I am a freakishly private person. I like corners, dimly lit rooms, and my cat (I don’t even want to write down my cat’s name, because I consider that a privacy issue). As a writer, being freakishly private is not ideal. People often tell me that I need to suck it up and get out there and start promoting myself. Okay. But that is not how I am built. This year, my first middle-grade novel came out, Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus. Next year, my third teen novel will be published, A Field Guide for Heartbreakers, along with another middle-grade novel, Bessica Lefter Sweats Her Pants Off. This means that I am pretty busy writing. Every day. Even though I have a tough time with it, I understand that promotion is important too. Below is a list of all the promotion-type things I did this year that took me out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if they benefited me or my books in any way, though I’m pretty sure that my traveling caused great suffering for my cat.
I made a podcast about my latest book and put it on my website. My friend Mark who is a reporter interviewed me. He asked me questions about my life, which I hated answering, and he asked me to elaborate on the time I fell underneath my own school bus. I sort of freaked out when I heard my own voice. I didn’t sound like me at all.
I participated in a writing panel at the San Francisco Public Library for LitQuake. I didn’t really talk about my book though. I gave a demonstration on bear safety, and my friend Rachel wore mock bear paws (that my mother sewed for me) and pretended to attack me using a variety of paws: black, grizzly, polar and pizzly. This was really outside of my comfort zone. But I know a lot about bear safety, and it’s in my first book, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Sadly, I recently found out that Rachel has photos of this event and that she posted them on Facebook (something I find myself emotionally unable to join). Upon learning about these photos, I freaked out and demanded that Rachel take them down. And she agreed. Even though she is currently using one of the photos as her profile picture.
I read at a Barnes & Noble. My friends came to support me. They are adults and had to sit in little chairs. I read from Camille McPhee. Afterward, I answered questions. One girl asked me what I wanted my children to be when they grew up. I told her that I didn’t have children. She insisted that I answer the question anyway. Tough crowd. Tough crowd.
I won a fellowship for poetry and attended the Writers@Work conference in Park City and instead of requesting a single room and avoiding people, I tried to build some community. I lived in a condo with a cool roommate named Sue and mingled and met a lot of talented writers. Also, I ventured into the wilderness and hiked. And got lost on a mountain. And was repeatedly lied to by mountain bikers who told me I was twenty minutes away from the nearest operating ski lift. Jerks. (I joke. I joke. I guess they measure distance in bike-time. Full throttle.)
I contacted media in my hometown in Idaho. My book is set there. And now I will be on a television morning show when I go home for Christmas. This sort of makes me want to avoid going home for Christmas. Also, I am probably going to have to buy new pants. I told a friend this and she told me that nobody will see my pants, because I will be sitting down. But I always see people’s pants, even when they sit down, so I don’t really understand what my friend meant.
I drove to my alma mater, Loyola Marymount University, and read to a room filled with college students and chilled shrimp appetizers. I read from my upcoming teen novel, A Field Guide for Heartbreakers. The rest of the lineup read poetry. It was an intimidating venue. And when an attendee tried to take my picture, I actually stopped reading and pointed at him and said, “No! You need to stop doing that!” And then I kept reading and stayed in my allotted time limit. Good times. Good times.
I served as a faculty member for a children’s writer’s conference at Book Passages in Corte Madera. I had to give a three-hour talk about something. Three hours is a really long time, even with a generous bathroom break. I talked about dialogue. Afterward, I ate the best cucumber sandwich of my life. Yum.
I am really surprised that I did any of these things. (I’m even surprised that I wrote this blog entry.) I’ll probably do a little bit more next year. But not a lot. And that’s okay. Because I don’t want to give myself an aneurism worrying about promotion. I think I’m one of those people who will always keep my focus on the writing. This might not be everybody’s formula. I know some people who are promotion machines (they’re pretty fierce tweeters, too). I’ll do what I can. And that’s okay.