Posts Tagged ‘journalism career’

A bit of news

July 20, 2014

When last I shared a post with you patient people, “Kiss and Tell’s” public relations campaign was about a month from wrapping up and the news on the headache front was oh-so-very-good (although I mentioned one side effect of my prevention drug was that I DID miss that little thing we like to call eating). I realize there’s been a giant time gap, but if you’re game, come along and I’ll fill you in on what you’ve missed.

As I blogged in February, the numerous television appearances that Insider Media Management secured for Dr. Whelihan and myself to promote “Kiss and Tell” did not translate into book sales—surprisingly. Personal appearances turned out to be most successful, so that’s what we focused on toward the end of our campaign. However, I confess I was a bit distracted because somewhere around Christmas I had made the decision to move back to Austin to be with my family and friends.

It was a wrenching decision. When I moved to West Palm Beach, I figured it would be for only a few years. But I loved the ocean, loved The Palm Beach Post, loved my fabulous, smart roommate and ended up missing Texas way less than I thought I would. Huge surprise.

I stayed. And stayed. For a total of 12 years.

When I took early retirement from the newspaper in 2009, my mom wondered if I’d move back to Texas, but I told her I wanted to write my book. She understood. Three years later, when the book was finished, she asked again. I told her, “Now I need to market it.”

Which I did. For an entire year.

Enough.

Finally, this spring, I wrapped up my time in Paradise (as I like to call West Palm Beach) and took steps to bring all my belongings together in the same zip code. True, they are scattered between a storage facility on Braker Lane, my Mom’s attic AND her basement, but still, I like to think they are within shouting distance of each other.

In a show of solidarity, my wonderful pals Di and Patti (from Arizona and Ohio!) drove to Texas with me in early June, to ease the transition. We all lost a dear friend to a sudden aneurysm just days before my departure, which was wrenching beyond words, and a bit ironic as well. I had moved to Florida during a time of immense grief, mourning the unexpected death of my young niece.

To counter that memory, I very intentionally planned to say good-bye to Florida slowly, to give myself time to appreciate all the things I’d come to love about my adopted home. I had this serene, graceful exit all built up in my head—but once again, I left one state for another with a broken heart.

I limped into Austin feeling more fragile than expected. And the town isn’t quite how I left it, that’s for sure. I didn’t know where I’d fit in.

For the time being, I’m living with Mom, though I have already zeroed in on a nearby apartment complex where I’ll move this fall (halfway between my sister’s house and my mom’s condo!). Meanwhile, we are compatible roomies, while I make sure everything is as good with my 86-year-old mom as I think it is. I say we’re roomies, but between her trips out of town and the numerous dog sitting jobs I’ve already worked (and booked for the future), we’re apart more than I thought we’d be.

A quick trip to Padre Island in mid-June to celebrate Mom’s birthday was the perfect time for the moving company to call and try to deliver my furniture from Florida, so that was annoying. I had to wait an additional eight days before they sent another truck, but what are you gonna do? Finally everything arrived and has now been wedged into tiny storage units, joining the gang o’ stuff already hanging out at Braker Storage since the sale of my house last October.

Have I said how nice it’ll be to have my own place when I can unpack everything all at once? Well, it will.

Meanwhile, I started calling friends and getting back in touch with Austin peeps. It wasn’t long before I remembered why I love this place: the people. It does my heart such good to see the faces of friends after so many years apart, and still find so many shared interests, so much to laugh and talk about, such enthusiasm for time together. I feel … nourished.

And I’ve already received a couple of invitations to speak to groups about “Kiss and Tell,” so that’s exciting. Austin has a great demographic for the book and I look forward to marketing here. (I’ll blog about those appearances once they occur.)

Headache-wise, the Topamax is still effective, although I believe the stress of the move and my friend’s death increased the number of my migraines in May and June. I’m doing better now that I’ve settled in and am creating a routine at Mom’s. I can’t report only two headaches a month like I could back in January and February, but I’m hopeful I can get there again.

Part of the problem may be that, with my neurologist’s permission, I dropped from 125 mg. to 100 mg of Topamax at the beginning of May. Of course, I didn’t know then what a stressful time it would turn out to be. I asked if I could reduce the dosage because I was dropping too much weight and developing a food aversion. Eating felt like a true chore, something I almost dreaded. I knew that was dangerous.

My neurologist thought I could drop the dosage and still get a good effect with 100 mg. In addition, he felt the tension in my neck was reduced enough that I could cease getting Botox injections there (after four years). Needless to say, I was happy with that visit to his office!

Which reminds me, I need to find a really great migraine specialist here in Austin. That’s going to be hard. I’ll be comparing him to the BEST guy in West Palm. Dr. Winner was AWESOME.

Sigh. There are a lot of folks I miss back in Paradise.

I guess in some ways my heart will always be in two places. I’m going to have to get used to that.

 

 

 

 

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Life as a bookseller

April 20, 2013

Retail was never my calling.

My early efforts to earn money didn’t include stints at clothing stores, sit-down restaurants or grocery stores. Instead I taught gymnastics at a rec center, bussed tables at a cafeteria and played receptionist at an H&R Block office during tax season. So my sales skills, if indeed one could call them that, were honed amid the bare bones landscape of door-to-door dealings as I peddled Girl Scout cookies annually for perhaps six years. (Yes, I was a Girl Scout for a long time.)

Let’s agree that this rudimentary training did little to entice me into the world of retail. Sure, in my journalism career, I feel like I “sold” the product of the news every day, and was an enthusiastic spokesperson ready to recount the reasons why a daily subscription was a bargain. But my pay has never been linked to sales or percentages, so I’ve never felt that pressure to “move product.”

Till now, of course.

Selling Kiss and Tell is a full-time job. I decided to devote the spring and summer seasons to spreading the word any way I can, whether through interviews, talks, social media, book-signings, chance encounters or just plain begging for coverage. I have a small, black notebook that I’ve used to jot down marketing ideas for months, and every few days I page through it to remind myself of what’s yet to be done. It lists everything from the email address and phone number of an acquaintance who belongs to the Red Hat Society to a reminder that I need to send Kathie Lee and Hoda of Today a copy of the book.

For the Today show gals, I will use the same tactic I employed for Dr. Oz, who was in South Florida recently for a wellness seminar at Gardens Mall. I put a copy of Kiss and Tell in a brightly colored bag with his name on it, and included an Oral-B battery-operated toothbrush. A ribbon attached to the toothbrush held a note reading: “Why is a respected gynecologist recommending this toothbrush as an enhancement to her patients’ sex lives? Turn to Page 3 and find out.”

Call it guerrilla marketing.

I was unable to hand my gift to Dr. Oz himself. About a thousand people were there before me. But I left it with his handlers, who were collecting all manner of Oz offerings for their famous boss. I feel cheered by the effort. And though the daily rewards are small, I rarely feel discouraged.

Sooner or later, something will come of all this. My friend Libby, who worked in a PR firm, says you’re after just that one break, that one contact, the one book that makes it to the right desk. You don’t know which book it will be, but it arrives at the perfect moment and its recipient decides to share Kiss and Tell with the world. That’s the goal!

Meanwhile, I’m finding genuine satisfaction along the way. Last Thursday’s book signing at The Palm Beach Post was truly fun for me and I had this moment about three-quarters of the way through when I felt completely grounded and secure and also thrilled. I realized I was comfortable talking about this sensitive topic, and had a glimmer of how passionate I feel about sharing what I’ve learned in order to bring about more understanding on the subject of sexual desire. And I simultaneously sensed that the audience was with me, was receptive and open to everything I was hoping to impart. It was really a special moment.

And considering that I was a bit anxious heading into this event (because it was my first public book-signing), the fact that I had such a great time in the moment means I can use that experience to talk myself out of future nervousness. Call it self soothing.

Clearly, I’m a novice  in the world of retail marketing, so I have much to learn. But when a Girl Scout cookie badge marks your sales success up till now, you take your small victories where you can!

Job = life?

January 24, 2010

File this under realizations that don’t come to you when you have a job.

Quite simply — a job, especially one you like, creates your life for you; without one, you are faced with the opportunity and challenge of creating your own life.

Some people learn this sooner than others; I’m new to the party. Fortunately, I’m old enough and have enough passions, interests and ambitions to start crafting a structured life, but even so, I sometimes feel I’m working with a blank slate. I come from a workplace littered with distractions, deadlines, drama and delight. Now I’m facing the essentially solitary task of writing a book. There is no built-in start time each morning, no “first interview” of the day, no weekly deadlines — just one long project to write and a boatload of life chores that threatens to capsize my sanity some days. (I’m only 8 weeks post retirement and wondering where I previously found the time for all the busy work that sucks up my attention day after day.)

I’ve also discovered that once you say no to full-time work, you can actually say yes to just about everything else. For example, I now have the capability of traveling to China to teach English as a second language, training to be a vet tech, moving to Australia to become a jillaroo or doing manual labor at a garden shop. I could work at a gym, move back to Texas, hire onto a boat bound for anywhere, become a carpenter’s apprentice, beg my former employers to take me back or bum off various family members. See what I mean? When one door closes, every window in the place is suddenly open wide. I now have to choose exactly what I want to do because the job is no longer eliminating every other possibility.

Which is why I find myself creating a brand-new life — right here, right now — and it’s as exciting, daunting and fascinating as you’d expect. And despite all the tempting roads I travel in my mind’s eye, leading to various scenarios and lives I could lead, for now, the path I’ll travel is the one I chose before I even left my career. One that hopefully leads to me being a published author.

So — for the foreseeable future — find me (still) at my desk!

An agent weighs in

January 19, 2010

People much more experienced in the book world than myself assure me that one needs a good literary agent in order to get a good book deal.

Since my fondest wish is to get a good book deal, I have taken heed of the wise counsel of the published writers I know and have been seeking out names of literary agents to approach with my book proposal. I say ‘my’ proposal, but my partner in the book, a local gynecologist and sex therapist, is hardly silent. Her clients are providing the surveys that will provide the research base for our book. But I’m doing the actual writing, which is why I keep saying ‘my this’ and ‘my that.’ So forgive me; I’m not trying to diss my worthy partner. I just feel solitary in the writing process a lot and thus gravitate to the singular pronoun.

Anyway, I’ve already sent my proposal to three established agents willing to read it, and one of them quickly sent back wonderful, smart comments on how to sharpen it up. She told me exactly what’s missing that a publisher will surely want included.

Is this great, or what? Every time I turn around, I’m receiving amazing help from generous folks.

A well-known writer friend at the newspaper read my initial stab at a book proposal as early as the middle of last year and helped me get it ready to even submit to agents. For instance, he clued me in to the fact that I’d need a sample chapter. I had no idea; that’s how little I knew.

Now with this agent’s help, I have more excellent suggestions to incorporate, which will take some time, but won’t be a problem because my doctor friend has now collected 950 surveys! Our goal was to have 1,200, so we’re gaining ground. I’ve been working with just 450 of the surveys, but now, with all the additional data, should be able to draw some conclusions for the book proposal that will whet publishers’ appetites.

Lots to do, so thankfully, my workspace is finally ready! The painting project from last weekend was a huge success, and though the yellow was a bit brighter than I’d imagined, its cheerfulness is undeniable. I met the cable guy on Friday and have wireless capability throughout the condo—not that the place is large, mind you. Check the picture above if you don’t believe me!

Coming soon! War stories of organizing the reams of surveys we’ve collected!

A space . . . created

January 9, 2010

So it’s been a while between postings, but there was the whole Texas, Christmas, snow, family, New Year’s, friends, airport thing to tend to.

I had many adventures during my 16 days away, some of which I may blog about later, but for right now, I have actual progress to report. Yes, I realize it’s about time. But it’s big news!  I have located and rented a place to write. This has become necessary because our house is for sale and will not tolerate the persistent mess I am required to make as I dig through the surveys we’ve gathered for the book, spread research books around me and just generally take up a whole room with creative artist’s sprawl.

Sure, I’ve read dozens of stories of fabulous people writing fabulous books with no sprawl space and no computer and little food and whatever other hardships can be conjured. I’m fully aware that good prose doesn’t require a big desk or a bit of solitude.

But a wonderful couple I know recently moved from a third-floor condo into their first home, and the condo has been empty for several months. We struck a deal for me to hang out there days, making a fine mess, finding a bit of solitude and getting comfortable with my writerly self. It’s close to the water, so it’ll be great for walks, and even has a porch area out back where I could carry my laptop. Naturally, it’s unfurnished, and while I have a book shelf and an excellent, recently-purchased office chair, the one thing I really needed was a desk of some kind. I knew the place was right for me when my friends, just before leading me into the condo, reluctantly told me that the one piece of furniture left behind (because they just couldn’t find a place for it at the new house) was a big desk. Was that a problem?

Well no it isn’t! Where do I sign?

I’m up late tonight because I have a bit of excess energy I won’t be able to burn off till tomorrow. See, in a few hours Paint Day begins, and I’m pathetically eager to show up with rollers and masking tape and grubby clothes. We’re going to turn the walls pale yellow—I got to choose!—and I’ll finally be doing something to bring the book closer. Having a physical task that will help create the space I’m longing for has me chomping at the bit.

By tomorrow night I’ll undoubtedly be exhausted and sore, but believe me, it’s gonna be that happy-tired feeling, the one that makes you sleep deep and peaceful.

Finding space to write

December 11, 2009

So I’m talking to my therapist today — and yes, I’m fully aware of how pretentious that sounds, but honestly, she’s the sanity I cling to lately to help me navigate the churning sea of change that is my life. So bear with me a moment before you deafen me with the sound of your rolling eyes.

I’m explaining to her how although I AM making progress on my “to do” list, I’m fairly  frantic about how long the list is and how slowly I’m moving through it. “I need to be working on the book every day but I’m just up to here,” I say, demonstrating by holding my open hand up to my forehead, palm down.

Ever calm, she holds her two fingers about an inch apart and sweeps them across her forehead remarking, “It’s hard to write from this space.”

And immediately I get it. I not going to be able to write from a tight, frantic, bundled state of mind. I need an expansive, creative, open mind (an invaluable prerequisite for any new undertaking come to think of it). And reaching that state means I have preparation work to do; contacts to make, a new apartment to find, an entire move to execute probably within the next month or so, computer and printer to hook up, boxes to unpack, beds (both literal and figurative) to make. In addition, I have to create a permanent work space, hopefully with everything I’ll need close at hand.

And that’s all OK. I have 9 months to get the bulk of my book written and though I originally assumed that meant I needed to work a certain amount of hours each day, I recently realized I don’t actually know the process that’s going to lead to me writing this book. I might spend an entire week writing 12 hours a day; I might spend a month and never leave the house and write furiously. I might write for 2 days and not write for a week. I might do this a milion ways. The point is: That process is yet to be determined. Which is also just fine.

What I know for sure — to borrow an Oprah expression — is that there is no part of me that doesn’t want to write this book. I am 100% engaged by the idea and subject matter. Every time I talk about it I get excited all over again and feel lucky to have such a project.

In fact, my therapist noted that part of this transition from journalist to writer is internal, but another part is the mirroring process — where we show the world our ‘new’ self and then gauge its reaction, adjusting our own image as we go. The conversations I’m having with people who are accepting me as a writer, validating the idea, commenting on the process and even soliciting my advice for THEIR books (that’s already happened!) these are the things that help create in me the expansive mindspace that will make it possible to write the book.

So I’m not panicky anymore. I don’t feel “up to here,” though I’m still wading through my to-do list. I’m trying to accept that this is the process. I can’t do Step 8 before Steps 1 and 2. There’s a time element here I need to respect.

And that’s hard.

But I’m learning.

So this is retirement

November 23, 2009

I’m halfway through my first workday as a retiree and so far, it looks alot like vacation. The weekend was filled with packing and parties and feelings of turning over a new leaf. But today, with the rest of world at work and me out running errands and checking things off my list — well, it feels pretty vacation-y.

On Sunday afternoon, when I realized I still had a huge bag of books in the car that I’d hoped to deliver to the used book store, I groaned, thinking I’d have to carry it around another whole week, waiting for time NEXT weekend. But then, my newly-acquired retiree’s brain kicked in with the reminder that I could do that MONDAY — because, you know, NO WORK!

So clearly, this is all going to take some getting used to. I spent the morning doing errands, with strict instructions from my retired self to spend the afternoon at the beach, because, honestly, if I’m not going to get to the beach more often as a retired person than a working person then there’s really no reason to go on living.

But the clouds piled up while I visited the bank, the book store, the mall and the grocery store, so I’ve slid beachtime to tomorrow’s to-do list — marveling that I have a tomorrow available for this sort of thing. To know that I can sit by the ocean — and read or not, sleep or not — and not have it be a day of my vacation, is hard for me to accept. During my 7 years in Florida, I’ve occasionally stolen a day or afternoon to sneak away to the beach nearby, but my enjoyment is severely hampered by the knowledge that I’m only stealing time from myself, that once I return to the office, I’ll have twice as much work to do to make up for my truancy.

That’s just not true anymore. Now I’m off the clock, for good. And it’ll take my brain longer than a couple of days to get used to it, no doubt.

Meanwhile, I’ve granted myself 2 weeks of rest and reflection — before I dive into writing my book. A part of my brain that refuses to be silenced assures me this is shameless procrastintion, but several people I trust have assured me it’s appropriate to take a bit of time to pat myself on the back for a job well done, allow the brain to go fallow for a short while — and THEN start the next great adventure.

So that’s my plan — and part of why I want to get to the beach. Is there a better spot for absorbing the past, feeling the absolute joy of the moment you’re in and also dreaming of the future? I think not.

Change and more change

November 18, 2009

I’m two days into my final week of newspaper work and have yet to hit the wall of nostalgia. Sure, I’ve had some pangs as I clean out drawers and toss some long-saved items in the trash. But my heart doesn’t ache and I don’t spend hours feeling acutely sentimental — and believe me, I’m more than capable of the sentimental-and-then-some frame of mind.

The vast changes in my industry are surely part of the reason I’m able to contemplate leaving with such a reasonable attitude. Our staff is so diminished and the number of empty desks that have surrounded my work area for months are hardly uplifting. Morale is questionable on good days and downright dispirited on bad ones. Everyone has pulled together as best they can, but I think we all feel like we’re crashing around in the forest, searching for a path out, or at least an experienced guide who can lead us out. In today’s newspaper world, experienced guides are hard to come by.

Which isn’t a knock on the good folks who are trying. It’s just a fact.

Meanwhile, on the home front, as if there isn’t enough CHANGE in my life, our house has been selected for a “staging” event, which is Realtor-speak for “our stuff’s better than yours.” Or maybe we’re just being sensitive. Bottom line is some professionals are going to give our house the once over and by tomorrow at this time we’ll be sparkling. Furniture will be moved, books will be packed, perhaps plants will be brought in. But I have a lot of questions. If you’ve ever had your house staged or restaged, give me a hint of what to expect, OK? Will they pack up my earring tree? Raid my closets? Hang new drapes? Cook me dinner? Hey, I’m just askin’.

‘Cause I find I’m feeling kind of sentimental about the home front, now that I’m shutting down the work office for good.

 

Regrets, I’ve had a few

November 12, 2009

Appalling.

The list of stuff I need to get done to transition into retirement/writing a book is getting ridiculously long. Am I missing something? I’ve envied (OK, hated) retired people for the past 2 years at least, noting their slothful ways with disdain (OK, jealousy). And yet the closer I get, the more chores I see that need to be accomplished. Shouldn’t retirement be more restful than this?

Today I finished the second to last story I’ll write for my newspaper, and so I took an hour to begin deleting old computer files, which thank goodness I started early because this task inevitably led me down memory lane, as I began scanning old files before trashing them. Naturally, I occasionally came upon a file I want to keep, but making the call on whether to clog up my home computer by transferring said nostalgic trivia gets old quick. I’m starting a new chapter, right? How much of this dated stuff do I really need? OK, none. But how much of it do I want? What if I purge too much and start to regret it?

I really want to be past this stage — onto my new playing field. But the only way to get there is step by step, whether it’s transferring digital photos and files to taking down the beloved Texas flag from my office wall. I’ve got old correspondence, stacks of newspapers and a whole bulletin board’s worth of memorabilia yet to deal with. And when the last shred of evidence of my presence is finally cleared out of my office, I’ll need to find somewhere here in this already-full house to store it all, while simultaneously arranging some sort of small work space here at home for my future book work. (Unless, I decide to write it propped on my knees in bed, which is pretty dang comfortable, thank you very much.)

Meanwhile, I’m resolutely squelching the bleak feeling that steals in when I contemplate how much I’ll miss my beloved daily lunch table at work, my podmates and a few other co-workers I’m close to. Not to mention my loyal readers!

I know, I know. After all this whining, you’re wondering why the heck I made this choice.

At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer, trust me. And frankly, I’m guessing that about 2 weeks into my book project, I’m going to be so psyched about the new territory ahead that today’s apprehensions will be forgotten.

But we’ll see, won’t we? That’s why I’m blogging. To see how it all turns out.

The long goodbye

November 11, 2009

AAproductpanel mugSo today I proofread the newspaper page that features my farewell column. It doesn’t run for two days, so I have that long to adjust.

I wonder if I will. Adjust, I mean.

There’s so much unknown in front of me. And such warm memories behind. As I read over the blurbs describing some of the women I highlighted, I was struck with the collected wisdom, courage, compassion and friendship they’d shown me. And they’re the tip of the iceberg. For every woman I featured, 10 others stand behind, just as staunch, just as memorable. I think of the women’s clubs and networks that invited me to speak and how much fun it was to meet an entire roomful of warm, smart, accepting women. How easily we could all connect, how eager we are to meet one another at this time of life, when the intertwined nature of our friendships and support systems is becoming both stronger and more apparent.

On the drive home, I realized that the women I’ve met, who generously shared their stories and wisdom, have shaped me into a woman who’s finally strong enough and bold enough to step out into a new role, try something different, take a plunge. Yes, I’m leaving my readers in one sense, forfeiting my newspaper space each week that was once devoted to our conversations. But I’m taking them with me.

I learned the lessons I was meant to learn. Can’t ask for more than that.

Turn the page.