Category Archives: Marketing

Making Wishes

Yesterday I was working on a REALLY long, intense, detailed job application for a position at an organization that I deeply respect and would love to support.

The position had my name all over it. It was perfect. I’ve been wanting to work with or for this organization for a couple of years now and seeing the job posting made me think, “This is it. This is the moment.”

But… I’d been working on putting my application packet together for two days and I wasn’t any closer to finishing it. I was frustrated and annoyed and kept finding ways to procrastinate actually doing the work. And the worst part was, I wasn’t even procrastinating in productive ways. My overabundant garden delivered another 5 quarts of cucumbers, gallon of yellow squash, bushel of onions, trough of beets, bucket of hot peppers and a few boats worth of Zucchini. Not to mention the tomatoes, the apples, the beans, the cabbage, the edible wildflowers…

But I wasn’t processing any of that for storage, I was dinking around on facebook and twitter. I wasn’t finishing any of the 5 promised posts that are currently waiting to go up in this space. I was just moping and delaying and feeling guilty about it. I was spiraling and I couldn’t figure out why.

I called my mom. (Yes, even 35-year-olds sometimes need to call their mom and kvetch.) She gave me the “Honey, the universe is on your side, you just have to decide what you want from it.” speech – which, okay great, but how does that help me NOW? (Yes, I was feeling petulant.)

So, I cornered my hubby (Sorry hubby.) and vented (exploded) at him.

I listed all of the things I felt like I needed to be doing and all of the things I wanted to be doing and asked how in the world I was supposed to make any of it happen.

I lamented the amount of time this application was taking, because I had OTHER SHIT I needed/wanted to do with my time. (Which was why I was on facebook and twitter instead of busting out the application… Can you say “self-sabotage”?)

We talked about what I REALLY wanted and, finally lightning struck.

I wasn’t finishing the application because… I didn’t want the job.

Yes, it’s a great organization, and yes, I want to support them, but when I picture my life 5 years from now, I am not hustling money from behind a desk – I am dancing in a kitchen and sharing awesome food with incredible people. (Incredible food with awesome people?) and getting paid to read (edit) and write books.

So…

To the point of this post, now that you all have the back story.

I’d like to make a couple of wishes, and I’m asking out loud because maybe some of you can help me make them come true.

I wish that sometime in the next three months I’d get hired to cook a fabulous brunch feast for a group of wonderful people who enjoy good food.

I wish that I’d get hired at least once a month to create custom, exotic regional and international feasts for small groups of travel minded people who are missing a taste of their favorite place. (Or homesick transplants who are missing the flavor of home.)

I wish that I would finish designing and printing my jam labels so they look professional and gorgeous when I sell them to my Colorado folk. (I still need to check into the legality of selling them across state lines because they are made in my home kitchen for now.)

Jams and jellies by Kitchen Bravada

Stay tuned, more flavors are on the way!

I wish that I would give myself the time and space to get back to food blogging once a week, or at least once a month for goodness sake. (Hey, maybe if some of you follow me over there it’ll help encourage that!)

I wish that sometime in the next 6 months one of my out-of-state friends would hire me to cook for one of their events. (Hint, the cooking is free if you cover the airfare and let me crash on your couch while I’m there!)

I wish that one year from now I have enough die-hard clients and supportive friends that when I announce my kickstarter to get either a food truck or a commercial kitchen to expand my offerings it succeeds.

I wish to get hired by some new to home gardening urbanites to help them process and store their harvest bounty before the snows come.

And next year, I hope to get hired to consult some urban gardeners as they get started so that I can keep them from making the same mistakes I’ve made.

In the meantime, I wish to have enough editing clients to keep me in books. 🙂

In short, I wish to make enough money doing what I love and sharing it with the world that I can keep doing what I love and sharing it with the world.

(And for the record, I wish the same for all of you.)

Last, I wish that anyone who thinks that youth deserve access to comprehensive, inclusive, evidence based sexual health education please stop by Colorado Youth Matter and donate what you can. They’re a great organization and they work really hard to help the youth of Colorado get this vital need met, and since I won’t be working for them after all, this ask is the least I can do.

And now, I’m heading back to the kitchen, using Feminist Frequency as my soundtrack.

I’ve got a whole heap of summer veggies to store for the winter.

harvest time

One Week’s Harvest.
Help!

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Filed under Business, Marketing, Naive idealism, Things that work

A quick idea for the fiction writers out there

I’ve got rants brewing.

In the meantime, I am still trying to practice peace & positivity and in that light I wanted to share an idea I had a couple of years ago because… I think it’s a good one and could help writers get paid for their work, as we should.

This idea is really for the fiction writers out there, though I supposed it could be adapted to other artistic mediums.

The basis for the idea comes from Hollywood movie funding.

See, when you watch any movie you’re really paying to watch a 2 hour advertisement. The producers of the movie sell product placement, tweak scripts to get characters to name drop brands, eat certain foods, wear certain clothes, drive certain cars, etc. and those marketing dollars help seed the production budget for the film.

I think it is time for fiction writers to start doing something similar.

I know, many of us already have enough work to do just getting the book written, and finding an agent or publisher – or doing all the layout, design, etc. ourselves and self-publishing. And then we have to market the thing, and create a fan base on social media to interact with and…

It just seems like we should be getting paid for all that work.

Product placement could be the answer.

I know it won’t work for every book, or every story, or every genre every time – but…

I can’t stop thinking about a certain drinking partner of mine with a writing problem. He’s published, he sells well, his character drinks. He could totally sell product placement rights and have his character drink a specific tequila or whiskey.

Do you care if I get paid to tell you what brand of tequila this is?

Do you care if I get paid to tell you what brand this tequila is?

I keep thinking about my novel, freshly dusted off, and some of the places where I don’t care what brand of car, gun, etc. is used, and I’d be happy to fill in the blank mad-lib style if someone cared enough to bribe me with money.

There’s a part of my artist’s heart that thinks this is corrupt and terrible – but then I think about how little our culture tends to value artists, and I think about how capitalism works, and I think about wanting to feed my family from my art – and… So I have my character drive a Chevy instead of a Toyota, or smoke one brand of cloves instead of another, or get sick on Mad Dog instead of Mike’s Hard Lemonade the first time she gets drunk…

As for working the deals – for those with agents, perhaps this is something agents would like to offer their clients, after all, agents take a percentage of profits, so that would be in their best interests, clearly.

For the un-agented authors out there, yes, it’s more work. And I don’t even know if it’s possible to get this type of sponsorship until you’re published, but who knows – maybe some local businesses would like to see their names immortalized.

I have another writer friend who publishes locally based novels, I could totally see him selling word count to some local hot spots to drive traffic.

My daughters and I are in LOVE with F.T. Bradley’s Double Vision series and want to take Double Vision Paris and Washington DC tours. We’ve been begging the author to get her publisher to create some Link Baker tourism maps of those towns for fans. I think the publisher could probably get them paid for by the places they will highlight. They will drive real traffic, and thus real dollars.

Anyway, that’s my positive action thought of the day for writers and artists.

Do with it as you please.

And readers – chime in, would it cheapen a book if you knew the author had been paid to include specific products in place of generic items?

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Filed under Marketing, Things that work

Fear, Damn Fear. Thanks. And an Announcement

I know that to those of you who read this blog on the regular will probably call bullshit on this next statement – but… That doesn’t make it any less true.

I play my cards pretty close to the chest.

Despite my “Live Large! Live Life Out Loud!” chest thumping, saber-rattling, and ROARs to the contrary – I’ve been keeping a really important piece of myself buried and hidden and “protected” for… longer than I care to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, I live life pretty large, and I’m pretty damn true to myself. But there are a few places, the most dear places, that I’ve let fear win.

There are certain passions I’ve had, certain dreams – the ones that meant the very most to me, the ones I hold closest, that I’ve been afraid to live out loud.

There are lots of reasons for this. And I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one.

So – in an effort to reach out to anyone else who is on the path that I’m stepping off, I want to take just a moment to talk about some of MY whys.

I hid these loves, these passions, these things that make me tearful happy because…

fear is a liar

I was afraid that they weren’t worthy things. I was afraid that if I shared them out loud I would be told that my dreams weren’t good enough for me – that I needed to reach higher, stretch further. That anything that was this easy and brought me this much joy couldn’t be the thing I did, because we’re supposed to WORK for it, struggle for it, suffer for it.

I was afraid that if I took something that brought me so much joy and turned it into a JOB, it would kill the joy and take away the deep down, soul quenching fulfillment that I got from it.

I was afraid that if I tried… I might fail and that would CRUSH me. Because… If you fail at your biggest, deepest, truest dream… Well, what’s left? Just sorrow and regret and pain, right?

Well fuck all of that.

So – some thanks to the people who have helped me get past that load of fears.

Erika Napoletano aka RedHead Writing, who WAY back in July wrote a post where she admitted that she too had allowed herself to get stuck in a rut that was leading her away from what she loved, and announcing her intention of getting out of that rut and back to the things that filled her soul. That post woke up something inside me and sent me searching deep inside myself for my greatest truths. They were well hidden. It took a while.

Along the way, I got additional encouragement from Amanda Fucking Palmer, who also lives her life out loud. The ups, the downs, the dreams, the attempts and failures, the getting back up and dusting yourself off and trying again. And again. And who recently said something along the lines of “If I’d waited until it was perfect, I never would have done it.” She was talking about a poem she had written that she’d gotten a ton of shit for, death threats even. She felt it, wrote it, hit publish on her blog and BOOM! HATE!! But also LOVE. And it made me realize that so many of us spend so much time waiting for the right moment – to have kids, to ask for a raise or a promotion, to quit our soul sucking job and do the thing we REALLY love, to propose, to take a bike ride, to… Do the things that make us happy. We wait. How stupid is that?

Why are we waiting to be happy?

happiness

Happy Making

Neil Gaiman – who aside from being THAT Neil Gaiman is also Amanda’s husband. Who told us all exactly how to live life, and in my opinion, nailed it. “Make Good Art.

A guy named Blake Morgan who argued with a teacher on career day when she cautioned students interested in becoming artists that they better have a Plan B. in case art didn’t pan out. He told the students, “Unfortunately, in one way or another the world is going to tell you every day that you shouldn’t try to be an artist. But for three minutes here today, I want to tell you that you should. I hope you do it. With everything you have. I hope you don’t listen to those other voices. I hope instead you listen to your own. That voice from inside you that guided you here today. I hope you go for it, with abandon and furious joy, and that you do so without a Plan B.” As he said, we don’t tell engineers or accountants or doctors to have a plan B, we tell them to bust their asses and do what it takes and expect success in exchange for their effort.

So – those are the strangers who helped me reclaim myself.

But… I also owe thanks to a few of you. First – Juan, who won a jar of my Cherry Jalapeno Jam forever ago and sent me an email telling me I should go commercial and sell it next to the ice cream! And who helped shine a light on the buried dream waiting to be rediscovered. (Please click on his name and check out his blog. He has some deep thoughts going on over there.)

Sweet spicy jam

Cherry Jalapeno Jam

My friend Meagan, who I consider to be one of my dearest friends even though we have never met in person. She is a fount of encouragement and connectedness and awesome. And who I hope to have the chance to host soon.

Melissa Fabello, who caught my eye as a remarkably astute feminist speaker and writer, and then made the happy mistake of asking twitter if any home jam makers out there felt like sending her a jar. (Or three, and counting…) And who always celebrates when she gets a new flavor and tells me the ways she’s enjoying it. (Pineapple lime marmalade in a stir fry!)

My husband, who has supported me through so many dreams, so many false starts, and who, when I asked him about this said, “Of course!” as in, “DUH! What took you so long!” but with ALL the LOVE. And who has been tirelessly supporting and encouraging me ever since and making sure that I make at least a little progress every day. (He also helps beat back the fear demons when they threaten to swallow me up and paralyze me.)

My awesome, amazing friends and family who echoed my husband when I told them the new plan.

My kids who know the way to my heart is to tell me you like my food, and ask for seconds – and who have been doing so enthusiastically for many years now, and who ask at least once a week when I’m going to start a restaurant. (And who fill me to bursting by requesting home-made sushi dinner and Ethiopian feasts for their birthdays!)

sushi dinner

Sushi Night at our house

All of the people who have made special food requests, who take me up on my twitter invites to dinner, who tell me that they visit from out of state just for my food (and the kids are cute too) – The people who have known all along that making wonderful, exotic, fun, flavorful food and sharing it is my One True Thing and who have been waiting *mostly* patiently for ME to figure it out.

And now… The big announcement.

While I am not (yet) starting a restaurant, I am taking the first step in that direction with my new business.

Kitchen Bravada – a personal chef service. “Bringing a taste of the world to your table.”

kitchen bravada

An invitation to share my passion with you.

The website is up in a preliminary form – but as Amanda said, if I wait until it is perfect to launch, I will never launch. And I am tired of waiting to follow my dream. I am tired of living Plan B.

I will still be keeping my ranty pants on here – talking politics and books and feminism and social justice and editing, because those are big important parts of me too – but I’ll be also be playing over at Kitchen Bravada. (Where I hope to get that blog updated more regularly now that I’m launched!)

I have also done my research and discovered that I can sell my jams and jellies in Colorado under the Cottage Foods Act, so I am looking into scaling up my production this spring and summer and offering those to Colorado clients along with my cooking services. In the meantime, I am experimenting with new flavors and testing them on anyone who will let me.

So – if you’re in Colorado* and need a personal chef for a special event or party, or you thought you needed a caterer, but want something more personal and custom – Look me up.

If you hear of someone who might need my services, please pass on my name and website.

And, if you know me and have enjoyed my cooking in the past and want to send over a testimonial – well, I already love you if I’ve fed you, but I’ll love you even more (if that’s possible)!

*If you’re not in Colorado, but you want to pay for me to travel to you to cook… Well, let’s just say I find it very hard to turn down plane tickets…

Here’s to a great 2014 – to slaying fear – and to REALLY, TRULY living our dreams out loud! May you all find the courage, strength and support to say YES to your happiness!

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Filed under Business, Marketing, Naive idealism, Things that work

Calling All My Scattered Pieces Home

A couple of people have recently made comments that cut to the bone, in the way that only truth can.

As I was telling them about my new career path, in the hopes of garnering their support, they instead made comments to the effect of, “Let’s be honest, this is just what you want to be this week.”

In one instance there was still an underlying support and enthusiasm – not for my choice of career, but for me. There was a “This is why we love you, you’re always moving.”

In the other instance, it felt like a way to dismiss me, to write me off. “Why get excited, you’ll just change your mind/career/life in a couple weeks anyway.”

It hurt.

It wasn’t just dismissive of my career choice, it was also dismissive of me.

In that second instance, there was an implication that the way I was living was wrong. That my choice to not stay in a career after it stopped being what I thought it would be, or after I had gotten out of it what I was looking for – my choice to keep moving, somehow made me unworthy of this person’s time, consideration or approval.

In their eyes I was a failure, and it was time for some tough love.

For the record – yes – I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last 34ish years.

I subscribe to the “Fail Fast” method of learning and life.

I’ve never been on a straight or narrow path.

I believe dearly in the Buddhist idea of impermanence, in the idea that the person who woke up on my side of the bed this morning is not the same person who fell asleep there last night, nor the same person who will put her head down on that pillow tonight.

We are always growing, changing, metamorphosing… We are, each day, becoming.

Which is not to say that we wake up each day as a fresh, blank slate.

No, we get the benefit of our experiences, our lessons, our accumulated knowledge and wisdom. Each day is a chance to improve in some way on what came before, to tweak the formula, to shake out the cobwebs, to avoid a familiar obstacle.

Each day takes us closer to living a life that makes our hearts sing. (Well, let’s be honest, not EVERY day – some days blow us completely the opposite direction, but we learn from those too.)

A while ago I was talking with a friend about the difference between geeks and hipsters and saying that geeks emote.

We're all geeks here

We’re all geeks here

His response was that I must be the biggest geek in the universe because I emote about EVERYTHING.

This has been a lifelong “problem” of mine.

I remember as a child being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up – every day I had a new answer, because every day I learned something new – about the world, about myself, about the possibilities that existed.

I was so envious of people who KNEW, who gave the same answer every time. I watched them chart their courses with certainty and conviction, lining up the steps they needed to take to reach their goals and checking them off one by one.

When I was about 10 I broke down in tears. I told my parents that I was scared to grow up because I didn’t have a passion. I didn’t KNOW what I wanted to be.

They laughed, hugged me, and said, “Baby, that’s not true at all. If anything you have TOO MUCH passion.”

The trick seemed to be finding a way to channel all that passion into just one thing.

I was just on the phone with my husband, who understands me better than I understand myself some days. He reminded me that that may be the American Ideal, but it’s not the only way to succeed.

Go to school, get a degree in a field, work in that field for 40+ years, retire.

Do one thing. Keep doing it. Get old. Quit. And then, start enjoying the life you “earned”.

“That’s not you.” He said.

He reminded me that I’m a firestarter, a rabble-rouser, a ranty pants. Those are my strengths, my super powers.

My zen rests in motion.

I’m less City Slickers “Find your one thing”

and more Better Off Dead “Go that way, real fast. When something gets in your way, turn.”.

So, yes, my path is windy – and bumpy – and it has switch backs and U-turns and dead ends and the occasional long stretch of open highway. But even that twists and winds along a cliff edge.

Love me for it, leave me for it – it’s my life, it’s who I am.

Right now, I’m trying to look both forward to what I want, and backward at what I’ve already achieved. I’m trying to pull all the scattered pieces together to see what I’m working with, and how I can use it to get what I’m working for.

In a recent conversation with my mom, I gushed, “Mom, I growing up, I just had no idea some of the things I could do and be when I grew up! I was so limited in my world view. I didn’t know I could make a living talking about sex…”

See, I came of age just as Abstinence Only sex-education was taking over the airwaves. The only way to make a living talking about sex was to demonize it and make people feel uncomfortable and ashamed of a perfectly natural part of their lives.

That wasn’t me – I wanted the opposite.

I wanted everyone to be knowledgeable and feel comfortable with themselves. I wanted everyone to be able to communicate with their partners and find enjoyment together.

I wanted people to know that sex doesn’t equal love, and love doesn’t have to include sex, but that sex can be a wonderful part of love.

I wanted people to know that it’s supposed to feel good, and it if doesn’t its time to pull back and talk about it and change it up until it does feel good. I wanted people to know that what feels good to one person won’t feel good to everyone, so you HAVE to talk, you have to ask questions, you have to pay attention to your partner’s cues. I wanted people to know that what felt good last night, might not feel good today, so even after you think you know someone inside and out, you still have to keep talking, keep questioning, keep paying attention…

I wanted people to know that consent is sexy. That consent means saying yes! Enthusiastically, unabashedly, YES! And so I wanted to empower people to say yes, not just no.

But I didn’t know, or believe, that I could really do all of that.

Then I read a quote that was going around.

“What would you do if you knew you would not fail?”

It stilled me.

I froze, while my lungs filled, my mind quieted and my heart expanded.

It grew three sizes that day...

It grew three sizes that day…

If I was not afraid to fail, I would change the world!

I would help people love, accept and value others.

I would work to normalize sex (not to make all sex vanilla – but to make sex not a taboo subject), to promote healthy body images, healthy relationships, healthy communication, respect for ALL people…

I would work to break down the social barriers that prevent so many people from accepting their own sexuality, from seeking help when they need it, from talking with others and learning from them, from accepting others who are different…

I would work to educate parents so they felt more comfortable talking with their children. So many parents I know tell me they’d like to talk to their kids, but they don’t know how because no one ever talked to them. Where do they start? WHEN do they start? HOW do they start!?!

I would work with teachers and administrators so that they felt comfortable talking with the children and youth they serve about the issues affecting them.

I would work with adults who were trying to form or maintain healthy relationships to give them more tools to talk and communicate so that they could give and receive pleasure and enjoyment together.

I would work to make it so that when my daughters grow up, the partners they have will be as informed as they are about bodily autonomy, respect, pleasure and the wonderful workings of the human body.

Is this my forever path?

Hardly.

I still want to be a writer.

I still want to be a senator.

I still want to be an explorer.

I will forever be a dreamer.

If that means you can’t support me now, because I WILL change my mind again, I understand.

We all come at life a different way.

Right now, this way feels right for me. It takes the lessons I’ve learned, the skills I’ve earned and the passions I live and breathe and puts them together into one package. It moves me forward in a direction that hopefully brings me and the world I live in into closer alignment.

It feeds my soul.

If that changes, or if something gets in my way – I’ll turn.

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Filed under Marketing, Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant, Things that work

Is it cold in here, or is it just me?

I killed two chickens this week.

baby chicks

Fluffy Love

We wanted to round out our urban flock so I went down to the store and picked up 3 new chicks. April, Dumpling and Sparky.

Saturday I came home from the AMAZING Colorado Teen Literature Conference (more on that really is still coming) and the first thing that greeted me was my two crying children.

“She’s hurt, Mom. She’s dying.” They sobbed, holding out my tiny grey fluff ball, Sparky.

Sure enough, Sparky was wobbly, weak, barely able to lift her head. She was sick, she was dying and I’m not chick expert, but she didn’t look happy.

I hugged my girls, thanked them for taking care of Sparky for me until I got home and for trying to make her comfortable and then I took Sparky outside and helped her find peace.

My husband had told the girls it was up to me whether we replaced Sparky or not. The girls begged, and I figured, why not? We wanted a couple more chicks, we ought to replace that one.

The store doesn’t like selling just one, after all chickens are flock animals. They need companionship. So… I bought two more.

I brought them home, we named them Cleopatra and Isis because of their Egyptian heritage. They were tiny little things, about half the size of April and Dumpling.

Their wing feathers hadn’t even started coming in yet.

The first day, they were fine. We were all making fun of Cleopatra for being a tiny little bully. She was loud and she would head-butt the bigger chicks, pushing them around the crate. She was awfully fierce for such a bitty thing.

The next morning I checked on them just before the girlgoyels went off to school.

Cleopatra was dead. Beak down in the wood chips, toes curled, dead.

I picked her up, held her, petted her in the dumb hope that she would open an eye. Nothing. She was gone.

Well, crap.

I put her out with Sparky, wondering what had killed them, fearing it was some disease that spread via chicken poop. After all the two that had died were different breeds and had come from different batches.

Then, yesterday, Isis started acting sick. Weak in the legs, wobbly, unable to eat or drink. Her breathing was labored, she was lethargic, but clearly uncomfortable. She kept trying to stand only to fall.

I held her, cupped in my hand and she calmed, nestling in. I was able to feed her some water from a dropper. Yes, I felt a little ridiculous dropper feeding this baby chick, but… I wanted to figure out what was going on with my flock.

She did well while I held her. But when I put her back in the crate, she was a mess again.

Then it dawned on me – I was warm.

We hadn’t gotten out the heat lamp for the chicklets this time around. We keep our house at a robust 60 – 65 degrees in the winter. But, even I walk around with socks and a long sleeve shirt or sweater. These tiny little fluff balls were too small and still not fluffed enough to regulate their own temperature. Cleopatra wasn’t a bully, she was cold and trying to nestle.

I got the heat lamp and separated Isis, putting her under it.

Within a few minutes she was standing up on wobbly legs. She tottered over to the water bowl, stepped right in and drank. She ate a little food and then she crashed out again. Last night we put her back in with April and Dumpling, keeping the heat lamp over all of them.

This morning, Isis was fine. She was back on her feet, looking healthy, eating, drinking and cheeping.

I froze two chickens to death this week. Not on purpose, but through my ignorance and my faulty assumptions that ambient warmth was enough.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I realized today that I’ve been feeling a little like Cleopatra lately. Not a bully, just cold – just needing to nestle and get a little direct warmth.

Because of my job I spend a fair amount of time on social media, where there is constant ambient warmth – but very little directed heat. (Trolls don’t count.)

I also spend a lot of my time in that space head-butting people, trying to get them to engage, trying to get them to respond, to react, to care…

I teach a master’s class on social media engagement, so I know that that is what most everyone is doing on social media – trying to forge connections and not only make others feel something, but also to be touched by something ourselves.

We too are flock animals, we too crave companionship.

Cat nap

Chickens are friends, not food…

In the ambient noise of the interwebs, I think, we all too often forget to reach out, reach back, nestle up and direct our warmth. We forget to nurture each other.

When I look at social media I see a lot of isolated chickens, shivering and cheeping and head-butting for attention. I don’t see a whole lot of curling up together to share warmth or nurture creativity.

It does happen, it is out there. Amanda F*cking Palmer and Neil Himself Gaiman embody this creative nurturing that CAN happen on social media, but all too often doesn’t.

See, April and Dumpling, they were the two biggest chicks, they had their feathers and enough fluff to keep warm. So when those little chicklets squeaked and poked them, they got annoyed. They didn’t understand what the babies were asking for. They didn’t spread a wing and take a minute to lie down and warm the chicklets up. They just carried on with their eating and drinking and pooping routine, never engaging the baby chicks.

Now… If I threw those two out in the coop with the hens… Holy mayhem. Those big hens would peck them to pieces. They’re not big enough to defend themselves – nor are they big enough to survive these still cold nights outside.

That’s sort of like the hierarchy of the interwebs. There’s all of us little baby chicks, just getting started. Looking for warmth and friendship and connection – by shivering in a corner cheeping the loudest and head-butting anyone who comes close enough.

Mostly we reach the indifferent tweens, those slightly bigger chicks, willing to cheep back occasionally and put up with a little head-butting, but still so new themselves that they don’t know how to take us under their wing so we can soar together. (Not that chickens soar…)

Sometimes we get really brave and we reach out to the hens in the hen house only to get pecked back into our place…

But here’s the thing – we’re more evolved than chickens… right?

So – today’s challenge: Reach out – reach up, over AND down and do your best to make a genuine connection with someone else in each “class” of your social media sphere.

AND today – make a point of directing genuine attention at the people you interact with – whether it’s on twitter or facebook, email or in person.

Make that phone call you’ve been meaning to make to that old friend you can’t stop thinking about… Sit down and write a letter, by hand, and send it via the United States Postal Service… Craft an email to someone who’s been on your mind. Forward that link, video or image that you saw and know is just right for someone.

However you do it, just… direct a little warmth.

Let someone out there know that you care, that you’re thinking about them, that you see them and are touched by them.

Spring is here, but the nights are still cold. And I can’t speak for you, but I know I could sure use some extra heat.

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Rising Up and Reaching Out – The Art of Connection

I fell into the Amanda Palmer rabbit hole recently.

I stalk her husband Neil Himself Gaiman on twitter and facebook and he posted her Ted Talk video to his feed.

WOW.

She calls it the art of asking, I call it the art of connecting.

Watch. Discussion to follow.

Now, one of her detractors has said, “Yes, but she already had an army, it’s easy for her. The question isn’t how to ask, it’s how to find people to ask…” or something along those lines.

Clearly this person didn’t watch the whole talk.

She literally stood on a box in the street, dressed as an 8 foot bride.

Then, she built a small band that played small venues and she made a point of reaching out to the people who showed up – of connecting with them.

As her band grew in popularity, she made a point of reaching out to other small bands, and pulling them in. (I was going to say lifting them up, but it’s more reciprocal than that.) And she still made a point of connecting with the fans who came to see her band play.

It did not happen over night.

She did not wake up one day out of the blue and say “Gee, I’m going to give a Ted Talk that gets a million hits overnight.”

She worked for it. She reached for it. She asked for it.

And she gave it time.

In writing we all hear that persistence is the  most important trait we can have. And then, for some reason, when I teach a social media class to authors they all want overnight fans and followers who will all rush out and buy their books every time they ask.

Here’s the thing, building an army takes time.

Yes, you can buy twitter followers. But why would you? You’re buying bots and other people who don’t care who you are or what you offer – because you haven’t connected.

So I’ll tell you again, if you want to use social media as a tool – start now. Today.

Then, be real. Be raw. Be you.

Don’t sell anything.

Interact. Talk. Reach out. Connect.

I have become a pusher of twitter because twitter lets you connect to strangers. Twitter is like the bar at the conference. People on twitter are socially lubricated and a little more friendly than normal. The dynamic of twitter lets you reach out to people you admire and people who interest you, and people who might interest you.

And that’s it – read that last sentence again. Social media lets YOU reach out.

I get asked all the time to create campaigns that will get people discovered. They want me to tell them what to shout, and how often to shout it, so that they will be found in the busy rushing waters of the internets.

But the internet is crowded. It’s loud. It’s hectic. It’s overwhelming.

I will not discover you if you are just standing there shouting “Buy my stuff, I have stuff!”. I don’t care. Everyone has stuff.

If you want me to care, you have to be interacting. You have to be reaching out. You have to be connecting.

We all build our communities, our eddies of information and interests.

I operate in a few circles – writing, marketing, social causes, childhood freedom…

If you want to reach me, you have to start interacting in those same circles. You have to follow and friend agents and editors, writers and ranters. You have to be talking about things that matter to me, to us. You have to make the first move – reply, respond, reach out.

You have to be trying.

And when I find you, when I hear you, when I see you and respond – you have to seize the moment and return the connection. Because we ALL want to be seen.

The internet has become the busy city sidewalk. Social media is our soapbox and we are all trying to be the 8 foot bride.

We are all trying to be noticed.

We are all seeking those moments, those fragile, tender connections.

We are all looking for the chance to “fall in love a little bit.”

So when someone notices you standing there and drops a comment or a reply in your hat… Reach back. Connect.

“Thank you. I see you.”

“Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.”

It grows from there.

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It’s supposed to be social, silly.

I’ve been having a problem with one of my titles for a while now – Social Media Marketing Consultant, or Specialist, or really anything to do with social media marketing.

It’s not the social media part I have trouble with, I have been working and playing in that space long enough to be comfortable there. It’s the addition of the term marketing that irks me, and here’s why.

Social media fail

Don’t be this guy.

When people hear the term marketing, in their head it translates to “sales”. They think ads, they think billboards, they think marketing. Marketing is largely an outbound idea – post an ad, tell people to buy something, shout from the rooftops “I am here, buy my stuff!”But if you do that on social media – people tend to label you a spammer and you get ignored, deleted or blocked. Because, see, social media is supposed to be social. I try to tell my clients that facebook and twitter and goodreads and blogs are the online equivalent of the bar at a convention.

Do you go to the bar to sell your book or other product? No, you go to talk and hang out with old friends and hopefully make some new friends. You go to exchange ideas, get inspired, drink enough liquid courage to lower your social inhibitions and allow you to be you. Loudly.

Social media is supposed to be just like that – a place online where you get to be you and play life by your rules.

TinkeringSchool

Social media is supposed to be like this.

Facebook is a great place to start because it’s an invite only playground. You build it, you make the rules, you build the fence or wall around it and you get to decide who gets to come in and play. Once you’re comfortable there, you can make your profile public, or you can build a public facing page for your business, book or for a character. You can then invite your friends to play in that new playground and encourage them to invite their friends to join in the fun.

Twitter is a fun place to play because it’s completely open and public – anyone can follow you and see what you are saying, and you can follow anyone else. Once you are comfortable being you, being real, and making friends without ever seeing them, get on twitter. Start following people you admire, respond to them, retweet them, engage them. Then realize that as you look for followers, those are the ones you are looking for – the ones who are… SOCIAL, just like you are. Your feed is your playground. Cultivate it. Follow interesting people and talk to them. Be interesting yourself, and people will follow you.

“Oh, but the time. I just don’t have the time.” Give yourself 15 minutes, twice a day. Skim a few posts, reply to the ones that resonate, post something original of your own, when the timer beeps – log out. Voila! You’ve done it. That’s it.

Now, how does this help you, your writing, your career, your product or business? This is always the question – how many widgets will I sell with your social media marketing plan?

None.

Sort of. I keep hearing this, “social media doesn’t sell things.” To which I have to say, that’s because you’re doing it wrong. You’re not being social. You’re in a corner, doing your thing, but you forgot to invite anyone else over to play with you. Or you’re out in front shouting “buy my stuff!” and being a spammer.

You have to be brave, you have to reach out, you have to engage others in the space. You have to be social.

If you went to the bar at a con and sat in the back corner, where the one lightbulb had gone out, and didn’t say hello to anyone as they came in, even the ones who said hi to you – would you be surprised to find yourself eating alone the next morning? Not so much, right?

What if you greeted everyone at the door with “Hi, please buy my thing?” Again – not only would you be eating alone the next day, people would spend the rest of the con flagrantly avoiding you.

When we gear up to go to a con, the first thing we do is pull on our big kid pants, plaster on our smile and get ready to shake hands with strangers. And, unless we scored a seat at Autograph Alley, or spent money to rent a booth or table, we don’t expect to sell our product. We go to make friends (sometimes erroneously called ‘contacts’).

That’s what you have to do to be successful on social media. Make friends.

Sometimes you’re going to fall flat on your face, like a couple of days ago when I tried to pull a stranger on twitter into a twitter fiction piece I was playing with. He replied “You’re stupid.” Okay, in that instance, I was stupid. I reached out, got my hand slapped, and stepped back. I tried to engage the wrong person. But you know what, he’s a stranger, thousands of miles away. Chances are I’ll never meet him in real life, so who cares if he thinks I am stupid. I tried again with someone else, and they jumped right in. We ended up in a (fictional) race to Paris to kill the same man. (He won.)

Neil Gaiman didn’t amass nearly 2 million twitter followers by marketing his books on twitter, or by tweeting alone in a corner. He did it by being himself on twitter. By promoting causes he cares about, sharing articles he enjoyed, talking about his lovely wife, and being real. Now, when he does post about a new project, he gets instant feedback and/or sales from about 10% of those followers. (Statistically speaking. I don’t know his real numbers, we’re not that close.)

I’ve been following Neil for about 2 years now, and I think I’ve only seen him post a link to buy one of his books 5 times. More often than not I see him retweeting posts from other people promoting their books, causes and efforts when they align with his. I see him being… social, available, approachable.

Neil Gaiman on twitter is like us at the bar at a convention – loud and proud and spouting off about whatever he loves at the moment, and inviting others to join the fun.

If you want social media “success” don’t worry about how many widgets twitter, facebook, your blog will sell for you – they won’t sell any. Worry about how YOU are going to make friends and influence people. Worry about how YOU are going to reach out and shake hands with that interesting stranger, or that awesome author or business person you’re too shy to approach in real life. Worry about how YOU are going to open up and talk and be real. Worry about how you’re going to get your personal freak flag (yes, we all have one) up on that pole flying high enough for everyone to see it. Worry about being SOCIAL first.

The rest will come.

Oh, and it takes time. So jump in now, start building your playground. And remember, if you build it, they will come. (Eventually.)

(For a breakdown of the pros and cons of many of the most popular social sites – check out my friend Betsy’s post! See how I did that?)

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