Friday, April 10, 2015

For the love of books and generosity

The thing I pick up most in my house is books. Academic books, children's picture books/chapter books/board books, literature, parenting books. They're everywhere.

They're on the edge of end tables, and between the wall and the bed, and under the couch. I love books. I love books about science and books about parenting and fiction and memoir and research and children's books. I so, so love children's books. 

My kids know it and they know I'll sit down on the linoleum in the kitchen and read with them. They use this to their advantage and I'd stop... but... books? Fuck that. Don't stop. Or actually do. Stop! and sit on the floor and read and breathe close to their faces and kiss their cheeks and embrace them and this phase that will one day end. So if you finish the book and they say "again!" That's what you do.

But this will mean that sometimes there are books in the bathroom or the kitchen or on top of the dryer. Meh? Who cares? I love books and bookstores too.

I love quirky used book stores and big posh book stores with cocktails. I love college libraries and tiny public libraries and little free libraries. In retirement, I could imagine spending incalculable hours around books, reading them, writing near them, hoping they whisper their best combinations to me and bring me hope and inspiration and maybe even some pocket money in the process. But...

I'm reminding myself about this because I'm going to do an event in a bookstore this weekend and that always scares me. I get nervous about whether people will show and worry that I'll look like a loser with a book no one wants to read or no friends or whatever like I'm some doubt-ridden adolescent. I worry that the owners won't like me or want to promote my book. It's all nerves. I'm good with people and this will be fine. If it's a good turnout, great. If it's small, I get a chance for more meaningful interaction with readers and writers and there's nothing bad about that. So, more than worrying whether the owners will like me or no one will be there, I'm focusing on the chance to be amid information, lovers of words, and great great books.

Publishing a book is seemingly covered in these pitfalls of insecurity. Before the publishing part, I was afraid I might offend someone or of the people who wouldn't like it. But now that it's here, the book is out... I'm far more afraid that no one will care enough to be bothered. I'm more afraid no one will read. 

At first I tried that cheerleader, pretending-all-is-awesome response but I just can't do that. When I've been honest about my vulnerability lately, I've been able to shiver and shrug it off and get onto a problem-solving place where inspiration happens and I'm suddenly so busy with ideas, I don't know how to get the time to follow through on all of them.

At the beginning of this publishing idea, I was hopeful that I might make a financial contribution to my family. I was hoping to give a return on the investment my husband has placed in my writing in the form of... money. But that's just not really what this phase of my writing career is about and it's definitely not what this book is about. We have food. My husband's not worried. So I should focus on working for the sake of the work.

I'm reminded of the purpose. Get people to read it. Make sure people know that these kids exist by using the book as a vehicle to tell a true story. Make sure those from this life find the book.

And in light of that focus, I'm cultivating generosity in myself and giving away everything I can. I'm doing talks and trying to schedule free writing workshops I'll teach to teens with the book as a backdrop.

April is child abuse awareness month. I tried to find a way to give the Kindle edition of the book away free all month, but there's no way to do that. Instead, I'm using the maximum 5 days at the end of April to give the book away. I hope you'll read it. I hope you'll review and recommend it and make it get noticed. The link is here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Conservation, The Weirdness of Me, and how being an Indie author means I get both!

I've been teased for a long time for my obsession with conservation. My roommate in college used to see how far down in the trash can she had to hide recycling before I would not notice and actually throw it away, because if it was on top, I always took it out and put it in the recycling.

So when I started sending out review copies of my book, I decided that rather than buying packaging, I would make it out of what I could find around the house. I started making boxes and such out of the paperboard and cardboard that was headed to recycling anyway. Reduce... hmmm... couldn't get that one done, but reuse is next on the list, so I'll do that.

This became a challenge with my most recent venture in learning self-promotion: a Goodreads Giveaway. I offered up 25 copies to be mailed to lucky winners (who hopefully all rate and review the book with glowing recommendations... ahem.) But mailing out a copy here and there is one thing, mailing out 25 is another.

But I decided that I would continue to be weird-me who pulls things out of recycling and uses them to pack up books. I added stickers sometimes for effect.

The Giveaway ended yesterday, and I had spent a ridiculous amount of time and packing tape last week devising boxes. Today it was gorgeous out. I joked that I should continue the conservation efforts by walking the books over to the post office to mail using a wheel barrow. It was gorgeous out after all. So I did.

I am officially the first person to ever to walk a wheelbarrow full of handpackaged books into the Silverthorne post office.
And this is why I like writing and being an indie author.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Magnus & the big chin thrust

I think it's generally best for me to not know much detail about how I'll feel about a particular challenge before I face it. That way I can take it as it comes and I seem to take each step in stride, or well, maybe some tears but mostly ... stride.

Amid beeping machines and movies in my 4-year-old's hospital bedroom, I just read Chrysanthemum to my 2-year-old. I love that story. The basic premise is that a little girl loves her name until kids at school pick on her for it. She thinks it's perfect but then the other kids pick on her for being named after a flower.

My 4-year-old is named Magnus. I'd always liked the name and have a cousin in Sweden named Magnus, who is soft-spoken and kind and I'd always liked him. I wanted a Swedish name and my husband liked Magnus so that's what we picked.

When he was a baby and people would ask about his name, their eyes would grow wide and they'd say, "well, that's a BIG name!"

It sounded strange to them and I could tell because he was a small child but with a big name. Then it turned out he really is this huge person. I don't mean physically; I mean, he's practically invincible.

Last week, at a program I teach with childcare, a bigger kid told Magnus that he didn't like him. I was indignant when he told me, "what a jerk!"
"He wasn't a jerk, mom. Don't call him that!"

Magnus went on to tell me how he'd asked the kid why he didn't like him and the kid had said because he's a little kid. But then said-kid had helped him beat a Mario game and by the end he thought the kid had changed his mind and liked him.

That was Magnus-the-great's response to a kid not liking him. "Oh really, why don't you like me?" And then he determined to change the kid's mind. No hurt feelings, no crying, and it had worked.

This same child post-anesthesia yesterday had to be kept breathing by being held by his mandible in something called a chin thrust while I held oxygen to his face. Trust me when I tell you this is no gentle hold. A nurse means business if she holds someone this way. She means BREATHE.

He spent the night crying and whining and having nightmares. He looked so vulnerable curled in his hospital bed. His body in a wheelchair was impossibly tiny. He's breathing now, oxygen saturation not where we want it so still in the hospital, but no one's forcing him to breath by holding open his airway and forcing life in. He's breathing but I'm still catching my breath. Maybe I should skip over that part and go straight on to the next thing, which happens to be a reading of my book.

I was just about to cancel when I saw myself in the newspaper.

I went and tried out my reading skills amid a friendly crowd at a bookstore that really fits me. It's quirky and dusty with hand-written signs. Two good friends walked up together just before the start of the reading. I had been so stressed with all the ups and downs of Magnus's surgery that I pretty much lost it in relief when I saw them.

I made it through the reading, largely not thinking about Magnus. But figuratively anyway, my friends held me by the chin and I breathed and read.