Naïveté with a Dose of Arrogance?

Do insights into the way you see yourself ever come to you after you’ve had a beer or a glass of wine? As if maybe some flimsy curtain suddenly flutters to the floor and a lightbulb pops bright. It’s most common for me when I’m reading or musing on the couch in the evenings, but not so common that I’m not curious when the poke comes. As it did the other evening while I was looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my teeth before bed. I like to talk to myself as I peer into my face peering back at me, and so I began.

Why was it I thought announcing myself as a first-time author, one who had read few books and had never seriously written anything, not even a diary or journal, would win the hearts of readers, media folks and publicists everywhere? Was that something to be celebrated? Was I patting myself on the back, impressed that my authorship came without my ever having dabbled in the arena of writing? Did I fashion myself some unrecognized genius whilst embracing my self-claimed naïveté?

The answer to all of the above is yes. I touted the first-time author story with the kind of arrogance that pops up when I’m afraid of failing. It’s a fuzzy undertone I detect at times when I’m feeling vulnerable and want to have reasons to fall back on if things don’t work out to the highest-of-the-high standards I set for myself. Curiously, both narratives, the arrogant and the naive, float around inside my consciousness and cellular fluid simultaneously, side-by-side – they even hug and commiserate. Yet, I can’t grasp and learn from the duality until the curtain falls.

Neither arrogance or naïveté is an end-of-the-world take on anything, and the difference in the two can be as subtle as an accent or a state of mind, never sensed by anyone but me. Is it even important to me, then? Does it matter if I notice and am curious about why (as if I could I ever definitively know?) I have such tendencies toward that edge of arrogance?

Yes, I think it matters. I love seeing deeper into myself and, in this case, I thought I was free of all concern about how the book would be received when published. I told myself it didn’t matter what people thought, though I reveled in positive face-to-face reviews and friends gushing about my accomplishment. Now, eight months out, I wish it would get more national press, I’m disappointed the local media hasn’t lavished more praise upon me, and I feel those pangs of jealousy when I see other similar books get what I consider more attention. All of which, I see now, would be pretty much expected human emotional responses to something as big as publishing a memoir.

It matters because I can see now that I did all it out of a sort of fear of seeing myself for who/what I really am: a perfectly smart, creative, successful, courageous human who worked diligently to write a book I wanted to write. I got professional and personal input along the way, had it professionally edited (for content, style and grammatical correctness), and proofread. I self-published it with the help of my editor with whom I designed the covers, lay-out, fonts and picture placement. I had a book launch and reached out to the local media for publicity. I created a webpage and began this blog. And still, I’m subject to all the whims of the publishing/marketing world, and to all I didn’t know before I naively dove head first into published authorship. I didn’t do enough homework, yet I’m not sure I had the wherewithal to know what I didn’t know back then, and am only slowly coming to know now.

It matters because just maybe my dose of arrogance, no matter how tiny or big, is a little bit of the why I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That self-protective edge that either says it doesn’t matter, just do and everything will fall into place; or says (secretly, of course) you’ve got the perfect situation here, they’re going love this book, you’ve done a fantastic job. In either case, it assures that nothing else needs to be done and allows me to step out of the hope/fear inner turmoil.

I’ve had endless AHAs about the whole writing/publishing/marketing world since that fateful day last fall when I held a copy of Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance in my hands. I’ve read more books in these eight months than I had in the previous ten years. I’ve marveled at how stories are crafted, and contemplated the creative thinking it takes to come up with a plot, characters, a thread, etc., even in books that follow a formula, like a detective series. All that plus the sting of rejections, even after much effort spent marketing, and still writers keep at it. WOW!

It’s more than humbling, and I salute all authors. I’m amused by how naive I was and still am. Maybe naïveté with that little hit of arrogance was the only way I would’ve made it into this wide-open world of authorship with all of it’s ups and downs. Had I known what I know now, I wonder if I would’ve so eagerly completed my project. Yet, knowing what I know now will not keep me from continuing my marketing journey and, who knows what else? Maybe another book, marketed at least partly before launch!

The journey beyond the journey continues…

 

The Thrills and Spills of Book Marketing

Here’s the scoop. I self-published a book before I ever considered marketing. The fact that I’d even written a book that could be published was beyond my comprehension. Who thinks of marketing before the book is even a real thing? Well, as it turns out (as many of you likely know from personal experience) any self-published author who wants their book to be read has to think about the whole ball of sticky, gooey marketing wax. It’s the same in any artistic endeavor – the artist must ask, “how am I going to get this art out to people who may be interested in it, who may benefit from it, who may love it?”

I’m a social media light-weight dummy (slowly losing my fear), but – I created a website including this blog, made a Facebook page (Joy Ride – Rolling Around in Life), had a book launch, and some spotty opportunities to share the book at a few minimally-attended events. I approached the local papers and venue newsletters and scored a couple of small mentions. Next – I decided to pay the bucks for a Kirkus review, secretly hoping, (honestly, more like believing) it would solve all my marketing woes. If it was good, I imagined Kirkus would roll out their plan (free, of course) and that would be all I needed. The book would be snatched up by everyone in every country in a matter of days.

Ha! What am I? Dumb, naive, a wishful thinker? Obviously, all three and just a tad out of touch!

Here’s what’s happened. I got a nice Kirkus review and an immediate offer of a phone meeting with one of their marketing folks. Great! I thought. The woman I spoke with was a dear – she hadn’t read my book, but said she’d known of others like it that had benefitted from Kirkus’s marketing “packages”, and proceeded to outline individual and bundled options ranging from $500 to $5000. She sent me the descriptions earlier in the morning the day of the call. They looked good – lots of ads, maybe a book giveaway, arranged by Kirkus – likely 300,000 print views of my book in three weeks. I was almost sold – how else would I get that much press? I have no access to any of the stuff she was talking about, and isn’t Kirkus supposed to be the best?

Thankfully, I’ve grown up enough to know it’s best not to sign on in the moment of excitement, when praise and adulation is being heaped on me by someone who knows nothing about me, or my book (since she hadn’t read it). Granted someone had, but…so what?

I emailed my editor, the woman who helped me finish and publish the said book, the one person I can confide in about all things book-related knowing she has my back. I told her I was considering the $5000 Great Book Package. Really – I was, even though that small voice deep in my wise-woman gut was shaking her head, mumbling, “yes, you have the money, but what’s the guarantee?” Here’s what my editor wrote back:

“I’m nervous about you spending $5,000 on ads that don’t include widening your social media presence. It’s a lot of money being spent in only one direction. I don’t doubt Kirkus will do all they say they’ll do, but it’s book marketing—a highly ephemeral ratio between effort/cost: results…I know you’re flying high from that great Kirkus review and Kirkus is your new BFF and you’re excited about what they’re offering, but I feel that you’ll be disappointed with the results from Kirkus’s narrow campaign track…”

A wise woman! How many books would I have to sell to net $5000? At ~$9.00 profit per book, more than 500. That’s a ton of books. What if I sold just 20? Would I feel the investment was worth it? Would I say it doesn’t matter – I tried, wanting to justify my desire to see results without having to do much work? I’m sure I’d secretly regret it – another episode of impulsive, wishful thinking/acting that I’d get to add to my list of similar experiences. When. Will. I. Learn?

I have another phone meeting with the same Kirkus rep in early July. I’m still tempted to go for the Great Book Package. Like most authors, I want my book to be considered great, though I don’t want you to know that I want that. I want you to think it’s not important to me. Truth is, I know from experience that feigning indifference rids my soul of all it’s passion and joy – so best put the truth out there and hold onto the live-giving soul juice.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted Smith Publicity. Maybe they have something to offer that’s more suited to my book and my marketing needs. I’ll still need Eva, my life-saving editor, to catch me as I’m falling under the spell of their pie-in-the-sky offers. And, I’ll watch out for the BFF phenomenon, and do my best to remember that nothing comes without some measure of work.

A Few Details about Joy Ride

I’ve been wrestling with whether I’m doing enough to promote my recently published book, and so I thought I’d post a short synopsis and excerpt here. Sometimes just doing something helps settle whatever restless beast is stirring things up inside.

Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance tells my story of losing my right leg to cancer at age 11 in the 1960s. This was an era when “cripple” was an accepted word to refer to someone like me, and the choice for the disabled to live either as a “cripple’ or as “normal” was a difficult one either way. 

I chose “normal” and how my life unfolded after that is my story.  I would look for love in all the wrong places, and it would surprise me in the right places, too. I would meet generous people of all abilities along the way, ski, sail, and swim with self-referred “gimps,” and create opportunities for career and travel. 

And yet I kept important parts of myself hidden from those around me, and especially from myself.

When I discovered improvisational dance and began work with Karen Nelson and later with Alito Alessi, I found my inspiration and the life I was meant to live, one without secrets.  I found the courage to shine the light on those hidden and terrifying places.

I wrote Joy Ride to come to terms with the secrets I kept. I wrote to remember and embrace all the things I tried so hard to forget. I wrote to celebrate finding a relationship with my body, soul, and spirit through movement and share its extraordinary gifts of joy and freedom.

And I wrote because I hope others would find something in my life that would remind them of their own bravery and their own joy ride.

Thanks for reading. I leave you with this. I’m following Mary – heading out to dance! XOIMG_0264

 

 

I Show Up – Good Stuff Happens

Yesterday, I set up a table hawking my book, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance at a Discover Your Potential local event, hosted by PowerOnWithLimbLoss.com, for folks with limb loss and other physical challenges. The program included personal stories shared by kids and adults with physical challenges, vendors with information about health and healing, prosthetics, accessible vans, bikes, archery equipment, adaptive yoga, wheelchair basketball, and rock wall climbing. It was the first event of this sort I’d been to with the hopes of not only promoting my book, but meeting others with stories similar to my own. I was excited, yet didn’t want to get my hopes up – what if it was a bust? Gotta be ready for anything, I told myself.

As I got out of my car wondering who I’d find to help me carry in my table and box of books, I was greeted by two beautiful young men, one of whom was sporting two above the knee, mechanically-slick protheses. The guys were brothers with a business aimed at designing prosthetics, and tools to repair them, hoping to give their clients maximum input in the building and maintenance of their mobility aids. The bionic one of the duo also had a flesh-and-blood hand with fingers permanently bent in toward his palm. He effortlessly picked up the table in that hand and amazed me as he strolled in to the venue, loaded down with gear and smiling, as I wheeled in my chair and his normie brother carried his own load. We laughed and joked about our situations and shared excited hopes for the day ahead. I later learned he was an Afghanistan IED explosion survivor, and filled up with tears–of sadness yes, but mostly with that full heart feeling of amazement at the human spirit’s ability to thrive despite horrific circumstances–as he recounted the story. If nothing more happened that would’ve been gift enough for having made the effort.

Not so fast, though. During the program part of the day, I heard the stories of three amazing kids, all amputees, all under eighteen, and all triggered that same joyous full heart feeling. One young boy had two half arms with rock wall climbing abilities, a personality and presence bigger than life itself, and a desire to be DJ. The middle-school boy had been legless since birth, a medal-winning and NIKE team wheelchair basketball star who performed hand stands on various surfaces, and professed his intention to become a medal-winning skier this year. Lastly, we heard from a teenaged girl who lost her entire right leg to cancer at age five. She’s a NIKE team swimmer, hoping to make the paralympics, and a successful half-marathon finisher times two. Already, I’m over the top in gratitude and inspiration.

I sold a few books, got many compliments on my cover art, and the pictures I displayed of my own dinosaur prosthesis from the 1960-70s. I met and chatted with people with new limb loss, seasoned amputees, family members, professionals dedicated to making life easier for those of us with altered bodies, and recreation enthusiasts eager to share their innovations in adaptive equipment of all sorts.

So much had come of the short day, I was content. It was way more than worth my time. And then–the rock climbing began. I watched, secretly wondering if I could do it. Would my arms come through for me? Would I get halfway up and lose strength, feel embarrassed and have to retreat? Could I even make it up one hold? Would the sling hold me? So many questions and a big fear of failure and humiliation. As if trying isn’t good enough. I have to remind myself that trying is much more than good enough when I get out of my own way.

So I tried. Kristen, the lovely young woman from the local university Adaptive Sports program, was encouraging, gentle, supportive–a true delight. She strapped me into a special harness designed to provide more support for the back and prevent me from tipping to the right where my leg and pelvis are missing. I was belayed, and Kristin climbed along side me. We made contact with the wall and immediately I was climbing. I had to help lift my foot with my arm onto the outcroppings at some points, but, with what felt like minimal effort, I ascended–all the way to the top. I’m delighted, proud of myself, and just maybe I’ve found a new challenge to keep me inspired and fit. We’ll see if I keep to my promise to myself to attend the two upcoming adapted climbing workshops at the university. I’m pretty sure I will–they’re on my calendar!

Here’s a sneak peak thanks to the photos of a sneaky pal:

 

 

Yikes – I’m launching a book

Just three days until November 30, 2017, my official Book Launch Party. It’s been planned since October 30, the day the book became available on Amazon, and until today it seemed soooo far away. Not so now…

Thankfully, my inner worker-bees have been waking me up two or three times a week with all sorts of ideas about what I should say, what to read and how to “be me” at the event. It’s funny to think about having to plan how to be me – seems there’s very little else I can do. Still – a mind like mine likes to make sure all angles are examined before I forget every last one of those angles and enter into what is most always an improvisation in the moment as it happens.

That said – I’ve prepared an outline (which changes as the dreamscapes do each night) and I’ve chosen several passages to read. I’ve rehearsed in the mirror what I might say as I offer a toast. (For years I’ve indulged in talking out loud to my image in my bathroom mirror, or in the rearview mirror of the car, when I need to work out a problem or plan a strategy. It’s amazingly comforting, and although I rarely remember what I say, it seems to help me get my thoughts together. In addition…I enjoy making faces at myself!)

These impromptu mirror engagements have helped to get the wheels turning about exactly (although, I know there is no exactly since all things change as each nanosecond passes by) what my journey has been and continues to be about. For today, and I think this will still be what’s up on Thursday, I’m thinking to focus on how the journey over time, and the journey of writing and publishing the book, has been largely about re-membering my body and in so doing, embracing it’s amazing wisdom. It’s not that I forgot my body, because I was very much involved with the physical functioning aspects of my body from early on. The physical challenges of making my way on one leg were a source of fun, and a kind of creative outlet. I enjoyed finding ways to do things that would appear difficult or even impossible for someone missing a leg. And, although I tried hard to deny and dismiss my emotional body, I never was able to fully forget it. I just relegated it to a deep, dark place inside and decided, repeatedly, to ignore it. Thankfully, the powers that be – God, the universe, other co-pilots, like dogs or paint brushes – continually poked me along the way, reminding me that there was something I’d yet to consider in my quest for wholeness. The pokes came disguised as panic attacks, friendly advice, offers of adventures that bore unexpected insights, dreams and other things too numerous to mention and too compelling to ignore for long. They encouraged me to continue plodding, skipping or just walking until I discovered dancing – which is what I realized I was doing all along, just like we all are.

After all – life is a dance and that dance is the art, and the wisdom, and the message of each and every one of our bodies. To live is to dance! Ha – now isn’t that fun?