The last two days have been a blur, albeit a sweet one, taking me Friday to the summer meeting of the National League of American Pen Women, Muncie Branch. (That's the beautiful Pen Women, above, top left.) Freelance writer and author Cathy Shouse issued the invite at the suggestion of our mutual friend, Janis Thornton. (Cathy is giving a brief history of the organization, top right.)
After a delicious luncheon (note the spinach-strawberry salad, above) catered, no less, by one of the members and her friend, I spoke on the requested topic of “Finding a Voice, Building an Audience.”
I wrote the 20-minute presentation specifically for this meeting and shared my view that an author’s voice results from all that she is as well as how she is wired, and according to her values and priorities. Marketing ideas ranged from talks to a variety of groups that may be interested in your writing, to figuring out who is in your “tribe,” and where you might find such women and then finding a way to put yourself in their paths. You have to find your readers. They won’t find you.
A lively discussion followed, during which I learned a particular editing-and-publishing need of one of the Pen Women, and the next day, an author friend displayed a post card announcing a new service she is launching that just happens to meet that need! The two women’s dots were connected via a phone number.
Pen Women date to the 1800s with the goal of women supporting women in their artistic and creative pursuits. Eleanor Roosevelt was a member. Anyone in the general Muncie area who is interested in applying or learning more about the Muncie branch may contact Barb Kehoe at 765-228-7676 or email: BarbKehoe@aol.com.
Author Kelly O'Dell Stanley
At Pen Women, the name surfaced of an author who has been on my radar for three years. Graphics designer, artist, writer and Tyndale-published author Kelly O’Dell Stanley was mentioned by Cathy, and I knew that Kelly was coming to Saturday's author fair.
Kelly hit publishing gold with her inspirational Praying Upside Down. In what we would-be authors are told is basically impossible (or happens when something freezes over), Kelly’s debut was published by Tyndale Momentum.
I met her at a Midwest Writers Workshop three summers ago. It was the same weekend I set out to take every bell-and-whistle session available, enter the writing contest, have my manuscript evaluated, pitch to an agent and soak in every dab of information for three days - until my head throbbed from the overload.
I promised myself that after that weekend, I would once and for all make a decision. Would I spend the next period of my life pitching Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast to endless agents and publishers, then potenially give up, or would I go rogue and get it out there and see what happened?
It was with a surprising degree of relief that I decided to publish it myself and have some fun.
In a session taught by author Colleen Coble, Kelly and I were in the same class. I don’t think Kelly recalls me, but I surely remember the humble, pretty redhead with the big-time publishing contract!
So Saturday, when I arrived at Tipton Library’s Authorama, I was encouraged when exchanging promising smiles with Kelly, and it wasn’t long before we were striking up a conversation. She shared some insights into her journey, and she didn’t in the least condescend about mine – even though I’m not on her level in publishing by any means.
We swapped books, I subscribed to her website, and we got our photo taken together as we held one another's books. (That's us, above.)
My friend Janis was in her prime in her hometown, visiting and hostessing, and selling her own books, a history of Tipton County and her cozy mystery, Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies. The good day, well-organized, productive, and well-attended (the latter description not always my experience with an author fair) left us in good humor. (The poetry on demand was a nice element.)
I sold some books and handed out a good share of cards, plugging my speaking end of the business.
An Unexpected Take Away
And there was something more. A little thing, really, but a thing that tickled me. Next to the Tipton library is a large stand of evergreens reaching out to the sidewalk. The trees produce the prettiest pine cones! Long, tightly woven, and uniform in size, the crop had fallen, with cones strewn onto the sidewalk and street where they were getting crushed and where my car was parked. I gathered up a bunch of perfect strays and having no container, collected them onto a pile in my trunk. (Yes, I took a photo of them too, above.)
I’ll use them in my winter decorations. And when I do, I’ll think of the summer days spent with the Pen Women and Cathy Friday, and Janis and Kelly Saturday. And I’ll smile, remembering the many ways we connected. This author's journey has many rewards. You just have to know where to look. Sometimes it's under a pine tree.