-lit? Maybe both. I guarantee that it's fiction and there are women in it. So go forth and enjoy!
“He who toots not his own horn, gets his own horn not tooted.” – Madge Stenger (1900-1986)
Wise words from a wise woman who I often wish I’d had the pleasure of meeting. Having just published my first novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-promotion. As a self-published author, it’s unavoidable. And even going through a traditional publishing house, more responsibility is falling on the author to promote his or her work these days. In my previous life doing marketing for a living, I actually helped promote several authors – both traditionally and self-published. I feel very grateful for those experiences because they gave me a preview of what I’d be doing.
The other night, my fiancé and I were chuckling about something my daughter says at dinnertime. Every night, we each share our favorite part of the day. One day, when my fiancé’s favorite part included an activity with my daughter, her response was an eyelash batting and very charming, “it’s about me!” Because we all laughed, this performance has been repeated nearly every night. We encourage it and she, the talented drama queen, does not disappoint.
Anyway, we were talking about this as part of a conversation about self-promotion. Many people hate the idea of having to talk about themselves, especially to sell themselves. But I think self-promotion gets a bad rep. There’s really nothing wrong with promoting ourselves and our businesses – small businesses would never survive without it. And with the sheer volume of books for sale, an author is going to have a hard time being seen without employing some strategic marketing techniques. That being said, I think it’s possible to promote your work without being perceived as a narcissist and it’s really not that difficult. After all, as writers, what do we want? People to read our work and to connect with it. So as we focus on promoting our works, we simply need to stay focused on the people we’re hoping to reach.
By my estimation, the key to successful self-promotion, that won’t make an author feel like a creep, is engagement. Being engaged with your audience can be as simple as responding to emails and comments on social media positively and in a timely manner. Giving readers a glimpse of your life and views, and showing interest in theirs creates a lasting connection. A few months ago, I was fortunate to have a chance to chat with Pretty Baby author Mary Kubica online. We talked about the challenges of being a mother and an author. Her words and her attitude resonated with me and, though she was already an author I enjoyed reading, she’s now on my radar in a much more personal way.
So on that note, dear readers, you’ll be hearing a lot from me as I promote my new book and other writing I’m doing. I appreciate your support and I look forward to hearing from you. Don’t be shy. Send messages. Ask questions. Leave comments. We’re in this together and my work as a writer and author isn’t just about me. It’s about you!
The kids and I walked out to the bus stop this morning in about 2 inches of beautiful, undisturbed snow. My daughter was studying the snowflakes landing on my jacket and dancing around trying to catch falling flakes on her tongue. My son was creating tracks in the snow, kicking around as much as he could while waiting for the bus. It was a magical morning.
Growing up in southern New Mexico, snow nearly always meant school delays and closures. I remember seeing a few flakes in the morning and getting all prepared for some snowy fun. The funny thing is that we often only ended up with ½ inch of snow on the ground. But in New Mexico, that was enough to stop life as we knew it. We’d spend all day in that tiny layer of snow, building all manner of snowmen and forts, having snowball fights and freezing our rear ends off.
When it snows here in Boulder, I just stuff my kids into coats and snow boots and send them on their way. I can’t help but picture The Christmas Story where the little brother Randy is so bundled that he can’t put his arms down. It’s not quite that old here and I’m not too prone to over-reaction when it comes to being out the snow, so my kids can move freely. But I admit, I always chuckle a bit when they come running inside, freezing cold, peeling off wet, frozen clothes and begging for hot chocolate.
I kind of like the snow.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2015 and my birthday. I’m a New Year’s Eve baby, which means that all my life people have asked me if my parents were happy to have me as a tax deduction. I’ve spent the last few weeks working on my 2016 writing strategy and I’m getting really excited. But before I let go of 2015, I thought I’d share a few of my New Year’s Eve / Birthday memories.
They say that when your birthday is New Year’s Eve, the whole world is partying with you. But growing up in a family-owned business meant that the one thing I could always count on every year for my birthday was inventory. I spent more birthdays counting office supplies than I can count on two hands. And I admit – I loved it! I’m an office supply freak and proud of it. My cousin and I used to team up and eventually we’d be so loopy we’d start making up songs and giggling like crazy.
On my 21st birthday, I was visiting my hometown during winter break and I did what many people do – I bought my own alcohol (woo hoo!). Unfortunately, I was so sick that I didn’t get to drink any and all I really remember from that birthday is throwing up around midnight.
The year before I had my son, my husband and I spent the holidays with his mother in Washington D.C. She surprised me with tickets to see Wicked at the Kennedy Center on New Year’s Eve. We dressed up, enjoyed the show and then a champagne toast with hundreds of other D.C. theater-goers. That was one of my very favorite birthdays.
Then, a few years ago, I spent several hours at our nearby prison facility negotiating a service contract to care for inmates who’d been raped. The warden and my liason surprised me with a delicious cake. I’d never met these people before but something about working together on such an important issue created a strong bond. I’ll truly never forget that kindness.
So, these are just a few tales of birthdays past. I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends and family who’ve shared experiences with me and helped me to create memories that will last my whole life. I’m grateful for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given this year and am looking forward to an exciting and productive 2016. By the end of next year, I’ll be looking back on travels, a wedding and all the wonderful things that life has in store.
Happy New Year!
Yesterday was a busy Seattle day. I told my son I’d take a picture of the Space Needle for him, so I rode the Monorail over to Seattle Center. I decided to bite the bullet and ride up to the top of the Needle. I also visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit which is just breathtaking. It’s fun to tourist around Seattle on my own. I miss my kids and my honey, but there’s a lot of freedom in taking it all in solo. After returning from Seattle Center, I decided to walk down to see the Seattle Great Wheel. I’ve wanted to go on it since it was built a few years ago. But I’ll admit, the trip up the Space Needle elevator made my heart race so I wasn’t feeling super confident in my ability to make it through the wheel ride. In fact, I was picturing getting about 10 feet off the ground and throwing up.
So I took a picture of the wheel and hiked back up to my hotel, feeling pretty okay about the decision no to attempt the wheel on my own. (Literary side note: The Seattle Great Wheel reminds me of reading about the original Ferris Wheel in Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City – another World’s Fair reference to make my trip even more complete). I’m sitting cooling off in front of the A/C when my best friend calls and asks if I want to go on the wheel. Oh crap! Well, of course I do, I say and they head up to meet me at my hotel. We park near the waterfront and I can feel my anxiety on the rise. As fate would have it, my friend’s son suffers from anxiety as well so he was not too pleased about the idea of going on the wheel. In fact, we were both scared out of our wits. But I think I had him convinced that we should have an adventure together AND his mom bribed him (you know, for good measure).
I’d like to tell you that we both laughed at how silly our fears were, but the truth is, I closed my eyes through most of the first rotation and held my little buddy’s hand for the entire trip. I didn’t throw up, though I won’t say the urge wasn’t ever present. And my little friend kept speaking my mind, saying things like “don’t take any more pictures, you’re wiggling,” and “don’t talk, it rocks the car.” I was able to open my eyes for most of the last two rotations and then they threw in a fourth time around. My friend’s son cried the whole time, so frustrated that he’d been duped into a non-disclosed trip. And I can’t say that I blame him, though I tried to put on a really brave face. The view is spectacular and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world but I’m glad I’m safely back on the ground!
It’s Fleet Week for Seafair so the waterfront was teaming with guys and gals in uniform. With all the talk of Worlds Fairs and such, it felt a little bit like stepping into another time. Of course I wanted my picture with every last one of them! My bestie took my first picture with Chris, a very dashing young man who corrected her when she suggested that he was a “seaman.” I got my picture and walked away, embarrassed for having hijacked this poor guy but satisfied nonetheless. As we were walking to catch up with her husband and son, I noticed that my little 8-year old friend had commandeered a whole group of white clad Navy boys and was pointing them in my direction. All the blood rushed back to my face as he organized another group photo. I ended up surrounded by half a dozen good-natured troops, their pristine white uniforms in shocking contrast to the red that was taking over my face and body. I shook their hands, thanked them for their service and made my little buddy promise not to talk to any more uniformed men. He just smirked!
My sister and I headed to downtown Seattle the other night to watch a movie. As we turned down 4th Avenue, we noticed something peculiar: the sidewalks on both sides of the street were becoming increasingly crowded with people on blankets and in camping chairs. Parade? Now my sister has lived in Seattle for 12 years and I lived here for almost 10, but neither one of us had any clue what was going on. Then it occurred to me. Seafair. We’d unknowingly stumbled onto the Seafair Torchlight Parade. A quick visit to Google gave us the time, location and a hint of things to come – giant balloons and marching bands.
I’ve never seen a big parade. My parade experience is limited to my hometown in southern New Mexico where floats are decorated in tissue paper and the high point is often a fly over by fighter jets from our local air force base. Not saying those parades aren’t simply lovely, but Seattle had me at giant balloons. So we parked the car and wandered down toward the parade route. We found a space near the judging grandstand and for the next 2 hours, we stood, unwilling to give up our spot. My sister is not much of a parade person but she is THE BEST SISTER in the world and so she humored me. The parade started with a dance number by flight attendants at Alaska Airlines. Obviously, I was totally hooked, dancing along with the music, a smile plastered on my face. The floats were amazing works of art. Even the rain (it is Seattle after all) didn’t dampen my spirits.
One thing I love about Seattle is the cultural diversity. We were standing next to a little blond girl with a Scandinavian sounding accent and a little Vietnamese boy, watching wide-eyed as First Nation tribe members paraded by chanting and playing drums. I love being out in the crowd when something is happening in Seattle, always have. My sister makes fun of me because I can have anxiety when I’m home in bed, but I’m a-okay out in the throngs of happy parade goers. It’s true. I love people and so the energy I get from being part of the crowd overrides any sense of anxiety I may feel. And to be fair, sitting at home alone in bed gives a crazy mind time to wander.
Did anyone else see the parade? What were your favorite moments?
I went to a couple of estate sales this morning, both in really beautiful houses overlooking Lake Washington. It’s fun to get to be inside these houses and take a glimpse at someone’s life. But I can’t help feeling a little sad. I walked into one man’s room and found style and grammar guides on top of a beautiful cherry writing desk. It was the perfect writing room high up in the house looking out into the beauty of Seattle. I could see myself sitting there typing away and I could imagine what it must have been like for this gentleman. I wonder what he wrote, what he read and really just who he was. I take some time to reflect on the person who left all these treasures behind.
As I was looking around the downstairs living area in one house, I ran across some memorabilia from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair – a guidebook, some tickets and a brochure. I’ve always found world’s fairs to be fascinating. It’s amazing the way people came together and built these temporary cities to introduce the world to technology and global culture. It’s fun to imagine what it must have been like walking around Seattle Center when the buildings were brand new, riding the monorail for the first time ever, seeing the Space Needle towering overhead. The brochure shows the Seattle skyline and there’s Smith Tower shooting above its neighbors, not dwarfed as it is today.
As I work on my book, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who’ve lived in Seattle all their lives. I bought the world’s fair memorabilia because it was interesting, but it occurs to me that I just purchased someone else’s memories. It makes me all the more determined to make my own. I think about the things I’ve kept with me to remind me of the trips I’ve taken and the things I’ve seen in my life. The world may be an ever-changing place, but it’s no less full of wonder than it was in 1962 Seattle when the world was marveling at the Space Needle and anticipating the parade of cultural and recreational activities about the take their city by storm.
One thing I like about Seattle is that it’s a colorful place full of interesting people and bustling with activity. Even more so post-SCOTUS marriage ruling. In the Capitol Hill area, the crosswalks are painted rainbow and there are rainbow flags in many business windows. During the gray parts of the day, it’s hard not to notice the color brightening up the gloom. And then, of course, there’s the green. It’s always nice to see green everywhere you go. And water! I was going across the I-90 floating bridge this morning and it’s lovely to see the blue of the lake stretching out on either side.
It’s been about 7 years now since I lived in the Seattle area and a lot of things have changed. Obviously, the city has been growing. I went to Elliott Bay Books yesterday, which has moved from downtown to Capitol Hill, meaning it is no longer near Elliott Bay. When I lived here before, we had a business that was named after a region in the suburbs – Bel-Red. So when we moved to downtown Seattle, people were constantly confused about where we were located (understandably so). But I guess when you’re a Seattle institution, it probably isn’t such a big problem.
Finished the day off with a trip to Taste of India in the U District. The food was delicious as always but there is just so much of it. I ate til I was stuffed and still had what looked like a full plate of food in front of me. The waiters kept walking by, I think trying to figure out why we weren’t eating. My plate was so full of food that when they set it down on the table, the impact caused an avalanche of rice. If you’ve never been there, it’s worth a trip. Just be prepared to take home half your meal.
Today I went to see a movie. As a mom with two small kids, I watch a lot of cartoons and kids movies with just a few grown-up selections thrown in here and there (when time permits). So the prospect of an endless supply of movies right at my fingertips is oh so tempting. For a number of reasons, relationship movies were not an option today so we opted on a horror movie. We went to see The Gallows at the Varsity Theater in Seattle’s University of Washington district. I always loved the independent movie theaters in Seattle and it was nice to visit one today, though I was sad to hear that many have closed down.
Anyway, back to the utter disaster that was The Gallows. Sheesh! It frustrates me that in “found footage” horror movies, the acting is always so terrible. Seriously, it’s hard to imagine anyone being that idiotic, despite their best efforts. All I can say is that the movie was short so I’m not mourning the loss of two much of my life. Since it was a Monday afternoon, the theater was pretty empty. Besides my sister, her friend and I, there was only one other woman. I went to get seats and as I entered the small theater, the floor creaked a little. Creaky old theaters are a great place to see a horror movie…unless you have to sit too close. I remember seeing the Blair Witch Project and having a few panicky moments where I wasn’t sure my lunch would be staying where it belonged in my digestive tract.
A few minutes after sitting down, the other woman entered the theater and we struck up a conversation. She, a single mom, had just sent her son off to his first away from home camp and had decided to come see a movie. She’d almost chosen a 2nd dose of Inside Out (a movie we both loved) but had decided on a horror movie instead. We chatted about raising kids in this day and age, scary movies and the perils of motherhood. When I mentioned that I was visiting from Colorado, she perked right up. As it turns out, she’s a native of Colorado Springs. Small world!
I love being here in the city and having the opportunity to interact with so many interesting people. I’ve been getting a good dose of modern Seattle culture as I re-familiarize myself with a city I adored living in.
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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