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Promoting your regional book: It’s all about people to people.

In the last blog, I showed how Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed: Growing Up White in the Segregated South was successfully launched. Now it was time to concentrate on promoting its message of a new view of equality. I had written the book to show my own passage from cultural prejudice to a wider multi-culturalism. Now I had to get both book and message around.

I passed out business cards, book marks and emailed information to libraries, book stores and future events in many cities and states. I shared a flyer done for me by the publisher. Could I go beyond Indiana?  I wanted to do that. The Franklin library hosted Dorothea Benton Frank whose books are set in the area of South Carolina where I grew up. When I approached her, she was very gracious and gave me the name of a bookstore in South Carolina. She then told me to contact the owner and tell him that I had talked with her.  The results sent me south in an RV with my husband and old bulldog.

It seems that the Georgetown South Carolina bookstore, Litchfield Books, has a “moveable feast” each Friday at different restaurants where authors are invited to talk about their books and conclude with signings. The owner invited me to talk at a new restaurant on the first Friday in January. It was exciting to be back in my hometown and talk about the 1940’s and my experience at that time in my book. About 65 people, mostly women, attended and many books were autographed and sold. After the luncheon my husband drove me to the bookstore about 10 miles up the coast near Pawleys Island where I displayed my books. Shortly after I arrived, a reporter from a local radio station came in and conducted a POD cast interviewing me about my life on the coast.

But was anybody in this southern town impressed with the message of cultural change with changing views? When we got back to the hotel I received a phone call from a nurse who had purchased a book after I left. She got my number from the bookstore and was so enthralled at the message that she said she just had to call and talk with me. That was so encouraging.

Earlier I had contacted the Chamber of Commerce in Georgetown about events in the area and was given the name of the president of the Friends of the Library. After several email sessions we set up a time at the library in conjunction with Waterfront Books. I contacted the newspaper, sent them a review of the book, then I called the office personally so they would print the event, “Local Author Comes Home.”

The reception on that Monday afternoon was only about 20 people but was so rewarding. The audience was all white people with the exception of one African American who told me that she cried during the whole speech.  My heart was breaking when she told me that.

My next venture was at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery, Alabama. I had lived in Mobile as a preteen and was anxious about promoting my book there. This is the location of many Civil Rights events and demonstrations and I was very nervous about the attendees.  This book fair had always been a large affair in the past and I was hopeful that the turnout, as well as the weather, would prove to be cooperative. Unfortunately, the city had another large event that same day, even closing the streets for a parade and political talks. The authors who had come for many years were disappointed that the foot traffic at the book fair was not as large as in the years before. Even so, I met so many fantastic people and sold books. I am communicating with a professor and his wife from India who are helping with the promotion of the book in Montgomery. So many people told me stories about their life in segregation days.  One librarian confirmed what I had worried about with her comment, “You are so brave to write about this and so brave to come to Alabama with your book. Thank you.” One man stopped by and “gave me the riot act” saying it (whatever “it’ might be) was not the fault of the whites or the southerners. He went on and on and I became a little concerned so I led him around the corner of the tent where a lecture was being held and left him there.

When I got home I got a message from the counselor from an elementary school whom I had met at the book store in Franklin. She wanted me to speak to the fourth graders at her school. The first group met at lunch in the library where I talked about being an author and how to write. I told them that I would send them a story written just for them. Later I met in the music room with all of the fourth graders. There I talked about Black History Month, MLK, some experiences I had growing up in segregated schools and bullying. I felt that this was such a success that I will now be sending a note to schools asking to put me on their speakers list. I gave a book to each of the teachers and the library hoping they would share it with others.

I wrote a story (they called it a book) naming it “A Day at Webb School.” Of course, the teachers had each child write me a thank you note which I read, smiled, and shed a few tears at some of their responses.

Little as well as large events counted, each bringing a special experience.  I had applied earlier to be at the first Authors Fair at the library in Whiteland, Indiana. There were about 12 of us… authors on railroad, science fiction, gardening, history, stories for children, a 10-year old American Indian author, and me and my memoir. At each library event I become more and more appreciative of what librarians do.

Not everything worked well. My latest event was at a bookstore in Columbus, IN. The assistant took me to the back of the store in a little tiny room with one 3X3 table that I shared with another author who wrote about car racing. His wife reluctantly removed some of their books and shuffled off to the side of the room. The owner quickly posted a sign on the back door about our books then left. It was a very slow morning but I did get to talk with a lady in a wheelchair who had lived in SC. Shortly, relatives of the other author’s came in and took over the miniature room with loud talking and shouting. It was then I knew that this was not to be a good day for me to pass the message of my book. Yet  I still laugh about this and learned a lesson:  authors need to help each other and be considerate. And authors do have the right to ask for a noticeable place in a bookstore!

I am optimistic about other events I have set up through the month of December. Right now I am staying out of the heat with my time with my husband, old bull dog and old cat. It’s nice to sit back with a glass of lemonade and let time fly by. Fall will bring more events.

 

Lou Ellen Watts’s book Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed: Growing Up White in the Segregated South can be obtained by clicking back to the Hawthorne website.

Posted in Book Publishing, Winds of Change, Writing Non Fiction |

An Indiana book release: The Author hits the pavement and sits to sell

Lou Ellen Watts’ adventures promoting her book Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed: Growing Up White in the Segregated South
Released October 2018.
Part 1 – October –December

My book, Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed: Growing Up White in the Segregated South, had a successful launch at the Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin, Indiana last October. That was just the beginning. It was time to promote my message.

The very first place that I signed up for was at a very small Christian bookstore. I thought that this would be a good place for my initial talk. Everyone was very helpful and thoughtful but the traffic was not great. It was “good practice.”

National Small Business Night has always been very popular across the country, so I contacted the bookstore in my hometown. It is a small store and the owner put me in a corner at a small table next to the door. There was very little room to display posters or other items, but I was determined to make a good appearance. About 3:00 people started pouring in…people with children, older people, college people, single people, and groups of people. So, many people stopped to ask about the book and some eventually bought one.  It was exciting to discuss the news events of the day that connected to my view of equality expressed in the book.

I was invited to participate in a Holiday Shopping event at the fair ground in Columbus, IN. Since the president of one of my writing groups organized it, I wanted to attend. I had been told to “think outside the box” and sell at Farmers Markets and craft shows, so my husband and I lugged books and other things to go over the black table cloth into one of the closed barns. There were about 6 authors there and maybe 20 crafters. My table was set up next to one which displayed homemade jewelry. CBD oil was set up in a table in back of me and on the other side of me was a lady selling homemade cookies. Since I am a very outgoing person I wandered around during slack time and talked with other authors. Some were very friendly but some were close -mouthed. I have been uncertain how Hoosiers would react to the book about my story of emerging into tolerance. Most of the buyers were more interested in the crafts rather than books, but several people were fascinated by my book. One lady bought 3 and wanted to know if the book was on Amazon. It wasn’t a very successful day in selling but I ate a lot of good homemade cookies, bought a gaudy bead necklace, and learned how CBD oil would be good for my bulldog.

One of the organizations that I belong to is the Daughters of the American Revolution. I was on the program at the DAR to give a talk about the book at the November meeting. The program chairman arranged for me to speak at the local library and invite the public. I arrived at 1:00 and found the room was not set up so my husband and I moved the chairs in an orderly way and looked for a podium to stand behind. There was none. At 1:30 12 members of my organization and one guest were seated and ready for my talk. Since I knew all of members, I decided to have all of them gather around in a semi-circle. This informal setting was most beneficial in that most of the audience felt connected and discussed the meaning of the book: how I learned to be more broad-minded about race and ethnicity, based on my own personal childhood. Everyone purchased a book and the one guest took my card and wanted to know if I would speak at a large Johnson County event the following year in September. I deemed the outcome of this meeting as successful.

I have been a member of Central Indiana Writers Association for many years and attend most of its meetings and events. Each year the group helps host an event at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. This year our program chairman was not able to sit at a table at the event and needed a volunteer to take her place. Of course, I volunteered. The other member and I set up a table with brochures and flyers advertising our organization. We also put out books by authors of the writers group, including mine. It was nice that the table was at the door, where people would stop and ask for directions. When they did that,  we pointed out the brochures and books and I handed out my business cards and bookmarks and discussed my book. Several ladies gave me their cards and wanted to know if I would be interested in speaking to their organization. One never knows how things really do work out. And the word about the book was getting around and a good many had been sold.

Probably most important were conversations about how we as people learn attitudes on race: my own growing-up in three states, automatically picking up Jim Crow racial attitudes and stereotypes and being jolted out of my feather bed shell into new perspectives, became the taking-off point for conversations.

 

More to come….

Lou Ellen Watts’ book is available from Hawthorne. Click back to purchase it.

Posted in Winds of Change |

Sandy Allen honored at Shelbyville High School Alumni Hall of Fame

By the author of our Hawthorne book World’s Tallest Woman: The Giantess of Shelbyville High, Rita Rose.

Sandy Allen, of Shelbyville, Indiana, was the World’s Tallest Woman from 1976 to 2008, when she passed away in a Shelbyville nursing home. My book about Sandy’s high school years, World’s Tallest Woman: The Giantess of Shelbyville High, came out just two months after she died.

Sandy Allen

In the last 10 years the Shelbyville powers that be, as well as friends and relatives of Sandy’s, have talked about ways to honor the woman who put their town on the map. There has been talk about a life-size statue, although that hasn’t come about. But she did receive an honor recently and I was there to take part.

Sandy’s sister Darlene

On May 2, 2019, Sandy was inducted into the Shelbyville High School Alumni Hall of Fame from the class of 1973. She was honored along with Jean Ann Dellekamp Wheeler, class of ‘64, and Dr. William Inlow, class of 1909. I accepted the plaque on behalf of Sandy’s sister in Florida, Emma Darlene, who was very close to Sandy. The plaque was shipped to her. The same plaque appears on the Hall of Fame wall. Sandy’s brother, Marty Brown, said a few words at the event.

Here’s an excerpt from my speech: “If Sandy were here tonight to accept this award, she would probably say she didn’t deserve it. That’s part of who she was, humble and self-effacing. But she DOES deserve it. Sandy grew up with a lot of physical and emotional challenges. She managed to overcome a lot of adversity as a child, and as a student at this high school, to become the kind, generous, funny and inspirational person that she was. I am accepting this award on behalf of Sandy’s sister, Emma Darlene, with whom she was very close. Darlene can’t be here because she lives in Florida, but she sends her thanks for honoring her big sister. (Yes, that was a pun.) To Sandy’s friends and relatives who still live in Shelbyville, I hope you are proud of her accomplishments and what she gave back to the community, as a person and as the World’s Tallest Woman.”

Rita with Sandy’s brother
Marty Brown

The plaque hangs in the entryway of the school along with those who were honored before her.

For a copy of World’s Tallest Woman: The Giantess of Shelbyville High, please contact Hawthorne Publishing or you can email me at Snowbird11@aol.com for a signed copy.

 

Posted in Cultural History, Indiana History, World's Tallest Woman |

DORIS DAY LIVES ON IN OUR HEARTS…from Mary Anne Barothy

It just doesn’t seem real.  Yesterday morning I received a call from my dear friend Joy in Virginia who was crying over the phone.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  Her tearful words were “Someone just posted that Doris died.”  I was stunned, shocked and in disbelief.   I immediately rushed to my computer to look it up and there on most news outlets were the devastating words “Doris Day Dead.”

We both wondered, what happened?  She seemed pretty well for her recent 97th  birthday celebration in Carmel, California.  Doris appeared on her balcony and spoke briefly to the crowd of well-wishers below on the golf green.  From the reports we have since learned she died early this morning, May 13th, of complications of pneumonia.

Needless to say, my e-mail and phone text messages have been flooded with notes from friends who know how much Doris has meant to me since I was 9 years old.  Doris was my idol and I treasure ALL the precious times I spent with her.

One friend commented, “I know you two were very close, but as you said she is in heaven now.  She did make heaven on earth for fans, like me, of her movies.”

Little did I think when I discovered the Doris Day Fan Club headquartered in London, England, when I was a young teen, that several years later, I would have the awesome opportunity to meet Doris on my third trip to Los Angles.  Better yet, I was destined to get to know her up close and personal.  Thanks to mutual friends and through a series of incredible events, Doris invited me to work for her when she was filming THE DORIS DAY SHOW at CBS, and eventually live with her, in her home.  Talk about a dream come true!

Today, as I myself am 75, Doris Day is still very much a part of my life.  She always inspired me to stay POSITIVE, to see the bright side of things and to do my best in whatever I chose to do.  I will forever be grateful to DORIS DAY.

I would like to close with some of what Bryan James, head of the Doris Day Forum in London just wrote about our dear Doris….”Yes, Goodbye dear Doris, your memory and legacy will live on. Thank you for all the joy you brought us.  Goodbye to a wonderful woman, the world seems a smaller place without her. But she had a long and mostly happy life, she was loved and admired by millions. She had the gift of being able to cope with loss and unhappiness without becoming bitter and was able – and ready and willing—to care for others—not forgetting the animals— even when things weren’t going well for her.

“Someone was just asked on TV, “Which of today’s stars would you say was most like her?” To which the reply came, “I’m sorry but I don’t think anyone today is like her. She could sing, dance, act, play comedy, drama and break your heart in some of her films and songs. There’s no one like that today.” How true.

Goodbye for now, dearest Doris….until we meet again….

Mary Anne is the author of Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond available by a click-back from our website.

Posted in Doris Day |