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Posts Tagged ‘Marie Claire’

Fleeing the cage of words

In art, beauty, behavior, blogging, culture, education, journalism, life, work on February 2, 2014 at 4:48 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Have you ever just stopped talking?

Not the usual way — pausing for a minute to draw breath or sip your drink or check your texts.

But decided, for a while, not to speak at all.

I did so in the summer of 2011, a few months before I married Jose, a man who is devoutly Buddhist and who decided, as a birthday gift, to whisk me off to an eight-day silent Buddhist retreat. (Yes, really.)

The only time speech was allowed was in our teaching sessions, or private meetings with the staff, to ask questions.

Golden Buddha Statue of Gold Buddhism Religion

Golden Buddha Statue of Gold Buddhism Religion (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Here’s my Marie Claire story about how it changed my life, and our relationship, and here’s one of my five blog posts, all from July 2011, about how great it felt to be quiet for a while.

We communicated mostly through Post-It notes and gestures, occasionally whispering in our room.

For the first few days, it felt like an impossible burden and every morning’s meditation revealed another empty chair or cushion left by those who had decided to flee.

Then it felt massively liberating.

To not be social.

To not make chit-chat.

To not fill the air with chatter so as to sound witty and smart and cool and employable and likeable.

To just…be silent.

To just…be.

When we returned to the noise and clamor of “normal”life — the blaring TVs in every bar, the ping of someone’s phone or an elevator or a doorbell, the honking of cars, the yammer of people shouting into their cellphones — we were shell-shocked by it all.

I miss that silence, and I really miss the powerful experience of community we had there, with 75 people of all ages from all over the world who had chosen to eschew words for a week.

In December, I started a weekly class in choreography, modern dance, a new adventure for me. There’s only one other student, a woman 13 years my junior. In a small studio, we spend 90 minutes moving, writing about movement and creating “insta-dances” which we perform and listen to feedback about.

It’s all a bit terrifying for someone whose audience — here and in my paid writing work — typically remains safely distant, invisible and mostly ignores what I produce. To look someone in the eye, and to see yourself in the mirror, and to express oneself without words, using only corporeal language are all deeply disorienting.

Not a bad thing. But a very new thing.

Deutsch: Modern Dance Company "Flatback a...

Deutsch: Modern Dance Company “Flatback and cry e.V.” Produktion: “patchwork on stage”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your fingers, wrists, toes, elbows…all have something to say, I’ve discovered. The subtlety of a flick, a wiggle, a pause, a hop. It’s a wholly new way to express ideas and emotions without the tedium of diction.

It’s another way to tell a story, wordlessly. I’ve been surprised and grateful that the other dancer — who is thin, lithe and performs a lot — calls me graceful and expressive. I didn’t expect that at all. As someone whose body is aging and needs to shed 30+ pounds, I usually just see it as a tiresome battleground, not a source of pride and pleasure, sorry to say.

It’s also a little terrifying to have all that freedom, as writing journalism always means writing to a specific length, style and audience, like a tailor making a gray wool pinstriped suit in a 42tall. It’s always something made-to-order, rarely a pure expression of my own ideas and creativity.

It’s interesting indeed to open the cage of words and flutter into the air beyond.

Please sign up for my final fall webinars: essays, A-list clients and freelancing

In behavior, blogging, books, business, education, journalism, Media, work on November 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

First, a huge thank you!! to the students who’ve signed up and found value in my new webinars and one-on-one coaching — from Australia, New Zealand and across the U.S. It’s been a lot of fun and a resounding success.

I also coach individually by phone, email or Skype, happy to read your material and work with you on specific pieces or projects you send to me in advance. Email me at learntowritebetter@gmail.com.

Three more webinars are left in the fall series; I’ll offer them again in February, when I’ll add two more: defining and resolving ethical challenges in journalism/blogging and how to conduct a kick-ass interview.

The three remaining:

Crafting the Personal Essay, Sunday November 30, 4:00 p.m. EST, 90 minutes.

It looks dead easy to bang out a personal essay, but it’s not! Great personal essays combine the deeply specific with the universal, the unique-to-you with the immediately familiar to a wider audience. I’ve published mine in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Smithsonian and others. My essay about divorce won a National Magazine Award — for humor! I’ll share tips and tricks to help you craft your essay into a compelling, powerful, saleable piece.

Marie Claire

Marie Claire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing for A-List Clients, Saturday December 7, 4:00 p.m. EST, 90 minutes.

Ready to run with the big dogs? You’ll learn here what editors of the most demanding publications want and need; my work appears regularly in The New York Times, as well as reported stories and essays in Marie Claire, Glamour, More, Ladies Home Journal and Cosmopolitan. You’ll learn how and when to pitch, what every pitch must contain — and the one guaranteed way to get an editor to read your pitch.

The New York Times

The New York Times (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

You, inc: The Business of Freelancing, Saturday December 14, 4:00 p.m. EST, 90 minutes.

Do you fantasize about working at home in your PJs? But how to drum up the thousands of dollars you’ll need every month to pay your bills, buy health insurance and keep building your retirement funds? How much to charge? How and when to negotiate a higher rate? How many assignments can you juggle at once? This practical, tips-filled class shares my experience of working for decades as a successful and productive full-time freelancer.

I hope you’ll join us!

Life after being Freshly Pressed: tips, advice — and welcome!

In behavior, blogging, books, culture, journalism, Media on December 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm
English: Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité

English: Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whew.

More than 5,000 views (in three days) later, and 532 likes, life here at Broadside is back to normal. It’s fun to be featured, but the Niagara of comments is overwhelming if — which I do — you try to reply to each comment and visit everyone’s site who “likes” a post and/or who signs up to follow this blog.

For those new to Broadside, welcome! It’s a bit like throwing a party, happy to see old friends, and finding 300 people you’ve never met in your living room.

I blog every other day, sometimes a bit more often, on a variety of topics, often on writing. I am happy to hear dissenting views, but won’t tolerate rudeness, to me or others here.

If you want to argue a point, cool! But please do it with wit, facts and intelligence.

Insults are a direct route to the trash bin.

For those of you new here, I hope you’ll visit the blogs of some of the regular commenters here, like Nigel Featherstone, a writer in Australia; MrsFringe, a snappy mom in Manhattan, Michelle, a feisty, fun mom in Minneapolis; Rian, an expat American in Vancouver; the witty C, who I hope to meet for tea in London, Elizabeth, who traded Atlanta for Cornwall mid-life and the loquacious Rami, a student in Ohio.

A few thoughts on being FPed and how to get there, which Rami asked me about. I’ve been FPed six times, which is crazy, but flattering. The posts were about everything from why we need to thank one another, the lost art of conversation, how to write better to this most recent, about women’s obsession with their bodies.

I’m Caitlin Kelly, a Tarrytown, NY-based career journalist who writes for a living, and have been doing so since 1978, so blogging comes easily to me. I write frequently for The New York Times and have written two well-reviewed books. I hope you’ll buy them, and spread the word if you like them!

“Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” has sold well; it’s the story of my 27 months’ working in an upscale mall, and includes interviews with dozens of others nationwide, from the CFO of Costco to a woman who’s 51 making $7.25/hr — with a master’s degree and $60,000 worth of student debt.

Retail is the largest source of new jobs in this economy. Terrible jobs!

Here’s a link to both…

I’ve also sold personal essays to places like The New York Times and Marie Claire, so I have some experience writing for an audience about things personal. My second book, a memoir of working retail, is also filled with personal detail, interwoven with dozens of interviews.

So…how to get Freshly Pressed?

Be consistent

Blog on a regular schedule. People who start to enjoy your work want more! It’s frustrating to find a terrific blogger but never hear from them. People have short attention spans. Don’t let ‘em wander off.

Choose your tone

I think this is key. The blogs I linked to above each have a clear and consistent voice, some calm and meditative (Nigel and Elizabeth), some encouraging and upbeat (Rian), some funny and smart (C.) When FPs editors go looking for people to feature, they, too, need a good mix of voices. If yours isn’t clear and strong, your chances of being featured likely diminish.

Tags and categories!

Be sure you are adding these to every post.

Mix the personal with the universal

This is the toughest balance of all. Too personal is confessional and tedious. Too universal is too vague and no one can relate to it.

How about a call to action?

Several of my posts that have been FPed make clear I want readers to do something — Say thank-you! Start a conversation! Write better! They might not do any of them, but it’s clear what I want them to think about doing, at least.

What are people talking about?

Not the bloody Kardashians! But in a more general way, in the culture. It might be the U.S. Presidential election or Hurricane Sandy or unemployment or Christmas or Eid. People want to read something that’s current and meaningful to them.

Great headlines matter

Hard as hell to do well. Really hard. But the best posts draw in many readers with a funny, moving or quirky headline that make you want to read more.

Get angry!

One of the major changes I’ve seen recently in what’s featured on Freshly Pressed, (which I read every day), is their choice of material that’s more challenging and provocative, whether grief, divorce, politics. Women bloggers, especially, tend to be too polite. Say it loud and say it proud! What’s the point of blogging if you keep pulling your punches?

Read your competitors

This is pretty basic. If you really want your blog featured on FPed, you have to read at least some of what is chosen there to analyze what they’ve done so well. As a journalist and author, I read a tremendous amount, often envious of others’ clarity or turn of phrase. The only way to get better is to read the best.

Those of you who’ve been FPed — Rian, Michelle, others — what advice would you offer?

From tip to print: how I scored my Google exclusive for The New York Times

In blogging, books, business, journalism, Media, Technology, work on May 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm
The New York Times building in New York, NY ac...

The New York Times building in New York, NY across from the Port Authority. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an era of 24/7 media coverage, it’s not easy to get a scoop. But it’s far from impossible.

I did it with my Google story that ran in The New York Times four days ago. It was the paper’s 5th. most emailed and 5th. most viewed story for many hours.

Forbes.com picked it up and got 1,000 more views within hours.

So how did I get this story as mine alone — and how can you, an equally ambitious writer, do something similar?

It started, randomly, when I attended an eight-day silent Buddhist retreat in July 2011, a birthday gift from my Buddhist husband, which I wrote about for Marie Claire magazine.

One of the visiting teachers there was an extraordinary woman who I saw at once might be both a kindred spirit — albeit 20 years my senior — and a terrific magazine story in her own right. I asked for a private meeting with her, which was the one time we were allowed to speak.

She told me she’d been working with Google to help engineers develop their emotional intelligence. Boom! That’s a story.

I stayed in touch with her over the fall when she mentioned Meng, (the subject of my Times piece and a Google engineer), was writing a book and was someone well worth media attention. Story value confirmed.

I then reached out to his publisher and to Meng himself, letting him know that I knew personally two people he admires and has worked with. Done. The story was mine, he said.

Not so fast. Months of negotiation ensued between me, his publisher, the book publicist and the Times. Months.

I also faced major surgery and recovered enough just in time to fly to Mountain View to report the story with enough time to write and and edit it.

Google isn’t known for being a chatty sort of place, so getting access to half a dozen employees and two days on campus required some arm-twisting as well. I spent two intense days on-site, conducted more interviews by phone, wrote it and went through at least six revisions as the story passed through various editorial hands and questions.

Here are some things I did that could help  you snag and lock down a great story of your own:

Take a risk!

I didn’t even want to attend the Buddhist retreat for many reasons and went into it very reluctantly. But I went and learned a lot and met some truly amazing new people there.

Put yourself out there

I was nervous asking for a private meeting with this woman. What if she didn’t say yes? What if she didn’t like me or my ideas? You don’t know until you try.

What is the story? Can you sum up in one tight sentence?

An experienced reporter sniffs a great story right away. Even if you’re on staff, you’ll have to persuade your editor to let you write it. If you’re freelance, as I am, you’re asking for a big space and the budget to send you far away to get the goods. You’ve got to pitch it persuasively.

Access

Without it, you can’t get a scoop.

Passion for your idea

If you’re not super-psyched to do the piece, how can you persuade your editor?

A clear understanding who you need to interview and what you’ll ask them

You may have very little time in which to get your reporting done.

Persistence and tenacity

It took many months of calls and emails to get this story nailed down. I have more than 100 emails in one folder alone from my contact at Meng’s book publisher.

A terrific editor

You need someone to green-light your idea and make sure it gets the art, photos and play it deserves as it competes for space with all the other stories on that site/newspaper/magazine.

A clear idea of the scope of the story

How many words will it really need to be well-told? Do you have to travel? How cheaply can you do that? How are the key players in this narrative and will each of them speak to you? How much time will all that require — and do you have it or can you get it?

Self-confidence

I don’t write about tech. I don’t cover Google. I’d never written a story quite like this one. But I understand, and deeply value, mindfulness and meditation. That was enough to launch me. I’d figure the rest out as I went.

And I did!

Why, yes, the stack of unread magazines is now 30 inches high

In behavior, blogging, books, business, culture, domestic life, journalism, life, Media on April 22, 2012 at 12:24 am

And here’s the photo to prove it.

And, today, three more — another 1.5 inches’ worth — arrived in the mail: Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Fortune.

What on earth, you may be wondering, is my problem?

Well, let’s see:

I write for a living so I need to see what everyone else is writing, reading, thinking and talking about. (Yes, I could just read tweets and blogs, but not my style.) I have a Big Story coming out next weekend in The New York Times (I’ll post and link to it), and thanks to this diligence know that a competing publication recently tread on some of the same territory. I’m not fussed about it, but I need to know this.

-- I love design, cooking and all things related to creating and maintaining a pretty home. Thus I read House Beautiful, Country Living (both US and UK editions, which are very different indeed), Marie Claire Maison, World of Interiors, Elle Decor.

– I love fashion and want to know what’s on-trend, even if I choose to ignore it. Again, living and working in New York City means you can’t risk looking like a hayseed. So I read Vogue, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar. (I’ve written for Marie Claire and would like to write for Vogue. You have to read them to pitch them.)

I have to know what’s happening in the economy. I hope to retire, which means paying very careful attention to our savings and investments, keeping an eye on trends and developments. I also write on business, so need to know what’s going on out there. Thus: Forbes, Fortune, Barron’s, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (by far the best of the lot.) My husband also works in a newspaper business section. Do you know what BRIC stands for? Too easy? How about CIVET? Welcome to our world!

– I’m swamped! I blog three times every week. I sit on two volunteer boards. I write for a living, so am constantly cranking out copy, which leaves little time to read others’. I’m just way, way behind in my reading. Given limited time, and my addiction to news/analysis on radio, something’s gotta give! I try to read books as often as magazines. Given a choice, a book needs to win.

– I need story ideas.

– I seek good material and sources for my next book(s.)

– I need to see what my competitors are peers are producing, how well and how often. Now that I’ve become Facebook friends with some cool writers I admire, I want to be able to shoot them a letter of congratulations on their latest.

– I need inspiration. I need to read great reporting and writing to see how it’s done.

– Pleasure! I just love flipping through the pages. I find magazines fun, sensual and enjoyable, much more than reading on-line. (Yes, I know, this is very generational of me.) So for pleasure, I read The New Yorker and Wired. (I also occasionally read GQ and Esquire for this reason.) I do not, as you can see, read magazines focused on celebrities, shopping or entertainment. Just not my thing, especially with such limited time and attention already.

How about you?

Do you have unread stacks of magazines?

Which ones do you love most, and why?

(Or books and/or newspapers? I read two papers every day, The New York Times and the Financial Times, adding The Wall Street Journal on weekends. I didn’t even show you those piles!)

Four Epiphanies

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life, women on December 6, 2011 at 12:26 am
eyeglasses

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been quite the year. Here are my four (major) epiphanies for 2011, three pleasant, one not so much…

Why I work

Earlier this year, I took a fascinating test offered to me gratis by James Sale, a British businessman who found me on LinkedIn. His company, Motivational Maps, helps companies and workers find the best possible fit between their deepest personal values and their job. After taking this quick but incisive test, you’ll learn whether you most want to be a Builder, Friend, Star, Director or other role.

I emerged as a Creator and Seeker, which surprised me, but explained a lot. It clarified a wearying battle between my desire for a higher income and my joy in doing good work that satisfies me.

I’ve been duped for decades

The details are too grim and convoluted to share here, but I learned this year that my mother has been lying to me for a long time, relying on my ignorant goodwill. Words fail me on this one.

I’m spiritually hungry

I did an eight-day silent retreat this summer with Jose. I dreaded it, but learned a lot and came away moved and inspired: by the Buddhist teachings, the spirit of community, the wisdom and humor of our teachers and some new, helpful ways of thinking and behaving. (Visit my website if you’d like to read my piece about it from November’s Marie-Claire.)

Spending time in natural surroundings nurtures me deeply

For a New York Times story, I spent eight hours in a Central Park thicket studying wilderness survival techniques, which reminded me how much I love being outdoors, in nature, far away from machines and noise and screens and things that blink and beep. If 2012 allows, maybe it’s the year I finally buy a canoe, small sailboat or kayak so I can get out on the Hudson River and really enjoy it!

Have you had any epiphanies this year?

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My Writer’s Week…And Yours?

In blogging, books, business, domestic life, journalism, life, women on October 9, 2011 at 12:01 am
Boys' Life, July 1917

This is one of the magazines I write for...Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a week in the life of a full-time mid-life, mid-career writer in suburban New York…Well, mine anyway!

Saturday: I drive into Manhattan — paying $4 in tolls each way — to attend an eight-hour class in outdoor survival skills I’ll be writing about for a major publication.  When I asked what they pay (mistakenly, based on past work for them), I assumed it would be twice as much. Ouch. Oh, well.

I’m eager to learn these skills anyway, everything from how to make fire without matches or a lighter to building a rabbit trap. I feel pretty certain I’ll be able to spin off some other stories from this initial investment of time.

I arrive much earlier than necessary, like 45 minutes early, but snag a parking spot, free, on the street. Yay! The day proves to be a lot of fun, despite the final hour spent in pouring rain. I tuck my notebook beneath my rain poncho so it doesn’t get wet and hope I can remember all the details I can’t write down. I normally avoid working on weekends, so I have time with Jose and to simply relax. But I also have the flexibility to take a day off mid-week to compensate.

That night I come home to a meal Jose made in my absence, fried chicken and a very good bottle of red wine.

Sunday: We attend church at our local, small Episcopal (Anglican) church, a stone building from 1853, designed by the same architect who created St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a tourist’s must in Manhattan. We are given a public blessing on our recent marriage in Toronto, with a lovely prayer taken from the New Zealand BCP. I visit a friend’s apartment in my building to discuss my new book, “Malled” with her book group, eight women in their 50s and 60s.

Monday: Real life starts again. I pitch story ideas to Marie-Claire, Boys’ Life and Arthritis Today, all publications I’ve written for this year. I email my agent to remind her to write a reference letter for me for a writer-in-residence program I’m applying for, ask about the status of a reality television show I’m hoping to work on and request her edits on the proposal for my third book. She has serious questions and wants to talk by phone. At 8:30 we talk for 90 minutes; it needs a major re-do.

Tuesday: I ride out to Long Island with my neighbor, a professor who teaches there. I’ll be speaking to students there about “Malled” which was assigned to them as their summer read — every freshman had to read it. Nice sales for me! At last week’s lecture, one female student pronounced it “OK”, before grudgingly admitting she found it informative. About 25 students come to the lecture and have good questions. I love meeting readers face to face. I sit in the cafeteria and do a call-in commentary for a Winnipeg talk radio show about what to do when a retail associate answers the phone in front of you.

Wednesday: Normal life. Trying to wade though the piles of unread magazines, both for pleasure and for story ideas. Pitching more story ideas. Mulling over all the changes to my book proposal my agent has requested. Applying for a teaching position for 2013 in Virginia. Applying as a menber of a class-action Canadian copyright lawsuit for whatever damages I might be owed.

Local errands. Mailing back two edited manuscripts to clients in California and New York, both of whom found me on the Internet. One found me through this Harvard Business Review blog post for which (natch!) I was not paid.

Fighting a cold (after eight hours outdoors in the rain), I skip a bike ride (sigh) but sit for 20 minutes on a bench beside our town’s lovely reservoir. Saw swans, geese, cormorants and ducks gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine.

Thursday: Chill day. Took my pool aerobics class and lunch out with them. Discovered that one of my classmates, now 73, worked in Rhodesia at 21 teaching phys ed. How cool! Checked in with a few editors but no feedback yet on my ideas.

Friday: Still feel crappy, so mostly lying low. Heard from the Hollywood writer who is working on turning “Malled” into (we hope) a CBS sitcom. It’s highly instructive to see how very, very slowly those wheels turn; I now watch television with a very different sense of how that material even got chosen or made it to air. Gorgeous fall sunshine, into the 70s. Wish I had more energy to get out into it.

Things were crazy at our home yesterday as Jose, who works in the business section of The New York Times, was scrambling to gather as many photos as possible to illustrate global reactions to the death of Steve Jobs. By the time he staggered home, there was little left of him.
I’m posting this on a Saturday evening after a golden fall day, having had lunch with my dearly beloved members of Softball Lite, my co-ed team (here’s my New York Times love letter to them!),  with whom I am forbidden to play until my damaged hip is replaced. It was our first lunch with them as a married couple, and it was lovely to be feted and congratulated.

One of them is a literary agent and I asked his advice for a friend living in Europe who is shopping a book proposal right now, her first; she and I spent two hours on the phone today helping her prepare for all the questions she has about this scary and exciting process.

How was your week?

Details?

Your Book Is Out! Ten Tips For Promoting It

In behavior, books, business, work on July 5, 2011 at 11:30 am
Rollercoaster

Strap in and hang on! It's a wild ride ahead...Image by peve.de via Flickr

My second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” was published April 14, 2011 in the U.S. and April 19 in Canada.

It’s been full-on ever since!

I’ve done:

Radio interviews with shows in: D.C. (four, three of them national), St. Louis, Irvine, CA, Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, Chicago, Buffalo.

One TV show, a half-hour in Toronto on BNN with a retail analyst and professor of retail management.

Print interviews, including the Financial Times, New York Times and Associated Press and Marie-Claire to the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and Canadian Press.

I’ve also spoken at six events in a month, with engagements lined up through October.


If you’re about to publish a book, these tips will help you through the fun, wearying, non-stop job of telling everyone about it:

Carry your book and/or its postcard everywhere. (And business cards.)

I mean everywhere. I’ve handed them out while airborne, while standing in line to check my baggage at an airport, at the hair salon, at my local framing shop…I missed the opportunity of a lifetime recently when I bumped into Anderson Cooper at a Toronto television station — and had nothing to hand him. Most people are delighted to meet an author. Having something tangible to refer to will help them remember to buy the book.

Stay well-groomed and dressed.

Many writers work alone at home, often in sloppy and comfy clothes. Once you’re out and in the public eye, you’re on! People who’ve never met an author are often thrilled to do so; in their eyes, (true!) your ability to get a book published is a huge achievement. Look and dress the part! Keep your hair cut (and color) in top shape, mani and pedi fresh,  so that surprise invitations to speak or do a media interview won’t panic you.

Splurge on a few new, confidence-building outfits. I spent a heart-stopping amount on some terrific clothes, and made sure they fit and were accessorized before the book was out.

When I received a surprise invitation to address the sales staff of Marie-Claire, a women’s fashion magazine, (while I was on the road with no time to go home from Toronto), I was fine, thanks to my new go-to gear. I felt totally comfortable in a room full of very chic listeners.

Ignore reviews.

OK, you won’t, but try.

Like me, “Malled”, has a strong voice and unvarnished opinions — and outspoken women, especially in the U.S., can really piss people off.

It’s already got 45 reviews on amazon, many  of them positive. But many of the negative ones attack me personally, calling me everything from princess to racist. It’s stressful to be name-called, and really annoying to know you just can’t reply. Unless a review is truly libelous or defamatory, it’s not worth it.

Book-sellers are your new best friends!

Visit as many bookstores as possible and autograph any copies of your book they have on hand.

If they have the time or interest, tell them a little about you or how the book came to be. If you’ve done, or are about to do, any local media coverage that might bring shoppers into their store, let them know so they can be sure to have copies on hand.

Say thank-you. Be gracious. They’re our ambassadors!

Stay rested, exercised, hydrated and well-fed.

Every event is a performance that demands focus, and emotional and intellectual energy to do well. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Keep a full cup of cool water at hand every time you speak.

Take some media or speech training to prepare.

I discovered a great coach on LinkedIn, a young woman named Christine Clapp, who prepped me for NPR’s popular Diane Rehm show — I would be on-air, before two million listeners, for an hour. She taught me some vocal and physical exercises to do before every interview or event and reviewed, and critiqued, the video of a keynote I gave last year at a retail conference. My confidence has improved immeasurably as a result.

It’s a roller-coaster.

Strap in and hang on! It’s a wild ride.

You’ll experience lovely highs: your book party, publication date, good reviews, positive media attention — and some tough lows: negative, even nasty reviews, people who just don’t get your point, events with an audience of one, events where no one buys the book, radio show call-in hecklers.

Enjoy the experience, but don’t take it to heart.

Stay on-message.

I did a Chicago radio show that had promised me four to eight minutes…and barely gave me one. Good thing I named the book’s full title in my first sentence! Decide the three key things you want to share with your audience and repeat them in every media interview.

Keep a cheat sheet handy.

I have a one-sheet, in 18-point type, of my major talking points. It’s easy to forget or get caught up in the moment, certainly on live radio.

While I was on the Diane Rehm show, a male caller sneered: “Why should I buy this book? What value does it have beyond being….entertainment?” I had my talking points beside the mike, made them, and got emails from listeners praising my poise.

Enjoy it all!

It’s easy to freak out — sales are too low, too slow, audiences too small or silent. Authors who have published, as I have both times, with a commercial house, face their very high expectations of fast, steady sales.

With 1,500 books published every day, we all face challenges getting ours noticed.

But…

It’s a thrill to see your book in the store, to get to know book-sellers and hear their thoughts, to know that total strangers all over the place are reading and loving it; to read the Google alerts letting you know that libraries are buying it; watching your little map at amazon’s Author Central tell you how many people bought it where — 47 in Chicago! 45 in Phoenix!

Bonus tip:

Always being your A-game, as you never know who’s in your audience or who they know.

Two recent examples: I went to lunch recently with my softball buddies of eight years, all old friends. Some new guy was there, 73. I said hi and introduced myself — he’s a producer for a major network TV news show and now wants a copy of the book. Yesterday I spoke at a local library event and the author sitting beside me is a freelance producer for CNN.

Even events that feel like a wash — like one where I drove 40 minutes each way, sold no books and did not get paid — had in its audience a friendly and helpful local journo who hooked me up for a great event, some serious library sales and three great ideas for events in her area — complete with names and contact numbers.

Now….what’s your next book about?

“Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail” — On Sale Today!

In behavior, blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, Money, women, work on April 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

Finally!

My new memoir, which tells the story of retail work in America, is out today from Portfolio. It’s been getting terrific reviews — Entertainment Weekly calls it “an excellent memoir” and Herb Schaffner, a columnist for Bnet compares it to the best-seller “Nickeled and Dimed”, calling Malled “reality journalism at its best.”

I’m thrilled by the reception it’s gotten, with interviews and reviews, so far, from USA Today, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and Marie-Claire. I’ll be a guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, with two million listeners, on April 19; on Marketplace and on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on April 20.

I’ve also been invited to write a guest post for the Harvard Business Review blog.

My goal in writing this book is to make retail work — and the 15 million employees who make their living doing it — better understood. We all shop! The American economy, even in a recession, relies heavily on consumer spending, but we rarely talk frankly about what that demands of those workers, many of them part-time, with no benefits, earning low wages with little chance for raises or promotions.

I worked as an associate in a suburban New York mall, with some very wealthy customers, from September 2007 to December 2009, so this is also a portrait of the deepening recession and other workers who are taking low-wage work to make ends meet. I interviewed many others, from Costco CFO Richard Galanti to consultant Paco Underhill to best-selling author and owner of five elegant clothing stores, Jack Mitchell.

Like me, like this blog, “Malled” pulls no punches. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always honest.

And, yes, there’s plenty of outrage!

Wal-Mart has so far spent $2 million fighting an OSHA order and $7,000 fine to make their stores safer during sales  — after an associate in their Long Island store was killed when shoppers stampeded over his body.

Is this really what we want for our low-wage workers?

The sad thing is that such treatment is considered normal. In 1892, F.W. Woolworth disdained the notion of paying his workers a living wage — his business model, discount goods, simply didn’t allow for it.

I hope you’ll check it out at malledthebook.com, where you can read the introduction and Chapter One free.

You’ll also find there a listing of my many upcoming readings and events, most in and around New York City and some in Toronto; I’m talking at 10:00 a.m. on May 28 on the downtown campus of my alma mater, The University of Toronto.

The book also has a Facebook fan page; I hope you’ll “like” it and spread the word! If you enjoy “Malled”, I’d love it if you’d write a review at amazon.com

And here’s a funny/spot-on flow chart on what it takes to get a book published…

Working Retail? A Shopper? This Book’s For You

In blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, news, women, work on March 24, 2011 at 1:37 am
Mall in Jakarta

Mall life....some of us survive it! Image via Wikipedia

Three weeks from today my new memoir, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” appears from Portfolio, the imprint of Penguin Press focused on business.

It tells the story of my two years and three months as a sales associate at a suburban New York mall for The North Face, an internationally known brand of outdoor clothing. In it, you’ll also hear from many other associates nationwide, and from consultants, analysts and senior executives — like Richard Galanti, the CFO of Costco — working in the nation’s third largest industry and largest source of new jobs.

If you’ve ever worked in a retail job — or any job with the public (God help you!) — you’ll find something in it to identify with, especially customers from hell, whether entitled finger-snappers or the perpetually dissatisfied.

I started out, as many retail workers do, psyched. New job, new industry, new skills, new co-workers. It was all good!

A few years later, shaking with rage, I actually ran and hid in the stockroom one afternoon after the umpteenth whiny shopper hit my last strained nerve.

“You’re being hostile,” she sniffed.

Truthfully I replied: “You have no idea what hostile looks like!”

Please check out the introduction and chapter one here.

The book — yay! — is getting all sorts of media interest. I’ve already been interviewed, so far, by the Associated Press, Washington Post, WWD, Marie-Claire (May issue) and USA Today. I’m booked on NRP’s Diane Rehm show April 18, and will travel from my home in NY to DC to do it in-studio.

Entertainment Weekly just named it “an excellent memoir.”

Please cross your fingers for its success, come check out our FB page and, if you like it, please spread the word!

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