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I’m delighted to welcome Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of PR for Poets, to Diary of an Eccentric today. I asked her to share a story about how she was forced out of her comfort zone in promoting one of her own books, and I think you’ll enjoy it. Please give her a warm welcome!

I was thinking of how to approach this blog post that I was asked to write, talking about a time I was out of my comfort zone promoting one of my own poetry books. It’s funny because when my first book came out, nearly everything was out of my comfort zone. Now that I’ve published my fifth book of poetry, and am promoting this current book of non-fiction, PR for Poets, I feel comfortable saying yes to things that feel authentic and saying no to things that don’t. My health has taken a bit of a hit in the years between my first book and my fifth – diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, among other things – so I try to be more careful what I say yes to, and make sure opportunities are going to be worth the effort.

But I was thinking about saying yes and no to things back for my first book. One of the funnier events when I was young and unsure and had written a visibly feminist book, Becoming the Villainess – all about comic book superheroines and villainesses, fairy tales, and more controversial (for the time) themes like sex abuse and empowerment. I was invited to read, in Seattle, at a gathering of cowboy poets. I didn’t know anyone there, and every person in the audience was male, all of them were over forty, and a great number of them were wearing cowboy hats. So I got up there and read my poems about superheroes and dragons and just kind of read in a daze and when it was over, I finally looked up at the audience. I ended up selling a ton of books and these men just shook my hand and were very enthusiastic about liking my work. No one made a rude comment. I don’t know what I was so afraid of. It was a moment that made me realize that we don’t ever really know who is going to respond to our work, it’s just our job to create and present it in the best way possible.

Since then I’ve had lots of opportunities to get outside of my comfort zone – I’ve read poetry for my local NPR station, I’ve discussed poetry with my city’s mayor (when I was applying to be Redmond’s second Poet Laureate), I’ve sold poetry at comic book conventions (great audiences and even greater costumes), and travelled to bookstores, bars, and college auditoriums all over the U.S. I have found that the most rewarding experiences for me involved not just selling a book, but making a long-term connections with people. I would say that it’s not about forcing yourself to do things you hate, but occasionally saying yes to opportunities that don’t seem immediately familiar to you. It may not be reading to a room full of cowboys,  but I hope you take a chance soon on a rewarding (if scary) opportunity.

Thank you, Jeannine, for sharing your story. I think the message of just going out there and trying your best is something we can all learn from.

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About PR for Poets

PR for Poets provides the information you need in order to get your book into the right hands and into the worlds of social media and old media, librarians and booksellers, and readers. PR for Poets will empower you to do what you can to connect your poetry book with its audience!

Buy PR for Poets on Amazon

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About the Author

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter and, Field Guide to the End of the World, the winner of the Moon City Press Book Award and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She also wrote a non-fiction book called PR for Poets to help poets trying to promote their books. Her poems have been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and on Verse Daily; two were included in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She was awarded a 2007 and 2011 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize for Poetry and a 2007 Washington State Artist Trust GAP grant. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner.

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