10,000 Hours

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. An outlier is someone or thing that deviates significantly from the rest of the group. Gladwell writes about several very successful people and offers explanations as to why they rose above the pack. While his book has its critics, he raises some interesting points on why certain people achieve not just success but mega success.

Gladwell sees Accumulated Advantage as a key reason for success. Advantages accumulate when one break leads to another and another. Not just brains and talent, most successful people have more than their fair share of good luck and they make the most  of it.

Chance created an advantage for four working class blokes from Liverpool. Through a friend of a friend, The Beatles were given and seized the opportunity to become the house band at a German club. In Liverpool they played a few gigs a month. In Hamburg, they played all night, every night for months at a time. Thousands of hours of public performance time helped them develop confidence, an extensive repertoire and an audience.

Early access to a computer helped Bill Gates become a software mogul. It’s hard to fathom today but in 1968 the eighth grade Bill Gates attended the ONLY middle school in the country with a computer. He was one of a tiny handful of fledgling software programmers (of any age) with computer time at their fingertips. In high school he finagled his way into the University of Washington computer room. The computer was only available in the middle of the night so Bill snuck out of the house at 2 a.m. Like The Beatles, Gates spent hours and hours of hard work developing and perfecting his skills. He seizedthe advantage.

Which begs the next question, how much practice do you need to succeed? Although his book is big on anecdote and weak on data, Gladwell suggests that regardless of your chosen field, 10,000 hours are critical for success.

What does all this mean for you as a writer? It simply means that if you want to be successful, you have to seize every opportunity and then some to write. So how close are you to 10,000 hours? As important, what kind of writing are you booking against your 10,000 hours? Is it the writing equivalent of fooling around in your parent’s garage or, like The Beatles, an intense forty-eight week gig as a house band?

If you are not yet writing professionally, it can be tempting to focus on quantity over quality, to get a new post on your blog every day or capture the latest angst or idea in your journal. The power of blogging is its immediacy and that gem in your journal may be critical to your first novel. Just don’t stop there if you want to get published. In fact, I’d like to suggest that you spend most of your writing time focusing on finished pieces.

Good writing is more than content, more than ideas. Good writing wraps words around the idea and creates meaning and mood with thoughtful, coherent sentences. It weaves those sentences into paragraphs and the paragraphs into a story. The best, maybe the only, way to improve your craft is to spend time and energy on each and every part of the process; from idea to the first rough draft to writing, rewriting, final polish and proofreading. You don’t need an editor, publisher and audience to produce great work.

At least once a week write a polished story. If you love movies, write insightful reviews. If you are interested in politics, write thoughtful editorials. Write flash fiction, love letters or your memoirs; push yourself and strive for flawless perfection.

Write, rewrite and polish but have a deadline and stick to it. When it’s done, post it on your blog, file it, send it to a friend or throw it in trash. And then walk away. Don’t worry about it. It’s perfect enough. Next week, every week, do it again. The more you write the better you’ll get. Before long you’ll have a nice collection.

Almost five years ago with nothing more than a few Word documents, a local newspaper group gave me a weekly food column. I was delighted, proud but most of  all surprised. I had no food writing experience but (and it’s a big BUT) I had spent a lot more than 10,000 hours writing and polishing business memos and strategic plans, white papers and promotional copy. I was technically adept and had a great topic. One thing led to another and I began writing for magazines.

Every week, I spend as much time as I can find working on my craft. Writing. Rewriting. Polishing. More than 6,000 hours and 350 stories later, it’s getting better all the time.

Susan Nye is a writer, blogger, photographer and chef. Her favorite topics are family, food, green living, marketing and branding. She invites you to take a minute to learn about her philanthropic project Eat Well – Do Good © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Tax Breaks

April has got to be the worst month of the year. Ski season ends. It usually rains a lot. And if that’s not enough misery, we have at least kzillion unintelligible forms to plow through and fill out. It’s time to file our taxes. It makes me dizzy thinking about it. No wonder Americans made 10,554,735 math errors on their returns last year. As far as I can figure, a root canal is probably the only thing less bearable than doing taxes. Then again, I’ve never had a root canal. When and if I do, I’ll confirm.

It may be last minute but I’m thinking I should be lobbying for a few special deductions and credits for writers. Why, you ask? Well, without writers there’d be no books. And for those of you that don’t like to read (shame on you), a lot of your favorite movies are based on books. Like The Social Network, Slumdog Millionaire and Forest Gump.

Then there are the humbler writers, those of us who write for newspapers, magazines and blogs. Without us, dentists’ and doctors’ waiting rooms would be pretty boring, wouldn’t they? Plus our blogs provide an enormous service. We help office workers around the world procrastinate and waste hours of what might be an otherwise productive day. Between bloggers and Facebook, desk jockeys can kiss an entire day goodbye with little if any effort. I’m guessing that Facebook has a whole passel of accountants ferreting out all sorts of deductions and credits.

So here goes.

First and foremost, writers should be allowed to deduct their pajamas and slippers. Bus drivers and postal carriers can deduct their uniforms; even strippers can deduct their g-strings. Why not us? It’s the least that Uncle Sam can do. By the way, I don’t work in my pajamas every day. Although I was comfortable ensconced yesterday, as I write this I am properly attired in jeans and a turtleneck. Which leads me to wonder, how come the politicians and religious posses only stop by when I’m in my PJs?

But back to business. How about giving us one of those special deductions, a because-you-write-deduction? Teachers get one. If it wasn’t for writers, teachers would have a hard time teaching. Or at the very least, the school day would be a lot shorter. Kids would be home by 11:00 in the morning. What would you do with them then? The special deduction for educators is $250 per year. I’m not greedy, 250 is okay by me.

Speaking of children, writers should get child credits for their work. That could be a big one, $1,000 a pop. I’d be willing to work on a sliding scale, say $1,000 for a novel down to 50 or 100 for a short story and maybe 10 bucks for one of those quickie magazine pieces.

Our stories are our babies. We create them and nurture them. Sometimes they drive us to distraction and make us want to pull our hair out. Other times they make us laugh and fill our hearts with pure joy. When our work is done, when we’ve edited for the umpteenth time, proofread until we can’t see straight, dotted the last i and crossed the last t, we send them out into the world. Sounds like childrearing to me.

Can you think of any other clever tax deductions or credits for writers?  Let me know if you come up with any more! I’m off to sharpen my pencil, sort through piles of receipts and navigate the maze. Good luck to you and me!

This post is written for entertainment purposes only and in no way constitutes advice of any kind. For that I suggest you contact a tax lawyer or accountant.

It’s been a busy month. This post was originally written for and posted on my food blog. I have a habit of defining food blogging a bit loosely.

Susan Nye is a writer, blogger, photographer and chef. Her favorite topics are family, food, green living, marketing and branding. She invites you to take a minute to learn about her philanthropic project Eat Well – Do Good © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Call for Moms and Mom Bloggers

I’m working on a story about Moms and Blogging for Parenting NH and I need your help. To all the Moms out there who write and/or read what falls, squarely or not so squarely, into the loosely defined category of Mom (or Mommy or Parenting or Family Life or ???) Blogs, I’d like to talk with you. There is one hitch; you must live in New Hampshire.

In both numbers and influence, family-related/mom blogs are growing and becoming increasingly important. Blogs and bloggers are in the news. Readership continues to climb. New bloggers are jumping in.  Blogger and readers alike, you are an awesome, powerful lot. 

Here’s what I’d like to learn

First a little about you. How would you describe yourself? What are you all about? Why do write the blog? Do you have a mission? What is it? How do you see yourself – teacher, humorist, social commentator, networker, advocate, memoirist or other?

Do you cringe at the name Mom or Mommy Blog or embrace it? And why?

Next, when it comes to your blog, what’s it all about? What and who are you writing about? Are you specialized – covering a specific, be it narrow or broad, topic like parenting, blended families, being a single mom, health/wellness issues you or your children may face, social reform, learning, home schooling, food or something else? Or maybe you cover a wide range but still defined list of topics? Or maybe you share whatever captures your fancy or interest on any given day?

How long have you been blogging? Has your blog changed directions since you started it? Did it start out as one thing and turn into something else? How has it evolved? How many times has it changed? Does your blog make money? Was/is that a primary goal or a lucky happenstance?

I would also like to speak with readers. Whether you write one or not, do you regularly read one or more Mom Blogs. Which one(s) do you read? What are you looking for … advice on specific issues/questions? A community and support from kindred spirits? A place to share your views and learn from others? Entertainment? A good laugh or cry? Something else? Do you make comments? Frequently? Do you share links with friends?

And if you’re a Dad … heck, if you are writing or reading about families or parenting, let me know what you’re doing. I’d be interested to learn if it’s not just about Moms. If I hear from a lot of you, I’ll pitch a Daddy Blog story!

If you are willing to be interviewed, send me an email with the subject Mom Blogs. Interviews will be by phone and should take 30 minutes or less. Many thanks for your help!

Susan Nye is a writer, blogger, photographer and chef. Her favorite topics are family, food, green living, marketing and branding. She invites you to take a minute to learn about her philanthropic project Eat Well – Do Good © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Staying Organized – Quick Tip

If you are one of those frightening people with a clean and clear desk and a perfect filing system, this post is not for you. This post is for the schlubs like me who want EASY. Unfortunately, I can’t promise a miracle cure for the terminally disorganized but today’s quick tip has been a lifesaver for me.

One issue which plagued me for years was keeping track of notes from multiple projects. I would start out strong, creating a file and folders for each new project. I would take notes on whatever pad or scrap of paper was handy and then neatly file them in a folder in the file. Over a period of months and even years I would return to the file when I needed information. Then the phone would ring and the folder would get shoved to a corner with the mental note – file later. Nothing was ever lost, just misplaced.

A couple of years ago a few things came together. A perfect storm if you will, a Bermuda Triangle … or maybe it was dumb luck. My writing was starting to take off and branch out and I was doing a fair number of interviews. I admit it; I was having trouble keeping track of the bits and pieces of paper that made up my interview notes.

On my way home from one of these interviews, I happened to stop at a Dollar Store. I was short of both time and money and decided to waste a little of both. That’s when I saw them: a pile of neatly stacked black and white composition books. Years ago I had a colleague who used these very notebooks.

I had scoffed. Notes from all his different meetings and projects were jumbled together. I was sure my way of keeping each project in its own neat little folder was the best way to go. Now I wasn’t so sure.

A buck a piece, I splurged and bought three.

Here’s the best part! I’ve been using them faithfully ever since. No more backs of envelopes or scraps of paper which can and do get tossed into the recycling bin. All my interview notes are safe and sound in one place.

Since I frequently juggle more than one project, an interview with a chef for a Night on the Town is followed by a chat with an innkeeper, followed by advice from a social media guru followed by two more chef interviews. I discovered that shuffling through a few pages is MUCH EASIER than searching the house for files and folders.

To keep everything straight, before starting an interview I jot down the date, the article’s working title and the interviewee’s name and telephone number. If I have their cell phone number and email address, I add them as well. If I don’t, I ask for them during the interview. It’s a simple way to have easy access to contact information for follow up questions or help on a future story.

Perhaps you are wondering why I don’t add them to my Outlook Contacts? I would but … well … I’ve found the easiest way to find Mike the wine guy in Burlington who was quoted in the burger story last summer and whose last name I don’t remember is to quickly flip through my notebook. Same goes for any one of the five nutritionists that helped me with the wholegrain story or that lovely Italian chef who shared her family traditions for a Christmas story.

How’s it working out ? Well in the past few years, I’ve probably avoided several scatterbrained searches and saved at least an hour or two, probably more.

Do you have an easy tip for staying organized? Please share! I’d love to hear it.

Susan Nye is a writer, blogger, photographer and chef. Her favorite topics are family, food, green living, marketing and branding. She invites you to take a minute to learn about her philanthropic project Eat Well – Do Good © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Family Tales – How Much Is Too Much?

Yesterday, Esther got us thinking about blogging and children but what about the rest of the family? Those lovable, irritating, fascinating, annoying, fun and funny spouses (and ex-spouses), siblings, cousins, parents and in-laws. When it comes to sharing their stories, how much is too much?

Families have made good comedy and drama for centuries. A daughter told-all in  Mommy Dearest while an entire family was lovingly lampooned in My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding and an ex was basted and broiled in Heartburn.

But what about people like you and me who don’t have Academy Award winning mothers or celebrity ex-husbands? I first grappled with this problem four years ago when I began publishing a weekly column. Around the Table is part food, part memoir and has been published in a handful of New Hampshire newspapers, including my hometown paper. Since I live in a small town, there’s no such thing as anonymity for me or the family. The column eventually became a blog, exposing our fun, faults and foibles to an even larger audience.

Around the Table is no tell-all. While there isn’t a whole lot to tell, I leave the dirty laundry where it belongs (on the floor in the back of the closet). My dad positively beams whenever I write about him. My brother periodically asks for royalties. From time to time someone suggests my memory is flawed. But hey, it’s my story; they’re free to write their own version of our adventures and misadventures.

All that changed last spring. After mulling and muttering for several months, I finally began another blog. This one is not based on cheerful childhood memories and cooking advice. While Susan Nye’s Other Blog is still figuring out its identity, I frequently write about my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

My mother’s story is part of my personal campaign to raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association. My posts are more haphazard than I would like. My goal is once a week but I rarely make it. I’m pretty sure my too busy schedule has little to do my infrequent posting. It’s painful to realize that my mother doesn’t always recognize her home, her friends, doesn’t always recognize me. Does my pain give me the right to tell her story? I persist, albeit haphazardly, because reports provide information but rarely show the impact this horrible disease has on individuals and families. I share my mother’s story, our family’s story to show what the statistics can’t.

I always take a deep breath before I hit publish. After all I am a New Englander and there are some things we just don’t share. Particularly with strangers.

A few thoughts on writing about family:

Once you hit publish, the story is out there in cyberspace … forever. Whether it’s an ex-husband’s cocaine habit or a cousin’s cross-dressing, it’s a good idea to think twice, maybe three times, before sharing. While a family’s quirks, bad habits and adventures may make for great stories or life lessons, writing about them in a public forum could have a long term impact. Many potential employers, review boards and blind dates Google first and ask questions (or don’t bother) later. Are you ready to accept the consequences your words could have on a loved one?

Before you publish, ask yourself two questions. First, would you want this information on the front page of your hometown newspaper, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal? And second, would you sit down and share this story with your grandmother over a cup of tea. If it doesn’t pass both the newspaper and the Nana tests, you might want to keep the story to yourself.

There are alternatives. If writing helps you cope with a particular family dilemma, you can go old school with notebook and pen. Keeping a private journal may be the perfect solution. If an audience of one is not what you had in mind, many blogs offer privacy settings, limiting who can see your work. You can still vent, rant and rave but only your nearest, dearest and most trusted allies will be able to read your tirades. It won’t get you famous but it could save you from getting barred from Thanksgiving dinner.

Baring your entire soul is not mandatory. Maybe it’s the New Englander in me but it’s okay to tell-some instead of all. My mother always believed that maintaining strong family bonds was more important than being right. I think it’s fitting that I keep that philosophy in mind when I write about her and the rest of the family. And finally, I recognize that what I chose to write about and how I tell the story says as much about me as the people I write about; probably more.

Do you share family stories? Do you include the dirty laundry? What worries you and what self-editing do you do when writing about your family?

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned writer. Her favorite topics are family, food, green living, marketing and branding. Feel free to visit her website, food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table, photoblog or the cleverly named Susan Nye’s Other Blog where she writes about other stuff. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

Thank You Writers

Growing up in Massachusetts, I was well versed in Pilgrim and Thanksgiving lore as a child. Every November my elementary school teachers revisited the perilous journey from England, landing at Plymouth Rock, the first long, hard winter, the historic meetings with Squanto and Massasoit and the first Thanksgiving.

While most of us have not traveled thousands of miles in a rickety ship, writers are a lot like the Pilgrims because …

It takes a leap of faith and courage.
The Pilgrims’ made their momentous decision to sail across the ocean in search of a new way of life. With only a handful of struggling settlements in place, success in the New World was definitely not a given in 1620. It took courage and a leap of faith to climb on the Mayflower to begin again in the New World.

No matter how much your mother, your friends, even your professors admire your work, becoming a writer requires courage and a leap of faith. While the same is true with any freelance work, as writers we expose not just our craft but reveal pieces of ourselves. It may not be as dangerous as crossing the Atlantic in 1620 but it can be just as scary.

There could be (will be) turbulence, tempests and detours.
The trip from England to New England took sixty-five days. The puritans left England in September, just in for hurricane season. They were blown of course and landed several hundred miles north of Virginia, their original destination.

As an optimist, I think of writing is an adventure and a wonderful challenge. But like a 17th century voyage, it’s pretty easy to get blown off course. For good, bad or indifferent, we may end up in places we didn’t expect. Of course it could be worse; we can get stuck in the doldrums .

We’ll face hard times.
It was November, too late to plant crops when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. They suffered a long, cold and hungry winter. Most writers have to cope, at least metaphorically, with long, hungry winters. Thankfully, we love what we do. If we didn’t, it might be too hard to cope with some of the lean spells between assignments. Or the polite rejection notes from publishers and editors.

We definitely need good friends.
If not for the help of Squanto from the local Wampanoag tribe the puritans might not have survived. Squanto taught them to fish, hunt, gather and farm. He also acted as their negotiator and diplomat with the local chief, Massasoit.

As writers we adore our cheerleading friends and family. They love our work because they love us. But we need more than family and friendship to make it as writers. We need editors and agents to guide us through what sometimes feels like a strange and hostile wilderness. We need help to hunt and farm our stories and negotiators and diplomats to smooth our way.

With perseverance and luck, there will be productive times…
With Squanto’s help, the Pilgrims planted and nurtured their first fields. He taught them to add fish to the soil to fertilize crops. While it undoubtedly seemed bizarre to plant fish for corn, the Pilgrims took Squanto’s advice and harvested a bountiful crop.

Fish may be brain food but we can’t just throw a few sardines under the pillow to fertilize our creativity. Our curiosity plants a seed and then our passion for writing takes hold to nurture and grow a story. We develop our stories with research, interviews, drafts and more drafts.

As we learn more, the stories and our passion grow. It is this passion that drives us to dig deeper, learn more, read more, do more research and write, write and write some more. The very lives we lead and the stories we write today fertilize our brains and creativity for tomorrow’s tales.

… and (let’s hope) there will be times for thanks and celebration.
To celebrate their survival and first harvest, the Pilgrims threw a big party, a Thanksgiving feast. Writing is hard work, maybe not as hard as 17th century Plimoth, but still hard. As writers, we too need to celebrate our survival, our triumphs, our big wins and maybe even some of the small ones.

My hat is off and my glass is raised to all the writers out there. With every word you write, every story you tell, you enrich our lives. Thank you.

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned writer. Her favorite topics are food, small business and green living. Feel free to visit her website, food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table, photoblog or the cleverly named Susan Nye’s Other Blog where she writes about other stuff. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

Where do you get your ideas?

From time to time, friends and even strangers ask me where I get my story ideas. It usually happens when I’ve sparked a memory, struck a nerve or made someone laugh. Out pops the incredulous blurt, “How do you come up with this stuff?”

Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, the question is purely rhetorical, a lovely compliment. I find that most readers, friend, foe or stranger, don’t really want to hear about my process. Instead, they like to imagine that stories burst into life, full grown like Athena sprouted from the head of Zeus.

The head of Zeus theory suggests that writing is a wonderful but mysterious gift. Some have it, others don’t. It recognizes creativity and passion but overlooks the angst and hard work. I think that most stories and ideas, particularly the big ones, wiggle and waggle, needle and noodle around the brain and page for days, weeks, even years.

In addition to my posts on Live to Write – Write to Live, I write a weekly food column/blog, have a daily photo-blog and contribute to a bunch of regional magazines. I’ve been trying but mostly failing to post weekly on my other blog which covers reinvention, Alzheimer’s and other stuff. All told, I publish about 150 articles and blog posts a year. Very few are assigned so it’s up to me to come up with 150 new story ideas. Every year. Maybe I’m a big baby but I think that’s a lot.

Here’s how I do it. First and foremost, I believe that creativity breeds creativity. I get some of my best ideas when working on several projects at once. My heart and sympathies go out to anyone trying to juggle a day job with writing at night. I’m a corporate dropout and can’t imagine having the creative, emotional or intellectual wherewithal to write after a long day at my old job.

From idea to print, my timelines range from a week to a full year or more. My food column/blog never takes a vacation and needs to be fed every week. I send most feature story pitches to magazine editors six months in advance and write them a month or two before publication. Seasonal photo-essay pitches go out even earlier. This week I’ll work on stories for today, next Tuesday, December and January, wrack my brain for ideas to pitch for spring and take holiday photographs for 2011.

When I need an idea I often look at the calendar for inspiration. Holidays, vacations, foliage and ski season all conjure up ideas. Other times I start by thinking about ingredients or food categories like tomatoes, chocolate or comfort food. Other times, a chance remark from a friend, a news story, a look in the look in the mirror or even 1964 Mustang parked on the side of the road can spark the first glimmer of an idea.

And then I take a walk. I do my best thinking while walking. All those good chemicals rush out to give me a creative boost. My favorite route gives me an hour and forty minutes of glorious scenery and concentrated, endomorph-fueled thinking time.

As I walk, I let my thoughts wander and meander. I intermittently get lost and found and then lost again. I hold internal dialogs and debates. These discussions can get pretty intense. I keep silent but smile, frown, grimace, roll my eyes and talk with my hands. Sometimes I catch myself moving my lips. I quickly stop it for fear that someone will call the police and report a crazy lady on Bunker Road.

On a good day, ideas will bounce around my head like oh so many ping pong balls. And if I’m lucky, one or two will be gold. Then again, sometimes I hit a dead end. That’s when I take a deep breath, clear the panic, pray for inspiration and go for another walk.

And now I want to ask … how do you come up with your stuff!?!

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned writer. Her favorite topics are food, small business and green living. Feel free to visit her website, food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table, photoblog or the cleverly named Susan Nye’s Other Blog where she writes about other stuff. © Susan Nye, 2010

Branding and Christopher Columbus

Last week was the long Columbus Day weekend. As far as I can tell it started sometime the first week of October and is still going on. That’s according to the furniture stores and automobile dealerships that are holding their mega, fall, blowout sales.

So who was this guy who sailed the ocean blue in 1492? What’s his story and more important what’s his brand? Back in elementary school, he was the hero who discovered America. All the Italian-American kids in the neighborhood loved it that an Italian had discovered America. With my Swedish roots, I felt just as proud when archeological remains of Viking settlements were found in Newfoundland. The digs proved that Scandinavians discovered North America four centuries before the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria left Spain. I kept waiting for a Leif the Lucky Day. I’m still waiting.

Columbus’ story is complicated. There is the hero from my elementary school days. Columbus, the hero, convinced the King and Queen of Spain that the earth was round and the shortest route to China was due west. They funded his trip and he discovered America. Ferdinand and Isabella rewarded Columbus with great wealth and made him governor of the new lands.

Then there is the greedy, criminal and cruel Columbus. Continue reading

More on Networking

Writing is about creativity, passion, art and craft. It can be a solitary, lonely process. It’s just you and your keyboard. Working from home, there is no water cooler to congregate around, no gossip to share. I suspect that’s why many writers grab their laptops and work at the local internet café. If not all the time, at least a couple of times a week.

Networking with other writers can be incredibly rewarding. It is wonderful to spend time with kindred spirits. Other writers understand that working from home with a flexible schedule doesn’t mean you are unemployed, retired or a person of leisure. Other writers understand your trials and tribulations, fears and frustrations. Other writers can often offer the best tips and advice to market your work. And they make great cohorts, encouraging, congratulating and commiserating.

NH Writers’ Project is starting up a monthly Writers’ Night Out. Beginning in October, this new monthly event is for New Hampshire writers to meet, greet and get to know each other. Not a reading or a lecture, these are friendly gatherings and great opportunities to network with other writers. It is an opportunity for writers to meet informally, discuss what they are working on, what’s new in publishing, what they are reading and more.

These networking events are happening at three different locations around the State. Reservations are not required. Bring yourself or bring a friend but don’t forget to check out the Writers’ Night Out nearest you.

NHWP Writers’ Night Out

The first Monday of every month!

Debuts October 4, 7 to 9 p.m. (until 10 p.m. in Portsmouth) at:

Seacoast: Common Man, 96 State Street, Portsmouth
Central: Barley House, 132 North Main Street, Concord
Upper Valley: Salt Hill Pub, 2 South Park Street, Lebanon

For more information you can call (603) 314-7980.
Drink and food is a la carte, conversation and connections are free.
If you want to see who else is attending, visit NH Writers Project on Facebook. Click on their Events tab.

Guerrilla Marketing – Part III – Focus

Focus. As some of you have probably guessed by now when it comes to marketing if I have a mantra it’s probably focus. Stay focused on your subject matter and areas of expertise. Focus on clearly defined target markets. Don’t try to be all things to all people. When selling yourself and your expertise, focus on clear, simple messages.

A few days ago I broke my own rules.

Snagging free television time is one of my favorite guerilla marketing tactics. As a food writer, I’ve managed to make regular appearances on WMUR, our local ABC affiliate. It took me at least six months of proposals before they agreed to have me on their noon time Cook’s Corner. Persistence and luck finally won out and I got my first spot when someone cancelled at the last minute.

I now average about eight appearances per year. I am frequently, and pleasantly, surprised by strangers who recognize me from my regular doses of three minutes of noontime fame. Whenever I appear, I stay very focused. I talk about food, cooking and ingredients. I plug one of my magazine articles or my blog. It’s taken some practice but family and friends who watch assure me that I appear knowledgeable, at ease and personable.

A few days ago I arrived at WMUR with my baby greens, roasted mushrooms and gorgonzola. I also brought a new mission, a new imperative which caused me to break my focus rule. I wanted to do more than demonstrate a lovely salad, more than promote my blog. I wanted to promote the Memory Walks for the Alzheimer’s Association.

I talked about autumn cooking, I talked about salads and roasting mushrooms. And I talked about Alzheimer’s and the Memory Walks. What I didn’t manage to do was plug my blog  and blog address two or three, preferably more times. When it comes to my blog, I broke the rule of tell them, tell them and tell them again. I didn’t focus my appearance on sending people to my blog; I spent as much time as possible encouraging people to join the battle against Alzheimer’s.

The results? Normally an appearance on Cook’s Corner sends my blog stats through the roof. By splitting my three minutes between my recipe demonstration and a cause I believe in, I sacrificed blog hits. However, if even one person decides to participate in a Memory Walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s or donate to the Alzheimer’s Association … it was worth it! Thankfully, I returned home to find three messages on my voicemail  pledging to donate.

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned writer. Alzheimer’s runs in her family and she is actively engaged in raising awareness and money for her Memory Walk team, Team Libby. Team Libby is named in honor of her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Susan gratefully welcomes donations. © Susan W. Nye, 2010