An Exercise In Publicity

Senior HS pic 1974

 

We are always defining and refining ourselves, even before graduation from high school. But maybe that’s the first time most of us really begin to think about the real world in terms of ‘now what?’

Some like me deferred answering that question completely, extending adolescence artificially, going away to college. But it was always there, int he background. I’m not sure I ever truly answered that question. Maybe fact we never do. There is always something else, isn’t there?

For publicity’s sake I need to define who I am in succinct sound bites that can be offered rapid fire during interviews. Why? Because most people in the media have the attention span of a gnat. But then, they are merely a reflection of their audience. Who wants to hear about my life when they could  get all the latest dirt on the Kardashians?

Here is what I know about me. I’m a storyteller. Always have been; always will be. It’s what I do now, though not yet for a living. But that is also why I’m doing this exercise in publicity.

My storytelling began long before high school but I think it was around the time I was in Mrs. Hibbett’s 9th grade English class that I first decided I wanted to be a writer. She told me that was a mistake. Her actual words were I’d never be a writer. By the time I was a senior she;d forgotten ever having said that.

In college I expanded the whole storyteller concept to encompass a broader range of expression. I suppose part of that came form dreaming of being a rock star. My single greatest achievement was writing a rock opera based on Beowulf. That fact you’ve never heard that composition indicates the effort skyrocketed my band and into obscurity. But throughout the beginning part of college I was marking time until I became famous. I was absolutely convinced I would be famous once day, After all with a name like mine, Elgon, one hardly anyone can pronounce correctly, I had to do something great. Yeah, I’m aware that’s not logical but that was how I thought in the mid ’70’s. I figured I could use my first name alone. After all, other than my dad who never went by it, no one else I knew was named Elgon.  There is a mountain in Kenya and a cosmetics company in Italy. As far as I know that’s it for namesakes and those are coincidences. I was named for neither. I think my grandmother couldn’t spell. Either that of the story about the traveling salesman who had a similar name was true. But we won’t go into that.

Mount Elgon

So, in college I studied mass communication, which by definition is communicating to the masses, right? I was a DJ at a campus radio station. I produced an old school radio drama and a TV news show about music. I interned for a local TV station and at a local newspaper. At the end of all that I figured out I didn’t really like being a journalist. So I decided to focus more on public relations advertising and such. That’s how I got interested in marketing.

I studied Spanish in high school and college, not enough to be fluent, but I can read it to some extent and I generally get the gist of what someone is saying. Seeing how important Spanish has become as a second language,especially where live in Florida, perhaps I should have spent more time learning it. I should have learned a lot of things in college but didn’t. Despite my stubbornness I learned some things, though. One was that regardless of the level of education nothing guarantees you success, or a job for that matter. Eventually I stocked shelves in a grocery store by night and worked part time for a small advertising agency by day. Although I was good at doing both, neither position struck me s having great potential for advancement. So, on a whim and figuring I had a college education, I decided to follow in my sister’s footsteps and join the Air Force. I wanted to be an officer like her but they were being particularly picky about college majors and mine wasn’t what they were seeking. However, in the process of taking the tests for military service, someone figured out I had language ability. Imagine that!

AF picture 1983

You see, after college I interviewed with a lot of companies for positions in management. The economy was limping along in recession so businesses were looking for excuses not to hire people  One of the companies I dealt with was a particular large international bank with an operations center in Miami. After a series of interviews they decided not to hire me. In the rejection letter that stated that based on my at my resume which largely consisted of college transcripts that I lacked sufficient ability to learn a foreign language. How ironic was it that merely a few years later the US military was going to pay for me to learn Chinese Mandarin because I tested very high in the ability to acquire a language over a short span opt training.

I ended up on the other side of the planet for a while, saw a lot of places and met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. On balance, despite all the bad aspects of being in the military, it was a valuable experience. One thing I learned was that people are people no matter where you are and we all figure out solutions to our problems in culturally distant ways. Another thing I learned was that people in other countries like Americans but don’t necessarily like our government and its policies. A third thing I figured out was that I didn’t always need to speak another person’s language to be able to communicate.

Upon returning home and leaving the military my role as a communicator shifted to training and leading others in retail management. As things evolved, I began to train customers about products as well. For someone who was painfully shy as a child, comfortably leading training seminars and giving presentations to hundreds of people at times was an extreme departure.

All along my journey I was only delaying what I set out to do, tell stories. During college I wrote in my spare time. In the military I wrote in my spare time. Even after marrying, having children and working seventy plus hours a week in retail management , I wrote in my spare time. When the hobby evolved into a vocation did not happen over night. I had been working on my first novel for years. The second one took less time. Then novels three through twelve came all at once. Over a twelve year span I produced forty stories of novel length, twenty of them in some semblance of a finished state as manuscripts. Still, even though I was a published author I didn’t think I was a professional writer. I wasn’t making a living at it, anyway.But I have always been a storyteller.

I guess as writer you are always seeking a story. Some of it comes from experience, a lot of it comes from inspiration but most of it comes from determination. Writing is an art. Like most artistic endeavors it is not particularly lucrative. Money isn’t why artists produce what we do. To be successful as an artist you need to market the art and that takes publicity, building a support base of fans and general exposure to the the public through some form of communication and networking.

One of the many lesson I learned from the study of communication was a rather basic one. You cannot NOT communicate. Even the decision not to talk to someone is communicative. As much as I’d love to be able to just write the only way to persuade anyone to read what I write – which is the entire point of writing professionally – is to promote it in some way. That requires communication whether through media or more directly, one on one.

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#writing #communication #language #culture #education #experience #publicity #newreleasebook

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About ElgonWilliamsAuthor

Professional author and publicist with Pandamoon Publishing. Author of Fried Windows. The Wolfcat Chronicles, Becoming Thuperman, The Attributes and One Over X. Currently live in Orlando, 3 adult children, divorced.
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