Author Archives: Sylvia Cary

Nana’s Magic Pen

Definition of Magic: The art of producing illusions by sleight of hand; the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power. . .

          ― Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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I’m not a fussy eater, but I am a fussy writer when it comes to pens. A pen has to be just right or it interrupts the creative flow, distracts me, and makes me go scrounging around for another. Without the right pen, I lose the muse.

As a result, I’ve owned a lot of pens over the course of my writing career, but never one as lovely as the pen I caught sight of one day at the discount store, Tuesday Morning. It was clear lucite―you could see right into its very soul―and only $18 instead of the original $80.  I bought it. I was not disappointed. It wrote “smooth as butter.” No skipping or yucky ink blobs.

When my granddaughter, Lily, then 6, came over one afternoon she went right for the pen. She immediately named it “Nana’s Magic Pen.”

“Can I use it, Nana?” she asked.

She cut up and folded some papers into a tiny book and wrote a story called “Nana Wants a Cat.” The story had the perfect three-act structure: The main character, Nana, loses her beloved cat. Now she wants a new one really badly, so she goes off on a quest to find a replacement cat. Her journey takes her to many animal shelters (where you should always get your cats) and she meets a lot of not-right cats and a lot of just-okay cats, which makes Nana so sad she’s about to give up — but then one day she finally finds a black and white rescue kitten and brings her home and names her Diamond.”

Lily proudly handed me her “book.”

I am sure you will all agree that this is proof positive that whenever a writer uses a magic pen, well-told tales with happy endings are the result.

Every writer should have a magic pen.

 (c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT; Photo credit: Sylvia Cary
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Keeping up to Date Can Get You Down

 

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My book had been out for 5 years, so I started looking for just a few now-dated references and marking them with sticky-notes. I used a whole lot of  sticky-notes!    Photo by Sylvia Cary

Ever bite off more than you could chew? I did that recently. I made the mistake of re-reading my own book, “The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published,” which I  had indie-published on Amazon and Kindle, as well as on LightningSource, five years ago. While reading, I was stunned to realize that while I was out there marketing the book, publishing gremlins had been sneaking into it and making it sound dated! Dated! Imagine that! How the heck did that happen?

Well, it happened because during that five years the publishing industry had been rushing ahead and making changes, hundreds of changes, big and small. For example, there was no IngramSpark under the LightningSource umbrella when I published my book, so I had no mention of it.  At the time, a self-publishing author could get an ISBN number for $10 from Amazon’s CreateSpace. Today you can’t. It’s $99. “No wonder I’ve been reluctant to market my book the last couple of years,” I said to myself. “There are now mistakes in it and I’m embarrassed. Obviously, they were put there by those publishing gremlins!”

I made the decision right then and there to “update” my book, tweak the cover, and market it all over again. Then I upped the challenge to myself: “No, I’ll come out with a Second Edition with new chapters, which of course means I’ll have to get another ISBN and a new cover, front and back — but then I can really go to town marketing it in all the ways I neglected to market it before! I’ll be a changed author/promoter.”

I took a second pass through the book and put a sticky note wherever I caught something that was dated or needed fixing (see photo above). I set forth with great determination to track down every change in the publishing industry over the last five years and document each one.

Trying to keep up. . .

Within weeks my apartment had every surface stacked with books, notebooks, and printouts. To catch up with “the latest” I was watching YouTube videos, listening to webinars, writing new chapters, and driving around town to panels and workshops. I began to feel overwhelmed and sick at my stomach when I looked at the months of work ahead of me, not to mention my new, about-to-be-created re-publishing expenses.

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My bed of research books became a nightmare.  Photo by Visualhunt.com

And for what? I finally asked myself that all-important question: Why was I doing this? It was stupid. Why compete with all the hundreds of new books, Kindles, newsletters, webinars and videos about “the publishing industry” when I already had a unique niche audience (therapists who want to write) that I should be focusing on in a more laser-like fashion. I’d been making that mistake authors are warned about of trying to sell to everybody. “Stick with the shrinks, Sylvia,” I said and felt better already.

Knowing when to hold and when to fold       

So I walked back my plan for an update or a snazzy Second Edition and decided to Keep It Simple. I went through the book a third time just to tidy it up enough so I’m not embarrassed by statements of facts that are no longer facts. They’ve changed. I deleted some things, corrected some things, switched the first two chapters around, but it’s basically the same book, same cover, same number of pages, minus the errors (or most of them I hope). I’m about to upload it to CreateSpace as a “correction,” not a reinvention!

Getting good ideas is great, but knowing when to quit helps you sleep at night.

(c) Sylvia Cary, The Therapist Writer

 

 

 

 

 

Living in the Blurbs

 

 

 

colour-speech-bubbles (1) 8 Ways to Get “Blurbs” for Book Marketing     Photo by Morguefile

“Blurb” is a great little word, a sort of nickname for the more official-sounding words such as “testimonial,” “acknowledgment,” “endorsement,” “review” or “comment.” A blurb is a snippet of something that somebody says about your book that you can then use in your book marketing. It can be anything from an eloquent celebrity endorsement that you’ll probably want to use on your front cover to an unfortunately useless comment (“Great book!”) that a reader puts up on your Amazon book page as a “customer review,” but may quickly get disappeared by Amazon because it doesn’t fit their review criteria.

Why Blurbs?

There’s a whole history (just Google “blurbs” and you’ll see) about why blurbs have gotten to be so important, especially for indie authors publishing on Amazon, but the bottom line is that — aside from a good book with a good cover — you gotta have blurbs. An author should never launch a book on Amazon “naked” (meaning with no customer reviews), yet many do. That’s not good. Blurbs legitimize your book and make people feel more comfortable about buying it. Going to a book site with no reviews feels like going to a movie when there are only one or two other people in the theatre. It feels uncomfortable. You want out of there. Buyers go elsewhere.

Where to Use Blurbs

  • Indie authors want blurbs mostly in the form of customer reviews on Amazon. Set a goal of 100. (I know! Yikes!). Blurbs are also used for . . .
  • Front cover (hopefully from a celebrity or thought-leader in your field)
  • Back cover (as a powerful sales pitch for your book)
  • Inside the book where you can include pages of blurbs — which is why you’ll want to get a bunch of them in advance of publication
  • On your marketing pieces (business cards, postcards, bookmarks, flyers, “one-sheets”)
  • As part of your email signature
  • On your website, blog, or landing page
  • On certain social media sites (pretty-up a blurb for Pinterest)
  • Stamped on your give-away items, such as mugs or pens

 How to Get Blurbs

      Before Publication . . .

  1. Send out pages of your work (or a chapter to a specialist in the area you’re writing about) to get feedback and a usable “comment” (to later be put up on Amazon).
  2. When your book is close to its launch date, set it up on Amazon (pre-order status) so you can ask the people who’ve already read your pages or sections to write a “customer review”. Give them How-to directions.
  3. Order “proof” (advance) copies to give out for peer reviewers or whole-book readers for additional reviews. People do tend to procrastinate, so give them a deadline and offer some incentives for getting their review in quickly.
  4. Some reviewers who procrastinate are very relieved to have you write their review for them and they can just sign off on it. Saves them a lot of time!

 After Publication . . . 

5. Launch Day: As soon as your book is up on Amazon, officially published, grab the link from your book page and paste it into an announcement you’re going to send (using an email program like Constant Contact) to your email list telling them your book is published, asking them to click on the link to see it, and begging them to write a customer review (I like to use the word blurb or “comment” because it sounds less like a book report!). Explain How-to and why – because it helps you sell books!

6. If you’ve sent out a lot of announcements, some people will write reviews on Amazon, others may write you personally and say nice things about your book. Immediately, email them back and ask, “Would you mind putting that on my Amazon site?” (Give How-to directions). Otherwise use their blurb for something else.

7. Whenever you run into anybody you know at the market and they say something nice about your book, ask them, “Do you mind if I use that as a blurb.” If they can put it up on Amazon themselves, great, but if not you can use their blurb elsewhere, so write it down before you forget it, then email it to the person who said it to make sure you remembered it correctly!

8. This is like looking for spare change in the couch, but look though older emails and social media posts to find blurbs about your book you forgot you had. You may actually find a great blurb you didn’t realize was a “blurb” at the time that you read it. Now you recognize it for what it is and realize it’s just perfect for a press release you’re writing.

Blurbs are in the Air

There are many more ways to get “blurbs” (reviews), such as tracking down Amazon Top Reviewers  or doing the whole guest blogger thing (which is getting harder and harder as there is more and more competition for attention for one’s book). There are, as well, some really terrific books and Kindles by known experts in the book marketing business, but for now keep it simple and do these basics. And keep in mind that the next time somebody tells you, “Your book really touched me, especially that scene . . .” ask them, “Can I use that as a blurb?” See, blurbs are in the air.

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published.

Is It Okay to Write About My Patients? *

 Loose lips sink ships. World War II poster

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Before you pick up that pencil, read these tips.

Occasionally one of my therapist colleagues will approach me because they want to write a book -– maybe an academic book about their specialty, or a how-to, or a memoir, novel, or even a children’s book. They may have been sitting on a book idea for years and want to get it off their bucket list; or they want that instant credibility that comes from being “the author of. . .” a book on their specialty; or they may just want to have a carton of books in the trunk of their car to to sell at seminars, workshops or conferences, or give away to colleagues, clients, friends and family as gifts.

No matter what the book’s topic or genre or what the therapist’s reason is for wanting to get published, the first question I usually get asked is: “Is it okay to write about my patients? What if my patient reads it? How do I not get sued?”

Let me reassure you that licensed mental health professionals definitely can write about patients. Thousands do it. But there are some Do’s and Don’ts involved. That’s what we’ll look at here.

Confidentiality

All writers, not just therapist writers, should concern themselves with the possible consequences of what they say in print, just as we should all think before we speak. Blabbing off can get anybody in trouble. However, unlike “regular” writers, licensed mental health professionals have to be particularly vigilant when it comes to writing about clients because we have some extra legal and ethical restrictions. Our main concern is always the issue of confidentiality.

“Protecting patient confidentiality is the bedrock of psychotherapy,” says Gerry Grossman of Gerry Grossman Seminars, a company that provides California mental health professionals with exam preparation and continuing education courses. “Breaking this trust . . .puts the therapist at risk for losing his or her license.”

Yikes! Agreed! Nobody wants to get sued! That’s definitely not a perk of getting published. So let’s go over a few guidelines before you hop on the computer. If you just follow these hints and tips you should be just fine.

The Art of Disguise

This is standard. When you write about patients, always disguise their identities. This doesn’t mean just changing their names! Changing a name is never enough, especially if the other details or situations in the piece could help readers identify them. For example, stating that a wealthy female patient is “married to the Chicago-based CEO of XYZ company” doesn’t work for obvious reasons. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to do an Internet search to find out the name of that CEO and know immediately the identity of Mrs. CEO. So also change the name of the company. Change the location. Change the nature of the company’s business. Change their adult son to twin teen daughters. And if any of these things are really just fluff and not crucial to the story, leave them out.

Rule of Thumb

Danielle Ofri, M.D., physician and author of the books Incidental Findings: Lessons from My Patients in the Art of Medicine,  and Medicine in Translation: Journeys with my Patients, commented in an article (“Harnessing the Winds of Change”) that as writers we of course have to change names and identities of patients, but that’s not all: “My rule of thumb is that the description must be different enough so that it will be tough for anyone, other than the person being described or close associates, to recognize them.”

Psychoanalyst Judy Kantrowitz, M.D. interviewed 141 fellow analysts on the subject of writing about patients and found there wasn’t consensus on exactly how to disguise patients, only to do it. Kantrowitz came up with a similar conclusion to Ofri’s above, only she went a step further: “Disguise a patient so when they read it they don’t even recognize themselves.”

Self-Disclosure

What about a licensed therapist who wants to write about themselves, not their clients? A memoir perhaps, or a novel that’s obviously based on them? While it’s not illegal or unethical to do this, not all therapists think it’s a good idea. It often depends on the therapist’s training. A psychoanalytically trained therapist who believes in the “blank screen” approach is probably never going to write a memoir or disclose anything personal in a book. On the other hand, a therapist with a personal recovery story (addiction, e.g.) that’s related to their specialty may feel quite comfortable writing about it, seeing it as an appropriate self-disclosure which can be an asset to the therapeutic process, even inspiring some clients: “If my therapist can beat the problem, then I can beat it, too.”  The yes or no choice is up to the writer.

Informed Consent

An alternative to mastering the art of disguise in writing about patients is to get signed releases from them (“informed consent”) prior to making their identities known for some specific purpose or event, such as a case presentation at a conference, a teaching video in a classroom, or the publication of an article or book in which the patient might be identifiable.

A psychologist friend of mine who has published four books and is fairly well-known in her specialty area of weight management, has been a guest on many of the big daytime TV talk shows where she has talked about her private practice cases. Sometimes she will even have a client join her on camera. Advance discussions with the patient and signed releases are what make this possible.

Be Kind

The play Tea and Sympathy by Robert Anderson was a hit on Broadway in the 1950s and later became a movie. It’s about a shy young man in a boarding school who has an affair with the wife of the headmaster. At the end of the play the wife tells the young man, who is about to leave school, “Years from now when you talk about this, and you will, be kind.”

When writing about patients (ditto friends, family and neighbors), do the same thing ― be kind. You can rarely get into trouble for saying something nice about somebody. Leave the mean digs alone. In your description of your pudgy client, say “slightly overweight” not “fat” if weight is relevant. If it’s not relevant, skip it. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus. Remember, “First, do no harm” as it says in the Hippocratic Oath. And in the Twelve Step recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, members are encouraged to be forthcoming (if they wish) about their own shortcomings (referred to as “taking your own inventory”), but it’s frowned upon to “take the inventories” of others. No loose lips!

Fearless Writing

Don’t let these legal and ethical restrictions on writing about clients scare you, just be aware of them. Basically, it’s just common sense. Put yourself in your client’s place: How would you feel if this or that were said about you? Abide by the guidelines of our profession. And then write on and prosper!

* (c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT. This article is from Sylvia Cary’s book, The Therapist Writer, which is currently being updated since things in the publishing industry change at lightning speed. Please email sylviacary@gmail.com if you are interested in being informed when the updated version of The Therapist Writer launches. Website: sylviacary.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Declaration of Independence – A Document for Writers and Cats Alike

My rescue cat, Pearl, reading The Declaration of Independence that was printed in the New York Times today. She is appreciating no longer being in a cage.

JULY 4th, 2017 – The country’s birthday and my blog’s birthday. I started it on July 4th, 2011, and even though I’ve neglected it terribly the last few years, I do always blog on July 4th.  This morning when I picked up my New York Times from my doorstep, I discovered that they’d printed a copy of the Declaration of Independence. I read it twice. What a great piece of writing that is — brief, clear, well-structured, moving — the kind of writing that always takes the longest to write!

As a writer — as a human being — I am grateful for what this document means. Pearl, at this moment looking a tad anxious because fireworks are going off outside, I’m sure agrees.

Happy 4th!

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer

Gimme a Fiverr

Book Covers, eBook Formatting, Marketing & More for $5fiverr-1-mf

Self-Publishing Has So Darn Many Parts 

When an author steps into the world of self-publishing for the first time, carrying what they think is a finished product (their book manuscript) under their arm, they are in for a big shock. That finished book they may have spent years writing is only the first of many parts making up this thing called “getting published.”

Aside from the writing, there’s the editing, proofing, formatting, interior design, cover, ISBN number, printing, distribution, promotion, marketing, copyrighting, and any number of other apres publication tasks such as endless networking and social media. It is so time-consuming that some authors fear they will never get to actually write again. While a few learn to do these tasks themselves and become one-man-bands, others hate it and have to hire experts to do the tasks for them.  Until a few years ago, that was about the only choice a self-publishing author had: DIY or pay a lot.

Then along came Fiverr.com

What is Fiverr.com?

Fiverr.com is an international talent website, started in Tel Aviv in 2010. It’s an actual building as well as a large collection of freelancers and small businesses in some 200 countries using many languages. (You can check the language you need). Instead of paying $1000 for a book cover or hundreds to have someone format your paperback into a Kindle Ebook,  you can probably get the same services for $20 or $40. Plus, it’s a really fun website.

When you go there you’ll see hundreds of little TV-like screens, each one with an expert hawking his or her expertise: “I will design a stunning CreateSpace cover . . . I will convert your ebook from mobi to ePub. . . I will design a great logo . . . I will write your blog posts . . I will write engaging press releases . . .I will show you how to apply for an ISBN . . .I will illustrate your children’s book . . .I will make a video book trailer . . .I will market your ebook to 1.5 million people.” Other sellers offer PR, translation, animation, audio books, tech services and business card designs. . . and so much more.

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Fiverr.com offers services or “gigs” starting at $5 (hence the name) but you can add little extras and frills and give a tip, but it’s still soooo affordable!

When I needed a cover for the Kindle version of one of my books (see Woman & Longterm Sobriety on right), I searched Fiverr for an hour or two looking for a Kindle cover artist I liked, then I emailed her a photo that I got for free on morguefile.com (the photos can be used for commercial purposes), plus I emailed some other information the seller asked for, and I left the rest up to her. (You get revisions if you want). Three days later she sent me a great-looking book-cover file that I uploaded to Kindle Direct Publishing. I’ve since used her for half a dozen other covers for author clients through my book doctor business.  To date, I have ordered “gigs” from publishing talents in the UK, Pakistan and two in Texas.

 

As with everything, do your homework. Plan to spend a few hours the first time, searching for the service you want, look at the examples of the expert’s work, read their reviews (good and bad), and make your judgment call. You may hit a dud once in a while — but it’s worth the gamble. So gimme a fiverr!

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT – photos from morguefile.com

Gallery

Writing for Your “Inner Circle” – And Skip the Book Marketing

This gallery contains 8 photos.

How to Get Published and Skip Book Marketing  Getting a book published is a big job, but the biggest part of it isn’t the writing or even the publishing; it’s the book marketing. For many authors, book marketing is a … Continue reading

The “Amazon” of Ancient Egypt

It’s the 4th of July. While the nation is having a birthday, this blog is, also. It’s 5th. My first blog post went up on July 4th 2011 celebrating “writer independence” for self- or “indie-” published authors. I’m still celebrating that 5 years later! DIY publishing has gotten bigger and better!

Now, on to my blog post…

The Library of Alexandria

As someone in the business of books as well as psychotherapy — writing books and helping others write books which hopefully contain useful information for the world — I have always been intrigued by the story of the burning of the Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt, an event that caused much information to be lost to us. I can’t help but wonder if some of that lost information might have put us ahead of where we are now.  I guess that depends on what information was lost, and how we decided to use it.

MAN WITH SCROLL MFScrolls to Scrolls in Only 2500 Years

 

The Library of Alexandria was quite an undertaking. Its mission, starting back in about 300 B.C., was to gather up all the world’s knowledge in one place — mathematics, astronomy, physics, the sciences, the arts, and other subjects. The folks in charge of acquisitions were pretty serious about it, descending on any ships entering their port, snatching up all the books on board and rushing them to the library where scribes copied them onto papyrus, kept the originals for the library, and returned the copies to the ships. By such means, the library, according to some estimates, built up a collection of half a million scrolls cut up into self-contained topics (basically, the first books). They were indeed the Amazon Kindles of the ancient world.

The library was a magnificent place with rooms and rooms of scrolls stuck into beehive-like structures, lecture halls, gardens, meeting areas, and living quarters. Above the shelves of scrolls a sign read: The place of the cure of the soul. Many well-known scholars from other countries, such as Greece, came to live there to study, research, write, lecture, and translate and copy documents. Alexandria found itself the leading producers of papyrus and used up so much of it themselves that they had little left over to export, which forced others “book” producers in other countries to use different substances, such as leather and parchment — which proved more durable.

In 48 BC, during the Roman conquest of Egypt, the library was burned down by Julius Caesar.  Apparently, it was an accident, and he later gave Cleopatra 200,000 scrolls (pilfered from someplace else) as a wedding present to try to make up for it..

In the 1980s, plans went ahead to build a new library in its place. An architectural design contest was held with more than 1400 entries. The competition was won by a Norwegian architectural office, Construction began in 1995 and, and on October 16, 2002 the new library was opened with shelf space for eight million books. Donations to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina have been donated from all over the world.

Maybe even from Amazon.

copyright (c)

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 “Starter”Book Marketing Tools

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GUEST BLOG:

“The First 8 Things to Do to Start Marketing Your Book”

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by Catherine Auman, LMFT, Author of Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, Publisher – Green Tara Press, www.greentarapress.com

8 “Starter” Books Marketing Ideas

You didn’t know that becoming an author meant becoming a marketer, did you? That’s okay; neither did I. The fact is, you’ll need to become actively involved in the marketing of your book because if you don’t, no one but a few friends and family will buy it. Then again, even they might not.

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Really, it can be fun. Here are 8 BRIGHT IDEAS you can get started on before publication:

1) First, gather the items you’ll need to market your book:

  • Author photos/headshots – professionally done, please
  • Author bios of varying lengths – 100 words, 200 words
  • Book synopsis, about 100 words, written to entice readers
  • A jpg of your cover
  • Your elevator speech – a 30-second verbal summary of your book for use at cocktail and other parties when someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”
  • If you don’t have a website, get one. If you do have one, redesign it to promote your books as well as yourself.

2)  Create an Amazon Author Profile. This establishes you as a legitimate author. You can link your website, blog, videos, the promotional tools above and the ones you will develop in the future. Go to authorcentral.amazon.com and it will walk you through the steps.

3)  Create a Facebook Page for your book. Invite all your friends to Like (or Love). Start posting the items above and anything you can think of to create buzz. People prefer it if you try to educate, enlighten, or amuse them rather than just sell.

4)  Create a Goodreads Author Profile. Goodreads is where the avid readers hang out. Go to the Goodreads Author Program tutorial which will teach you how. Later you will be sponsoring book giveaways as promotions.

5)  Go to Vistaprint.com and make some inexpensive postcards using the jpg of the cover of your book. You can use these in any number of ways: send out by snail mail, leave at coffee houses, tack up on bulletin boards, and many uses you will come up with as you go along. I always keep some in my bag – you never know who might want one.

6)  Start identifying people and places to ask for book reviews. You will want to get as many as possible, and you’ll be able to use the reviews later for further marketing.

7)  Identify local stores that are likely to sell your book – not just bookstores, but gift stores and specialty shops.

8)   Schedule and plan your Book Release Party. Congratulations! You’re a published author.

© 2016 Catherine Aumancatherine auman book cover sept 2015 guest blog

(c) The Therapist Writer Blog by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published. Timberlake PressTimberlakePress.com.

 

Portrait of a Neighborhood Book Signing

doug - sign outside

Have you ever attended a book signing by a celebrity author at a major bookstore (think Barnes & Noble), the kind where you are required to purchase the book in advance before you can get so much as a glimpse of the man or woman you have come to see? Then you have to wait in a line, sometimes a long line, and when you finally get up to the signing table, the author may be flanked by sharp-eyed assistants who look like Secret Service agents. Their purpose is to keep the masses at arms length, ward off time-consuming chatting, and keep the line moving right along. One of the author’s assistants may ask you for your name, write it down on a piece of paper, and slip it in front of the author who, without even having to look up at you, can scribble your name inside the book (before signing their own) to make it more “personal.” This done, the book is slapped shut and pushed towards you. You snatch it up, and  you’re out of there! Book signing over! It’s all kind of sterile.

A Different Story

But that’s just one kind of book signing. About a month ago I went to a very different kind,  a neighborhood book event at a small independent bookstore,  Chevalier’s Books at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles (chevaliersbooks.com), the kind of book shop that has been disappearing over the past decade because of big troubles in the publishing industry. But this bookstore still seems to be going strong, and the whole signing event was friendly, warm, and cozy —  with some great cheese.

The author at this particular book signing is a colleague, Douglas Green, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and fellow mental health professional. Lots of his friends and colleagues were there in support of his publication adventure. It was a party atmosphere. Doug’s book, which I’d already read, loved, and had written a blurb for, is called The Teachings of SHIRELLE: Life Lessons From a Divine Knucklehead. It’s a book about a man (Doug) and his dog (Shirelle) and their awesome connection. It’s one of those books that makes readers end up saying, “I laughed; I cried” — and so did I.

Leading up to, and on the night of, the big event at Chevalier’s Books, there was an appealing little chalk-drawn sign outside the front door, inviting people to the “party” — and when you stepped inside you were greeted by a stack of “Shirelle” books but with no pressure to buy before you were allowed to see the author! Doug was right there by the cheese, nervous and happy to see his friends. Finally, it was time for people to find seats and quiet down so Doug could begin.

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The book: “The Teachings of Shirelle: Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead.” (Available on Amazon.com)

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The audience had filled the room. Standing room only in the back. And people kept arriving. At one point Doug looked  up at the big crowd and said, as though in awe at the sight, “Oh, this is what you all look like!

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And we, in the audience, got a hear Doug read some wonderful excerpts from “SHIRELLE” and think, “Oh, this is what Doug looks like doing his book signing.” Everyone was on the same page!

D0UG sideways reading

Some people pulled their chairs up close. Doug had everyone’s attention with his warmth, humor, and delight in his subject matter (“we laughed”); and we felt sadness when, at the end 0f the book, after many wonderful years, Shirelle died (“we cried”).

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When it was over, people jumped up, rushed to the counter to buy the book, grab some more cheese and crackers, gab with friends, and form themselves into a very chatty line to have Doug the Author sign his book.

 

doug - doing the signing

Above, Doug is signing, talking, and laughing with relief — he’d gotten through it! A book signing is really a lot of work, but once you’ve been to one like Doug’s, you’ll want one of your very own.

All you have to do is write a fantastic book!

Support your local authors and independent bookstores!

(c) Sylvia Cary; Photos by Sylvia Cary

My Valentine to the Adirondack Chair

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Love Song to the Adirondack Chair

It’s VALENTINE’S DAY. Roses are nice. Chocolates are yummy. But what really makes my heart sing is the sight of an Adirondack chair.  Wood only, never plastic. They come in all colors, although white is my favorite — memories of Cape Cod summers as a kid and rolling green lawns with white Adirondack chairs plopped down in the middle of them. While I don’t happen to own a rolling green lawn at the moment, if I did, it would most certainly feature a couple of Adirondack chairs facing out towards the world.

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Two Rustic Adirondak Chairs in Vermont with Special Meaning

About a year before my sister Evie died of ovarian cancer, while she was in remission, we took a road trip to Vermont and stayed in a charming Bed and Breakfast run by friends of hers. Oftentimes during the day, we would sit out on the back porch in these two rustic Adirondack chairs (see below) and talk. And we would look out at the serenity of this view. That experience, that view, those talks, and those Adirondack chairs are precious to me still.

Copy of Chair & Peaceful View (1a)

A Chair “Stars” on a Book Cover

When I returned to California and wrote my book called “The Therapist Writer,” I wanted to use the Vermont photo (above) where my sister and I had sat and had our last lengthy sister-to-sister talk together. Unfortunately, my book cover designer said my photo didn’t have enough “pixels” to look sharp on a book cover, so she went searching for a replacement. I now had very specific requirements: “I want a photo of a single Adirondack chair, under a tree, facing away towards a lovely scene. I want a writer to be able to picture themselves sitting in the Adirondack chair, contemplating nature and coming up with a great idea for a book.” This is what my graphic designer came up with after she had to buy a photo first and crop it way down in order to focus on the chair and tree:

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The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

You Can’t Please Everybody

I loved my created-to-order book cover, but a therapist colleague of my said, “Oh, no, that’s all wrong. That’s bad ‘feng shui.’ You can’t have just one chair facing away. You have to have two chairs facing forward towards the readers, in communication with each other and with the reader!” I said no, this chair is for solo contemplation to allow the creative mind to pop out a book idea without distraction. I’m sure the writers among you will understand. Besides, I also find Adirondack chairs to be beautiful from the back.

Since my book turned out to be divided into four sections, I included a drawing in between each section — of guess what? an Adirondack chair:

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Another Loss and a Pair of Lavender Adirondack Chairs

In January 2014, on the first anniversary of the death of my husband of 28 years, Lance Wolstrup, I felt the need to get out of LA and find a quiet place to go for the weekend. I discovered the charming Lavender Inn in Ojai. From my window, I looked down into the garden and saw a pair of Adirondack  chairs in a soft lavender color.

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Oh, how Lance would have loved to have his morning coffee sitting in one of those chairs and read his computer magazines. So I took my morning coffee and pastry, and a notebook and mechanical pencil (favorite writing tool) and sat in one of the lavender chairs and tried a daring new writing experiment — turning an historical screenplay written years ago into a novel and, more daring still, using the first person which forces you into feelings. Had Lance been there I’d have asked his opinion, as I always did. This time I was on my own. And I’m still working on that novel!

Over the last few years I’ve given a lot of workshops on the subject of writing and publishing, especially self-publishing, and I’ve also led writing groups. A while back I marketing a small writing group using a photo of colorful Adirondack chairs that made my heart swell, it was so beautiful. I got it from morguefile.com (write that down; free photos to use for book covers and marketing).

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The photo caused one woman to email me to say that the picture alone was enough for her to sign up for the writing group. Another Adirondack chair lover for sure!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* The History of the Adirondack Chair —The first Adirondack Chair was invented in 1903 by Thomas Lee in Westport, New York, a small town on Lake Champlain at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains. He wanted to be able to enjoy the view and not have to keep standing up. Using his family members as “test sitters,” he settled on a chair constructed from eleven pieces of wood cut from one single plank. It was a low-slung, spacious design with a high back and extra-wide armrests for that all-important summer beverage. The chair was originally called the “Westport Plank Chair.” Modern Adirondack chair manufacturers have at times created chairs that closely resemble these early creations, with modifications designed to increase comfort and durability. — from Wikipedia and other Internet sources