Keith Alan Hamilton, poet and photographer and creator of The Hamilton Gallery, came to visit from the Boston area a couple of weekends ago, and we toured him around some of our favorite places. Poems to accompany these photos will be posted soon.
I'm so in love with my local bookstore Pages: a bookstore, I support it whenever I can. And it has supported me as well. I've had three readings there.
I hope you will do the same to make sure we keep our bookstores alive. In view of that here is a post I just came across from the Book Marketing Expert, reprinted with his permission. Let's work hard to prevent bookstores from going away.
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
What Happens if Bookstores Go Away?
That sentence alone is enough to send chills down my spine. No bookstores? I can't imagine a world without them. Yet the fact of the matter is, that's likely where we are headed.
I don't often share this, but you know that term "bucket list"? One of my bucket list items is to get locked in a bookstore overnight - with a fully-functioning Starbucks of course because a girl needs her caffeine to stay up all night and dig through the thousands of titles on the shelves. Truth is, that one bucket list dream may never come true (and I suspect, neither will the dinner date with Bradley Cooper, either). Let's face it, the world is changing rapidly. Amazon is making book access so much easier and without having to get in your car and, you know, drive somewhere. Look, I do love Amazon and what they've done for indie authors is tremendous, but the opposite side to all of this good is that bookstores are desperately trying to find a market. Ironically, in the mix of all of this, the independents, once proclaimed to be dead, are not fairing as badly as the chains. Well, the chain: Barnes & Noble.
My prediction, though perhaps wild and seemingly out there, is that we're going to start seeing more niche stores, so children's bookstores, all-fiction, etc. because at the end of the day, we are catering to an audience who doesn't want to have to sift through hundreds of books to find the niche they are looking for. We live in the custom society: custom coffee, custom cars, custom pretty much everything. Would the same go for bookstores? Sure, why not? I also think that we're going to start seeing a lot more book departments expand within stores. Hallmark has been experimenting with this for years, though granted their book section is small compared to everything else they offer, they could expand this, too. I don't think you'll see airport bookstores go away anytime soon. There's a need there, gotta have something to read on the plane, though the surge of eBook purchases may change the need for those too.
Let's face it, the structure is changing. Ironically it's not going in the direction we once thought. A few years ago many bloggers said that libraries were a thing of the past, sweet but ancient dinosaurs. However, libraries have seen a resurgence in a down economy and librarians are eager to keep step with technology, offering eBook lending, etc.
The biggest challenge we face as authors and book promoters is that if, in fact, bookstores go away that takes away a huge chunk of those trusted book connoisseurs who would otherwise be out, on the frontlines, recommending books. Also, the shelf space, which for most of us isn't really a factor since our books won't be in bookstores anyway. But for those publishers and titles that depend on bookstores, how will they gain exposure? The answer is, of course, online.
I think as we see the market changing, we're going to see things like niche social media sites, which despite Facebook's online real estate could pull in more readers because, again, we want what we want. We don't want to sift through tons of data to find that great, new read.
Free books and excerpts will become a must. I've spoken with a lot of authors who feel this is just something they don't want to do. The numbers would, however, encourage a second look. Whenever we've run freebie campaigns we see a huge uptick in sales after the freebie is over.
Book bloggers: As time progresses, we'll need more voices out there. As we do now, we'll start seeing a lot of niche blog communities popping up and, I dare say, that if the bookstore demise happens we're going to see a lot more paid reviews.
Paid placement: Yes I think you'll start seeing much more of this. Though not through ads but through paid content online. Some call it advertorial, and perhaps that's a better term for it, but I think as we progress content generation to drive sales will become a huge factor.
What can you do now, this far ahead of the curve? Candidly, I think we'll start seeing the downturn of the bookstore right after Christmas. We're seeing it now already but as 2013 continues, more and more of the sales numbers are going to be facing a decline. What you can do now is stake your claim. Make friends with bloggers, network, put out good content. Don't wait for the bookstore rug to be ripped out from under you before you act. Do it now. And when the eventual demise of bookstores happens, you'll be ready to face that challenge.
Many of us ignore the library market because it's not glamorous, but guess what? Librarians are a fantastic group of book lovers who could really help your book succeed. Been ignoring the library market in lieu of something more glamorous? You may want to rethink that approach.
No one wants to see bookstores go away, least of all me. But the writing has been on the wall for a while and even if I'm wrong, which would be great, I still think that the online world will become more and more significant in all of the ways I've described. Let's face it. With all of the books published each day in the US, the market has been expanding on one side and shrinking on the other for a while.
So, head to your local bookstore and support them, but make sure you keep an eye on the future.
memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has been checked out of my local Manhattan
Beach Public Library many times, the library director asked me to come there to
speak. The date we decided on was last Wednesday evening, March 20.
I was asked
to supply the library with a jpg of my book cover and a brief description of my
Writing was healing
because it helped me put my pain on the page. Instead of carrying it with me
every moment of the day and night, I found a place where I could have a little
relief. There was so much I couldn’t say out loud to anyone. And since there
was so much sadness, anger, and grief in me, I needed a place to put
it. Writing was like repeating a mantra as I kept my fingers moving.
And I wouldn’t let anything get in my way. I recommend writing or another
creative outlet to those who are looking for ways to heal.
I was on my own. My instructions were: you have an hour and a half from 7:00 to
8:30 pm to speak. That was it. I was left to create a program that attendees
might be interested in from whole cloth.
known from previous experience that the eyes of most people in an audience
begin to glaze over after twenty minutes – sometimes even after ten – so I
needed to create an event that was both interesting and way less than an hour
and a half.
the talk into three parts: 1) my work and writing experience, 2) how writing
helped me heal, and 3) how I created my book. And I picked out book excerpts, poems
from the book, and readers’ comments to read after each section of the talk.
That was about forty-five minutes of me talking and reading. I opened it up to
audience questions and comments at that point. I also put a list of local resources
for people needing mental health and suicide prevention assistance, several
copies of my book for purchase, and my bookmarks on the table in the front of
the room next to the podium. About thirty chairs set up in three or four
semi-circle rows faced me.
minutes to seven one chair was occupied – by my husband. But in the next five
minutes several more people wondered in until I had a total of ten people in
the audience, two of which worked in the library.
disappointed that so few attended, yet those who did were there because they
had similar stories to tell – something I experience whenever I do a public
reading or signing. As soon as I opened the program up to questions and
comments, these people’s stories of mental illness and suicide started to pour
my library talk had low attendance, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. The
library folks made a poster and flyer and advertised on their website, the city
council, and the local newspapers. I sent out over seventy invites to Manhattan
Beach residents through a Facebook event. Perhaps the subjects of bipolar disorder and
suicide kept them away.
The best part:
my small engaged audience applauded heartily, I sold a couple of books, I
created a program I could present anywhere, and even my husband gave me presentation
kudos. With that I consider the evening a success.
to say Jonathan Gheller has closed down his Storylane site. It was a good place
to post and share stories and to get a little feedback. Plus there were always
a lot of great prompts to choose from. However, upon its demise, Jonathan
generously sent me back the several stories I’ve posted, and now I can share
them here. I’ll start with a couple. Please let me know if you like them, and
if so, I’ll share a few more. I’ll also share my latest Buddha picture. I love
How I Got My First Job
Out of College
from UCLA with a degree in English and had no idea what I would do
professionally with it. I had wanted to work as a journalist and actually
completed all the course work for a degree in journalism at the University of
Wisconsin. But family illness caused me to transfer to UCLA for my senior year,
and UCLA didn’t offer a BA degree in journalism.
So I was
stuck in a city I didn’t know and where I hardly knew anyone. I tried valiantly
and unsuccessfully early on to get a writing job and then gave up. It was 1962.
Not a lot of jobs for women writers in those days, especially in Los Angeles.
someone suggested I try the growing aerospace business in southern California.
And I did. I
called Douglas Aircraft Company – the precursor of McDonnell Douglas and now
Boeing – and asked the man who took my call if he ever hired anyone with a
degree in English. And he immediately said yes, come right over. After a brief
interview I was hired as a technical editor, working on users manuals for a
I’d like to
say this story had a happy ending, but it didn’t. The contract was cancelled –
not unusual in that business – and I was laid off after three months.
that job kicked off my career of almost thirty years working as a technical
writer and editor and a proposal manager in the aerospace business. Only later
in life did I start to pursue the career of my dreams – journalistic and
Some of My
Favorite Toys Growing Up
Growing up I loved to play with cutout dolls. I had dozens of them. One
even had a photo of my face on it. Dressing the dolls up later evolved into my
love for drawing and designing clothes and shoes. My girlfriends and I would
sit for hours drawing very high-heeled shoes. I like to think that Christian Louboutin got his design prowess from us.
loved a large mama-doll my grandmother gave me. If I sat her up she would say,
“mama” and open her big blue eyes. I still have that doll in its original
clothes. Another toy I still have is the stuffed dog made out of real fur that
my father gave me. I haven't looked it for a long time. I'm afraid to see how mangy it looks by
now. My doll collection also included a set tiny storybook dolls, but I wasn’t
allowed to play with them. I had them on display on shelves in my bedroom.
in the day when I was growing up didn’t play sports very much. I liked to swim
and ride my bike. I also loved to play jump rope, jacks, and the One, Two,
Three O’Leary ball game. I only started playing team sports in middle school.
An author loves
to get notes from readers. I've gotten quite a few since my book was released in May 2011, for which I am very grateful.
I was so taken by the one I recently received that
I have to share it with you here:
“I just finished
Leaving the Hall Light On this
morning. I wrote my review on here and Amazon. As a published author I know how
fulfilling it is to receive feedback from readers. I write you this message
today because I would request that you read my review. I am a writer, nurse,
mother, and wife who suffers with Bipolar 1 disorder. I would like for you to
know that I felt Paul's soul in the core of my bones. I know intimately the
feeling of quietly walking down the hallway as to not disturb my loved ones,
locking the bathroom door, and making the decision to end my life. As I sit
here this afternoon writing this message I struggle to stay out of the bathroom
today. I began reading the book through the eyes of someone who suffers from mental
illness, but finished the book with a new understanding of the loved ones who
have to fight the battle by our side. I appreciate that you dedicated the bench
in Paul's name. That was so thoughtful. I also thought that it was wonderful
that his legacy lives on through the names of his cousins. What a wonderful way
to celebrate his life. I cried when I read how you were shunned by your
friends. I was cheering when you wrote how you found new friends who cared and
was willing to invest in your experiences. I wish your family happiness and
peace. I hope Ben has many grandchildren for you to enjoy. :) Paul's life was
something to be greatly celebrated. He was a talented music creator, a loving
son (even though it was hard to see sometimes), and a man who wanted to o find
the light in the darkness, but unfortunately lost the bipolar battle. Please
know that I know the feelings he was experiencing as he made the decision to
lay in the bathtub. It was nothing you or your husband did. It's a chilling
pain that suffocates us with the thought of loss. Loss of stability, loss of
normal, loss of loves, and loss of independence. The destiny for many of us is
a life full of living as ghosts. We fight the need to die and in the end die as
we live. I thank you for taking the time to read this message and hope you have
a wonderful evening.”
* * *
And I am thrilled that one of my writing teachers, Barbara Abercrombie, took the time to read and post her lovely review of Leaving the Hall
Light On, on her blog, Writing Time- where she provides
reading lists, creative writing exercises, and nurturing for the writing
I had the
pleasure of taking an essay workshop with her a couple of years ago through the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.Barbara has published novels, memoir, books for
children and numerous personal essays and articles. Her latest book
is: A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement (New World Library, June
“Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples is a memoir about the
most wrenching subject possible – the suicide of her son after his seven-year
struggle with bipolar disorder. I have to admit I put off reading this for awhile
because of the subject, but Madeline's tone is so direct, honest, and lacking
in self-pity, and the narrative, even though you know what's going to happen,
is so compelling and gripping, that it turns into a book you don't want to put
down once you start reading. It's also the story of how a family survives this
tragedy, how Madeline saves herself and finds a balance of keeping her son's
memory alive yet moving on in her own life. The ending is beautiful: her other
son's wedding eleven years later.”
I first met
Eleanor Vincent, memoirist, essayist, and award winning author, in a writing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur
California. It was in December 1999, four months after my son Paul took his
life. While I was just getting my writing fingers moving again. Eleanor was
already writing the first parts of her wonderful memoir, Swimming
with Maya: A Mother’s Story. We have been friends ever since.
And I am so
pleased that Swimming with Maya was just
re-released in paperback and eBook by my publisher, Dream of Things, this past February.
Join me in
welcoming Eleanor Vincent to Choices as she discusses her life since Maya died, the writing of Swimming with Maya, her writing work now, and some of her favorite books, authors, and things to do on
a Sunday afternoon.
MS: You have experienced one of life’s
greatest tragedies. How can people who have experienced a personal tragedy find
peace and meaning in daily life?
EV: I think it’s different for
everyone, but in general the things that helped me most were:
self-care and self-nurturance – eating well, resting, getting massages and pedicures,
taking time to just be and not forcing myself to do, do, do.
support from people trained in bereavement, both psychological and spiritual.
My therapist was a bereaved mother herself, so she really got it, and that was
pivotal in my recovery. My spiritual mentor Rev. Margaret Stortz was also very
was a huge piece of my recovery. I think it’s very important to have a creative
outlet and that could be anything from knitting or other crafts, to painting,
to making music – whatever allows you to fully express yourself and your grief.
myself the gift of time. There’s an old bromide “Time heals,” but I don’t think
the simple passage of time healed me. I had to be willing to do the work. Time
just passes. In the end, I think love heals – and that could be anything you
feel passionately about – over time I felt more love and less grief. I was just
so grateful to have had Maya with us for almost 20 years. She was a gift. It’s
important to understand that there is no such thing as “closure.” I’ll never
get over losing Maya, but I’ve incorporated that loss into my life and learned
to adapt to it.
MS: You wrote a beautiful memoir, Swimming with Maya, about your daughter
and your experience of losing her. Tell us about that journey and who might
benefit from reading your book.
EV: I think
my book could benefit anyone because it’s about hope and resilience. Swimming with Maya is a love story –
it’s about a young woman who loved life and a mother who loved her daughters,
and lost one of them. As parents, we all have to let go of our children. When
your child dies, that happens in one terrible wrenching moment. So the book is
about the long journey of letting go, of healing, and of coming to terms with
Maya’s sudden death. I’ve heard from many parents who have never lost a child
that Swimming with Maya helped them
become better parents by helping them to appreciate and treasure each moment
with their child. Most of all, it’s a compelling story and, while parts are
very tragic, parts are touching, or funny, or inspiring. It’s a good read, so I
think anyone could relate to it on that level and benefit from it.
MS: What were some of the benefits to
you in writing Swimming with Maya?
EV: At the beginning of the process,
during the raw writing, I think it saved my sanity. It gave me a space and
place to grapple with my feelings. As time passed, and I began revising the
book and refining the way I structured it, I think it gave me a sense of
control. When I lost Maya, I lost my future and my illusion that I had any
control over my life. I was the mother of a gifted young actress and I counted
on seeing her face on a movie screen one day. When that dream shattered, I had
to create a new future, a new dream. Writing the book gave me a way to channel
my dreams for Maya into a work of art that would be worthy of her, and to claim
my own work in the world as a writer and an artist.
MS: You have also found a way to keep
your daughter alive through organ donation. Please tell us about making the
decision to donate her organs. How does that decision feel now after all these
EV: I recently met the daughter of the
man who received Maya’s heart. Our gift to Fernando extended his life by 14
years, long enough for his daughter Olivia to graduate from high school and
start her college career, all with a loving father at her side. She is so
incredibly grateful that our gift as a family to her family changed all of
their lives, including her brother’s and her mother’s lives, and even the lives
and outlooks of extended family members. She recently had her first child, a
girl, and she named the baby Maya. It is a tremendous honor to be able to
participate in someone’s life that intimately, to actually change the course of
a life, to save a life. Organ donation is a great privilege – it gave me hope
when all hope seemed to be gone – and that continues through the years. My
daughter Meghan met Olivia, and shared what it is like to become a mother, so
the younger generation continues the same spirit of generosity.
MS: What should every woman know about
becoming a mother beforehand?
EV: That it will be the hardest work
you will ever do. That your heart will be broken in so many different ways
you’ll lose count. That you will fall in love so deeply and never fall out of
love no matter what your child does or says. That it will be the most
fulfilling, heart warming, growth producing thing you will ever do. It will
change you in ways you cannot now imagine.
MS: What is your writing life like now?
EV: I recently recovered from a pretty
serious shoulder injury. During that six-month recovery period I couldn’t write
at all because my shoulder was completely frozen. Even journaling for more than
five minutes was impossible. So that was tough. But it taught me a great lesson
– seize the moment. Put what is most important to you first on your list, not
last. So I’ve begun a morning writing practice where I make writing the first
thing I do. Some days it’s difficult. I show up late to work. But at least I
know I’ve already done the most important thing. My writing has always been the
way I supported myself – first as a journalist, and then as a corporate
communications manager. When I committed myself to creative writing in my
mid-40s, I had to learn to compartmentalize. I’ve always worked two jobs. The
difference now is that writing is job number one. Writing is hard work, but it
also brings me a lot of joy.
MS: The publishing industry is in a
state of enormous flux. What should
readers expect in five to ten years? Who
will still be reading books and in what format?
EV: My two-year-old granddaughter Lucia
is a dedicated reader. She has literally memorized several of her books and
holds them on her lap and “reads” them with tremendous expression. She takes
her favorite books to bed with her. I believe there will always be a place for
books. More content will be delivered in electronic form, but many people like
Lucia will continue to want to hold a printed book in their hands. As content
migrates online, it draws new readers; people who perhaps did not feel books
were accessible to them. Now they are. When you fall in love with a book,
ultimately, you will want to hold it in your hands or give it as a gift. No one
knows for certain what the future of publishing holds. But I have great hope
for the future of books.
MS: Do you have a favorite author or
EV: Too many to name, but here are a
few. Jonathan Franzen is one of the great prose stylists working today – his
novel Freedom blew me away. I love
anything by Ann Patchett, particularly Bel
Canto, her novel, and her memoir Truth
and Beauty. I love the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk – in particular his
novel, Snow. Also Michael Ondaatje – The English Patient, Divisadero, and any
of his poetry. I also love the poetry of Ellen Bass, Louise Gluck, Kay Ryan,
Chana Bloch, Jorie Graham, and Robert Haas. Lastly I will mention the work of
Sigrid Undset, a Norwegian writer who won the Nobel Price in 1928 for her
trilogy, Kristen Lavransdatter, the
most amazing book about motherhood ever written. I reread it every two years.
It always makes me cry. I learn something new each time I read it. Who knew
there were feminists in twelth century Norway, the time period of the novel?
MS: Do you have a favorite spiritual
leader and what has been his/her influence on you?
EV: Again, there are many. Perhaps the
most influential has been Shunryu Suzuki, who brought Zen practice to the West,
and founded the San Francisco Zen Center. His book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, profoundly affected my meditation
MS: What are your favorite things to do
on a Sunday afternoon?
EV: I love lazy Sunday afternoons,
although perhaps what I love to do does not sound so lazy. I love to swim laps
and bask in the sun. Another favorite activity is hiking in the giant redwood
groves above Oakland where I live. Brunch with my daughter Meghan, her husband
Todd and Lucia is another favorite Sunday activity. When Downton Abbey starts
again, you’ll find me glued to the TV screen on Sunday evenings.
MS: Please add any thoughts about your
life, your writing, your family that you’d like us to know.
EV: My writing seems to be reaching a
new level, and I feel very happy about that. I currently have three essays out
in anthologies, and each of them is a strong piece of writing in different
ways. I’m currently working on a new introduction to Swimming with Maya, with
the goal of bringing out an e-book and a paperback within the next several
months. I have another memoir I’m working on revising – about a midlife decision
to live in a cohousing community that ran off the rails with poignant and
being the mother of a fabulous daughter, and I double love being a grandmother.
As Anne LaMott says, it’s the bonus round. My son-in-law has become a real son
to me, and since I never had a son, that’s been wonderful. Our little family
brings me great joy and the satisfaction of seeing life come full circle. My
new ambition is to live long enough to see Lucia bounce my great grandchild on
Thank you so much, Eleanor for being here with me today.
Eleanor Vincent Author Bio
Eleanor Vincent’s memoir, Swimming
with Maya: A Mother’s Story,traces
the life and death of her 19-year-old daughter and the subsequent donation of
Maya’s organs and tissues. Published in paperback and eBook by Dream of Things, Swimming with Maya portrays a mother’s struggle to recover after a
devastating loss and shows how the bonds between donors and recipients can have
a positive impact on grief recovery. It was a finalist for the Independent
Publisher of the Year Award.
Eleanor’s essays currently appear
in At The End of Life: True Stories About
How we Die, edited by Lee Gutkind; This
I Believe: On Motherhood; and Impact:
An Anthology of Short Memoirs. Other work has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, Five Fingers Review, The Sacramento Bee and other newspapers
and magazines. Her essays, poetry and short fiction have appeared in a variety
of anthologies, including The Santa
Barbara Review, Across the
Generations, and The Napa Review.
She is the recipient of a
Community Service Award from the California Transplant Donor Network for her
outreach work with organ donors and recipients. Eleanor has also been
recognized for writing excellence by a Woman of Promise Award from the Feminist
Writers’ Guild and a Mary Merrit Henry Award from Mills College, where she
received her MFA in Creative Writing in 1995.
You can find out more about Eleanor at her website.