League of VT Writers Meeting Recap and Barnes & Noble Prep

I really enjoyed the League of VT Writers “Into the Words” Retreat and Member Showcase I attended last Saturday. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont was just lovely, and the rain held off until right after the close of the meeting.

VT poet Jerry Johnson's restored schoolhouse home in Albany, VT Photo Credit: Jerry Johnson

VT poet Jerry Johnson’s restored schoolhouse home in Albany, VT
Photo Credit: Jerry Johnson

By the time I arrived and got my table set up with my book display, the meeting was already in full swing. Unfortunately, I missed the first round of seminars/workshops, but I still had three more sessions with four or five workshops each from which to choose. I brought my teen son with me, and he did a great job manning the table, so I could lose myself in a wonderful literary summer camp.

In “Blogging Boot Camp,” VT author J.P. (Joy) Choquette went over the basics of blogging, the various platforms, and how important social media is to a good marketing strategy. I learned there is a tool called a Website grader that will analyze your site and tell you what’s up to snuff and what needs work. Here are a couple of links that list several graders: https://blog.bufferapp.com/website-graders-content-scores and http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29274/HubSpot-Launches-Free-Marketing-Grader-Tool-to-Replace-Website-Grader.aspx. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I plan to at some point.

“Performance Techniques for Writers” with retired theater arts and public speaking teacher J.S. Grant was chock full of tips and tricks on how to prepare yourself for a public reading of your work. J.S. showed us muscle relaxation techniques, such as shoulder rolls and gentle neck stretches, and deep breathing techniques to help with nervousness and projecting your voice. Saying “me mo me mo…” and “fa-da-da-da” repeatedly is an old actors’ trick that helps loosen your lips and tongue.

J.S. was engaging and funny as she led us through these preparations and then had us practicing our articulation with tongue-twisters. I discovered that I am incapable of saying, “The sea ceaseth us and sufficeth us.” And spitting is good. It means you’re enunciating your “t’s” and “p’s” properly. One other great tip — if you are doing your reading in front of a microphone, always inhale through your mouth. If you inhale through your nose, everyone in the audience will hear it.

In the last workshop I attended, author M. Larose read from her YA fantasy novel, The Flower Eater. Keeping in mind what I had just learned, I thought she did a great job. Later, she and I swapped books with promises to read and review. I sold four books, in addition to the swap, and I also picked up a copy of Stella Rose, by Tammy Flanders Hetrick. She was the author I had observed at her Barnes & Noble book signing in May and later blogged about it HERE. It was fun meeting her (she had found my blog and commented on it), and we shared a laugh over it.

And speaking of Barnes & Noble, I’ve been contacting area newspapers and other media outlets and submitting press release info for my book signing event Friday evening. I wrote the release info with the who/what/where/etc. in three formats: bullet form, paragraph form, and as an ad, to fit each media’s requirements. I put up fliers around town. Don’t be afraid to ask about putting up fliers. You never know who will say yes. Besides the library, the local Hannaford grocery store put one up on their bulletin board right where everyone leaving the store can see it. Even the dentist I’ve been going to for years said they’d put one up for me.

I’ve also been getting my swag together. I have book cards, personalized pens (with book title and author name) from PenFactory.com, and I’m in the process of making cord necklaces with gold and silver sword charms, which I love. What’s really neat is that the swords fit into the hands of my Lego book characters. (I made Lego people that look like my three main characters.) Now if I could just figure out what I’m going to wear, I’ll be all set. 🙂








© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

Observing a Book Signing and Panel Discussion

On Saturday afternoon, I attended a book signing/release event at Barnes & Noble for the novel, Stella Rose, by Vermont author Tammy Flanders Hetrick. I’m hoping to get a chance to do a similar event at B & N and wanted to know what to expect. Hetrick only spoke for ten minutes or so, which I thought was surprisingly short. I arrived a few minutes late, unfortunately, and didn’t get to hear the bulk of her speech. She then opened up the floor to questions. The question/answer session lasted much longer, running 20 to 25 minutes. Afterward, the audience formed a queue, and she signed copies of her book and chatted with everyone.

She had a good crowd of 30-40 people. The majority appeared to be family, friends, and coworkers who had brought friends with them. They provided a great support group, very upbeat with a lot of engagement and laughter, and I think their positive energy and the size of the crowd drew in other shoppers to see what was going on.

Hetrick wore a nice, colorful dress and looked professional. She had swag laid out for people to see — T-shirts, mugs, and bookmarks, along with her business cards. Some of the T-shirts and mugs were given away as door prizes to those who had come from the farthest distance and those who had brought the most friends with them.

The entire event lasted an hour or so, with friendly conversations lingering afterward. I wasn’t in the market to buy one of her books right then, so I didn’t go up and speak with her, but just observed from the fringes. What’s that called in social media — lurking? 🙂

In contrast, on Monday evening, I went to my local library for a panel discussion by three Vermont authors, J.P. Choquette, Bill Schubart, and Steve Delaney, on their books and self-publishing. The event was scheduled to run an hour and a half, and for the first third of the program, I was the only one in the audience. As disappointing as it likely was for the authors, it worked out well for me, because I got to ask tons of questions and gather some incredibly useful information and resources. Another lady came in part way through, and the two of us kept the discussion going until it was time to leave.

The panelists dressed in nice casualwear and brought copies of their books and business cards. They didn’t have any other swag, and I wondered if it was only considered appropriate to bring those types of items with new releases? Or can you bring the T-shirts, bookmarks, etc., to any event?

I’m really glad I had a chance to go to these events and see what I might be getting myself into in the future. And even though the second event was much more low key and less likely to be considered a success, I learned a valuable lesson from it. It’s okay if not many people show up. Sharing your knowledge and experiences from your writing journey with just one interested person can be as satisfying as sharing it with many. The sister- and brotherhood of writers is amazingly generous when it comes to helping their fellow writers along. Of course, that part I already knew.





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.