Saturday, September 13, 2014

Compassionate Marketing: One Simple Tip for Helping Yourself and Other Writers

Compassionate Marketing: One Simple Tip for Helping Yourself and Other Writers

            Compassionate Marketing: It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Right up there with those jumbo shrimp and original copies?
            Although we are currently in a time of turmoil in which everything about writing is changing for everyone, there was never anything compassionate about publishing and its handmaiden, marketing.
            Writers, even good ones, were desperate to break into publishing’s inner sanctum, and editors, noses in the air, easily kept them at arm’s length with gauzy obfuscations like “not right for our list.” Any unpublished writer will tell you that publishing seemed a secret society in which the standards for membership were unclear and forbidding. It was a Cold War, a them-vs.-us standoff. Publishers were like the French Academy, looking down their lorgnettes at the unwashed Impressionists banging at the salon room doors.
            Now, however, the door has been broken down. Writers are drinking coffee in thousands of homespun salons and manning the barricades everywhere. There has seldom been a time when so much has been written of the writer, by the writer, or for the writer. But freedom, we need to be reminded, carries costs. The freedom to write now wears the shackles called marketing. If Everyperson is a writer today, Everyperson is a marketer today, too.
Now a writer both writes and promotes. The artist with the right-brain sensibilities is sent off to conquer the left-brain world of websites, blogposts, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Goodreads, Author Pages, and book trailers. Typically alone.
In my view, this new promotional dynamic has set writers against each other as they compete for page views, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers. In a reminder that revolutions are never bloodless, especially that French one, let’s not forget that the victors can turn on each other and become as reactionary as the Old King was. (In this blog, that’s code for Old Publishing.)
To avoid that danger, I think writers today should challenge themselves to engage in Compassionate Marketing whenever they can. Although they live in a shove-thy-neighbor world, I think they could still profit from adopting a love-thy-neighbor spirit.
One little tip I can pass along came to me in one of those eureka moments that combined learning technology with remembering compassion.
Challenged by my marketing director to promote my forthcoming book wherever possible, I swallowed my promotional reticence and thought I might imitate other writers. I had seen them cavalierly attaching their website, e-mail address, publication credits, or forthcoming event notice to their e-mail signature line. My goal was to imitate them, that age-old sincerest form of flattery.
I showed my marketing director my effort, thinking that was enough in the line of shameless promotion for me for one day. But the marketing director said I would reach more people if I learned how to hyperlink to my website, my e-mail, and especially my new book. That way, with a click from my e-mail signature line, anyone could reach information about me and my book. Instantly. With little or no effort on their part.
As the right-brained writer I am, it took me a couple of tries, but I was soon hyperlinking to beat the band. I don’t know what my friends and family thought of my new, lofty self-promotional signature lines when they received e-mails from me about the family reunion, the broken fan belt, or the dog’s trip to the vet, but I tried not to think of those dangers as I sailed off into my new hyperlinked world.
Yet there was still this nagging voice inside my head. It was the voice of my mother. That voice, the one that told me that if I couldn’t say something nice I shouldn’t say anything at all, had also told me that it was just as important to focus on others as it was to focus on yourself.  I knew she wasn’t wrong.
As I walked the dog, weeded the garden, and folded the laundry, the voice still nagged at me. And then I received an e-mail from a librarian friend, reminding me of our next book club meeting. One of the things I had always enjoyed about getting an e-mail from her was that, under her signature line, she mentioned the book she was currently reading. Since she was a librarian, they were always interesting choices, and I often picked up the books recommended under her name. Best of all, she changed the titles after she finished each book, so I always had a fresh choice to consider.
Slapping a folded t-shirt into the laundry basket, I had one of those EUREKA! moments every writer lives for. What if I not only promoted myself below my signature line but promoted other writers and their books? I could engage in the premise of the Golden Rule and do unto others what I had done unto myself. I could be more compassionate in my marketing.
I loved this idea! Now, my signature line looks something like this:
Trudy Krisher
Author of the soon-to-be-released biography Fanny Seward: A Life;
Currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr,

This is a practice I have started only in the last several months, so I have only had time to recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns and Deborah Solomon’s American Mirror: The Life and Art of Normal Rockwell as well as Anthony Doerr’s masterful novel All the Light We Cannot See. But I can’t wait to continue to support other writers in this way.
I am grateful that I have found a way to love, not shove, my writing neighbor. Best of all, mother’s voice is silent.

                                    Trudy Krisher  
                                    Author of the soon-to-be-released biography Fanny Seward: A Life
                                                                                                                                                             Currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr,  


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Privilege of Having Written a Banned Book

The Privilege of Having Written a Banned Book

            Some may consider it a dubious honor, but I consider it a great privilege that my first novel, Spite Fences, has been banned in many schools. In fact, on a list compiled by the National Council of Teachers of English, it is sandwiched between Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (my very favorite among her books) and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (my all-time favorite book ever written in the whole wide world). The list also contains writers like Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, and the unsurpassed Bill (William Shakespeare, of course.) In moments of immodesty, I like to think that perhaps Spite Fences has been banned because it gives readers much to think about.
            Since I was recently asked to give a presentation on my personal experience with book-banning in honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve been giving some thought to the topic of censorship. Below are some interesting quotations about banned books.
            My favorite is the first one: “If you control the books, you control the conversation.” What’s yours?
                                                Trudy Krisher

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coming to a Website Near You! The Book Trailer Hits the Marketplace

Coming to a Website Near You! The Book Trailer Hits the Marketplace
Ahhhh, the good old days. Once upon a time, writers like me were treated royally by their publishers. My children and I were once swept off to California to receive the International Reading Association prize (Spite Fences). We were feted at an American Library Association Award event at the Rainbow Room in New York City (Kinship). I was given a wine-and-cheese party in Nashville at the Opryland Hotel (Fallout). My children and I served as charity ambassadors at the Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival in Redlands, California (Kathy’s Hats: A Story of Hope).
No more.
Budgets have been slashed, marketing departments shrunk, and such generous efforts are reserved for only the most promising of books. Sadly for writers, who would prefer to spend their time creating, they must now double as marketing agents, hawking their wares on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon, and other sites that can reach thousands of readers with the click of a SEND button. With the crush of competition represented by e-books and self-publishing added to the pressure, publishers have been forced to find new – and scalable – models to get not merely dozens or hundreds but thousands of eyeballs focused on their books.
Enter the book trailer.

I was first introduced to the book trailer at a Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) regional conference in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 2013. The dynamic young woman who first introduced me to this new marketing medium was premier marketeer Kirsten Cappy of Curious City: Where Kids & Books Meet.

She showed the first book trailer I had ever seen, the trailer she had developed for a book about Effa Manley, promoter of baseball’s American Negro League. I found the crack of the bat, the 40-styles music, and the cheering crowds hard to resist.  Here’s the trailer for She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story.

Check out this book trailer – and others – and let me know what you think about this marketing trend.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the book trailer – for readers and for writers? How successful is this tool likely to be? What are its potential uses – and abuses? Is the trend likely to sizzle – or fizzle? Let me know what you think. And let’s talk over popcorn.
                                        Trudy Krisher
                                        Author of the soon-to-be-published biography Fanny Seward: A Life


Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you, Nancy Pinard, for the invitation to participate in MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR.

I am currently working on the final proof pages of my very first biography, Fanny Seward: A Life. It will be published in December 2014 by Syracuse University Press.
            It differs from other biographies in the genre in that Fanny Seward is a little-known historical figure. Most biographies are of major figures. Think Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs. My subject isn’t.
            I have written this book for the same reason I write any book: to satisfy the itch of curiosity.
            Let me tell you what I can about my curiosity for this subject.
  Like most Americans, I had never heard of Fanny Seward. I vaguely associated the name “Seward” with her father and the 1867 purchase of Alaska, known as “Seward’s Folly.” Again, like most Americans, I was well aware of Booth’s murder of President Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, but I was completely unaware that there were other assassinations planned for that very evening for other members of Lincoln’s cabinet, including William Henry Seward, Fanny’s father and Lincoln’s Secretary of State.
 Still, until I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, I knew little about Seward and nothing about his daughter. That book and another historical marvel, James Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, whetted my appetite for learning more about Fanny, whose young face and piquant comments kept peeking out between the lines of both works. After all, I had been a writer of historical fiction for young adults, and this young adult had experienced life in the front row of the theatre of the Civil War. Even better, I learned that Fanny had kept a diary, one of those primary source documents beloved by historians that recorded her eyewitness accounts of events of the Civil War, including the assassination attempt on her father. Most exciting of all was that there had been no book yet published about this privileged young woman; I saw that there was much new historical ground to break.
So I thrust my writer’s shovel into the ground and began to dig. Into library collections. Letters and manuscripts. Original diaries and letters by Fanny and her family members. Primary sources. Secondary sources. Interviews. I went from bifocals to trifocals as I gazed at microfilm.
But the result of all that hard work and obsessive curiosity was a book. A biography. Of a young woman who revealed herself as absolutely fascinating. Not only did Fanny Seward leave a gripping account of the assassination attempt on the life of her father on April 14, 1865, but she also left eye-witness portraits of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, lived out as the daughter of one of the most powerful and progressive families in Civil War America.
            In general, my writing process for this book – and for all of my books – works by means of a mechanism called obsession. Like a dog with a bone, when I get an idea in my head, I clutch it between my teeth and gnaw. Less metaphorically, however, my process works like this:
 Mornings, when my mind is freshest, are for actual writing. This is when I pound out chapters, outlines, timelines, anything that focuses on the written creation of the book itself.  Three to four hours is usually my limit, and as I’ve gotten older, two to three pretty much does me in.
Afternoons are for restoring me to the “real” world. That’s when I exercise, run errands, meet friends for lunch or coffee, make phone calls, take the dog to the vet, conduct my writing “business,” and do all the things that don’t require much creative or mental energy.
Evenings are for relaxing, which to me means reading. When I’m working on a book, the reading material consists of books and articles about the topics I’m researching. In Fanny Seward’s case, that might mean a Civil War journalist’s take on the Lincoln administration, a book on Civil War fashions or furnishings, or, because Fanny visited the Union camp on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville, a biography of Joseph Hooker, the battle’s commanding general.  That kind of reading helps engage my brain with my topic so I can sleep on it and awake refreshed and ready to work the next morning.
It’s an exciting life – if you’re a writer and similarly obsessed.

                                      Trudy Krisher

Next up on the My Writing Process Blog Tour? Wendy Hart Beckman and Gerald E. Greene.

Wendy Hart Beckman’s Author Bio
When she was a pre-teen, Wendy Hart Beckman was introduced to Nancy Drew by her best friend. First Wendy wanted to be Nancy Drew, but soon she wanted to be Carolyn Keene. She wrote a Nancy Drew mystery wherein the criminal was revealed because she carried a yellow purse with a maroon outfit. Imagine the horror!  Wendy quickly followed this literary success with her autobiography, but her mother told her that she hadn't done anything interesting enough yet that people would want to buy a book about her, thus introducing her early to the concept of writing with an audience in mind. However, Wendy did have one genuine publishing success with a poem that was published nationally in Golden magazine for children. This achievement was anomalous, as generally Wendy’s poems are terrible. 

Taking a break to reflect on this success, Wendy waited 34 years before publishing her first book: Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Enslow, 2002), a YA collective biography. This book was followed in 2004 with two books: National Parks in Crisis: Debating the Issues (Enslow) and Communication Tools Made Easy (Kendall Hunt). Enslow published three more YA books of Wendy's: Dating, Relationships, and Sexuality: What Teens Should Know (2006), Robert Cormier: Banned, Challenged, and Censored (2008), and Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers (2013).  Wendy’s latest book is Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati (Clerisy Press, 2014). In between the books, Wendy has published more than 300 articles in print and online publications and has edited and/or contributed to 14 books or anthologies.  Her blog will appear on

Gerald E. Greene’s Author Bio
Gerald E. Greene is known for his high energy and dedication to various projects he is involved with. As a founding member of a writing group called “Read-To-Write” located in Dayton, Ohio, he has partnered with fellow writers to develop a support group for people actively engaged in the craft. Although he is a retired business executive and software engineer, his love of literature has led him to republish over a dozen out-of-print books during the past year.

His first love is helping people of faith understand the positive support found in the Bible that can make life more fulfilling. His current project is the writing and publication of a new book regarding Spiritual Exercise and an accompanying blogging website called “,” intended to provide a place where people of faith can meet and share their thoughts and feelings. The daily posts from this website are shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google and Pinterest. When he is not working at his various projects, Gerry can be found indulging his greatest passion: eating pie. His blog can be found at

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dogs, Bones, and The Day That's Different

Dogs, Bones, and the Day that’s Different

I was recently at a writers’ conference at which Lin Oliver, the “founding mother" of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, offered some tips from successful writers.

One of those tips that resonated with me was advice from Susan Patron, a former librarian and winner of the Newbery award in 2007 for The Higher Power of Lucky.

Her advice to struggling writers was to “begin on the day that’s different.”

For fledgling writers especially, that is superb advice. Many of our early drafts are like a dog on a hunt for a buried bone: we sniff around the borders of our story, we scratch at the backstory until we’ve rubbed it raw, we chase our tail before our nose catches the scent of what we’re really up to.

When I’ve critiqued manuscripts at conferences and workshops, I’ve noticed that where to begin is a struggle that defines them all. If you follow Patron’s advice and start out on the day that’s different – the day your character discovers he’s adopted or her best friend is really no friend at all or he happens to be strolling by the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, you have begun with the day that’s different.

The day that’s different will surely hook your readers, helping them catch the scent of the bone you’ve planted. After that, you can let your readers scratch at the backstory and chase after the plot from chapter to chapter. Until, of course, they reach the meaty bone they’re after: the satisfying read you’d been setting them up for all along.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beginning Fiction Writer? Practice with Poetry!

Beginning Fiction Writer? Practice with Poetry!

            Here’s a piece of counter-intuitive advice for beginning fiction writers: practice with poetry!

            Fiction writers understand the need to show, not tell. They just don’t always know how to pull it off.

            Telling, of course, robs the reader of the joy of experience.

A beginner might write, “I was devastated by my mother’s death.”

            A more practiced writer shows the devastation: the frozen fingers that would never again flutter over the biscuit dough; the curly grey hair that would miss its monthly perm; the cold cheek that would no longer warm your own. You get the idea.

            Often, on the challenging road to showing, beginners fall into the ditch of telling.

            Poetry can help with that.

            Poetry is all about showing. Its emotional pull is assured because poetry never tells.

            Think of Williams’ red wheelbarrow, Oliver’s wild geese, Whitman’s noiseless patient spider.

            Practice with poetry. Its images will tell you the way to your own more perfect showing.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Poet's Wives, Rotten Lives

Poet’s Wives, Rotten Lives

Having just finished Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, I am reminded of what was once said about poet John Berryman: “All poet’s wives have rotten lives.” Messud’s novel confirms that the same might be said about an artist’s friends and family members as well.

Messud’s Nora wishes nothing more than to be a successful artist, and when she is pulled into the life of renowned artist Serina Shahid, she vicariously experiences the euphoria that intimacy with the creative process brings. But she also learns that the mesmerizing artist can be cruel, sacrificing everyone, no matter how close, in pursuit of their ambitions.

What Messud implies is true, of course, of ambitious people in general. But in the artist’s case, such sacrifices are particularly painful, for at least an ambitious plumber or lawyer can expect remuneration for hard work; pursuing the life of an artist offers no such guarantee.

Achtung: Life with an artist is not for the faint of heart. The loved ones of artists require not only sensitivity to the nature of artistic pursuit but also an unblinkered understanding that artistic endeavor requires sacrifices of them as well.