DIY Publicity Workshop at StoryStudio Chicago, Saturday November 10

Eileen Favorite, Story StudioTwo months after my oldest daughter was born in late November 2006, my mother-in-law's breast cancer reappeared after five years of remission.  She passed away in March 2008.  By August of 2008, my father's prostate cancer was no longer responding to treatment. He passed away in March 2009.  Three months after my father died, I found myself pregant again.

What does any of this have to do with this DIY Publicity course I'll be teaching at Story Studio?  In the midst of all that birth and death, my novel, The Heroines, was published in January 2008.  By September, the market crashed, book stores closed, magazines and newspapers folded, publishers went bankrupt, and when my paperback was released in February 2009 (a month before my father died), my Scribner publicist couldn't get me more than one reading to promote the book.  I didn't think much about it at the moment. I was absorbed with caring for my dying father, my devoted mother, and a two-year-old. 

By August of 2011, six months after my second daughter was born, I started to come up for air.  I looked around me.  The whole world of publishing had changed.  I hated my website.  I never posted on it.  I'd started a second novel.  When would I finish it,  and if I did, who would buy it?  I joined a women's business group in my neighborhood.  I decided I needed help, so I advertised for an intern through DePaul University.  I found Andrea Pelose, and for the last fifteen months, we've been working to build a web presence. Here's a link to an interview with Claire Glass, where Andrea and I discuss the sometimes dovetailing, sometimes contradictory perspectives of a marketing professional and an author. I've learned a tremendous amount during this journey with Andrea, and I'm thrilled to share a bit of our knowledge with other writers.  I wish my dad were here, my CPA and mentor, to discuss this enterprise, which I know he would love for its creativity and community outreach.

Fall 2012 Newsletter

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Poetry Gumball Machine

I recently was asked by local poet Yvonne Zipter to contribute a poem to a gumball machine of poetry.  I thought this such a cool idea, so I responded yes, yes, yes.  The initiative began in the 45th ward as an effort to bring art to the area's empty storefronts, and a number of murals have gone up around Cicero and Milwaukee.  City Newsstand is the hosting site for the first gumball machine. Ms. Zipter would love for these gumball machines to take off around the city (sort of like the cow parade of 1999). If anybody has any funding ideas, contact me. It might also be cool to get some artists to design funky versions of the gumball machines.   

Fifth Star Press Releases Susan Hahn's First Novel

I recently attended an event at Women and Children First, featuring Susan Hahn reading from her first novel, The Six Granddaughters of Cecil Slaughter, published by Fifth Star Press.  I was delighted to hold the book, which has a gorgeous cover, with a photograph by Vivian Maier, the celebrated nanny who took thousands of photographs and hid them in storage lockers. Hats off to Ian Morris & Company at the press, who've shown that beautiful, innovative books can be printed in hardcover. With the glut of self-published books and self-proclaimed editors of vanity presses, it's refreshing to see people with genuine editorial experience launching a press with a distinctive vision: Chicago history and voices. (Morris worked for years at Triquarterly.)

Now I must sit back and read this wild tale, narrated from the Other Side and glittering with poetry!

Must Read: Salman Rushdie's Memoir of His Life in Hiding Excerpted in The New Yorker

This beautiful essay from Rushdie's memoir details the early days of his life in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (essentially, a death sentence) against Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses.  Rushdie chooses in this essay to write about himself in the third-person.  By not using the "I" to describe his life, he gains an objectivity regarding the experience that adds to its power.  Perhaps he believed that owning the experience through the "I" might tilt the piece toward self-pity (though our sympathy for him is certainly well deserved). He elucidates how the meaning of his work was twisted for political gain, by those who probably never even read it.  He describes the valiant police officers whose task it was to guard him, and a harrowing evening when he could not locate his son. Tolerance and freedom of expression.  Stand up for them!

Which Heroine Are You Quiz?

Take this high-lit, low-brow quiz to find out whether you're  a Scarlett O'Hara, a Franny Glass, an Emma Bovary,  a Hester Prynne, or a Catherine Earnshaw. 

My literary alter-ego is Franny Glass, so I'm off to have a nervous breakdown on my mom's couch!

Summer Newsletter

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Book Group with Psych Nurses and Other Empaths

Eileen Favorite, Book Group, The Heroines, NursesLast Friday my dreams of literary authentication came true!  As I noted on my calendar, I approached the Psych Nurse Book Group with some trepidation.  After all, at other book groups, I've had some less than friendly comments about my depiction of the psychiatric ward in The Heroines.  Some don't want to believe that the doctors really did hang out in ER's waiting for adolescents with good insurance to arrive (back in the 70s).  I had vetted this detail with a psychiatrist who was an orderly at a Chicago hospital at that time, but for some reason, people will buy the whole "heroines-appearing-out-of-nowhere" thing, but they balk at the one aspect of the novel I actually researched!  Ahoy, validation was mine, as one psych nurse said, "You nailed it!  I loved the group therapy scene, especially when Kristina uses her big toe to tweak Jackie on her nose." OK, I just made that part up, but I think it was in the spirit of the crazy moment.  (That's me in the mirror taking this blurry photo). 

Open Books Benefit at Jookie

Big shout out to Jill Liebhaber of Jookie Photography for gathering 1200 donated books to benefit Open Books at her June 30th Quick Takes event. I had the pleasure of not just donating books, but also donating my untried skills as a reader of books to children in a setting other than my own home. I've often entertained the theory that I could become a professional storyteller as a means to supplement my meagre Social Security checks when I'm a retired professor. I decided to use the Jookie studio as a laboratory to test certain theories. One hypothesis in this social experiment was that the use of  rhyming chants (Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?) would encourage the subjects (including artist Jeff Brown's son Oscar, my girls, Alice and Lucille, and neighbor Amelia) to heightened participation.  This bore out, in 8 of 10 trials (it took a few rounds for some to catch on).  Another hypothesis was that the use of Old Saws (i.e., Curious George Goes to the Hospital) would create a familiar narrative line that increased listener participation.  This proved mostly true, although the long-winded aspect of George's x-ray session resulted in wandering gazes and a romp on the pillow by several subjects, who then needed parental intervention to regain participation in the experimental event. Phew!  I then read one of my favorite books from my days as Assistant Managing Editor of Children's Books at Harcourt (Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert).  Though not familiar with this work, the participants responded favorably, due principally to the book's gorgeous artwork and low word count. Thanks to all my subjects and to Jill for a great backdrop!


Reading, Wedding, Four Days in Bozeman, Montana

Last Saturday I read at the fabulous Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, where the kind Laura Prindiville and her mother provided tea and scones for the attendees.  Three of my five sisters also attended the reading, which occurred just hours before my nephew David Blickenstaff's wedding (my flowergirls pictured beside the bride).  Because my devoted sisters have heard me read from The Heroines  many a time, I also read half a chapter from The Worship of Storms (novel in progress). Reading new work at a bookstore proved to be a rewarding exercise, as I welcomed the positive feedback (what else would anyone say? but still), and I promised Laura P. that I'd return when Book #2 was between two covers (fingers crossed, my people). I even vowed (in public) to finish the !@#$% book by summer's end! 

The wedding was amazing. That's the Gallatin River rushing by in the background. The sound of that churning river made incredible background music.  Living in Chicago as I do, one forgets that all rivers aren't barely moving cesspools.  Hey, but we're supposed to get ours cleaned up!  Thanks EPA . And Rahm's promised a new boathouse in the neighborhood, designed by Jeanne Gang. More fingers crossed.