A Novel Approach to Marketing

My father-in-law, before he was even my father-in-law, shared a love of letter writing with me and when I replied to the long, newsy communications he wrote to his son with equally long, newsy responses I remember he told me, “You ought to write a book.” I hadn’t got serious about my writing then but when I did, I heard dialogue more easily than narrative, so I found myself writing plays.

A couple of decades later, when my father-in-law had long since passed, I wanted to write a series of one-act plays that were connected by theme and yet could stand independently of one another. The trouble was, I had no idea how to do this. While I was musing this, I suddenly heard a story in my head set in the little pottery shop where we sell my husband’s work. The story centered around a lovelight, one of the cut out candle lanterns that is part of my husband’s regular repertoire.
When I finished writing this story, I heard another one, about a teapot. Well, I thought, these might make good marketing tools if nothing else. I wrote a third one and realized I now knew how to write those one-act plays, so I put the pottery shop stories on one side and penned The Soul Plays.

But I also shared the stories with friends, who came back to me saying that yes, they liked them, but what they really liked was the relationship between the couple. How did they work that out? Why don’t you turn the stories into a book, they said. Oh and, by the way, can I buy a lovelight/teapot like the one you describe in the story?

The point being that they worked; people read about the pottery and wanted to buy it. I still had my father-in-law’s statement to me knocking around in my brain and I’d always wanted to write about my husband’s wood-firing, so I took these few pottery shop stories and used them as a starting place for my first novel, How to Make a Pot in 14 Easy Lessons. The title is a struggle for some people, because they think it’s a book just about pottery but, dichotomously, when they do read it they tell me they really like all the information about the pottery woven through the story. Oh and, by the way, can they buy a mug like the ones described in the story?

So when my friend, Ellen, said that she struggled to raise money for her non-profit organization, Courthouse Dogs Foundation, I immediately thought about writing her a book to sell. Not a novel, but a children’s picture book, in verse, that would depict the work of these specially trained facility dogs who assist witnesses, particularly children, testify in legal proceedings. That way I could work again with Maya Keegan, the young artist who did the illustrations for my first children’s book, The Lost Hour, (she readily agreed to volunteer her time towards the Courthouse Dogs’ project) and Jon-Paul Verfaillie, our multi-talented graphic designer, who also agreed to donate his time for this book.

Our collaboration resulted in A Dog in the Big Courthouse.
We released this book on September 29th 2017, at Courthouse Dogs Foundation’s 5th annual conference in Seattle. I really enjoy doing events with my various pieces of writing, since they feed the actress in me, but this particular event had a very special feel to it, as if the room were filled with love. I think that came from the facility dogs in attendance, one of whom, Barb, sat on stage with us while we presented the book.

Barb on stage with us

The love also came from all the people in the big conference room at the Bellevue Hyatt Hotel, who not only wanted to support us, but wanted to learn about these special dogs. That was the extra gift I received as the writer in this project, as if I’d been slipped a Doggone Good Dog Biskit by one of the participants; not only did A Dog in the Big Courthouse raise a sizable amount of money for Courthouse Dogs Foundation that evening but it also raised awareness of these dogs and their work. It was heartwarming to listen to the questions from the audience about breeding and training these dogs and I think I really saw the broader possibilities of this kind of writing when professionals, including one judge, had me sign copies of the book while telling me that they planned to put them in their offices, so adults and children coming in could learn about these dogs.

A Dog in the Big Courthouse is available here and all proceeds from your purchase of the book go directly to Courthouse Dogs Foundation. Under the book cover in the link, you will see a “continue shopping” button, which this will take you directly to Courthouse Dogs’ website, if you’re interested, so that you can read more about this non-profit organization.

Thank you to everyone who came on September 29th, to give A Dog in the Big Courthouse such a positive launch. And for those of you who are looking to promote your work or business or non-profit in a more creative format than a bulk e-mail or social media event, then in the words of my late father-in-law, “You ought to write a book.”


TV’s Not Good For Me.

So there I was, sitting on my mum’s couch, the flickering lights of the television floating in and out of my consciousness, when suddenly I found myself in full-alert mode. On the screen in front of me was the most incredible device I had ever seen; a Dyson Portable Digital Vacuum Cleaner. It was in the hands of an elegantly dressed woman, who was floating it across the carpet in her living room while a deep voice explained that the digital motor and special cyclone technology would inhale every last particle of dirt and animal hair. And when the woman finished the floor, she lifted the slender hose way up into the air and whisked away the dainty cobwebs hiding in the folds of her curtains.
“Oh, I need one of those,” I told my mother.
“Wha…?” she said as she roused herself from her catnap next to me. She looked at the screen. “A Dyson? Oh yes, they’re good vacuum cleaners. Be useful in your shop, wouldn’t it?”

What she meant was I’m loath to lug our regular vacuum cleaner into our pottery shop because I’m always worried that the hose will get caught around the pottery and send it flying. If I had a handheld jobber, that ran on a rechargeable battery, I could sidle it around and between the pots until all the tiny cobwebs and dead flies, all the dust from the outside and the dog hairs from our friendly greeter, Molly Moon (who is not even allowed in the shop but somehow manages to leave evidence of her presence for me to discover), would be whisked away. And undoubtedly such a magnificent example of a modern major dust-buster would encourage me to clean more often so my house would look as spic and span as the lady’s on the telly.

I whipped out my laptop and began an online search for one of these machines and was surprised to discover that they weren’t as expensive as I’d feared. It took me a moment but I did eventually realize that I was looking on amazon.co.uk, which meant the prices were in pounds sterling; I needed to turn it into dollars before I got too excited about the cost.

Part way through my computation, however, my eye was again drawn to the flickering images on the screen. This time I saw the pages of a glossy knitting magazine turning slowly, seductively, in front of me, showing me all sorts of things that could be done with a few skeins of wool. Again I felt that slight catch in my breath, that increase in my heartbeat as I became enamored of the images – and the funny thing is, I don’t even knit! But I have a friend that does, a friend that sells her wonderful creations through her Etsy Shop, and as I saw patterns moving across the screen – free patterns that were included in the magazine! – of knits that would surely appeal to my friend and expand her repertoire, I found myself thinking, “Oh, I need to get that magazine for her.”

The thing is, I’ve lived without commercial television for 30 years now and I’m not much of a shopper, nor much of a web-surfer, so I was seeing things that I didn’t even know existed. And I was finding them strangely compelling. It made me think back 25 years, to when my then 4-year old stepdaughter, Esther, said she wanted ‘Dress ‘N Dazzle’ for Christmas. My husband and I had no idea what she was talking about, not having commercial TV, but we hunted down her request and brought it home to put under the tree. And I remember feeling disappointed when she opened the box and pulled out a couple of bits of fabric and a pillbox hat with a veil on it, items that I could surely have pieced together myself (maybe with more pizzazz to them) from a thrift shop. I didn’t say anything of course. Esther looked so happy pulling the skirt up over her jammies and wrapping the sparkly chiffon scarf around her neck. And, boy, did she dazzle us! But then she always dazzled us.

Dress and dazzle

Esther in her ‘dress and dazzle’

Sitting on my mother’s couch, wanting – needing – so many new and amazing things, I realized that the attraction for our little Esther wasn’t necessarily in the items of clothing but in the TV commercial itself. They make everything look so glamorous. And who doesn’t want a little glamour in their life every once in a while? It’s interesting that my idea of glamour involved a state of the art vacuum cleaner but I’m pretty sure some part of me thought if I had one, I would look as neat and clean – and, yes, maybe as slender – as the lady on the television advertising them.

And has it worked? Well, I do like my new portable vacuum cleaner. I like the fact that doing the stairs is now a breezy operation that doesn’t involve me trying to stop a canister from twisting off a step and clunking its way down to the floor; and the fact that I don’t have to worry about how far I can stretch the electrical cord before it unplugs itself and I’m thwarted in my cleaning activities. And I really like the fact that it only runs for 20 minutes on its battery so I can’t vacuum clean for too long. Ha HA! But my house still looks like a house in the country, complete with paw prints and mud patties from the treads of our boots. And I – well, I still look like me. So it’s probably just as well I’m not around commercial TV too often. It’s easier on my pocketbook and my self-image. And it stops me from bringing home modern conveniences that make my puppy stare up at me, wondering why I have to turn on that noisy contraption again. It’s just a little dirt, mum!

Molly Moon

Molly Moon