IWSG October 2014, Publicity/Marketing

InsecureWritersSupportGroup.jpgThis month’s posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group will go into an eBook, edited by host Alex J. Cavanaugh and the staff that supports this group. They have my permission to use this post for the eBook which will include contributions from many authors on writing, publicity and marketing, and publishing. I’ll be sharing publicity and marketing tips from Krista Rolfzen Soukup, owner of Blue Cottage Agency, and sharing examples from authors who are using social media very well to promote themselves and their books. The book will be free and available for all eReaders.

 Writing is (n0) Small Business!

DSC_0276Krista Rolfzen Soukup, publicist and owner of Blue Cottage Agency, began her career in the retail business with a degree in marketing. She worked for one of those large chain stores that has a corporate office and satellite stores in malls across the Midwest. She now works with authors who could take a few tips from the retail world. Think of you and your products like a store in a large mall, like Minnesota’s humongous Mall of America. Inside, you have a really fine product. Now, you need some window dressings to draw in the customers. If you have a really great product, but nothing in the window, no one will enter. You can also have a snazzy storefront, but without the quality product, you’ll never get repeat customers. To create a great product, you need to work on your skills, go to workshops, hire editors and graphic designers, and do what you need to be the best writer you can be. Then, set up your corporate office, i.e. your website, which needs to look like a stunning Christmas display. Claim your real estate on the World Wide Web with a website that is accessible and easy to find and navigate. Consider hiring a professional to create your website, someone you can actually talk to. This is a small business investment in yourself and your product. Corey Kretsinger at Midstate Design created Krista’s websites and mine, as well as many author websites. He is accessible, listens to you, and answers your questions as quickly as possible. Have a strong bio that clearly describes who you are and what you do at the beginning and gets into more personal information by the end. Use this bio consistently throughout your media sites, online and off. Have a shorter one for those places that limit your words, and a longer one on your website, corporate headquarters, that lets people know more about you and your product.

Think of your social media pages as satellite stores. The best thing about them is that you don’t have to pay any rent. An author page on Facebook is free, and it is a great way to interact with your customers. Sandra Brannan and Kate DiCamillo both do an excellent job of using their Facebook author pages to promote themselves as authors, their books, and draw people into their community of book lovers. Kate uses hers like a micro blog, and I’ve enjoyed posts where she writes about interacting with kids who love her books and places where she does book signings. Sandra posts information about her books, release dates, signings, and events celebrating her work. She also posts an occasional

Mr. Happy and Mary reading a couple books in the Liv Bergen mystery series by Sandra Brannan. (This photo has gotten a lot of mileage!)

Mr. Happy and Mary reading a couple books in the Liv Bergen mystery series by Sandra Brannan. (This photo has gotten a lot of mileage!)

picture from the gorgeous landscape where she lives in the hills of South Dakota. Last summer, she had a photo contest where she asked her fans to take a picture of themselves with one of her books and post it on twitter or Facebook with the hash tag of her main character and the book title. I participated and won an Amazon gift card. It was fun to set up the shot and a great way for Sandra to get promotion for her books.

If you are new to the enormous offerings of the world wide web, and even if you’ve been active on it, you can easily get overwhelmed. You don’t have to do everything at once, but, as Krista says, “Do something.” Start with a website. Claim your name or your brand on other social media sites, and have a presence. Interact with other writers and readers, and remember, even though what you’re doing is called self-promotion, it isn’t all about you. The most successful bloggers are ones who let you know what’s happening in their writing world AND promote other writers as well. Alex J. Cavanaugh is probably the best example out there. Krista says, “The most valuable tool for a writer is their community of other writers!” Hello, Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

Thank you, Alex, and the team for the IWSG for building such a great supportive network and putting together this book. It will help so many people.

DSC_0444Go. Create. Inspire!

Mary Aalgaard is a playwright, freelance writer and blogger in Central Minnesota where she teaches piano, writing, and drama classes. Her website is  Play off the Page. Go. Create. Inspire!





Wild Rumpus Bookstore in Minneapolis is Wildly Fun!

Quote of the Day:  I think this place has real book worms. Leah, a young patron of Wild Rumpus Bookstore in Minneapolis. 

The moment you enter Wild Rumpus, you understand just how wild it is! We were greeted by a dog and cat. The cat was trying to escape, so a boy picked her up while the girls entered through the little door, and we grown-ups used the big one. The Wild Rumpus has animals in cages, and roaming free, throughout the store. We saw two or three cats, a ferret, a guinea pig, a tarantula, and a couple of Japanese Silky Chicks who20140919_164557 are fairly new to the store. They’re still getting used to the place, so they usually stay in their pen. Heather took them one of them out for a few minutes to introduce us. Her name is Iggy Peck and Heather let the girls pet her. She’ll be wandering around the store pretty soon.

20140919_164541Heather was very helpful in finding books for teenage boys. I was looking for The Maze Runner. My boys have read all of James Dashner’s books in that series, so I recommended it to Krista for her boys. They had some right on the counter where Heather happened to be working. It is coming out in a movie soon, so it has new popularity. I asked her what I could pick up for my boys who have read most of the best series, and some of the classics. She walked me around and filled my arms with some good suggestions from The Three Musketeers (We saw the play together last spring at The Guthrie.) to The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I also bought Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. I’ll probably be the first to read that one. The boys haven’t gotten into Gaiman, yet.

The Wild Rumpus is an exciting bookstore with kind and helpful staff. If you visit, go to the bathroom and turn off the light. They have a surprise in there. They had a special display of Richard Scarry books to go with the opening of Busy Town, the Musical, playing at The Children Theatre.IMG_20140919_160037


Support your local and independent bookstores whenever possible. Ordering online is fine for specific titles (you can also use your favorite bookstores to order), but nothing replaces the face to face contact with staff who also love to read!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Where’s your favorite bookstore? Do you have one that is no longer around? If you could visit the ideal bookstore, what would it look like?

Another great children’s bookstore in St. Paul MN is The Red Balloon. My Canadian/blogger friend Beth Stilborn posted about it today on her blog.

Review of Busy Town at The Children’s Theatre Company

Quote of the Day:  Scarry’s technique allowed him to work pretty loosely with his watercolors, and he’d frequently paint off-register. This gave his illustrations an even more lighthearted quality. ~ Google’s Mike Dutton, quote from the program guide of Busy Town, playing at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, through October 26, 2014. Actor Dean Holt (who plays Lowly Worm and other characters in this production), describes Scarry’s books as “a cross between Where’s Waldo? and I Spy.” The colors and whimsical characters, not to mention the cleverness of a Pickle Car, keep you gazing at the pictures long past your bedtime. My oldest son, Bobby, and I read and read and read Richard Scarry’s Busy World. I started telling him he could pick three countries that we’d visit before saying our prayers and turning out the light and tucking him into bed. Not only does Richard Scarry paint colorful pictures for us, he sparks our imagination, and sneaks in a bit of learning that feels like discovering something new!

Autumn Ness, Meghan Kreidler, Reed Sigmund, Gerald Drake, Dean Holt, Kasono MwanzA  Busy Town photos provided by CTC, photographer Dan Norman

Autumn Ness, Meghan Kreidler, Reed Sigmund, Gerald Drake, Dean Holt, Kasono MwanzA
Busy Town photos provided by CTC, photographer Dan Norman

This production of Busy Town, the Musical was adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling, music and lyrics by Kevin Kling and Michael Koerner, directed by Sean Graney, and choreographed by Tommy Rapley. The music is jazzy and bouncy and causes some definite seat wiggling. I’m still humming Busy town, da-da, da da da, de dum. Busy Town, mm. hmm. Add a little bepoppin’ around the stage and you can’t help tapping at least a toe! You can listen to some of the songs at the Children’s Theatre website. (They include the song “Pickle Car.” If you’re having a traffic moment, dial this one up. It’s bound to make you smile, if not make the other non-pickle cars move faster.) Victor Zupanc is a master musician who is truly part of the production in the pit with his floppy ears hat and subtle interaction with the actors and story.

Pickle Car! Kasono Mwanza,  Reed Sigmund Photo by Dan Norman

Pickle Car! Kasono Mwanza, Reed Sigmund
Photo by Dan Norman

While watching Busy Town, we learned about writing letters, and how important it is to get them to Grandma before the party. We learned that houses have addresses so the letter carriers know where to bring the letter, which has a stamp on it, and a very important invitation. We learned where Birthday cakes come from. (First, you need a Birthday, of course!) They start with seeds that grow in the ground that turn into wheat, and we watched how bread rises and is alive! Most importantly, we learned how a community works together and that each person has a special job.

A Birthday Cake mishap! Time to call on a Baker. Autumn Ness, Reed Sigmund, photo by Dan Norman

A Birthday Cake mishap causes everyone to get very busy! Time to call on a Baker.
Autumn Ness, Reed Sigmund, photo by Dan Norman

Busy Town is appealing to kids from preschool through early elementary school, and for any older audience member who likes happy, bouncy musicals with great jazzy music, choreography, enthusiastic actors, and gorgeous staging. The Children’s Theatre always gives the audience surprises that delight kids young and old! Visit the Children’s Theatre website for tickets and showtimes. Up next at The Children’s Theatre is Seedfolk and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

Go. Create. Inspire! 

Journaling Prompt:  What do you do in your community? Do you live in a Busy Town, too?

International Dinner

Right before we left for a week-long motorcycle ride which included The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Jodi Schwen, editor of The Lake Country Journal, asked if we would write an article about hosting an International Dinner. We sat down and planned a menu that included offerings from several continents. At least one of the courses had us trying something new, and a few other courses reflected our own family heritage. We didn’t have time to host the dinner before the article deadline, so on Saturday night, September 13, 2014, we gathered a few friends to experience the Dining Around the World event.

I don’t want to give away all the details of the article. Our hope is that you pick up a copy of Lake Country Journal to read all about it. What we’re offering now is a bit of an appe-teaser! Of course, The Biker Chef added a few additional ingredients to the evening. When the article comes out (in the November/December issue, I believe), I’ll post more pictures and maybe a few recipes (if the Chef allows it)!



Every event should begin with a toast: to good friends and fine food!

DSC_0410Joy, the dessert specialist, and Nate taking time to relax.


Pat and Holly brought a growler of the local beer from Jackpine Brewery.


Mm, mm, the anticipation is growing.


DSC_0416We started with some traditional appetizers, chips and dip. The Chef whipped up a chip dip, a veggie tray with more dip, a black bean pico and green chili dip. This was a great way to use up the bumper tomato crop that my family shared with us last weekend when they came up for my birthday party. In fact, I told our guests on Saturday night, that I felt like our Dining around the World party was an extension of my birthday celebration. After all, it’s still September, and we get to celebrate all month, right?!

For our bread choices, I made my favorite sour dough bread with oats, wheat and white flour, and Maple syrup. Baking bread is something that links me to my mother who has always been known for her wonderful bread, buns, and cinnamon bread. The Chef surprised us with blueberry cornbread that he makes in the cast iron skillet. It is a real treat. He says it’s really easy, so I’m thinkin’ “Then, let’s have it more often!” I had thought of including cardamon buns, but we had other bread choices, and they are also Joy’s specialty, and she brought the dessert, so we’ll save those for the next event, maybe Thanksgiving.DSC_0440

The best part of all is that we had a group of friends sitting at the table with us all evening, sampling the menu from around the world and sharing their stories. The sensory effects of food, taste and smell, trigger so many memories. People were remembering special meals and moments with grandparents and growing up. The Chef said something like, “Sitting down together and sharing a meal brings people together.” We are so grateful for the people who sat at our table on Saturday night. Mike and Kathy had been over last Sunday to cut up the fallen trees and haul away the large logs. I appreciate that so much. 

We’ll be sharing more from this meal in future posts. We hope that your table is overflowing with delicious food, great conversation, and surrounded by friends and family whom you love.




Review of The White Snake at The Guthrie

Quote of the Day:  from the Chinese fable, The White Snake, on stage now at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
“Seeing is believing,” (says Green Snake) There’s another saying, says White Snake, “Believing is Seeing.”

Many years ago, in the land of China, White Snake and her friend Green Snake went on the transformation journey to find out what it was like to live like a human. They discovered love and shared their medicine. Green Snake, aka Greenie, stayed close by the side of her friend White Snake, aka Bai Suzhen, who married a mortal man. Just as life was becoming beautiful, with a baby on the way, Fa Hai, the evil religious man, tried to break them apart by exposing the truth and turning Bai Suzhen back into The White Snake. This nearly kills her husband Xu Xian, but with the help of forest creatures and special medicine, all is not lost. Still, the path is never straight, and none of us are always what we at first appear to be. The storytelling, costuming, and staging of The White Snake are so beautiful, like unfolding layers of fine, silk fabric, or a Chinese fan.

Tanya Thai McBride (Green Snake) and Amy Kim Waschke (White Snake) in THE WHITE SNAKE written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, based on the classic Chinese fable. Set design by Daniel Ostling, costume design by Mara Blumenfeld, lighting design by T.J. Gerckens, original music and sound design by Andre J. Pluess, and projections by Shawn Sagady. September 9 - October 19, 2014 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Liz Lauren, 2014.

Tanya Thai McBride (Green Snake) and Amy Kim Waschke (White Snake) in THE WHITE SNAKE written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, based on the classic Chinese fable. Set design by Daniel Ostling, costume design by Mara Blumenfeld, lighting design by T.J. Gerckens, original music and sound design by Andre J. Pluess, and projections by Shawn Sagady. September 9 – October 19, 2014 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Liz Lauren, 2014.

I feel like I only saw the first layer of this wonderful story, and maybe got a few glimpses of what lies underneath. I wish I could see it again, like a child who loves to hear the same book every night. This one is a pop-up book with surprises, hidden pictures, and sensory details. This story was surely passed down through oral tradition, with variations, and different emphasis and meaning with each telling. If I were a child listening to it, I would say, “Tell it again, Grandma. I want to hear the part about the snakes. I like Greenie and her sassy spirit, and the way you describe the crossing of the river and the fight scene. And the baby, I always get worried about what will happen with that baby.” 

A young girl was sitting behind us and she seemed very engaged in the story. I heard her whisper, “I like Greenie.” I did, too! In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate bringing children who are upper elementary and older to this performance. It is a beautiful story and a visual feast.

The White Snake is playing at The Guthrie Theater, September 9 – October 19, 2014. Go to their website for tickets and showtimes and to see more production photos and a video clip.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What stories did you like hearing again and again as a child, or even now? Which saying from the Quote of the Day do you think is more accurate?