Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pre-AWP 2012 Wrap Up PLUS Why I'd Make a Horrible Spy

I might be blowing my cover here, but I'm pretty sure only twelve people read this blog so it doesn't matter. Plus, it's just for shits and giggles.
me, super tired at the weave table @ awp 2009

I've been asked to be an AWP spy.

Spying on what, exactly? Not sure yet. My mission is still unclear. Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure I'll be the worst spy in history. Especially since I told you that I am one. Also, spies have to be short, like Tom Cruise. At 5'10", even if I was a man, I'd be pushing it. I will stick out in the hoards of other anxious, awkward writers like a big, loud, sweaty, sore thumb. Well, I'm not that tall, but I like wearing heels these days.

Yeah so, it's almost AWP and I'm blogging about it now since everyone does their requisite "AWP wrap-up" post. I'm breaking the rules. That's what spies do!

So I'm going to wrap up AWP before AWP. Here's how it will go/goes/went:

WEDNESDAY: After flying to Chicago (which is crazy stressful) I am jumpy and excited when I see all my Pittsburgh/Grad School friends at the hotel. I also run into friends from other jobs and cities and I'm just as excited. I grab a drink with my friends, feel happy and excited to talk with East Coasters for an hour or so. But also I start yawning because I'm so beat from traveling. Head back to the hotel room early and hit the hay, since I want to be awake the next day for an early panel. I call Sal before I go to bed to tell him I miss him.

THURSDAY: Sleep late. Because of the time difference, I say. Then spend too much time picking out an outfit, one that doesn't look like I took too much time. I also wear makeup. Since I'm starving by now, I pay lots of money for a dry banana nut muffin and an apple. I then make a trip to the Weave table to ensure that my minions have what they need, before I do a few laps around the book fair. Part way through the book fair, I panic from the crowds. I probably panic in front of a table for a cool indie journal that gives away matchbooks or shot glasses. It takes me 20 minutes to find a bathroom where I splash water on my face. Deep breath. While leaving, I run into a friend who's going to a panel that sounds interesting enough. I forget the panels I wanted to see that day anyway and I left my list in the hotel room. Meet up with friends for lunch. I promise someone I'm going to try to make it to her off-site reading, knowing I probably won't. Head back to the hotel room to nap. Wake up, hit an afternoon poetry reading with my favorite poet. Skip dinner. Too nervous, because I'm reading tonight. Then back to the hotel room again to shower and dress for the reading. Read. See friends. They tell me how they love my dress, because it's really cute. I introduce these people to those people. Following the reading I am either exhausted or energized. Either way, I end up back in the hotel room by 9:30. Because of the time difference, I say. Call Sal before I go to bed to tell him I miss him.

FRIDAY: See Thursday. Minus the reading. End the night getting tipsy at the AWP Social Dance Thing, where someone with the AWP takes an awesome picture of the crowd and I undoubtedly make an equally awesome face, like this:

SATURDAY: Book fair day. My friend Angela and I take turns making awkward conversation with writers at the Weave table. I meet some contributors who stop by. Chat with editors. Wander the book fair and spend more than my budget on books. Lunch at the table. People come over to the table to find out what I'm doing tonight. I say I'm not sure yet, but secretly plan hide in the hotel room and read the books I bought. Once I get to the hotel room, I'm in my jammies reading and journaling when friends try to convince me to hang out. I try to convince them to stay in and order a pizza. Neither of us are convinced, so I say goodbye to my friends, cuddling under the covers to watch Parks and Rec on my laptop. Before I go to sleep, I'll call Sal to tell him I miss him.

Whew. I'm tired just from writing that imagined account. If this is your first time at AWP, check out novelist Leslie Pietrzyk's advice on surviving AWP. I'm off to buy some spy gear.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Literary Roundup: Broken Noise

Yesterday I could hear the real ocean's deep white noise. Today, I'm back on my couch with laundry at my feet eating butter noodles because I'm too lazy to go to the store.  Someone found my blog by searching for "broken noise." Also, "cats from outer space." I'm going to use these fun phrases for titles.

This won't be about my awesome vacation. I'll write about that later (maybe).

I've been catching up on read the blogs of the lovely poets who I consider my tribe. The poets I run with, whose work I follow, names I notice in tables of contents, poems I reference when I want to grow. Many of them are more like mentors, people who I admire and strive to work as hard as. Some I know in person, some online. Maybe I will meet some of them in Chicago next week.

That's enough chit chat. Here's what's going on in my little poetry universe.

Find yourself flipping to the poems in your favorite lit mags? Hankering for some poetry-only publications? Diane Lockward compiled a helpful list just for you. Also from Ms. Lockward is this helpful list of sources for inspiration-fuel when your poet-brain is sputtering.

Over at SheWrites, Jeannine Hall Gailey shares her path to poetry.

Weave's seventh issue is out and selling well. We also have a new Reviews Editor, poet and teacher Thom Dawkins. Except great things to come.

Tiny Hardcore Press has published a fiction collection of five chapbooks, Shut Up / Look Pretty, by five amazing writers, include my friend Lauren Becker. Go get that.

Robert Lee Brewer published his lists of the Best Blogs for Writers 2011. Many of the poets from my tribe on there. Woot. Mr. Brewer also has this interesting post about the top jobs for writers. More obvious that I thought.

Some new/new-to-me journals to check out: Carbon Copy Magazine, Eleven Eleven Journal, and Creosote Journal.

Writer and Los Angeles Review Editor Kelly Davio explains the meaning behind the "status" changes to your submissions in Submishmash. Summary: they have little meaning. A worthwhile read if only because you'll make an editor super happy by not having to email them asking how to withdraw on Submishmash.

A lot of folks are talking about Amazon and books and indie book stores and the "state of publishing" and big stuff like that. Fiction writer Bridgette Shade weighs in saying, "Dr. Evil + the son of the Green Goblin = the metaphorical murder of print via 'books' which can only live on a 5x7 screen." She also tells you to smell your Kindle. Also, writer and librarian Karen Lewis will participated in a talk about Amazon and bookselling. Curious to see if she writes a follow up. The latest issue of Wired featured a profile on Amazon's CEO Jeffery P. Bezos. I'll share my two cents on this topic after I read the article.

Recuerdos de Puerto Vallarta
My only vacation-related note is about these amazing books of Spanish poesía I found at a little shop in Puerto Vallarta: two by poet Efraín Huerta and a collection of poems by Salvador Novo. Already started translating a few poems, but I've got to polish them more. Next phase: Spanish class.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We Interrupt This Regular Blog with a Message from Jalisco, Mexico

This concludes our interruption. We will now return to our regularly scheduled posts.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Marketing Resource Roundup!

In my search for help with promoting my chapbook, I've found a number of articles, interviews, and chapbooks (yes, chapbooks about promoting chapbooks. meta-chaps.). I've amassed said resources below for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Great interview with poet Heather McNaugher over at LDP Distro. McNaugher covers so many topics, including one that I feel is super important, yet often overlooked: ask yourself, what have you done to promote someone else's poetry lately?

Jennifer Bosveld, President of Pudding House Publications, discusses, from an editors perspective, how to promote a poetry chapbook, among other things, in her article, Chapbooks—Flying Like Hummingbirds Exciting the Air Around Them: Marketing Your Chaps with Limited If Any Help From the Publisher. Longwinded title and the article does wander into some of Bosveld's personal opinions, however, it is still incredibly useful.

WordClay talks about building an audience based on your geographic location, as well other other things like subject matter of the poetry. For example, if your poems are about gardening, you might  do a reading at your local gardening center or gardener's club. Other aspects covered include book signings, book tours, reviews, and online marketing.

I have found a handful of places that review chapbooks: Prick of the SpindleThe Chapbook StoreFiddler Crab, and NewPages. There is also this low-key website, but I can't tell how often it's updated. Also, none of these promise to write the review when you send a review copy.

My publisher recommended two books; Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Levinson and The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. If I have time, I'll do some reviews of these books.

So far, the takeaway I'm getting from most of the resources I've found is this: readings sell chapbooks. Readings seem to be the most important factor in terms of building a new audience. Of course, if you have a pre-order phase like I do, you'll want to have a plan that taps into your current network. I'm feeling pretty good about that though. But thinking in advance, I've already begun to create a spreadsheet of readings. But that's a whole other blog post.

Next time on Chapbook Rookie: Cover Art!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chatham University Reception & Alumni Reading

photo from Wikipedia
Just a quick note announcing my first AWP reading! I'm honored to be a part of Chatham's first AWP Reception and I'm so excited to be included with my fellow readers. If you're heading to Chicago in March, I hope you'll stop by and say hello.

Chatham University Reception & Alumni Reading
Thursday, March 1, 2012 7-8:30pm
Hilton Chicago Hotel
Private Dining Room 4
Readers: Carolyne Whelan, Sarah Shotland, and Laura Davis
RSVP: Facebook

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chapbook Rookie: Adventures and Mishaps of Poetry Marketing

Welcome, dearest reader, to the first of what I hope will be many blog posts about the process of publishing my first chapbook.

I am the Chapbook Rookie.

Braiding the Storm was accepted in December by Finishing Line Press. Since I received that lovely email in my inbox I've steadily gathered information about the best ways to promote a small collection of poems. I have some experience with literary marketing, since I've been promoting Weave for almost four years now. But once you get the news, you might wonder, now what? Who do I tell? What do I say?

My first steps included a handful of tactics that (mostly) felt like second nature to me, but for the marketing rookie they might seem strange or uncomfortable. Worried you might sound like you are bragging? Don't worry, you are bragging. That's the point though. You are your own PR person. No one is going to brag for you. Besides, you worked hard and believe in your poetry. Shout it from the mountain tops, my friends. Here's the first promotion-type actions I did after getting the news.

1. Announced the news of my chapbook on Facebook, Twitter, and G+.

This was the first promotional thing I did, once I got the go-ahead from FLP. I also kept track of the people who commented and made sure I had their email address (more on that in a sec). It may seem small, but just letting people know that you have a book coming out generates buzz.

2. Started building an email list.*

Next up, I started to create an email list of pretty much every person I've ever known. Family, friends, coworkers, editors, book stores, libraries, reading series organizers, professors, teachers, fellow poets. You know that stack of business cards you get every year at AWP and then don't know what to do with? Get them out, add them to your address book, and add them to your mailing list. Now sure how to do this? Here's how to make a "contact group" in Gmail. Quick update: check out this new post I wrote about mailing lists and the legal issues related to spam.

*I will say that it's important to be careful about how often you lean on this list. Don't send an email announcing your chapbook to the mailing list right away. Wait until you have a link you can include that will take them directly to your publisher's website and they can click the "add to cart" button.

3. Emailed mentors and poet friends.

If you're part of a local poetry workshop, email this group with the news. Did you go to grad school? Definitely notify your department head. I sent an email to Chatham's MFA Program Director, Sheryl St. Germain and she sent a notice to the entire program. I got a bunch of emails from friends and professors congratulating me. I also emailed some poets I know through the interwebs who have FLP chapbooks. That has given me a lot of insights in terms of how long the process takes from acceptance to having chapbooks in my hand.

4. Announced the news on my blog.

Yeah I did that. Then I decided to write this series about publishing my first chapbook. Of course, I hope you'll find these useful and not just shameless self-promotion.

5. Keep talking up my chapbook!

I had a reading a few weeks after I found out about my chapbook. If I had been prepared, I would have announced the news at a reading, but I completely forgot. Sal said to me afterwards, "You didn't tell them about your chapbook!" So instead, I handed out my cards afterward and told people I have a chapbook coming out. I'll get better about this. I'm not used to have a chapbook yet. Teehee.

Well, those were my first steps. Of course, the first thing I did was call Sal and then my parents. That's important. No rush, just keep the news to yourself for a bit. Enjoy it. Have a glass of wine. Celebrate.

Next time on Chapbook Rookie: Chapbook Marketing Resources Roundup!