Monday, September 22, 2008

Keep your audience in mind

As a theater major at Florida State (Go, ‘Noles!), a storyteller, freelance writer and aspiring mystery writer, the phrase “always keep your audience in mind” has been in my brain for nearly my whole life. That idea is why debut mysteries have the body on the first page (or at least in the first couple of pages) because mystery readers—including agents and editors—have expectations. It’s why “if it bleeds it leads” became the mantra for television news. Someone decided that’s what the audience wanted. And it’s why authors at a book talk-book signing shouldn’t let their child take over the presentation.

Recently I went to a book signing at an independent bookstore near my house. I like the bookstore. The owner is friendly, knowledgeable and supportive of local and regional authors. This was a pay-to-attend event, not much at $5, but still. I didn’t mind spending the money to hear an author I’ve enjoyed. Author’s books are funny, so I had high hopes that Author would be, too.

But Author wasn’t. In fact, Author was unprofessional. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like kids, a lot. Sometimes more than adults. However, when I have paid $5 to hear an author speak, I don’t want an eight-year-old, no matter how cute and precocious, taking over the discussion.

Author, who was obviously completely distracted by the very loquacious child, nevertheless did nothing to stop the chatter. Author allowed the child to tell stories, answer questions that Author was asked by audience members, and whisper in Author’s ear several times as the two stood before 20-25 people who had paid $5 each (not to mention those who had already paid for Author’s books—in hardback, no less) to hear Author speak.

After 20 minutes or so of what felt like eavesdropping on a private parent-child conversation, I was relieved when Author gave up on the speaking portion of the evening, though moving to the book signing didn’t mean the end of the child’s performance. Author let us know that child also wanted to sign books, if we didn’t mind. (The child is mentioned in the book, which is non-fiction.)

Chris (my husband) and I left without buying a book, which I would have done if I’d enjoyed Author’s talk. If I’d enjoyed the talk, I’d likely have gone to hear Author again or maybe signed up for one of Author’s workshops, because I’ve heard good things about them. But I won’t now. Author broke the first rule of entertainment, which is what Author’s books and book talks are: Always keep your audience in mind.

Feel free to leave a comment about book signings you’ve attended—good or bad. Or let me know if you think I overreacted. (Though I have to say, Chris felt the same way, and he has way more patience than I do.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ahoy, me hearties, it’s Nana’s birthday!

That’s pirate speak for “Hey, y’all, it’s my grandmother’s birthday!” She’s 91 on this International Talk Like a Pirate Day. We hope she won't be walking the plank anytime soon.

Here’s a picture of her (she's second from the left) and my mom and my two aunts from last year at our family reunion to celebrate her 90th.


Nana's not doing great this year-—forgetting things, though she still remembers people and faces, if not names. And her body’s wearing out. Much too slowly to suit her, she says. But she’s still around at 91, which gives all of us coming up after her hope for ourselves. (Her mother lived to be 93! Shiver me timbers, but the women live a long time in my family.)

Some of my best memories are of Nana young and fun. Going to her house meant liver mush for breakfast. Neese's is the best (and only) brand we'd eat. They call their liver mush liver pudding, but our family never used the pudding label. YUMMY! It’s a sausage-like dish, only so much better, sold only in North and South Carolina.

And she played games with us, like Tripoli—which was just like gambling, only we got to use her pennies, not our own. We felt very grown up! So YO HO HO and a Bottle of Rum to Nana on her 91st!

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has pirate jokes, in honor of today. Take a peek and try them out on your friends. Maybe you’ll get pieces of eight for your efforts.

Or to learn all about the holiday (really, is it a holiday?) hit the Talk Like a Pirate website, where the activity has passed “on fire” and is now “volcanic.” Check it out. It won’t cost you any dubloons!

So, avast ye, landlubbers and feel free to post any pirate jokes you know in the comments section.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Web site WOWs

Okay, maybe not WOWs, but I did do a little work on my web site. See the woes posting from last week.

The site definitely needs more, including a heavy dose of pizzazz. Unfortunately my web skills are enough for the basics but don’t stretch as far as bells and whistles.

Thanks to all the folks who looked it over and offered suggestions. I took many of them, which made it better still.

Take a look at the new and slightly improved Kennedy writing site and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm embarrassed I never read ...

A quickie today from the Washington Post book blog Short Stack, about books people are embarrassed not to have read.

I read a lot, though I've never been a huge fan of "important" fiction or the "classics."

But bless my heart, the book I'm most embarrassed, as a lifelong Southerner and lover of the movie, not to have read is Gone with the Wind.

I'll get to it. 'Cause tomorrow is another day!

So, tell me, what are you embarrassed to admit you've never read?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Web site woes

As a professional freelance writer and editor I have a web site. I’ve never mentioned it on this blog because I’m not thrilled with it. I put it together myself, and you can tell. It’s bland, but I always figured it did the job I needed it to do. It has writing samples, tells a little about the services I offer and has a link to this here blog—where lots more writing samples are available.

Now, though, I have an agent for a mystery I’ve written, Redneck Tarot. She’s trying to sell it. In order to help her do that, and I really want her to do that, I need a web site that reflects more of my fiction writing, rather than business writing. They are two entirely different animals. And yet, I can’t afford, at this point, to hire a fantastic web designer. Though I’ve found one I really like and drool over her work and wish that she were mine. The things she could do with Redneck Tarot cards.

Anyway, that’s a ways down the road. Meanwhile, I still need the business-like site. But a page with a brief synopsis of the book and some sort of intro that is much less businessy than the freelance pages would be great. I’d also like to post some of the Redneck Tarot cards—I don’t have pictures, but each chapter in the book starts with a description of a card and the divination. For example:

III Outside Women (The Empress)

Picture on the Redneck Tarot card: Three women in raggedy cut-off shorts and bright-colored tube tops. They’ve been generous in their application of makeup and have cigarettes dangling from their clown-red lips. They all have their fingers crooked as if calling you over.

Divination: Outside women are hussies, women a married man sees outside the bonds of matrimony. If this card turns up, you are in for a world of confusion. You’ve got a hankering for things you can’t seem to get, because you can’t put your finger on what it is exactly that you want.

Oh, and I want to do it all without having two sites to maintain.

Here’s the link. Be forewarned, it’s not great. But, maybe I get points for recognizing that and trying to make it better.

Any suggestions left in the comments area would be monumentally appreciated!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dead Aunt Karen or Happy Birthday to me

Today (September 3) is my birthday. It’s not a BIG ONE, though it’s big enough to suit me. We’re not doing anything very exciting—Wednesday birthdays don’t lend themselves to much in the way of going out or partying. Though I already got one present today-- Furry Happy Monsters. Guaranteed to wake you up happy!

But several years ago, when I experienced a BIG ONE, my sweet husband, Chris, threw me a surprise party that achieved its goal. I almost had a heart attack when I walked in the house (my sister, who was in on the whoop-de-do, had taken me out to lunch) to find 40 people dressed in their tropical finest, pina coladas in the blender, exotic eats and a mountain of gifts. It was great fun.

My sister, Susan, who got all the baking genes in the family, made me a cake. She got a “Barbie” from the dollar store, laid her out on the cake and wrapped her in a shroud. Susan said that she’d made the cake the day before and put it in the fridge. She then had to chase my then-three-year-old nephew out of the refrigerator until the party. He kept going in to gaze at the cake, lovingly I'm sure. The first time she asked what he was doing he said, “I’m staring at Dead Aunt Karen.” I was touched.

Following the party he carried Dead Aunt Karen around for weeks, until finally she really died. All of her limbs and even her head fell off, and she wasn’t as much fun anymore.

This year, Jake, the now-nine-year-old nephew, (no, that’s still not enough info for you to figure out how old I am) gets the real thing for my birthday, not the imitation Dead Aunt Karen. Chris and I are taking him to visit my parents this weekend. And while it’s my birthday, Jake has already put in his order for food and activities.

“Those 3-inch round steaks with the bacon around them (Mom made the mistake of fixing our little carnivore filet mignon one time. He’s never forgotten it, though he has trouble remembering the name.); chocolate meringue pie; and barbeque (which for those of you not from the South, means pork).”

After eating, he wants to “go to Moontown and fly in Papa’s plane. And don’t you have a museum here? (They live in Huntsville, Ala.) Let’s go there. And those caves we went to once. I want to go there again. And to the library, not that little one near your house, the big one. And can I get a movie and watch it while I eat my pie? I’ll sit on the floor on a towel so I don’t spill it on the rug. …”

While getting older doesn’t thrill me, I have to say, I’m glad I’m not Dead Aunt Karen. I’d hate to miss the fine food and activities that Mom and Jake have planned for my birthday weekend.

For a birthday party today, visit Rebecca's blog. It’s her birthday too, and she’s celebrating by breaking things. And leave a comment telling me about your favorite birthday memories. That’s all the present I need!