Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Five Things I Learned at Tanglewood's Author Retreat

I just returned from a retreat put on by my publisher where a handful of us authors--well, a handful and a thumb--learned about the business, hiked in the woods and got a glimpse of the great books Tanglewood is publishing soon. Here are five of my personal highlights.

1.  Great school presentations can be made by telling stories about your stories. And don't forget the props! If you've stumbled upon dinosaur poop in your ramblings, by all means, stick it in a backpack and take it on tour. Thank you, my newest hero, Audrey Penn.

2. Mushrooms are actually flowers of a usually unseen fungus. Oyster mushrooms grow on wood, smell like anise and taste delicious. Destroying Angel mushrooms grow on dirt, smell like anise and taste delicious--right before they dissolve your liver. I have been sternly forbidden by a mushroom specialist to ever pick and eat my own mushrooms, although he picked a few for us. I still didn't dare taste one after the whole liver thing...maybe if there had been butter involved. I think death might be better with butter.

3. My new guru of social media, Mike Mullin, isn't sure if all his tweeting is of value in selling books because he's just having a great time. Personally, I think he should get a clue of how well it's working from the 1500 ARCs of the debut novel ASHFALL he signed at ALA. The interesting part is that the book's premise (a super volcano erupts in Yellowstone) might be getting him those fans all by itself. Still, you should check out Mike's great blog "How I earned 8600 Twitter Followers in 8 Months" because all those contacts certainly aren't hurting. You can also link up with Mike on Facebook, Goodreads and pretty much anywhere else authors are found on the web.

4. Fireflies are the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. Better than aerial fireworks in my cul-de-sac on the fourth of July. AND I HELD ONE! Sometimes there are things on your bucket list you don't  realize are there until they're sitting in front of you, flashing.

5. Katie McKy does a whole heap of school presentations each year that include leaf blowers, putting teachers in time out and picking a fight with the school bully. If you have a chance to see her in action, VIDEO IT FOR ME! She says great presenters keep the kids off balance, get them riled up and pull them back into focus all while re-booting their brains with physical action every fifteen minutes. I'm not sure anyone does it like Katie, but it sure sounds fun to try.

Well, for the rest of what I learned you'll have to visit these amazing authors' sites (Ashlee Fletcher, Carmen Fereiro-Esteban) and check out the best publicist ever: Rebecca Grose (you know you're my favorite, right?)

6. Ah, heck. Let's make it six of the coolest things I learned. You're an author. Sure you're in a collaborative business, but in the end it's your business. Expect to do a lot yourself while being supported by your fellow authors, your publisher and your wonderful fans. But publicity doesn't just happen to you. You make your own luck.

Thanks all, and thanks to Peggy at Tanglewood for the adventures, education and weenie roast.


  1. I like how Mike said he 'earned' his followers. That impresses me.

    My favorite mushroom picking adventured involved a Polish couple who didn't speak English and some rotten looking mushroom which turned into a purple slurry when cooked--and tasted wonderful!

    Sound like you had a great time.

  2. My new favorite saying: "I think death might be better with butter."

  3. Hey! I know Rebecca Grose! I worked with her when I was on tour in San Diego :)

    Loved your thoughts, Ginger. I heartily agree with the advice to tell stories during school presentations.

  4. Yes, it was a great retreat! Rebecca mentioned having met you, Becca. She didn't dare say that you were her favorite but I could tell... Purple mushroom slurry, Patty!? Freaky. I'm glad it was good--probably had butter :)

  5. Sounds like a great retreat Ginge! Fireflies ARE the coolest thing. On the beach in Boston they were going crazy and it made my trip. I am glad I caught up with how your trip went since it seems two houses down is too far away.