Finding My “Northern” Tribe

Wednesday, March 27, 2024
I wrote a few weeks ago about my experience at the AWP conference, held in Kansas City this past February. While there, I had an opportunity to join an editor at a signing table for an anthology in which one of my essays—taken from my memoir draft—is included. 

Awakenings: Stories of Body & Consciousness was published in October 2023. Several months before publication, editor Diane Gottlieb encouraged all 49 writers in the anthology—spread across the U.S. and around the world—to team up whenever and wherever possible in promoting the book before and after publication. 

To help in this collaboration effort, Diane compiled and shared a list of accepted contributors’ emails (after securing permission), along with a list of states and countries in which we lived. Within days, I got an email from a fellow writer who lives only a 15-minute drive from me in southern New Hampshire. Sandell also copied in two anthology writers, Nina and Kim, who ironically live in the same town an hour-and-a-half north of us in Maine. 

We agreed to meet on Zoom and brainstorm promotion ideas. Publication, at that point, was four months away. While on our first of many Zoom calls, we dubbed ourselves the “Awakenings: Northern New England Team.” As we tossed ideas around, we noted them in a Google Doc and color-coded each promotional idea or outreach responsibility by author name. This made it easier to keep our small team updated on progress, by glancing at line items that we marked in Orange (not started), Yellow (in progress), Green (completed or confirmed), or Red (denied or not possible). 

Among the “wins” we racked up: 

  • A team post, published on the Brevity Blog 
  • A podcast interview that combined our discussion of the anthology with how it tied into the movie “Goodnight to You, Leo Grande” (starring the tremendously talented Emma Thompson, where she examines her own body self-esteem) 
  • A second podcast, focused on true stories read by writers who lived them 
  • A literary salon reading 
  • A feature interview in the much loved WOW! “Markets” newsletter 

We also landed a bookstore reading that finally took place six months after securing the spot. Yep, this is why planning book promotions months in advance is essential!

Image: Ann Kathryn Kelly 

On a windy night in early March, Sandell and I carpooled from coastal Portsmouth, New Hampshire to meet Nina and Kim, who traveled from their small town to Portland, Maine. After enjoying an early dinner together, we walked a few blocks to Print: A Bookstore where we each read a five-minute excerpt of our pieces, before taking questions from the audience.

While walking back to our cars and feeling energized after the event, we wondered if we could pull together another audience reading sometime in the coming months. A day later, Nina—being the rock star she is—had already secured our second in-person event! Our Northern New England quartet is scheduled to read at a library in Brunswick, Maine, six weeks from now. 


I’m enjoying the camaraderie with these enthusiastic and talented writers, and it’s energizing to see our group tick off actionable promotion ideas on our Google Doc. As enjoyable as the reading was at Print Bookstore, I value even more the time I spent getting to know them during our Zoom calls and especially at dinner in Portland a few weeks ago. 

Onward, to our next event in May! 

Ann Kathryn Kelly writes from New Hampshire’s Seacoast region.


Jodi Webb said...

Congratulations Anne! Who said writing was a lonely business?

How does everyone feel about events that have more than one author? Do more people show up?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

How exciting to read about your successes! Like Jodi, I'm curious about group events. Are they better attended? Are various venues (bookstores, libraries, podcasts) more interested in doing something with a team vs a solo act?

And yes, I realize that I'm asking questions about things that are very hard to quantify!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Ann, this is amazing! I love how the anthology brought you together and you're making promotion fun. :)

I remember one of the first live interviews we ever did for WOW was seventeen years ago in Laguna Beach for a breast cancer anthology. All the women authors were touring bookstores together and sharing their survivor stories. I think anthologies can be powerful this way and provide a natural marketing angle since authors are rallying behind a book's subject. Having a tight topic, and many authors available to speak on it, is definitely appealing to media outlets and venues because each author publicizes it and brings their own fans. :)

Ann Kathryn Kelly said...

Hi Jodi, I think team readings present an opportunity to pull in a bigger audience, because each featured reader can round up their friends and family (and others in their individual writing support circles) to come. This was my first team reading for an anthology, so it presented another unique opportunity because we could discuss with the audience how our individual essays on the body and consciousness spoke to one another inside that anthology framework. It made it a bit easier to bridge a connection that may not be there if a small group of fiction writers or memoirists or poets shared an event but each read from their own books. Having the anthology as the umbrella created a natural bridge. However, I'm all for group reading, even when the books are unique from one another!

Ann Kathryn Kelly said...

Hi SueBE! I went into this a bit with my comment to Jodi, but that's also a great question you raise about the willingness to host group readings, from a bookstore's, library's, or podcast's POV. Because it was an anthology, the bridge was there for us to make the case how our pieces spoke to one another. I do feel that made the outreach easier.

Ann Kathryn Kelly said...

Hi Ang -- you nailed it! :) Having a theme to rally around when approaching/promoting makes it easier, for sure. It's the umbrella I mentioned in one of my other comments. I also love how the anthology editor encouraged all 49 contributors to connect, according to our geographic regions. I think that absolutely helped!

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