Paying it Forward

I have a newly released novel titled, Little Tea, but that’s not my focus here.  My focus is on sharing an incredible experience I had on Facebook because it’s a case in point of what can transpire through the magnanimous efforts of one fellow author during these unusual times.

Those of us who released a book during the pandemic were blindsided as to how to proceed with promotion. In my case, I had a book tour of the South scheduled to promote Little Tea, only to discover each event was canceled. The good news is most of my events were rescheduled virtually, though in many ways, I swam in smaller waters. I stayed tethered to my desk bereft of the gift of personal contact and although I’m not taking the merit out of it, in most ways I preached to a Zoom choir. But an uncanny domino effect ensued that came through the power of connections, and although it’s not a complete surprise, I have Facebook to thank for a great time promoting Little Tea.

My good fortune began with the moderator of a Facebook book group who interviews authors via StreamYard on a nightly basis. I was a guest on her live show and was grateful beyond measure to answer questions about Little Tea. In thanking my hostess profusely, I said, “If there’s anything I can do for you, it would be my great pleasure.”

The first step along the chain of events came when the aforementioned moderator asked me to talk to a debut author she admires, who had questions about the publishing business. I issued the caveat that I’m no expert, but I’ve been in the business long enough to have an opinion. I’ll say here that my policy as an author has always been to pay it forward. Authors work in a common arena, and few of us would get very far were it not for the opportunity to compare notes. And so, I got on the phone with a complete stranger and talked about navigating the book world and am happy to report that by the time we hung up, I’d made a new friend. An hour later, my new friend messaged me via Facebook messaging and invited me to come to her Facebook group page to do an “author takeover.” I said yes before I fully understood the set-up, so, I’ll explain it now that I understand. This debut author had the foresight to create a private book launch group on Facebook. She issued a call-out six months before her book release and created a Facebook “street team” by offering incentives that simply boiled down to the joy of being involved. This street team was gifted with insider information about her debut novel. She gave her private group book swag, played games, and shared pictures pertaining to her life and her book that the general public wasn’t privy to, so by the time her book was released, roughly a thousand readers were ready to shout from the rooftops because suffice it to say, they felt personally tied to the book’s launch.

My invitation to come to her private Facebook group and do an all-day take over essentially sounded like this: “I know of a thousand people who’ve never heard of you, so come on over, I’ll introduce you, and you can post as much about your book as you want to.”

You better believe I came ready! I prepared with photographs of Little Tea’s setting in the Deep South (Como, Mississippi; Greer’s Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas; and my home town, Memphis) two book trailers, a dozen memes, Little Tea reviews, and, knowing that a picture tells a thousand words about an author’s life, photographs of ocean waves taken where I now live in Malibu, California and endless un-staged photographs of my three photogenic dogs. It was my dogs that got the ball rolling. It’s astounding how many people have “a German shepherd story.” The sharing of dog stories led to an enthusiastic kind of bonding. Soon enough, there was a vibrant thread in the private group of dog pictures that dovetailed to include the posting of pet cats.

Ceili Little Tea

Little Tea’s premise is built on the power of female friendships—the anchoring, long-lasting kind that see a woman through a lifetime. These friendships tend to have their own language, often times there’s a shared sense of humor spawned from shared history, and what comes from shared history is an arsenal of stories. In Little Tea’s case, much of the bi-racial relationship story is due to the setting, which is to say the story wouldn’t have happened as it did were it not set in the South with its attendant social mores set amidst the roiling cauldron of the cultural racial divide. There’s a line from Little Tea, when narrator Celia Wakefield describes her Southern upbringing by saying, “The thing about being a Southern girl is they let you run loose until the time comes to shape you.” I posted a meme with this quote during my author take over and it led to a riotous discussion about the South and the power of female friendships, which is part and parcel to the story of Little Tea—Little Tea being the nickname of the main character, who is Celia Wakefield’s childhood best friend.

Little Tea without preorder

I have to say I’ve always known that readers are discerning people. They’re interested in learning about a book, but they’re equally interested in learning about the author. The beauty of my all-day, author take-over was that it afforded the latitude of an unfolding. One subject led to another with regard to Little Tea, but what warmed my heart the most was the participants who shared their own stories in what became a delightful, even exchange. I came away from the event knowing I’d represented Little Tea and introduced myself as accurately as I could, but the real gift to me came from getting to know those who love reading as much as I do. I went into the author take-over hoping to reach readers, but as I learned about them, it turned into the thrill of finding common ground.

I’m still marveling at the fun I had in the midst of a fortuitous opportunity. It’s not every author who invites another to take over their page and meet their followers. When you’re lucky enough to meet the kind of author who realizes we’re all in this together, it serves as an exemplary reminder of the impact of paying it forward.

 

Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of 7- time award winner, Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Claire is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a 2-time award winner set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two, time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire’s 4th novel. Little Tea is a Faulkner Society William Wisdom Competition finalist, a finalist for the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset Awards, and the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency.

https: //www.clairefullerton.com and/or https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

From SWM

Gifting the Readers

It was an unusual path that led to the creation of my third novel, Mourning Dove, and the thought that spurred me on was gifting the reader with something to ponder.
Mourning Dove started as a poem, written rather cathartically, in verse that sought to put into words the repercussions of a personal experience. I wrote the poem but never shared it, thinking it would be enough to write it and leave it in my journal. Then, in 2013, I saw a call for submissions in the San Francisco Writers Conferences’ contest. In looking at the categories, I decided to tell the abbreviated story behind the poem in the requisite 3,000-word limit and enter it as narrative nonfiction. Because I liked the images and rhythm of the poem, I began my piece with the poem’s first stanza. As I wrote the nonfiction story, I remained true to the feel and flow of the poem. I reached the word limit swiftly and submitted it to the contest, under the title Mastering Ambiguity (there’s a good reason for that title.)
Three months later, I received notice that Mastering Ambiguity was a finalist in the contest, and, as I live in Malibu, I decided to make the trip to the 2013, San Francisco Writers Conference and attend the luncheon where the winner would be announced.
Entering the auditorium, I saw thirty-five, eight seated tables spaced on the floor before a stage. As I found a seat, I told myself that if anything ever came of Mastering Ambiguity, I’d turn it into a full-length novel. Mastering Ambiguity wasn’t pronounced the winner at that luncheon, but it came in as the runner-up. Knowing I had a good story, I kept my pledge and set to work turning Mastering Ambiguity into a novel.
But how to turn a 3,000-word, nonfiction piece into a novel that is essentially a coming- of -age and then some, Southern family saga? It occurred to me that if I focused on a sense of place, in this case, the genteel side of 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, replete with characters exemplary of old-world social mores, I’d have a solid foundation for a cause and effect story.
I began by defining the aim of Mourning Dove, which would help me suggest its point. Once I had what I wanted to say in hand, I settled upon Mourning Dove’s themes, knowing, if I let them lead, I could write the novel in scenes that would lead to gifting the reader with an overarching point.
When a writer settles upon a theme, or themes in a novel, the idea is to make them universal, so that the reader will identify from the vantage point of their own life. In Mourning Dove’s case, I wanted to expand upon the idea of a search, for I believe all of us are searching for something, be it a daily search or over a lifetime.
Once I knew the beginning and end of Mourning Dove, I wrote the following in a composition book I keep by my keyboard, and allowed it to guide me:
A search for place/home
A search for identity
A search for meaning/God.

From there, I wrote the story of two siblings who were born in Minnesota but moved abruptly during their formative years to the Deep South, where they entered the traditionally Southern environment as outsiders. From here, the novel took on a life of its own and became not only about discovery, but about displacement and the navigational tools one employs, while trying to fit into a culture.
For the most part, writers write from what they know. They use their own impressions and experiences as fodder to one degree or another, in the process of telling a story. I believe this is inevitable and inescapable, and in writing Mourning Dove, I portrayed Memphis as I experienced it. Because I now live in California, the geographical distance afforded an objective eye with a sense of nostalgia for an era now gone by. Late 1970’s through 1980’s Memphis was well worth writing about because I am of a generation raised by those many call “the old guard.” These were the people born to a culture steeped in Southern social mores and tradition, who held to its ways as if manners and form were the template to society, so much so that it verged on stifling.
My aim in writing Mourning Dove was along the lines of depicting the culture the siblings came to as outsiders to show how its influence contributed to their psychological wiring. Because we are all products of our upbringing, it raises the question of nature versus nurture in influencing how a life turns out. It’s a complicated amalgam that contributes to how individuals end up as they do, and in writing Mourning Dove, I wanted to tell the story of siblings who share the same history but come to disparate ends.
Because readers are intelligent beings, I wanted to take the reader through a series of one telling scene to the next, so that they could divine for themselves how what happened in the end came to be.
It’s a give and take in being a writer. If a writer gifts a reader with something to ponder, the reader will take away their own conclusion.

 

Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton is a Faulkner Society listed, and winner of the Bronze medal for Southern Fiction by Reader’s Favorite.

Enter to win the audiobook of Mourning Dove: https://audiobookwormpromotions.com/mourning-dove/

https//www.clairefullerton.com