Tag Archives: teens

Ask Melinda: Book Promotion, Live Interviews, and Challenging Hosts

Question: Do you like doing interviews to promote your book?

Here’s how I see it: Every job has benefits, challenges, and some downright unpleasant parts. My primary job—raising three teenagers—is a good example. Sure, I get to preen proudly when my teenagers win awards, cheer loudly when they score the winning basket, and bask in 24 hours of Mother’s Day glory, but I also get to handle discipline, consequences, poor attitudes, moody dispositions, sick days, and fender-benders. I’m sure CEOs enjoy their big, fat paychecks, private jets, and stock options, too, but I bet they hate firing people. Unfortunately, that’s part of their job, too. Responsible people don’t pick and choose. They do whatever has to be done. Lord knows, I am nothing if not nauseatingly responsible.

Writing is a real job, you know. I’ve said this at least a million times. Just because I work on a laptop in a corner of my bedroom doesn’t mean I don’t work! Sigh. This is a sore subject. Book promotion is part of my job. If nobody knows about my books, they won’t buy them. If they don’t buy books, I don’t get to write. It’s third grade math—not that complicated. Book promotion involves interviews for newspapers, radio, television, and online media outlets.

Here’s the secret: IT’S REALLY, REALLY FUN! Of course, there are exceptions. Not every interview goes as well as I’d like. Sometimes, I just can’t establish a rapport with an interviewer. In the hills of Tennessee, I once looked up in a radio booth while putting on my headphones and read decidedly racist and sexist bumper stickers stuck to the wall—right there in plain view for guests to contemplate during the interview. I had about 3 seconds to process that before we went on the air. Some interviewers (writers, too, obviously) are quirky. Usually, I can tell immediately if an interview is going to work or not. A good interviewer can talk to a wall and make it sound special. I can do that, too. I think that’s because I am naturally nosy, curious, and bossy. I really am interested in every little thing. That comes in handy in my line of work.

Bottom line: To interview well, you have to be flexible, ready for anything, and able to roll with whatever happens live. It helps to have a sense of humor and to be perky and eager to please. I am a pleaser personality. As a Southern woman, I think everyone should be happy with me all the time. I am naturally inclined to try to please my host and audience rather than being contentious or ornery. Because I write humor, interviewers expect me to be entertaining—even at 4:30 AM. That’s part of my job. Because radio and television personalities host so many guests every week, they rarely have time to actually read a book or even a page from a guest’s book. Generally, they flip through the book for the first time when I sit down for the interview, in the 30 seconds before we go on the air. I don’t blame them one bit. It’s not worth a big investment of time or energy on their parts for a 10-minute interview. I am always ready to hijack the interview and take it wherever I want to go—regardless of what I am asked. Yep. That really works. I have had my humor books introduced on live television as: a “cookbook” (well, no, although I do talk about chocolate, gumbo, sweet tea, and tomatoes a lot), a “love manual,” (ah . . . not so much, although if you pick up a few relationship tips from I Love You Now Hush, I am okay with that). I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers has been introduced as a “manners book” for teens. (Nope, just funny essays, although I am, generally, in favor of good manners in any endeavor.) An interviewer in Charleston once told me, while I was attaching my microphone to my dress:

“I’m really hung over, so I’m just going to read your name and your book title. Then you can just talk for about 12 minutes. Okay?”

“No problem! I can do that!” I responded gleefully.

I really do like an open mic, lots of room, and few constraints. I do some of my best work that way.

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I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers

The new book is out! You can find it at your favorite bookstore, online, and on your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. Let me know what you think! I can’t wait to hear from you!

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Ask Melinda: Where Did You Get That Idea?

Question: How do you get ideas for your books?

The truth is: Everywhere. Anywhere. Seems to me that topics-I-really-need-to-get-on-paper-immediately-before-I-forget sprout up like dandelions. At least ten times a day, I say to myself, “I want to write about that!” I get up every morning and start my day just like the rest of you. I plan on dieting. Then I eat too much. I make a to-do list at dawn and end up crossing nothing off before sundown–even though I was so busy all day I never even sat down for a glass of sweet tea. As a mother of three teenagers, no matter how much writing I plan to do, other less important (to me) tasks—like laundry, dinner preparation, or ferrying children hither and yon–interrupt my day and clamor for my attention. William Faulkner said that a writer only ever gets a few minutes here and there to write. He got that right.

Here’s how I see it: I’m lucky. I write about my regular life. That means that I don’t have to beat the bushes for material. It comes to me! I thought about titling my first book The Ordinary Exalted. I still like that title. It sums up my life philosophy perfectly: there are moments of heaven sandwiched right in the minutia of the daily grind. You have to look for them. They’re easy to miss. Because God sends me lots of character-building adventures every single day, I never know what will happen next. I always tell my readers: “You may be in my next book! Prepare yourself.” I use good material wherever I find it. I do not have time to fool around. Like the rest of you, I am a busy person.

Bottom line: I get inspired to write by odd things—a sentence or two from someone, a conversation I overhear, or a story I read. I am often inspired by my interaction with people in daily jaunts to the store, school, and church, ordinary places we all go. Human beings never cease to amaze me—by the heights we attain in the direst of circumstances and by the depths of our depravity. Humor is my way of coping with life. Nothing makes me happier than hearing someone say he or she laughed out loud reading my books. Nothing. I love when readers say, “You are writing about my life!” Yes, indeed, I certainly am. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the new book, I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers. I have a feeling I’m going to be the recipient of some entertaining stories. I’m gleefully anticipating hearing about what happens at your house! Lord knows, you know all about what happens at mine.

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Ask Melinda: Telling It Like It Is

Question: Is everything you write about true?

I decided to take a break with this Friday’s “Ask Melinda” post from the recent flood of how-to-parent teenager questions. Teenagers are exhausting. I’ve found that, occasionally, it’s best to change the subject for a while. Today’s question is one I am asked frequently at speaking events by readers who stand in my signing line afterwards.

On the surface, whether I write non-fiction or fiction simply determines where my book is shelved in the library or bookshop. However, the implications of the truth v. fiction debate are far-reaching. It’s a cosmic question, I believe, much weightier than the categorical debate. What do you think about historical novels? Literary journalism? Truman Capote was the first Southern writer to deliberately explore the blurry boundaries in his novel In Cold Blood. My books of humorous essays are nothing like his novel, of course. (In fact, I prefer Capote’s short stories. “A Christmas Memory” is my all-time favorite, and I recommend the Celeste Holmes reading of it if you can find it. It’s rare.)

I suspect that the reader who asked today’s question had no earthly idea I would end up answering with a Truman Capote reference. All I can say is that you can start out anywhere you want to when you write. In my experience, you never know where you’ll end up.

Here’s how I see it: The South produces a plethora of gifted storytellers. We know how to embellish, embroider, and use colorful hyperbole to tell our stories. We can entertain a crowd for hours with tales of our eccentric relatives without jumping off more than one branch of the family tree. We enjoy it, and we’re good at it. I always say that writing non-fiction gives me the same satisfaction as tattling.

Bottom line: Every single essay I write is true. They’re not all completely factual, however. If you’re Southern, you’ll know what I mean by that. Usually, the more unbelievable the story is, the more likely it is that it happened exactly the way I tell it on paper. For example, I really did stand in line at the post office behind a woman who was mailing her mother’s ashes to her sister—just like an L.L. Bean catalogue. I wrote an essay about that experience called “Mailing Mama.” I did not exaggerate one detail. If you live in the South like I do, you don’t have to make things up. Real life is interesting enough.

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