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Doing Old Age the Right Way

??????????This week Genilee and I had a book signing at an assistant living facility—the Emeritus in Manassas, Virginia.  It was quite an eye-opening experience that really showed the difference a good activity director can make in the lives of the elderly residents.  When we got there, everything was already set up for us―table, chairs and about a dozen members ready for us.

??????????For the current signing, we gave our usual background speech about how we got started and a little about the book itself. We were delighted that, with that little bit of background and some enthusiasm from attendees, the director purchased a book for each member and proceeded to set up a book review event. The group decided to divide the reading of the 300-plus pages of Twist of Fate into four sections of 75 pages each—a session for each of four weeks going forward.  On the fourth week, Genilee and I are invited to come back and hear the group’s critique of our work and their opinion of the book in general – good or bad!  Then they may purchase our second book, Wretched Fate, and do the same with that book.

It was a wonderful plan not only for their club but also for Genilee and me.  We need people who have read our books to tell us not only what they like, but where the plot/character/sequences of events might falter so we can strengthen our books going forward.

The experience also was just an uplifting day for two authors who love to hear from readers, and we hope we inspired this particular group of readers as much as they inspired us. One of the reasons we believe there has been so much enthusiasm for us as speakers is that it’s good for older people to hear that life doesn’t have to stop because of advanced years or the reality that they can’t do the things they used to. Old age can be a time of pursuing a dream or a different ??????????hobby; and I firmly believe everyone needs hobbies.  The one thing none of us needs is to sit in front of the boob tube, living someone else’s life.

I’ve always had hobbies – and they changed as I grew older yet became just as important as the ones before them. For thirty years, I wrote a recipe column for our hometown weekly newspaper as I was raising my family.  After the kids were in school, I went back and took a few education classes and then served as a substitute teacher.  When I found the 75-mile trip to school got in the way of completing my education degree, I took a course in accounting and then found a job ??????????doing books, which I enjoyed.  From there, I went into knitting, oil painting, ceramic painting and then genealogy. Each venture lasted about three years – until I could no longer think of anyone to gift with my handiwork. After I retired, I perfected my Bridge game and taught that game to over 150 men and women. I have continued my bridge playing and tried to go back to knitting and ceramic painting, but my macular degeneration means my eyes are too bad for ??????????any close-up detail work. Yet, despite that sad fact, I could see well enough that I decided if I was ever going to write books―a desire I’ve always had―I had better get started. I was 82 by this time (I’m 86 now).

The lesson to other seniors is that, though I don’t do anything perfectly, I have kept the creative juices flowing, which I believe keeps the blood flowing and the mind active.  I may not be gifted enough to win awards for any of my ventures, including writing. Our books are not literary masterpieces. They are meant to entertain and to keep people reading. But what an inspiration it is to bring enjoyment to others! And hopefully, through visits like the one to Emeritus, Genilee and I are also spreading the word that life doesn’t have to stop at 80 … or even 90.

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 –F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Stress-Free Zone

Writing is the one thing I do for myself that involves no anxiety, uncertainty or vacillation. I won’t allow it. We all need one aspect of our lives where we’re just free to be ourselves without influence of outside pressure. I’ve decided it will be writing.

What that means on a daily basis is that, no matter what I face that day or how much of a work load I carry, I give myself one hour first thing in the morning with only a cup of coffee between sleep and empty or unfinished pages. I don’t even allow the baleful eyes of my sweet hound dog to tempt me away from my task. She’s learned, after a year or so of this routine, that the leash is next on my list.

What it means on the weekends is that I allow the computer to call with a voice louder than domestic tasks. I

CAIC_stressfree1_120209_feature

don’t always listen to that voice—if I did, I’d have laundry to the ceiling, and I’d never get a closet or drawer cleaned out. But I give that voice the prominence it deserves, and sometimes it wins out over other sounds. [Oh, okay, being a lousy homemaker helps in this case.]

But even with major book events, I let only the joy of being an author come through the doors with me. I’m shy by nature so speaking before groups or sitting behind a table trying to get passersby to stop and look at our book should not be comfortable for me. And I feel the jitters bubble towards the surface occasionally. Instead of waiting for them to break through, however, I remind myself that I’m there as a writer. Why should I care if someone ignores me or I stumble over my words?

The only experience I have to compare this with is my wedding. I planned, I saved, I fussed before the event. But when the day came, and despite the fact I knew I’d trip walking up the steps in a gown with a train, I honestly felt no nervousness. I asked myself after the ceremony why and came up with this answer: because I knew what I was doing was right. I didn’t doubt for a second that I was marrying the right man so I didn’t care what others thought of the wedding arrangements, how I looked, or whether I fell flat on my face. I was exactly where I needed to be.

When I sit before the computer playing with words; when I sit with mom at my side and a stack of books in front of us; when mom and I find ourselves among a group of strangers looking to be entertained or informed, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. It took a long time to get here, but who cares. I’ve arrived.

–Genilee Swope Parente

Wretched2

Look for Wretched Fate coming out this month!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Taking a bow

Mom and I had another book signing this week, and as with most of these events, it was nothing like the previous ones. However, we walked away with smiles on our face, and it was not because of the books we sold. Here’s why:

In July, we spoke at two senior communities in Fredericksburg – The Crossings and the Chancellor–both great meetings because the residents were truly interested in how two older women (a mother/daughter team no less!) finally got around to fulfilling a dream. We didn’t sell many books at those meetings and didn’t expect to—we were there to pump ourselves up and remember how great being an author can be.

This week, however, we tried our first book store event. We’ve been hesitant to jump into that circuit because the store has to take a cut so we’re lucky to break even. I think we also both visualized a situation similar to the library book signings we’ve done: sitting at a table with just a sign and a smile and watching people go by without looking our way. People at the library do not expect or want to see someone trying to sell them a product—even if it’s a book!

Last Saturday, we set up a table at 2nd and Charles, a huge used book (as well as used movies, instruments, albums) store, put on those smiles and put up the sign. But instead of being ignored, people stopped; people talked; some people bought—shoppers of all ages and types kept pouring through that front door and walking by the table.2nd and charles

It was delightful so many people paused to meet the authors and exclaim over our fortune and fortitude in getting our books into print. The staff at 2nd and Charles bent over backwards to make us feel comfortable and appreciated. And we sold more books than we’ve sold at any recent event.

However, what made us smile as we packed our materials away was something entirely different: we realized that the constant stream of traffic meant there are many many readers out there. Despite the 3D Imax glitter of movies, the 100-plus channels most people have on their televisions, the graphic fantasy worlds of computer and Xbox games, those who shop at 2nd and Charles choose to hold a book in their hands and let their minds do the work. Of course it made us smile: they are our audience and this is our curtain call.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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