While pails overflowing with sand happen to be amongst my favorite things, I do have a few other items on my “bucket” list.
This past month, I had a chance to fulfill one of those dreams…and fill my author well to overflowing. I participated in my first Highlights Foundation workshop at The Barn: Capturing the Spotlight: Getting the Gigs.
I had heard so many rave reviews of the sessions, of the staff/faculty, of the setting, but nothing prepared me for my first look at my charming cabin nestled in the beautiful woods, overlooking The Barn itself! I’d describe it as nature combined with all the comforts of home…but the staff ensures all attendees are totally pampered (housing, delicious food, 24/7 snacks are all included!), so it’s more like nature combined with all the comforts of a fabulous vacation!
Of course, that’s not to suggest we weren’t all there to get down to business – soaking up information and inspiration, from the esteemed faculty and the incredible attendees alike.
The workshop agenda, led by charismatic award winning author Larry Dane Brimner, offered insights into the art of promotion, including: marketing our books (and ourselves), performance agreements, insurance concerns, obtaining – and organizing – contacts, the how and what to charge, as well as so much more!
Here are just a few of the highlights:
Right out of the gate, Larry treated us to some mock school presentations, offering suggestions on length and subject matter based on age/grade levels.
In subsequent sessions, Larry stressed the importance of investing in ourselves, from initial book launches to sustaining longevity and success. He introduced us to the MDR marketing site (for education mailing lists), sharing samples of his own promotional materials and emphasizing the benefits of speaking at conferences. He even shared one of his personal author contracts with us!
The amazing Margie Stern, coordinator of Youth Services for the Delaware County Library System for over twenty years, emphasized authors and librarians must develop collaborative partnerships. She offered excellent suggestions, from providing clear details regarding author visits on websites (cost, sessions, needs, clearances, privacy statements, etc.) to including extension activities. The main takeaway: Make it easy for those who wish to invite you into their schools!
The engaging David L. Harrison, award winning author and poet, visited with us via Skype, and shared advice on blogging, such as including regular features on your blog (interviews, poems, etc.), posting on a regular basis (I’ll have to work on that one), and supporting others’ blogs.
Baby Dragon couldn’t resist having a little “sumpin’ sumpin'” in between sessions:
The incomparable Vicki Cobb, known as the “Julia Child of hands-on science”, encouraged us to think of author visits as “show biz”. She loves challenging students to perform their own experiments (check out the We Dare You videos on YouTube)…igniting imaginations as well as “tea bags”! (Yes, she made a tea bag fly – QUITE the show!)
It was such a pleasure to finally meet the effervescent Melanie Hope Greenberg, a petite powerhouse of promotion as well as an award winning author/illustrator, who impressed upon us that we are our own best reps. Melanie encouraged us to develop strong marketing lists and materials, while thinking outside the box: “Don’t do what everyone else is doing.” Using humor and candor, she also “illustrated” the finer points of social media manners and faux pas, from gossip and drama to “billboarding” (“buy my book, buy my book!”) and pity posts.
And how wonderful to reconnect with the phenomenal Selene Castrovilla, award-winning author of picture books and YA novels, whose latest novel, MELT, is so raw, heart stopping and heart breaking, it made ME melt. Selene was my mentor at the Rutgers One-on-One conference years ago. She encouraged us to “be the change” and discussed author branding (hers is “humanity”). Admittedly shy, Selene stressed we have to share our passion and market from that angle. “I really mean what I say,” she explains, “what I truly believe in.” As far as social media, Selene thinks of Facebook posts as “mini blogs”, and encourages “evergreen tweets” on Twitter, “timeless statements about your work.”
(Selene, Alicia and I may have closed down The Barn a night or two…) 😉
A bonus “concert” by singer/songwriter (attendee) John Farrell brought us all to tears as we learned about Bridges of Peace and Hope, a project to bring the world together through the international languages of art, music and smiles. Please check it out: www.bridgesofpeaceandhope.org.
Busy as we were, we made time for a nature walk. Thankfully, we had a furry friend to guide us.
Admittedly, leaving was bittersweet. It was hard to leave my new friends, and yet, I was so excited to put their words into action.
I left feeling more than inspired…I felt EMPOWERED. I wasn’t the only one. We nicknamed “Getting The Gigs” the “G-Force”Academy. Naturally, we now all have our GMAs. 😉
Thanks, love and hugs to all who made this possible, from Kent Brown and my initial contacts at Highlights (the fantabulous Alison Myers and Jo Lloyd), to the fantastic staff and workshop faculty to the amazing attendees. This was my first Highlights adventure. It will most certainly not be my last.