Write about the worst service you ever had in a restaurant.
Chico, California, is a fun town — not only is it home to Cal State Chico (and hence a great many bars/restaurants and fantastic boutiques), it is home to Lyon Books, one of the most fabulous indie bookstores I’ve encountered in my many years of being a bookstore geek as well as an author.
I was privileged to enjoy Lyon Books not only as a reader but as a presenter (I spoke about book marketing to the wonderful Chico Authors & Publishers Society), and Heather Lyon and the CAPS writers were so incredibly welcoming. The store holds weekly events with a range of speakers, and CAPS holds its monthly meetings at the store. Lyon Books is one of those amazing bookstores that is truly a part of the community.
The store is beautiful and welcoming, with a wide array of new and used books, magazines, gifts, and cards that are thoughtfully arranged throughout the space. Among my favorites is the travel section, which features this globe and vintage suitcase:
If you’re ever in northern California, don’t miss the town of Chico … Lyon Books is worth a visit for all book lovers, but you’ll also enjoy Chico’s quaint downtown shopping, as well as Bidwell Park, one of the country’s 25 largest municipal parks. But do make sure you have enough time (and a good book budget) for Lyon Books!
Write about the best window in your home.
Write about a seemingly random moment that changed your life — the accidental way you met your spouse, the random elective you took in school that changed the course of your career, etc.
Write about a missing button.
Write about a time you won something, whether a literary award or a round of poker. Do you generally feel lucky or unlucky, and why or why not?
Write about the last time you (or one of your characters) used an umbrella, as protection either from rain or from sun. Describe the scene in detail.
Write about a time your were at the mercy of nature, whether getting caught in the rain or in a tornado.
Write about a time you apologized.
Write about something new in your neighborhood.
Write about a leaking roof…or window…or radiator. Be detailed, and create a scene (which may or may not be true to the actual story) around the damage or perceived damage.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the AWP Conference & Bookfair — February 27 to March 1.
I’ll be hanging out at our booth for Ashland Creek Press, EcoLit Books, and Literary Provisions. Please join us (we’ll be in booth #1207 in the North Hall) to check out new books and fun stuff for writers.
And don’t miss these other events before, during, and after the conference …
Wednesday, February 26
I’ll be one of the readers at the fabulous AWP Festival of Language at the Rock Bottom Brewery (1333 5th Avenue, just a couple blocks from the conference center), along with dozens of other authors. I’ll be reading sometime between 5 and 6:30 p.m., and the literary festivities will go on until 10 p.m.
Thursday, February 27
Julian Hoffman, contributor to Among Animals and author of The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for creative nonfiction, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. (ACP booth #1207)
Jean Ryan, author of the “captivating” (Publishers Weekly) short story collection Survival Skills and contributor to Among Animals, will be signing books at the booth from 1 to 2 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
Friday, February 28
Mindy Mejia, author of the “beautiful” (Twin Cities Pioneer Press) novel The Dragon Keeper will be signing books from 9 to 11 a.m. (ACP booth #1207)
JoeAnn Hart, author of the eco-novel Float (“a stellar model of eco-literature”—Cape Ann Beacon) will be signing books from 4 to 5 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
And at 4:30 p.m., I’ll be leading a panel on Book Marketing — From Finding Your Muse to Finding Your Readers: Book promotion in the twenty-first century, with Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Janna Cawrse Esarey, and Susan Rich. Panelists from a variety of genres—poetry, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir—will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning from writer to published book author. Through specific experiences and using real-world examples, panelists will offer tips for finding one’s natural niche and audience, and how to reach out to readers authentically and generously. Topics include book promotion through conferences, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and salons. (Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6)
Saturday, March 1
On Saturday, the Bookfair will be free and open to the public!
At 12 noon, join John Yunker for a panel on The Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire, with authors JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake, and Gretchen Primack. From mountaintop removal to ocean plastic to endangered species, ecological issues are increasingly on writers’ minds. Authors on this panel discuss how their ecologically themed fiction and poetry engages readers in powerful ways that nonfiction can’t. Panelists discuss writing in these emerging sub-genres as well as their readers’ responses and offer tips for writing about the environment in ways that are galvanizing and instructive without sacrificing creativity to polemics. (Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor)
Sunday, March 2
I’m thrilled to be doing a post-conference reading with the amazing Gretchen Primack on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library in downtown Portland. We’ll be reading eco-fiction (me) and eco-poetry (Gretchen), and we look forward to a lively discussion afterward about the environment and animal protection in the context of fiction and poetry. This event is free, and all are welcome; click here for complete details.
Write about a time you did something absentminded, like locking your keys in the car or wearing two different shoes to work. Include all the details about what was going on in your life at the time. (Fiction writers: This is also an excellent exercise to do with your characters.)
Write about the last time you moved. What, if anything, did you have to leave behind?
This is an excerpt of Jenna Blum’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how to stay energized and inspired. For more book promo information, and to read Jenna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers and is one of Oprah’s Top Thirty Women Writers. Her debut novel, Those Who Save Us—a New York Times bestseller, #1 Book of 2011 in Holland, and Boston Globe bestseller—received the 2005 Ribalow Prize, judged by Elie Wiesel. The Stormchasers is also a Dutch bestseller, a Boston Globe bestseller, and a Target Emerging Author Pick. Jenna lives with photographer Jim Reed and black Lab Woodrow in Wichita, Kansas, where she is writing the screenplay for Those Who Save Us.
Q: Tell us about the journey of Those Who Save Us from debut novel to international bestseller: How long did it take?
A: Those Who Save Us came out in 2004 in hardcover—a.k.a. the family and friends edition, because that’s who bought it. It was published in 2005 in paperback, and I knew that was its second and last lease on life. I figured at that point I’d throw everything I had at the wall and see what stuck, promotionally. What did I have to lose? I loved my book. I spent years of my life researching and writing it because I loved it, and if I could do anything I could to keep it from falling down the well without a sound, I’d do it.
I had incredible help from readers, and the way this happened was, I started going to book clubs. The mother of one of my novelists at Grub Street Writers in Boston invited me to her book club, and of course I went. A chance to talk about my baby for three hours with kind strangers and drink all their wine? What writer wouldn’t go? Mrs. Garabedian, my first book club hostess, was so kind to me. She and her group gave me an orchid, which I still have and which still blooms. They recommended me to another book club—which cooked German food featured in the book, I might add. And that book club recommended me to another. By the time Those Who Save Us jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list in 2008, three years after it had come out in paperback, I was speaking at three book clubs a day (!) in person, and talking to as many as I could by phone. I estimate I visited over 1,000 book clubs in the Boston area alone, and it was a great privilege. Now readers in Holland and European countries are kindly keeping the book aloft. Those Who Save Us is a reader-created book, which I think is just as it should be.
For more advice from Jenna, and to read Jenna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. Click here to visit Jenna’s website, and keep an eye out for her latest work, forthcoming in July in the anthology Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion.