School Visits Turned Out To Be The Highlight Of The Tour

When the contract for publication came in the mail, the first people to know were my friends Sheryl and her mother Virginia. We had a babysit swap worked out, so I gushed out the news as soon as I pulled in the driveway to pick up my kids. Sheryl's sister sat in the garage staining chairs and overheard. She had come for the week from Kansas City where she worked in the school system.

"Let me know when it's out," Sheryl's sister said. "I can bring you in for a school visit."

"A what?" I asked.

"A school visit. Schools pay authors to come visit the kids and talk about how they became an author. You can also sell a lot of books."

"They do what?" Schools pay authors to talk about themselves and what they love?

She explained the process, insisted I'd need a website as I mentioned before in a previous blog entry, and gave me a few examples of authors who had been to her school before.

I could do that. I had experience in theater, loved public speaking, and am a master of creating props. I could do that. I wasn't sure how to get invited into schools, but her connection was a beginning.

As the book release drew closer, I put together a fun program geared not just at my book, but at the business of being a writer. This was my niche. It was what I was excited about. I started out reading the book to the kids, varying my voice based on the age group. Then I went on to talk about me, how I began writing as soon as I could shape my letters, and how I went on to be published at eighteen -- oops, see confession #2. Then, I launched into two games: the Rejection game and the Money game. I won't tell you exactly how each game works, but I will tell you that the kids love it. They learn about how authors handle rejection and they learn where the money goes when you buy a book. In the meantime, they laugh, ooh and aaahhh, and say, "No way!"

The biggest surprise of my whole first year? I love entertaining kids. I have hopes in the older market, but I can say for certain that I'll still publish in children's and YA just for that chance to stand in front of a group of school kids. I love to make them laugh. I love that moment when you know they can't wait for your next word. I love the controled chaos as we move through the games and the realizations that spread across their faces when they discover how money flows to everyone involved in the making of a book. I love walking out of the school building without my voice but with hundreds of new found fans.


My Guest Appearances' Wardrobe Came From Gifts And Goodwill

When an author signs her first book deal and gets an advance on royalties, the money is not “sold” money. When the books start to sell, that money is paid back to the publisher before the royalties start rolling in. This is a “payback” phase. In the meantime, the author uses that money to get ready to sell books. That money is not, I repeat NOT, blow money to be used on a big vacation and a new car. Sometimes authors get burned with this little tidbit of publishing. They get a big check, spend it on playthings, and then get a rude awakening when the book doesn’t “Payback” in the first six months and the publisher asks the author to return the remainder. Ouch!

Lucky for me, I got a small advance and knew enough to dump that small cache into marketing. The book quickly reached “Payback” during presales. By the time my first royalty check came through, I was able to use it in other ways. We did get a car around this time, but that had nothing to do with my book contract. That came because my husband got a raise.

Before the royalties rolled in, however, I moved from stay-at-home mommyhood, complete with a closet full of sweatpants and workout bras, to fulltime author/saleswoman/public speaker in sad want of professional clothes. I knew this would take careful planning because I absolutely had no money and would have to arrange babysitting while I worked full time marketing this book.

First of all, I gave a Christmas list of sizes to relatives so that they could shop for me. Second, since the book would come out in the fall, I hit one clearance sale at a department store in the spring. I walked away with a suit jacket. That’s it. Even on sale, prices were too high for my budget. Finally, I headed over to the second hand consignment stores and Goodwill. They work the same as the department stores. They clear out winter suits in the spring and everything gets ridiculously cheap. Big Score!! I walked away with several outfits that have served me well. I even found that red dress, the one I’m wearing in this publicity shot.

In that first year of marketing, I had to cut lots of corners. I still do. My publisher had warned me to find as many ways to get the word out without spending my entire royalty check. He was doing his part, following through with marketing through the company, but I got out  there, speaking here, writing articles there, ready to appear anywhere people wanted me.

Oddly enough, it was all the years at home with my kids that taught me to sacrifice and how to manage finances creatively. Hubby and I have sacrificed a great deal over the last ten years in order to follow our dreams and pay down the debt we brought with us into marriage. You can find out all about that on my site Live Cheap, Love Life.


While marketing a candy book, my nine year old started the GF/CF diet.

Our oldest son struggled from day one with gross motor delays and social skill delays. Simultaneously he endured chronic stomach pain. We weren't surprised at all when he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. I am continually surprised, however, that mainstream medicine knows the stats: 88% of children with Asperger's have intestinal distress of one type or another, yet continue to ignore significant treatment by passing the intestinal pain off as an inevitable aspect of the syndrome.

This year, in the midst of online marketing, I connected with several parents who loved Defeat Autism Now! Most of what I had heard about this organization came from the traditional doctors I relied on: that DAN! was just a group of desperate parents. I was surprised to find that DAN! is actually a compilation of parents and doctors reporting on what's working and what's not working.

After being told all our son's life that his intestinal pain was a result of his anxiety, we decided to believe the anxiety was a result of his chronic intestinal pain. We bypassed the anxiety drugs and decided instead to try the Gluten Free/Dairy Free diet. Several friends from my support group were getting good results from it. Although it wasn't a great marketing strategy to dive into a group of friends who probably wouldn't be interested in a book about chocolate (dairy and gluten) and caramel (dairy), it was a great idea to give this diet a chance. I knew it wouldn't hurt Samuel if it didn't work, and the chance that it would work was too irresistible.

Within two weeks we saw results. His chronic stomach pain went away first. He stopped wetting the bed (an every night event) within a week. His anxiety dropped from several "freakouts" a week and several irrational fears controlling him to more natural fears and being able to calm himself down when he got upset. A month later, we tried to reintroduce gluten on three separate occasions and it caused vomitting each time. I had been scared to begin the diet because I felt like it would be a lot of hassle in the middle of an already hectic life, but the hassle of the diet is so much easier than living with the symptoms of Asperger's.

After several months on the diet, our son tells me what happened at school when he gets home. He remembers friends’ names. He plays with others on the playground. His verbal skills blow us away. He has only had one trip to the principal's office this entire year and never throws a tantrum or goes into "freakout" mode. Our pediatrician had been against the diet to begin with, but recently she told me I've made a believer out of her. She said Samuel was the calmest she's ever seen him in his entire life and she has been there for him since day one.

We still have more bridges to cross. After a lifetime of intestinal distress, his immune system is still extremely low. Over the last month, he's had Strep throat, Influenza A (despite having Flu Mist), Pneumonia, and Shingles. He's missed days of school every week this month. Thank God, he currently has the best teacher in the entire world, who has been understanding and supportive all year long despite his absences. We're currently hoping to see a DAN! doctor to get a better idea of what needs to happen next to heal his body. His primary physician now thinks it is a great idea.

If you'd like to learn more about Defeat Autism Now! or the Gluten Free/Dairy Free diet, you can visit www.autismwebsite.com or check out my Listmania page on Amazon concerning Early Childhood Delays. Thanks for reading!

Three Year Update: Our son is in middle school now. He made the transition without a speedbump. Last year, he proved he's over the sensory/social problems by earning a spot in the high school play both semesters even though he was in fifth grade. He endured complicated make-up and grueling dress rehearsal weeks. That's victory! Two years ago, he became a superseller at a scholarship level for selling $2,000 worth of Cubscout popcorn. This year, he asked to go to the junior high dance. He's still GF/CF.