Tag Archives: Being an author

C4YW Final Thoughts

This blog appeared on the Living Beyond Breast Cancer site today.

 

As with most things, the anxiety around something new never quite plays out and the unexpected benefits delight.  Such was my experience at C4YW this year in Orlando.  Unequivocally, it was a great conference for me to attend.

Why?

These young women were brave.  Honest.  Open.   Grateful.  Healing.  I met women smack in the middle of treatment, who had climbed aboard a plane to come to Orlando, because this conference was that important to them.  They wanted to be surrounded by other young women who understood, and learn about issues that affect them specifically.

They let me into their lives, these women, sharing their stories, the names of their children (sometimes with halting voices and tears), and their worries.  As someone just starting out selling my book, this was as real as it gets.

I was able to press 45 books into the hands of women with children at home, nurses who treat those women, and representatives of cancer support groups and national (and international) organizations who make it their business and passion to help these women.

Being an exhibitor on your own is a vigorous experience. For a total of 19 hours over 3 days, I stood up and talked to those who came by and expressed interest in my book. Gravity takes hold, and my toes, after being embraced by stylish yet slightly unforgiving footwear, swelled like ballpark franks. The second morning, instead of manning my table at an unforgivable 7:30 am until 6 pm (that’s 4:30 am for us west coast bodies!), I opted instead to get some fresh air and a run outside and slide in at 9 am.

I had hoped to go see a few of the speakers. But I learned that an exhibitor is not necessarily a participant, unless you sign up to be a participant.  Now I know.   And second, the exhibit hall, open during almost all the hours of the conference, never really quieted down.  When most participants were in sessions, there were always a few others wandering in there, and that was also the best time to talk with other exhibitors.  As business is about making contacts, this was a priceless opportunity to either meet face-to-face some of the people I’ve been emailing or talking to on the phone, or introduce myself to new organizations.  When things got slow, I introduced myself, handed over a book, and encouraged them to read my work at their leisure.

I was struck by how many of us there on the exhibit side had a cancer diagnosis behind us.  To wit:  Josh at Lymphedivas, whose sister started the company because she couldn’t stand the ugly compression sleeves offered to her.  Danielle and Angelle started Chemo Beanies because these two sisters couldn’t find something stylish and comfortable to wear when they lost their hair. Susan from the BeauBeau started a company to offer fashionable turbans to women with medical hair loss.  Although she came from  a family of women diagnosed with breast cancer, a diagnosis of Alopecia Areata motivated her. Countless non-profit organizations have been started to offer support and advice, from KC at Families Who Support Breast Cancer Survivors to Sarah at Project3One to a metastatic disease group represented by a mom and her young daughter.  Next door to me  Susan mixed personal experience with love and tenderness as she fitted women with a very beautiful (and sexy) double-arm compression garment she found manufactured in Italy.  When I introduced myself to the three ladies at the Anita booth behind me, helping fit beautiful bras and swimsuits for women who have had a mastectomy surgery, I learned that Twila was a 19-year survivor, Merri was closing in on 10 years, and Colleen, diagnosed more recently, was 7 months out.

If any participant wanted to see “life after cancer” in full, glorious view, she had to look no further than the exhibit hall and at the other participants. It pains me that there are so many young women who need a breast cancer related conference, but  there is comfort in  knowing that by offering targeted programming in a supportive environment, people will gratefully gather to see that they are not alone.

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Being Bald

Boy, if I didn’t already know that you don’t get what you don’t ask for, I certainly have been learning that in spades lately.

Having come from a family of “Oh, I don’t want to be a bother” and “You don’t have to if you don’t really want to,” it’s taken some getting used to this idea of promoting oneself.  Like it doesn’t come naturally.  At all.

I have to be reminded by my pr savvy girlfriends that I’m trying to do good work, and part of how I can help others is by shouting from the tallest branch with the most authentic message.  And shouting a lot.  Or maybe whistling.  Or making a video that rocks the shizzocks.

So there I was at the Zero Breast Cancer Dipsea Hike event the other Sunday, having been convinced by my one girlfriend to set up a table and at least hike the course.  So I did what I was told.  I set up my little card table, put out copies of my book, and stood behind it with my cup of coffee in my hands and a big smile on my face.  I sold 2, count ‘em, 2 copies that day.  One to a teacher of young kids from Tahoe and another to a nice woman who kept tearing up when she looked at the pictures.

Not exactly a spike in sales.  But I have heard of such things, from other authors, who have talked of book signings where nobody shows up.   (Ouch!)

So I’m standing there post hike, and I notice that there is a woman who looks familiar not because she is a friend of a friend, but because I know she is on television.  Somewhere.  I know it.  And as I try to watch her without staring, her name pops into my head:  Gayle King.  That’s it, it’s Gayle King.  I know she is a television news reporter from San Francisco.   In that moment, my PR mavens jump on my shoulder and start whispering into my ear.

“Go talk to her, Sue”

“Give her a copy of your book.”

“It’s perfect.  This is a breast cancer event and you have a breast cancer book.”

I watch as she winds down from the run, as she peruses a table of free swag from another vendor, and as she goes and gets food to eat.  I try to do the mind meld where I ask her mentally to come over to my table, but that doesn’t work.  I even mention to my friends next to me, “Hey, that’s Gayle King, and she’s on tv.  Should I go and tell her about my book?”    They of course encourage this action on my part.

So, what the hell, I think.  And I grab a book, a business card, my proverbial nuts, and stride over to Gayle who is sitting in a chair flanked by some friends.

I don’t lead with “Hi, my name is Sue, ” or “Excuse me, I have something I’d like to share with you.”  I lead with “Is your name Gayle?”, which it turns out, is NOT her name.  She doesn’t offer her name, which is absolutely her right but leaves me with this terribly horrid feeling that I must have either a) thought she was someone famous and she isn’t or b) that she IS that famous person but she would rather not talk to some half-sweaty stranger obviously interested in showing her something.   The Not-Gayle woman tells me that if I’m looking for someone named Gayle, the women at the finishing table might be able to tell me whether she has come in from the hike yet.   And so I thank her for that information, and in another awkward moment decide on my next move.

“Well, I’m here, and you’re obviously moved in some way to support breast cancer awareness because you’re here, so let me show you what I’ve done.”

Thus ensued the pulling out of the book, which one of her friends asked to see and started to read with a couple of the other women.  Not-Gayle said that this is an important issue, and clearly a pretty book, and I said something about how I thought she was on television and that’s why I came to share it with her.  And that’s when she said,

“I am on television.”

And then I wanted to vomit.  Because that’s when she told me her name is Dana King, and I looked at her and her friends and smiled and realized in that split second that Gayle King is Oprah’s friend and not the Emmy-winning anchor of the CBS news affiliate in San Francisco that I was currently talking to.

So.  It blows when you make a fool of yourself.  But here’s the thing.  Dana ended up telling me that she would take the book and give it to one of the medical reporters at KPIX to check out, because “it’s breast cancer awareness month in October” and everyone is looking for an angle.  And indeed Dr. Kim Mulvihill called me a week later to ask if she could come and interview me, which she is doing next week.  When I told her about how I’d majorly blown Dana’s name, she said that Dana hadn’t mentioned that, and that she in fact had said that I was quite nice, which, Kim pointed out, is not always the way that famous people are approached at events.

So note to self.  Don’t think you know someone’s name.  Offer yours and go from there.  And sometimes being bald has nothing to do with how much hair you have on your head.  That Sunday, I was totally bald and just cloaked in my embarrassment.

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Words I Love: Second in a Series

Glob is a great word.  It sounds like what it is.  And there is something very special about words that do that.   You really can’t say “glob” quickly.  I mean, you can of course, but it sounds forced.

Glob needs to take its time coming out of your mouth.  It slows you down.  It’s brilliant.

Blob is right next to glob in my book.  Although for some reason, possibly because people use it more, glob seems cooler.  Blob did get its own movie, however, and not very words can say that.

What about tubby?  Now that’s a nice word.  Kinda like plump.  Instead of calling something fat, which seems so biting and angry, try tubby.  It’s pleasant.  Like a cartoon character.

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Free to Be, You and Me

Tonight was a game changer.  I sat in a room of strangers (except for Nancy) and told them my story.  Then I handed everyone a book, and we read it together.   I’m honestly too fried right now to write coherently or compellingly, but I just have to say that it was very moving for me, and it seems for everyone else as well.  On one side of me a 6-year survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer, on the other a woman 3 months out of surgery and bald and beautiful.   A pre-school teacher was so effusive in her compliments that she almost made me cry.  I sold a handful of books, touched a number of people, and realized that tonight just might be the first night of a whole new career.  At dinner afterwards (Chinese, obviously), Hans overheard the music playing in the restaurant.  It was as perfect as my fortune.

“And you and me are free to be, you and me.”

To charting one’s own course.

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Just Ask

To ask.

Why is this so hard?

Kids know how to do it.  In fact, they can repeatedly pull the “Can I …” trigger until you would image they get some kind of elbow injury.

Having been on the receiving end of the “Can I?” game, I’ve watched  how a pro does it.  The initial approach is straightforward.

He asks.  Pure and simple.  In our house, often the pro gets a reply that he doesn’t like.

So, after a minute or so, he asks again.  To his horror, he gets the same unappealing answer.

Perhaps next it is a re-framed question.  Something a bit different.  “Can I do it later?  Can I do it tomorrow?”

If he still does not receive the right answer, he adds some flair:  The add-on.

“Can I do it IF I …”  This is a savvy move, for the qualifier makes the recipient believe they are negotiating.  This is smart.  It also serves to elongate the conversation.   Fatigue sets in.

This is the time for the extreme level of difficulty.   Time to unveil the ever-so-slightly desperate switcheroo.  The “Why can’t I …” refrain.  Only the best can keep a level head and dry eye at this level.   Whining doesn’t score extra points, and actually allows the recipient to know they might have the upper hand.

Today I tried the “Can I” game for myself.  I’m not a big player.  Not too comfortable with it.  But now, I wonder why I don’t play this game more often.

Because, you know, I’m finding that most people are pretty accommodating.

So today when I asked, “Can I get you to move my book from the childrens book section of your store to right there across from the cash register where far more people will see my book?” the lady on the other end of the phone said, “Sure.”

Clearly she didn’t know the game.

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The Day It All Changed

She said cavalierly, “Oh, I’ve read that book.  It’s great.”

And I just about wet my pants.  Because “that book” was my book, and she wasn’t someone that I knew.

With that simple interchange, I realized that all the hard work, and late nights, and yes, the experience of having cancer as a 33-year-old young mother had translated into something transformative.

In that moment, surrounded by hats and wigs in the fitting room at A Lady’s Touch in San Rafael, where I had come to donate a book and a stack of business cards, I became an author.

I didn’t think it was possible to trump Monday, when I visited the Larkspur library, and asked if they would be interested in purchasing a copy of my book.  The librarian looked on her computer, noticed that the book was already in the system, and told me something that made me clutch my chest.

“Oh, there it is.  And it’s checked out.”

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Signs From Above

Sometimes things just line up perfectly.

I was walking up an unending hill yesterday, talking to myself about the plans for my future (actually interviewing myself about my kids book).  It felt good to be somewhere very very green, as Bequia was so very brown and dry.  Roxy, my dog, was happy to be out, and although I had made one “hail mary” call to a local girlfriend to join me last minute, I actually was appreciative of the solitude.

Of course, if anyone could see me, I looked like a lunatic talking to myself.

So there I was, huffing and puffing up the hill, all the way to the top, where I get a great view of my town and beyond.  Beautiful.  Satisfying.  I had said all the things I wanted to say to myself.  But it wasn’t until I turned around, started back down, and rounded a corner that I was met, full face on with the most glorious CLOSE and PERFECT end-to-end rainbow I think I’ve ever seen.

It was a big ‘ol cosmic HELL YA SISTER!   KEEP ON TRUCKIN’.

At least, that’s how I interpreted it.

And I even laughed out loud.  Because it was that perfect.  And I stayed there looking at this thing of beauty even after it started to rain, pretty hard on me.  Because, you know, when the cosmos is talking, you can’t start walking.

Sunshine and rain, that’s all we need.

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