First Publications, Looking Forward

Our very first publications and/or bylines, how did they feel?

With the first ones in school, I felt embarrassed.

I had very little self-esteem and I had critical people around me, so I never felt anything was good enough when I was in lower grades. I didn’t have the opportunity, or put myself into opportunities to publish anything in higher grades, although I knew that when I did write, was getting better.

Moving on to adulthood, I knew I could write a bit. Although not published, when I took a minor award from an international songwriting competition, I can’t say that I was surprised. (My sister was in shock; she had entered several over several years and never got a mention.)

But as far as first real publications, one of the dearest friends I ever had knew I was writing. I was putting down ideas for a book of easy entertaining and cooking for those who felt that any attempts were beyond their abilities. Unfortunately, unless you are a TV chef or a celebrity of any type, you will not get attention from publishers, (so my other blog was born later on). The friend was writing a children’s story. She stumbled across a shrine that was asking for Christmas cards to be written for them; two would be made into their official cards for the season and the best of the rest would be put into an inspirational book to be sold. When those plans fell through, they published the book online, and my three or four submissions were included, (unfortunately, my friend’s were not). The next year the process was repeated and the four l that I submitted, plus a photo to illustrate one, was published. I guess they liked my work.

Still, I was not excited, either time. I was a bit surprised that they used all of my submissions, but I did not allow myself to be thrilled.

I’ve mentioned before about the box I was given in a TV famous craft-person’s book. I was amazed and a bit annoyed; I had hoped to win big prizes for my tip. I may have felt more had it not come to me out of the blue, but I was disappointed that it was only a book that I won. However, a lot of people have read my idea and I guess that should count for something.

The next biggest break was the article I had published in a ‘glossy’ magazine about my aunt and the meaning to the community of her Italian Hour radio show. I take real pride in that one because unbeknownst to me, the publisher had an idea for a much shorter article, yet he published it in its entirety after reading it and reconsidering. The magazine has quite a readership, yet, I can’t say that I turned backflips.

I probably felt as much pride when I wrote articles for organizations years back. I have re-read the descriptive menus I wrote for my defunct bakery/restaurant and remember being thrilled seeing them in print. It was a short, minor thrill and often more of a feeling of accomplishment.

I have been a slacker on my other works and I hope to feel excitement in my next publication. I have some confidence now, so hiding my bushel under a basket is not something I need to do. Perhaps the accomplishments of my loved ones overshadow my small accomplishments.

I also come from a long line of frustrated writers who seldom ‘put themselves out there’; that was never conducive to setting me up for success. Which is why I am indebted to The Hound and others who encourage my grandson, and why I have encouraged him myself, edit his work and his girlfriend’s writing, plus I hand over my computer and printer any time my granddaughters are here and want to write. (They all like to write and I am thrilled.)

It just may be that I don’t let myself celebrate my own accomplishments.

This has been an exercise in self-analysis.

Excuse me while I take a moment to bask in my few rays of sunshine and plan on some more!

Posted in author's life, big plans, blogging, helping others, inspiration, Jeff Salter, Life, memories, publishing, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized, using talents, writing | 5 Comments

Exhilaration, Validation, and then Let-Down

How I’ve Felt After Publications

By Jeff Salter

This week, we’re talking about how we’ve felt after our first few bylines or publications. I need to preface all this by clarifying that as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer… and it has always been my dream to be a published author.

Lord knows why I’d feel called to this endeavor — since so many of the authors I’d studied had died before obtaining much or any recognition… and many died young (in poverty and/or depression). Among the authors considered to have produced “classics,” many (possibly most) appeared to have had unbalanced or very delicate psyches or egos. Did they develop those ills BECAUSE they were creative authors? Or were they driven to express themselves creatively because they already possessed those ills? I don’t know.

But, fortunately, I also had a few GOOD role models, including poet Robert Frost and my hometown novelist Walker Percy. Both lived good, long lives; both achieved popular success and critical acclaim; both seemed down-to-earth, well-balanced, and did not let their success go to their heads.

author-Snoopy

(All that said merely by way of introduction) to fully address this topic, I’ll have to group my responses into several categories.

High School

As a sophomore, a very short story I wrote was selected by the faculty sponsor for inclusion in that year’s anthology. Wow, I thought I’d traveled to the moon! Not only did that teacher like my story, but another teacher complimented me. And, of course, my folks were proud and pleased. That’s the exhilaration and validation part. But the let-down set in because as quickly as the moment swooped in… it swooped back out — and nothing had changed in my writing career. I was still an adolescent with pimples… and no drivers licence.

While still in school, I – with a talented buddy – began an underground newspaper — it was the late 1960s, folks. It was too dangerous to use our real names, but a lot of people knew who we were (or guessed). In fact, the principal found out somehow — he dragged me into his office and threatened to suspend me if I didn’t cut it out. I pretended like I didn’t know what he was talking about. Ha. We published six or seven issues before we ran out of steam. It was a lark. A lot of creativity and effort went into the paper itself, but the thrill came from seeing the reaction we got from those articles… while trying to keep our identities secret!

Later, as a newly graduated senior, one of my poems won its category (and a cash award) in a major regional contest sponsored by a university. Unknown to me, the university’s contest coordinators sent a news release to my hometown paper, which not only published the article but also the full text of my winning poem — on the front page! Finally, recognized and published for everyone to see! Exhilaration and validation. But the let-down soon set in because as quickly as one weekly edition of the paper hits the streets, it’s immediately “old news” … and the following week there’s a brand new front page. Nothing had changed in my writing career… and I was soon to leave the state for college.

College

As a freshman at a small university in Georgia, I was named Features Editor for the campus weekly newspaper. There were three other feature writers on my staff. We had a great time and interviewed lots of cool celebrities. I loved seeing my own byline and I encouraged and assisted the writing of my staff members. But there was rarely any earth-moving recognition of my work. I remember one time the managing editor – passing me (going the opposite direction) on a walkway – said, “That was a good Shortkid article this week.” [Henry Wadsworth Shortkid was one of my pseudonyms for a humor column I wrote.] Wow, getting praise from our taciturn editor! Exhilaration and validation. But that, too, quickly had its own let-down. That editor left (or graduated… can’t recall which) and an election was held for a new editor. I had two acquaintances who campaigned for the job and the less talented one won. It wasn’t long before I left the official campus paper and started my own underground paper. My identity was not widely known, but it was a poorly kept secret since people would collect pocket change in meetings and hand me a cup full of coins to help pay for paper and other printing supplies.

Civilian Newspapers

Over the next couple of years I worked for a small town daily and then a small town weekly. Wrote a lot and got quite a few bylines for features and photos. Exhilaration at being a PAID writer (finally) and validation that an editor thought enough of my work to “promote” me from writing obituaries to handling features and news stories. But the ole let-down soon set in, because my real love was poetry and newspaper work did not seem likely to spin me into the stratosphere of acclaimed poets.

Military Newspapers

Well, since the war in and around Vietnam was still going on and the draft was running hot, I knew I’d soon be called up. Didn’t want to slog through rice paddies under fire, so I enlisted in the Air Force instead. By some miracle, they assigned me to direct duty as an information specialist — which, in the luck of the Information Office slotting, led me to three different Air Force Base newspapers. I was editor of two and assistant editor of the third. Again, lots of bylines (for stories and photos). And, fortunately, I got several positive mentions from higher headquarters, namely 12th Air Force Office of Information (at one base) and I won the competition for Information Technician of the year for 21st Air Division (at another base). Among the other honors posted to my account was a trip to the Pentagon (with some dozen other base newspaper editors) to receive an award from the AF Chief of Staff (Gen. John D. Ryan) for the best paper in my division. [I’ve forgotten the category, but it was for small bases.] Exhilaration and validation. But that, too, wore off rather quickly. The only person at my home base (Thule AB, Greenland) who even commented about that honor was the base executive officer, a major, who happened to proofread my article – about the TDY to the Pentagon – before it was printed.

Poetry

Along the way, I won more poetry contest (and other writing) awards — some three dozen in all, I think. That includes three from the National Writers’ Club and several from regional contests. Most, however, were from the annual contests of a writers’ club which covered a two-parish area in northwest Louisiana.

I’d also had many more poems published by that point… including a few dozen in a regional literary quarterly. But nothing “big” and nothing that rocked the foundations of the literary world.

Articles

As a professional librarian, I had several articles and book reviews published — including some in the major national journals of librarianship. These looked good on my resume and were “pluses” on my application (every five years) to have my Executive Certificate renewed by the State Board of Library Examiners. But, locally, nobody cared that I was in print.

Non-Fiction

None of those earlier bylines, contest awards, or publications ever allowed me, however, to consider myself an official AUTHOR. Without a “book” featuring my name on the cover, I still thought of myself merely as a published writer.

That changed in 1988 when Libraries Unlimited – at that time, one of the top three publishers of professional materials for librarians and libraries – published the hardcover book my brother and I co-authored, “On the Frontlines — Coping with the Library’s Problem Patrons”. The book was a success! With several very positive reviews in almost all the major library journals, sales were brisk and it quickly sold out both the first and second printings. Our book was even listed in the publisher’s printed catalog as a “bestseller” for a couple of years. Later, a third printing was ordered… just before the sales abruptly slumped, inexplicably, and never really recovered. But it was that book which finally promoted me from “published writer” to “author”! Getting royalty checks was a real kick, too. The success of that book led my brother and me to conduct a series of workshops and got us at least three other contracts (for a signed chapter in another book, for a signed article in a specialty encyclopedia, and for formal consultation in a pending court case). It also led directly to my appointment teaching a graduate library science course. So even though this new strata brought considerable exhilaration and validation, it also was followed by a considerable let-down. I was still in the same job, still in the same town — and being a published author wouldn’t even get me a cup of coffee unless I also handed over 75 cents.

Fiction

After retirement from the library world, I began writing fiction. Surprised the heck out of me, since I had imagined continuing with poetry and book reviews. Wrote like crazy for five full years before my seventh complete manuscript got my first publishing contract. Getting that email from a small royalty publisher offering a conditional contract – if I was willing to make some changes in the manuscript – was the thrill of a lifetime.

Over the next six years, I had 10 novels and four novellas released through three different small royalty publishers. Every time I get an offer of contract, I feel elated and validated. [The editing process tends to drag me pretty low, however.] Then each new release gives me a huge boost of satisfaction and energy. But, alas, none of my titles have “taken off” yet. I’ve hit no bestseller lists (yet). Nobody has optioned any of my titles for a movie (yet). Oprah has not invited me on her show — or does she still have a show? Anyway, I have not yet hit the big time.

Will I ever? Hard to say. My mantra has been that I’m one reader away from breaking through to popular and/or critical success. I just need one national celebrity or other notable individual to wave my book in front of a sizable crowd and say, “this guy writes terrific stories… you need to read him.”

[JLS # 345]

Posted in author's life, authors, careers, childhood, Jeff Salter, publishing, The Author Life, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Tale of Sale

Garage/Yard sales are this week’s topic, coincidentally, just two weeks after my guest Sherry Harris came in to talk about her Garage Sale Mysteries. The schedule had been planned by another Fox without her knowledge, long after I had booked Sherry.

I don’t have much experience with selling at these sales, not for lack of trying. I live one lot off a busy state highway, plus I advertised and coordinated with sales up the road, (where people would have to pass mine).
I put out only good items, priced cheaply to move them and yet, the only time I did any more than $13.00 worth of business was when I put out a used “Dogloo”, for which I asked $25 and one man handed over the cash without hesitation.

I fell for the “Single Mom” card a few times, handing over clothes and toys for next to nothing, only to have the women then spend money on frivolous items I had out.

I tried one sale when we were in truly dire straits. Two of the richest local women ripped me off by a dollar here, a quarter there, just for the thrill of the hunt, even though they knew we were having problems. “ You’re asking 75 cents each? Here’s a dollar; I’ll take two….and I’ll pick this up, too”, (another .50 item). “I’ll pick up three of these; they’re marked 25 cents, right? And I’ll get these, (2 @ a dollar each). Here’s $2 and I’ll take another one of these, (a 25 cent one)”. I am afraid that anything which may have been a friendship with them cooled considerably, since I was trying to hold our home together. I ended up selling my piano to make up what I needed.

You can find some deals at times, though. A couple of years ago I was looking for a treadmill. My sister spotted a good one at a yard sale for $25.00; it would have been $300.00 new. The man delivered it in his truck to my house and helped my husband bring it in and set it up. (The delivery alone would have cost me at least another $25.) I also picked up a nice coat that their grandson had barely worn for my own grandson, a nice, warm, brand-name one and it cost me only a dollar.

I don’t stop yard/garage/ rummage sales often anymore. I really dislike being the only one at a sale and walking away; I feel like I am insulting the people, (not that anyone cared to give me such consideration). But I used to go to garage/yard/church sales quite often, starting when I was a teen. Even then, I would pick up books, especially classics.

Usually I would go with my sister, but I sometimes went with her, her grandmother-in-law and her husband’s aunt by marriage. It was fun to make the rounds on Saturday mornings during the Fall, when most sales were held.

The last time we all went, we had my sister’s youngest brother-in-law with us. Andy was a small ten-year- old and he was with us to distract him, since his mother was in the hospital. At the last stop, a church sale where his aunt’s sisters were working, he spotted a costume jewelry pin he liked.

Andy couldn’t keep his eyes off of the silver-colored leaf with imitation diamonds. He thought it was beautiful and wanted to give it to his mother, but was unsure of his taste. “Is it pretty, Tonette?”, he asked me several times. I assured him that it was nice, since I could see in his eyes that he truly found it compelling. He just wanted to make sure that it was nice enough for his mother.

What mother doesn’t love a gift received from their child? I know that my mother wore a lot of ‘junk jewelry’ that my siblings and I gave her when we were kids, which I realize now was not anywhere near her taste. I knew that Andy’s mother would accept it more wholeheartedly than a pin with real diamonds from any adult.

But Andy didn’t get to give the pin to Betty; she died a few days later.

When I went to visitation at the funeral home, I approached Betty’s casket and tears welled-up in my eyes. There at her throat, clasping a scarf, was the pin which Andy had bought for her at the sale.

Do you have any outstanding memories of a yard/rummage sale?

Posted in Books, experiences, Family, hobbies, Life, memories, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I’ll Have to Pass

No More Garage Sales For Me

By Jeff Salter

This week our topic is garage and/or yard sales… and whether we’ve participated as buyer, seller, or both.

Purchaser

Well, I’ve dabbled in such sales as a purchaser or potential purchaser, but I have to tell you — unless you approach this as a “pro” you’re liable to see mainly the leftover junk. Those I consider pros are the ones who map out the sales of any given weekend, study the ads to determine who potentially has the best stuff, and arrive super early – sometimes even before the announced time – to have their pick of the lot. And those pros do occasionally find real bargains.

But by the time the pros have long gone – and I get around to the sale – all the cool stuff is gone and what remains is usually just more of the same clutter I have at home.

Garage Sale

Seller

Though I/we participated in several – which we either hosted or joined with neighbors or friends – I mostly remember one particular sale, with two other families (I think), which we hosted at our house. This was back in about 1981, I believe.

The sale had a very good attendance and quite a lot was sold. Altogether, it grossed a considerable amount of money and our family’s share was nothing to sneeze at. But let me tell you the two aspects of this sale which totally soured me on ever participating in another (at least as the host family).

Who we partnered with

In this sale, other than some items from a neighbor or two (as I recall), we primarily partnered with my boss. Yeah, my boss at work. We were also friends, but when he took over our garage sale, he didn’t behave like a guest at our sale and he didn’t act like a friend — though “off-duty,” he was still my boss… and he considered himself an expert in garage sales. Consequently, he took charge of how I arranged my garage – which he insisted was totally empty – how the clothing was to be displayed, where the various tables were placed, and what went on them, etc.

The following was a tiny matter in the scheme of the complete sale, but the way it was handled sort of captured how the entire sale was conducted. My (clothes) dryer vent extended a few inches into the garage and my boss wanted to snug a table (or something) against that wall. He said I should remove the dryer vent so we could utilize those extra two inches. I said I didn’t want to pull out that vent because I knew it would be difficult to put back in. So he just reached down and yanked it out. Yeah… like it was his vent at his house. See? He was still my boss.

Who does the bargaining on your stuff

The other huge mistake I made with our two day (Fri. and Sat.) sale was that I went to work that Friday and left the sale in the control of my boss. We had carefully marked all our own items with the asking prices and nobody had discussed how much we might be willing to go below those amounts… or who would make those decisions. In other words, it was left up in the air who would do the bargaining with potential buyers about our merchandise… if we were not there to do it ourselves.

Well, in this instance, I got home from work that Friday, after a brisk sale all day long at my house… and found a lot of my stuff had been sold. That was good (theoretically). Then I learned that my guitar (with case) had been sold for $5.00 and my Frankenstein monster boots had sold for $1.00… and I freaked. “Who sold my great stuff for those cruddy prices?” I wailed. “I would never have let them go for those amounts.”

Well, as you’ve already likely guessed, it was my boss who determined that my merchandise could be sold for only a fraction of the price I had carefully placed on each item. Those two examples are simply the ones I remember in particular. The clear overall theme was that my boss was perfectly willing for me to receive 20 or 25 cents for every dollar of my careful pricing. There was no attempt to phone me at work, no thought (on his part) that I might prefer to keep said items than to let them go at such rock bottom prices.

I should probably clarifyy that my boss was a pretty good person, all told… the problem was that he couldn’t easily let go of being boss when we were in settings other than work. And, further, that he didn’t recognize this behavior was a problem.

Conclusion

After that experience, I had no stomach for any further garage/yard sales. Even if I’d not developed such a bad taste in my mouth – for the sale (at my home) being “bossed” by my work supervisor and my carefully priced items being liquidated for laughably piddling amounts – I would be deterred from future sales by the sheer amount of work involved. Everything has to be identified, relocated, sorted, priced, and displayed. A location must be set in a high traffic area. Publicity – ads and signs – must be dealt with. Somebody has to handle the money and the decisions. And somebody has to sit at the sale for those 10-12 hours each day.

Folks, that’s a LOT of work and time… when you can donate those same items to a charitable institution and take a deduction on the value of the items.

No more sales for me.

Question:

Are you a big fan of garage/yard sales? As a seller or a buyer?

 

[JLS # 344]

Posted in author's life, experiences, horror stories, Jeff Salter, Life, memories, Random thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Not Enough Clutter

We were asked about yard sales this week. I afraid that I do not have a lot to say on the subject. My children and I have moved a lot over the years and because we have moved so much we have never really accumulated a lot of stuff. When something is no longer used in our house it gets taken to the thrift store. There’s no point letting it sit here to gather dust when someone else could get some use out of it. My kids go through their toys on a regular basis and take out what they haven’t played with and we take them to the thrift store the next time we drive by it. My kids have never put together a yard sale.

We haven’t shopped a yard sale since Jessica and Quinlan were in the double stroller. That’s been about 14  years. I used to enjoy loading the kids into the stroller and walking around town. We didn’t really buy much of anything and looking back I think the only reason we went was so I would have an excuse to be out walking.

 

When I was a kid we held one yard sale every summer. I remember helping to put masking tape with prices on everything and sitting under the huge tree by the garage helping to read the tags. Mom would allow us to put our initial on the tape so we could each make some spending money. It was fun to see items with an A on the price tag come to the table because I knew I would have more money coming to me. Between the yard sale and my summer lemonade stand I had money whenever the ice cream truck came by.  But by the time I reached middle school the yard sales stopped. My older siblings had real jobs and I started cleaning the church with my grandparents to earn spending money.

Did you help with yard sales as a kid?

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Take my junk… Please!

My daughter loves to have sales. She frequently sets them up in her room, selling a variety of her things, her crafts, and strange things she found along the road. Her prices are not entirely garage sale class. The couch foot she found on the side of the road… $10. With the sale limited to her bedroom or our living room, her customers are lacking.

After her begging, I gave in and hosted an actual yard sale during the city-wide sales. It just happened to be the hottest day of the summer, the kind where you sweat through your clothes just sitting on the steps. The heat drove the kids inside within an hour and I was left in the scorcher for the rest of the day. As the temperature climbed, the customers diminished. It was a very long afternoon. I did make some money, but I ended up carting a whole truck load to the thrift store.

I don’t expect to do another sale any time soon. It’s so much easier to load everything in the truck and haul it away than to prep and hold a sale.

My mother-in-law is a fantastic garage saler and can find wonderful bargains… the super cute Christmas dress in the perfect size for fifty cents and the like. Each summer we give her a list of the kids sizes and she finds all kinds of school clothes for them. It is great, although the kids are getting pickier about what they wear, so it isn’t as easy to choose things without their approval.

When the kids were younger we went to garage sales all the time. I’d load them in the stroller and we’d hike around the neighborhood. They are great places to snatch up barely-used baby and toddler  clothes. But then my kids learned to talk and they figured out how to find the most annoying, ridiculous, and over-priced toy at the sale. Garage sales weren’t fun any more when I had to say no a hundred times at every place.

I’m sure I’ll do more garage saling in the future, probably checking out estate sales for interesting furniture and what-not. I’m always interested in the floorplans of houses and estate sales are a good way to check that out. I drove by one sale several times and didn’t stop because I had just acquired a truck load of estate sale type items from my mother and didn’t have a place for anything new. Then my friend told me how cool the house was, but when I went back the sale was over. The house is for sale now, but last I checked there weren’t any pictures online.
I love finding great treasures at sales, but lately they’ve been more trouble than they are worth.
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