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Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

 

It never ceases to surprise me that, as I continue to build my writing career, I’m also exploring new avenues of communication with others. Of course I’m hoping I reach readers through my books, and some are very generous by posting reviews on websites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. This is incredibly important on many levels, but on a personal one, it means they think I’m doing something right with my writing, or they share how they felt about the characters I’ve created. There is no higher reward for a writer!

 

But then there’s this blog, and it’s helping me communicate with others on a whole different level. It lets me share my thoughts on many subjects, and again, sometimes hear back from others. But I’m continually looking to expand my reach and stretch my comfort zones, which is why in addition to book tours/signings, I’ve branched out into the public speaking arena. Although my stomach still gets tied up into knots before every appearance, I know this is a good thing. Once I get started, I’m fine and I relax. I actually even enjoy the experience, because not only do I give a talk for a specific period of time on a topic pertinent to the attendees, I do a question and answer session. This allows the audience to ask me questions, and often, I ask them questions. This exchange is really important to me, and I hope, to them. The take-aways are huge for me, and gives me a chance to connect with others outside my computer and the net, on a personal level. I can watch their faces and see their reactions to my words immediately. Likewise, they glean a little more information about me, my work, how I think about certain subjects, and can see and hear me talk as well. To me, public speaking is the ultimate vehicle for connection, and I’m very present in the moment. It isn’t about what I have to say, so much as it’s about what they hear and take away from the exchange. Public speaking isn’t about the speaker; it’s about the audience, and giving them something of value they can use in their own lives.

 

Retreat Presentation

Retreat Presentation

This past Sunday I spoke for an hour to a group of female teachers who were attending a women’s retreat. As I spoke, I was watching their faces, their postures, and their body language. At several points I knew I’d touched a nerve with some of the attendees. When they dabbed at their eyes in response to a portion of my talk where I revealed some of the really difficult years I’d struggled with as a single parent living on Family Assistance while raising two children, I knew they were really listening. Those were dark days for me, but they were also days of re-connecting with my family in amazing ways. Clearly, something in my words touched some of these women, and it was evident on their faces and by the tears they shed. I have no idea why this resonated with them, because everyone has their own story and internalizes information in their own way, but I was glad to see they felt something, not just heard my words.

 

At other times they laughed at a comment I made, and again, this was gratifying for me to hear. I felt I was hitting my mark with my talk. Then I did something I’ve never implemented before. I had left a one page feedback sheet on each chair, and requested the attendees take a couple of moments to comment on my presentation. While I was busy signing books, my husband was in charge of dealing with the money exchange and accepting the returned feedback sheets. Because I was focused on the book signing and chatting up the ladies who’d approached me, I wasn’t paying any attention to how many were actually returning the sheets. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I asked my husband about them. I thought we’d received maybe one or two returns, but he assured me we had received many more. He’d put my book bag in the back seat of the car, so I couldn’t access the pages until we got home, and I was thrilled to discover we’d received ten responses out of sixteen attendees! That’s an excellent return quota.

 

As I read through those pages, I was overwhelmed by some of the comments these ladies generously supplied. Comments like, “Your ability to overcome what you felt were obstacles and/or failures in life was inspiring”, or “Yes! I’m at that moment (just before 50) and realise that its time to look forward…”,and “Debbie’s life story of her struggles and successes has truly motivated and inspired me to persevere in some areas of my life that I have been hesitant to start due to fear of failure”, resonate and touch me deeply.

 

We Are All Teachers

We Are All Teachers

As I mentioned during my talk to these ladies, we never know whose life we touch in a positive way when we reach out beyond ourselves. By being vulnerable to and with other people, we allow them to see that we all share similarities. We are all afraid of the new and untried. We all have failures and fears. When we share of ourselves, our stories, successes, and failures, we connect in ways we hadn’t always anticipated. It sounds trite, but I honestly feel that if even one woman present last Sunday was motivated to take on a new challenge, or overcome an old one, then I’ve done more than just stand up and talk. I’d like to hope I made them think and feel. Much as I love sharing my work, and of course, selling my books, it doesn’t move me the way connecting with others does. I’m discovering that both men and women have a need to be reassured that failure, perseverance, and ultimately, success, is and can be part every human experience. We are all teachers.

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider leaving a comment here, and sharing with your circles on social networks. Thank you! Debbie

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merry go roundI’m a huge believer in “what goes around, comes around”. This holds true for me in my personal life and in business. Of course I expect to be paid for my work, but I don’t always expect something in return for small things I do for others. For me, this is more an acknowledgement that the universe (or God, or Fate, what have you) is set up this way. I truly believe you get out of life what you are willing to put into it. I also know that human nature is generally one of selfishness. We have to put food on the table, a roof over our heads, and pay our bills, but when we step outside ourselves and do something to help another person, purely because we can, then we benefit as well. This benefit most definitely may not be monetary, but it makes us feel better about ourselves, our own lives, and our capacity of effect change for other people.

 

As much as I admire huge accomplishments, like those performed by such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, the Gates family, and other proponents of social change, I’m equally as impressed by the small, individual acts of kindness and assistance we can all perform in our every day lives.

 

As writers, we reach out with our words to audiences we may never meet. We extend ourselves to hopefully touch the lives of our readers in some manner. It may be for pure entertainment that readers read our stories, articles or blogs, but even that small touch point means something. If we are successful and have done our jobs correctly, each reader takes something personal away from our work. The interpretations of our words and stories are as varied as the people who read them, but that’s the beauty of it. It is completely and utterly subjective.

 

How can I helpThat’s all very well and good, but how can we really pay it forward? How can we go beyond our work, our lives, and ourselves to help others? It’s really so easy. Whenever a writer shares information with another writer via social networking groups or blogs, or stops in their busy day to answer a question posed on one of these forums, we can help other writers. When we attend a book signing, reading, or seminar we’re giving, we help when we answer questions of attendees. The questions may not seem particularly earth-shattering, but to the person posing the question, it’s important. If we take the time to answer the questions thoughtfully and honestly, we may be helping not only the questioner, but others in the audience who were too timid to ask.

 

I’ve always been a questioner. I listen to what’s being said, then I want to know how, where, why, when?  That’s how I build my own conclusions. I’m not always right, and I don’t profess to know and understand all the nuances of any particular subject, but I ask. As a writer, I also read. I read industry related articles in on-line magazines like Forbes and Writer’s Digest. I read other writer’s blogs for the information they have to share, such as Bestseller Labs, and Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes. When I’m front and center and asked a question, I do my best to be honest and forthright, and if I don’t know an answer, I admit it. No shame in that, even in a public appearance where we’re supposed to be the “experts”.

Paying it forward can be as easy as forwarding an email you know would be of interest to others in your circle. Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter have become the ultimate sharing sites, but there are literally tons of others. I share everything from inspirational quotes that might brighten someone’s day, to articles I’ve discovered from another writer or journalist that I think would benefit someone else.

 

What does this gain me for my work, my books? Maybe nothing, but perhaps just one person will be interested enough to look a little further and see what else I have to say, or share. Maybe they’ll Google my name and see that I’ve written a book, or have a blog and website, and check it out. Maybe they won’t be interested, but forward the information along to someone else who might. The truth is, I’ll never know, and I’m good with that. I don’t need to know what’s in it for me every time I do something. There are enough people like that out there, scrabbling in business to make a sale, to undercut the competition, to lure the customer in. It isn’t that I’m above all that, I was in sales for over ten years, so I know how hard it is to earn every dollar. I’m also far from independently wealthy. In fact, my husband and I are pretty monetarily strapped right now, trying to live on his small pension since being downsized out of a huge corporate company after thirty years service (that’s another discussion altogether). We have to watch every penny that comes in and goes out, but I can still do small things that don’t cost me anything but my time.

 Book writingAs writers, we often feel pressured to “produce”. We’re always working on the current WIP, the next project, marketing, promotion, personal appearances, etc. So who has the time to help someone else? Heck, we may be struggling to figure it all out ourselves. I know I am. That’s exactly when it’s important to share what information we have and come across. It doesn’t take a great deal more time to share a timely article you’ve read with followers on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. As writers, we also know how important ratings and reviews of our work are, so if you’re reading something, take a few moments to post a review and rating! You know how thrilled the other writer will be to hear your comments, and what it means to algorithms (if you don’t you need to learn about this too, then share your findings).

 

In fact, there are so many ways we can “pay it forward” as writers. Don’t worry about what’s in it for you, just get out there and do it. You may be surprised where it leads down the road.

We're off to see the Wizard...

We’re off to see the Wizard…

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