Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Poetry Unexpected

I recently met a woman who fancies herself a storyteller. I can’t comment either way on her skill, as I’ve never seen or heard her perform. I was surprised, however, that she’d never heard of a poetry slam. In my opinion, the poets who are good enough to compete in juried slams are true storytellers. They must write their own work, develop one poem into a theatrical piece – performance art at its best – without the use of props, music, or anything other than the power of their own voice and body to bring the poem to life. The good ones are really good. Of course there always seems to be at least one angry feminist and a couple of sex poems in the mix – but even those are sometimes extraordinary. The trick, as an audience member, is being open to enjoying the poetry, relishing the art, losing yourself in the moment of the performance.

All that said, I’m not much of a poet, myself. Although I was a creative writing major in college, I skirted the poetry requirements (against my advisor’s advice), and have subsequently regretted it (as my advisor suggested I would). Nevertheless, I enjoy poetry performed aloud and definitely admire those who write it well.

This past weekend, poetry showed up in my hands in two unexpected episodes. First, I picked up a package at my PO Box that had been there for a few weeks. I was moving and kept thinking, “I’ll go stand in line next time I’m here,” every time I went to the post office for about three weeks. Finally, I made time to stand in line, and was rewarded with a book of poetry created by my 7-year-old niece’s class. It’s a hard-bound book with full-color illustrations. Charlotte wrote two poems: “Oak Tree” and “Fashion.”

Charlotte poem

The second event was the next day, in the parking lot at a local shopping mall. It was just starting to sprinkle when a man clad in green plaid shorts, a green rugby/football/soccer jersey, and brilliant green sneakers approached me. He explained that he was a vet just trying to earn $5 for a food box. He offered me a tattered piece of paper containing the poem, “Believe,” which he recited for me on the spot. Sure, the grammar is imperfect. The line breaks nonsensical. But the poem is sweet and he had such heart.

eric hamilton poem

He told me, as I offered the only cash I had in my purse, “It’s autographed, in case I become rich and famous someday.” As I accepted the wrinkled paper from him, I remembered my husband buying a couple poems a few years ago from a guy who’d come door-to-door through our neighborhood – the one we’d just moved away from. I’m pretty sure those were Eric Hamilton creations, as well.

So whether you write poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, are you taking steps to get your words out into the world? Have you ever attended an open-mic event and just read for the practice and experience of reading out loud in front of a group? It’s a little humbling, a little nerve-wracking, and a lot rewarding. Printed out your book or story in any version? Distributed it – for free or for money – anywhere? Here’s the thing. If a group of first graders can do it (yes, their teacher helped, but you’re a grown-up, so you can help yourself!) … if a homeless vet can do it … you can do it, too!

Here’s to taking your words to the street – or the mail!



We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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A Superbowl Challenge for book marketers

Last year for the Super Bowl, we re-ran a post from 2011:  Top 10 Lessons Authors Can Take from Watching the Super Bowl. Here’s the thing … neither my husband nor I are huge fans. We’ll be watching, but we’re anything but rabid followers. And since Marcie has followers and readers all over the globe, I’m sure there are some of you out there who are even less interested in American football than we are.

Nevertheless, it’s good to be able to go where the crowds are. If you can find a way to tie your book to the Super Bowl (or topic du jour), by all means, get in on it! But you’ve got to do it with some aplomb and grace. If you’re forcing the topic, it might simply be better to make the Big Game the focus.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: every Facebook post, Tweet, or blog needn’t be about your book! In fact, if all you ever write about is your book, you may bore people. Your interest in the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, or the latest season of American Idol gives you something to write about other than your book, creating the appearance of a well-rounded author – not an author whose every waking utterance is in promotion of your book.

So here’s my challenge:

Keeping in mind the 10 Lessons from last year’s post (BELOW), what clever, creative, or interesting observations about today’s game can you make on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog?

Sure, everyone else may be commenting, too, so what do you see or notice that’s a little different?

And how can you extrapolate this to life at large? How can you bring details from your ski vacation into your marketing efforts? Grandma in the hospital recently? Did you learn something from that experience that could benefit your online audience? Make chocolate chip cookies with your little ones recently? How about sharing your recipe or memories from your own childhood with your readers? The idea is to be relatable. Tell stories that make you, the author, a real person to your readers, friends, and followers.

Here are our 10 Super Bowl Marketing Lessons for Authors:

  1. It takes guts and conditioning to make it to the top.
  2. The best team doesn’t always win.
  3. Good coaching matters.
  4. Getting on the field and making it to the endzone … two entirely different things.
  5. Sometimes you have to take a risk.
  6. When you fall down, get up quickly.
  7. Rabid fans help enormously.
  8. Get creative with your advertising.
  9. Throw a big party!
  10. The whole world is watching you.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! If you accepted the Challenge, come back and share your posts with us in the comment section below!



We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Tapping into compassion — the secret ingredient to marketing success

I attended a presentation the other night by Layne Gneiting titled Creating Your Story: Lessons from a Traveling Teller. In his talk, Gneiting, whose business is inspiring people to take epic journeys, shared stories of his adventures during a 2-month bicycle trek through eight European countries that included Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. He concluded his presentation with 10 tips for better storytelling.

Ten Tips for Storytelling

  1. There must be a portal of entry for your audience. Take your listener into a new world.
  2. Every great tale involves a risky journey.
  3. Every good story has a crisis.
  4. Your story must have imagery: taste, smells, sounds.
  5. A good tale has lively characters, interesting people.
  6. There has to be a guide, something or someone that whispers a direction which the hero takes – or doesn’t.
  7. You must have suspense, where you reveal … and conceal.
  8. There must be a portal of exit, where you take your audience back out of the story – with a lesson.
  9. There must be transformation – the main character must change.
  10. Leave a pearl in the audience’s lap – a nugget of wisdom.

It’s a great list that is useful for a couple of reasons: First, as authors, we’re all storytellers on some level, even if we write nonfiction. Secondly, when we pitch or talk with others about our book, the best way to engage them is with the story of the book, as opposed to trying to get them to “buy” it.

However, my takeaway from that evening was not related to Gneiting’s presentation. Rather, I was moved by another story I heard. A member of the group who is a teacher related details about an incident that occurred in her classroom earlier this year. The school had arranged for a few members of the Kansas City Royals to come and visit, and all the kids were understandably excited. One “problem” student, however, was not allowed to attend because he’d been acting up that day, getting agitated to the point that he threw his desk. Her message was that she’d been criticized by another teacher for not letting the kid attend, although the other teacher “didn’t have all the facts” before making her criticism/observation. My teacher friend felt she’d been unfairly judged, and she was encouraging us to take a more tolerant view of others, even in situations where we may have serious disagreements.

Now, I’m not a lifelong teacher, but I did work as a sub in a number of charter schools the first year I moved to Phoenix. Invariably, when I walked in the door on the first morning, one or more of the faculty or staff would come up to me and point out this kid or that kid, telling me I needed to be aware that he or she was T-R-O-U-B-L-E! Also invariably, that “problem” student wound up being my favorite. They were usually just smart and bored, but sometimes had a learning challenge, too. In my limited experience, I found with each of these kids that they really just wanted someone to acknowledge them for who they were – especially when they didn’t fit into the cookie cutter mold of what a “well-behaved” child looks like.

So as I listened to this story the other night, my empathy immediately went to the student, the boy who’d been so angry he threw his desk. I know I wasn’t there, but my instincts tell me that that boy – this angry, troubled kid – was the one student who most needed to go meet those ball players. He needs someone to look up to, and someone to believe in him.

This wasn’t the first time I’d found myself interpreting a story or situation differently than the storyteller or the rest of the room seemed to. Maybe it’s just in my nature to root for the underdog. More likely, though, I think I was blessed with an instinctive sense of compassion that allows me to see the whole picture when others often only see a limited portion from their personal perspective.

A few years ago, I read a book called Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends, by Tim Sanders. In it, Sanders offers the three actions that, when implemented fully, will make any business owner truly successful:

  1. Be a resource.
  2. Be a connector.
  3. Be compassionate.

Though they’re all powerful points, it was the third one that stood out for me.

What does all of this have to do with marketing? Well, marketing is about relationships, and relationships are the cornerstone of human life. When we act from compassion (aka, love), we are better able to understand the feelings and motivations of the other – which means we are better able to relate to them.

What an amazing world it would be if we’d embrace compassion like we’ve taken to social media – but even as we grow more enlightened as a people, the business world is still largely wary of authenticity and emotion, let alone emotions as sappy as love and compassion. Nevertheless, putting people first will always get you further than putting the bottom line first, so I challenge you to go out there and unabashedly demonstrate love!



We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.


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