It Helps to be Famous

Boston is a mighty fine place to visit, if you don’t mind the weather–my trip to the Harvard Writer’s Conference this week started out with four straight days of freezing rain punctuated only by gusts of wind.  But cold feet and wet shoes could not deter me and my daughter from our appointed rounds of Newbury Street and the Mall at Copley Place. Lugging my suitcase through Logan Airport last night reminded me that I bought more than books at the conference book fair.  In fact, I had already made a pit stop at Fed Ex to mail the books home—no room in the baggage.  I finally arrived back in San Diego at 11 pm, after seven hours on a JetBlue plane, where no matter how much they brag about the snacks being free, there’s only so long you can hold out on two bags of blue potato chips and a roll of Mentos.  The hastily bought tuna salad sandwich from Dunkin Donuts at the gate proved to be far too suspect to actually eat, and if you know me, you know that I am NOT a picky eater.

But back to the main subject at hand, the annual Harvard Writers conference (www.harvardwriters.com) was a welcome respite from the medical meetings I usually attend. The three days of talks by noted medical authors, publishers and literary agents were outstanding, but the best part of the conference was getting to meet other writers, some well published and some aspiring, to share ideas and stories.  I met specialists of every variety, including child neurologists (“How to Develop Your Baby’s SUPERPOWERS!”), sex therapists (“and let me tell you, I hear about a lot of BAD sex!”) and a surgeon who wrote a memoir of his internship called “The Year They Tried To Kill Me: Surviving a Surgical Internship Even if the Patients Don’t!”)  Who knew that the practice of medicine could be so exciting?  The fact that I have not ever actually WRITTEN a book did not deter me in the slightest—I signed up for every lecture, every work shop, every interactive demonstration to be had.  And I learned a tremendous amount.  Next year I’ll come prepared:  I will try to write a book.

Kudos to the course organizer, Dr. Julie Silver (www.juliesilvermd.com) , a breast cancer survivor, mother and Harvard physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist for putting together a stellar faculty.  She spoke about a subject familiar to many of the readers of this blog—she found that while she was able to survive her cancer, the aftermath of the treatments nearly killed her, which inspired her to write her book “After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Better, Stronger,” a book which will help not only breast cancer patients but all cancer survivors recover from the side effects of therapy.  The prize for the most entertaining lectures had to be shared by Dr. Salvatore Iaquinta and Mr. Rusty Shelton. Dr. Iaquinta, the surgeon who self-published his memoir mentioned above created his book, soup to nuts, on Amazon’s vehicle “Create Space” (www.createspace.com) and highly recommended the process.  Definitely worth looking into.

Mr. Shelton, of Shelton Interactive (www.sheltoninteractive.com) gave two very enlightening lectures on the use of social media in publishing and marketing.  As it turns out, a lot of attention in the book publishing world is paid to something called “platform.”  In my hitherto world of swimming and diving, when someone said “platform,” they meant five meter or ten. But in the publishing world, the “platform” is the influence and following a would-be author has already built, not only through their professional associations and media appearances but also through the social media of a self-named website, a Facebook page, and especially a Twitter account.  The somewhat obvious conclusion here is that if you want to get a book published, it is exceedingly helpful to be famous already!

So grab your domain name now, and don’t forget Facebook and LinkedIn.  On your mark…get set…and START TWEETING!

Facebook Flicks

Fourteen years ago, writer/actor/director Christopher Guest made a little movie called “Best in Show”, supposedly a movie about dog shows, but more accurately a very funny movie about people who show dogs.  The film was eagerly anticipated in the dog show world, since many of us knew which dogs of each breed had been chosen to represent their kind at the penultimate show, a spoof of the upcoming Westminster Kennel Club extravaganza happening in New York City next week.  When the film premiered, murmurs of disappointment echoed through the hallowed halls of the AKC and crescendoed into harrumphs of “We’re not like THAT!”  Ever the klutzy owner-handler, I stood on the sidelines thinking, “Oh yes you ARE!”

Today, thanks to Facebook, I experienced a deja-vu of that moment when I watched my very own Facebook movie.  For the few holdouts reading this who eschew the “social media”, Facebook describes itself as “a social utility that connects people with friends and others who live, study and work around them.”  For many people, “around them” today literally means the whole world, and folks with interests in common, say, Scottish Deerhounds or thimble collecting, find themselves as fast Facebook friends with likeminded ladies and gents around the globe.  In honor of Facebook’s tenth anniversary, the shadow minions of Mark Zuckerberg decided to celebrate by making a movie of each of our very own lives.

The movies starting rolling in on my news feed late last night, and finally this morning, I could stand it no longer—I hit the little arrow indicating the start of my personal Facebook Odyssey.  Exactly one minute and two seconds later, I had to greet the contractor working on my house with tears streaming down my face.  My life was before me–so “poignant”, so “in the moment”, so “true.”  Or so my Facebook friends said.  It was only after the second or third viewing that I began to realize that my movie was all about three things, in descending order of frequency:  my dogs, my Dad, and my youngest son.  But especially about my dogs.  By the end of the day, I noticed more and more comments from my Deerhound friends that their own movies were dominated by their dogs.  “Where are all my people?” one friend asked.  “Maybe the little computer elves making the movies just happen to LOVE Scottish Deerhounds,” I joked.

At last viewing, I found myself asking the same question.  Where are all my people—my husband and my two older children?  Where are the horses?  Where are my colleagues?  Where is my belated and much missed cat Timmy Tom, and where the heck is my red Corvette?  It was then that I had my Best in Show moment.  If my Facebook flick says it’s all about the dogs and Dad, then maybe it is…perhaps just a little bit too much.   Maybe I need a psychiatrist.  But maybe, just maybe, I need to spend a little less time on Facebook and a little more time on what matters most—living life.  I’d best get on with it.