With the impending publication of my novel Desert Medicine, I've asked a family friend's talented teenage daughter, Kelly, to help me keep on top of the details of juggling a family, day job, fiction writing, photography, church volunteerism, and book promotion. Because she's on the yearbook committee at school, she perfect for this job. As a writer/photographer, my life is the equivalent of being a life-long member of a yearbook committee.
Right now, Kelly is helping to remind me to:
- Send thank you notes, or at least thank-you emails. I know saying thanks is common courtesy, but it's amazingly easy to let common courtesies slide when life is hectic. Carolyn See's book about a career as a writer, "Making a Literary Life," is very adamant about thank-yous. She's right, of course: In an industry that, like most, is built on relationships, only a fool neglects to thank those along the way who offer encouragement, advice, or a listening ear.
- Maintain and add to my personal email list. Since the best advertising for books is word-of-mouth, then anyone who has ever had the slightest contact with me should beware: I plan to let you know that I have a novel coming out in the fall. Kelly and I are using a really wonderful online program to manage out lists and to layout e-newsletters: constantcontact.com. This program was also endorsed by Tom Britt at the January writers' conference in San Diego, who gave a seminar about web-based book publicity.
- Design an e-newsletter to send to my email list. This is where Kelly's yearbook skills are really coming in handy. We're still trying to decide what to include in the newsletter. Columns in the voice of the two main characters in Desert Medicine? The story of how I got published? A how-to article on starting book groups? Articles written by writer friends?
What's it like to work with a teenager who's not your own child? Wonderful! Unlike my own two sons, she's not the least bit resentful about working for me, and in fact, considers this a great opportunity.
My pastor, Rick Rzeszewski, once said (only half jokingly) that parents of teenagers should trade children from age 13 on, and then only return them at age 21. I can see the wisdom in this.
Thank God for the Kellys of the world!
Photo: Dancer students in Tustin, CA.