I promised 40 days and 40 stories but somewhere along the way my fingers grew weary of typing and typing and typing all the day long while working on the book so it occurred to me - Hey WAIT a Minute - I can record and tell a story faster than I can type it out so here you go!
Thanks to all the notes from friends who have been asking - Where's the story?
Fresh Stories RIGHT HERE. https://youtu.be/S76GZQuFhn0
I Flushed Facebook & Trashed Twitter -
Not too long ago I was considering deleting my Facebook and Twitter account. Ok, so maybe they never let you go but I was going to let them go silent, grey, color me gone and turn to dust.
It seemed that social media was this time eating monster where it was just blips and blurts everywhere. Something that MADE me promote myself. Day in Day out. Post something here. Upload something there. I felt it was eating my lunch and then some. And, because that's the way I viewed it - as a professional must do being secretly clocked by publishers to see if I was up to my social snuff, I started resenting all things social + media = madness.
AND THEN - ENTER GURU ONE - Gary Vaynerchuk
(EXPLICIT f-bomb WARNING on links)
I BUMP into THIS GUY on a youtube link that sounds like he's a cracked up car salesman. I think I had been watching a TED talk and his video popped up on the menu. I watched it. And something he said turned over as wild and true.
HE WAS ASKED SOMETHING ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA AND HE SAID . . .
"IT'S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIP!!!" Gary V.
Then I watched another video. And, another. Signed up for the in box email thingy. Watched his keynotes and the ASK GARY VEE you tube show. Listened to the Podcast when I was driving.
"River, you're already an inspirational speaker and storyteller. Why would you be inspired by an f-bomb dropping, trash-talking marketing guy?
BECAUSE what he was saying and the fact that he kept coming back around to it and hammering it down was how social media had opened up this incredible window to the world. One where we could actually connect.
"NO Matter what you do always and forever our job is to tell our story." Gary V.
Suddenly- shabang! I realized that we had something in common. Just like I had spent the last hours, days, and years connecting with strangers everywhere listening to their stories that's what he was doing IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT HE WAS PROMOTING AND SELLING SOMETHING. - I could breathe and back up and realize that social media was primarily about CONNECTING.
For years being a published author, a genetic introvert, and I have been since practically the beginning of those publications EXPECTED to have a website and push my books. To use social media with a bottom line in mine. To be able to publicize my books so that those stories could find you. And I BELIEVED in my stories. That they were amazing and human and inspired and DEAR HOLLYWOOD - SHOULD ALL BE MADE INTO MOVIES! AND I BELIEVED IN YOU. THE IMPORTANCE of you and your story.
I JUST didn't know how to jump the tracks between MUST DO and WANT TO.
"The way you make real impact, the way things get changed, is by GREAT STORYTELLING."
UNTIL this cussing, marketing guru, wine expert, hard-working, brash New Jersey guy cussed me straight.
I got it. Flat out - got it.
I knew That as much as I appreciate all my publishers and their good intentions, I could push their intentions aside. That no matter what was happening in my life I was still free to be real and raw,. To be funny, messy human storytelling me.
And you know what? So. Can. YOU.
Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur, investor, author, public speaker, and internet personality. He is the author of Crush It, The Thank You Economy, and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right-Hook.
(Don't miss TOMORROW'S BLOG FEATURING GURU TWO)
One of the things I love about being AMERICAN is our pop culture television history because it equates to story. And we begin to tell our stories in story reference. How many times have you ever heard in the back of your mind - A Three Hour Tour . . . and yes, I know you just sang that part.
I've used everything from Mayberry to Star-trek and back in story reference. And there are certain images snap frozen in my mind from the time I sat in a little rocking chair holding a bear or my one doll (I'm loyal to the bone) and rocking in front of our BLACK AND WHITE tiny box in a pine-paneled tiny den. Life was simple. On AIR - Off AIR
MORNINGS were Captain Kangaroo and The Three Stooges. Nights were whatever my mother watched before I went to bed. Once a week there was a show on that I was drawn to without reason. It was HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL and even at three years old I KNEW that it was supercool. My little vibes were locked onto a chess piece for a classy logo? Check. Cool man's name - PALADIN. Check. . UNIFORM all BLACK , Check. Fighting the bad guys for the good guys. Check. What more could a three year old want? And, it never made me want a horse like the one he was riding. Never made me want a gun like he was carrying. But all those other things - a chess piece, a black suit and to fight evil. Check, check, check. OH YES - and A BUSINESS CARD. I have a strange attraction to business cards.
So as I was thinking of drumming up some extra money for things like, oh, I don't know - let's just say Latte's, I thought of that card. "Why, that's what I need," I thought, "A chess piece business card." The old have it and will pack it. And I know there's one thing I do have. No gun attached to me at the moment and everyone knows I prefer riding a donkey but I do have STORIES and I CAN TRAVEL and have been known to clock more miles on the road than Paladin did on that horse in three years on the air.
Which led Cousin DEB who is obsessed with my well being to begin to give me advice about getting my latte bucks.
"You should be a TRAVEL writer because you would be GREAT at that."
"Really. You know how you see things other people don't and you can talk to people everywhere and you would write things no body else would write and everyone would want to go to those places."
"So why don't you do that because you would be just GREAT at it. Your just PERF for that.?"
"Ok, Deb. I'm going to just pick up the phone to Nat Geo and say put me in coach. Or, LONELY PLANET, TRAVEL AND LEISURE, STUCK IN THE AIR READING THE MAGAZINE IN THE SEAT PEOPLE AND WILLIAM SHATNER
AND I should have all the latte bucks I need in the bank by the time the stock market closes."
Fact is, if you haven't been cultivating travel writer connections all of your life or know William Shatner personally or Richard Branson or Brad Kelly then it's not so easy. I know folks who know folks but that still doesn't potentially get you globe-trotting passport in hand and some of those latte bucks spent on a new hair-do that says - HAVE STORY - WILL TRAVEL
But - if you happen to know Banson, Shatner or Mr. Kelly - by all means - toss me a bone. You know, like I said, I'm loyal and the day I can do you a solid - I sure will. Heck, fact is, I'd do you a solid anyway.
I promised 40 days - 40 Stories but I don't think I ever promised they would be back to back to back did I? :) Actually, I had planned that but one night it got late and one night I couldn't access the internet and so it goes. Today's story - is going to have to be a regular real life present day raw happening because I actually want to highlight someone else's story.
As an author, speaker, and general whozit - life allows me the honor of being in front of people to share stories, and discuss writing. Or to inspire others to consider the stories of strangers. In that process I have had the great fortune to meet some beautiful people all along the way. Years ago at the Southern Festival of the Book I met two such people during the course of the day after I made my presentation. One was Brenda McClain who was new to the Nashville area and who has a new novel forthcoming from Pat Conroy's new imprint . Click thru and find out more about the amazing Brenda on her website.
The other darling was this story-eyed girl with long locks and an angelic light about her. She and friend Missy were kind enough to say a few words to me about how much they had loved The Messenger of Magnolia Street. Authors never get tired of hearing that. Never. Ever. Except for the ones that might not appreciate it and if I knew any of those people they should probably stay locked up somewhere and not be allowed to attend festivals where people have actually circled their name on a program as a must-see.
This lovely young lady went on to tell me that she was interested in being a published author. Somewhere along the line I was able to arrange a dutch lunch for authors in our fair city and invited these ladies to join us. Don't remember if they both attended lunch at that time or not. Just know at some point they became not only integrated into my life but also integrated into the lives of the other authors and raconteurs in the Nash area. Little miss lovely turned out to be one Miss Jolina Miller who could clog like nobody's business. Turns out she could tell a story as well because she wrote a few novels that were published and received starred reviews in PW. She up and got married to this angelic Man named Randy Petershiem and took his name. We all adjusted our email address book and got used to her new name along with her.
Then she up and had a baby and wrote a novel. Sold the novel. Started another one. And continued not only to write but to write well. And, to keep up an amazing blog that was truthful and honest and raw and open and real. Which brings me to the promise. 40 Real Days - 40 RAW stories.
Our Miss Jolina became Mrs. Jolina. She gave birth to bouncing baby bigger than she is. Wrote these beautiful books and somehow managed to work another beautiful baby in before we could blink an eye. She developed fans and a following, book toured and spoke to people. Autographed copies for readers of all kinds and somewhere along the line I'm certain she has looked up to find a young writer (who come in all ages) hoping to complete their novel and find their way to publication. I have no doubts that they will find a warm and receptive heart on the other end of that pen and the other side of that table. No. Doubt.
Through the years as I have continued writing or speaking and occasionally been overwhelmed with it all with life, with my sons being deployed to war, with sick grand babies, and an ill mother, Jolina (As well as Brenda) has been one of the people who have offered a prayer here and there on my behalf. And I have the deepest of feelings that if my prayers have gotten stuck somewhere in the flotsam that finds its way into the backwater swamps where the water doesn't run clear or certain, her prayers have traveled beyond the speed of light to the land of evermore. They have been weighted and found worthy.
Recently, Jolina has experienced one of those trials that life can turn up at unexpected times and never wanted places. Her mountain man of a husband discovered he had a brain tumor and had to have emergency surgery. The most solid faith in this world can be challenged at that moment and feel like it's standing on shaky ground and going down. What amazed me about this trial was not just Jolina's faith. (And her husband Randy's as well.) But her willingness to be completely emotionally exposed before her readers. To write about it with so much ache and longing that she touched each reader with her words beyond the screen of a laptop or glassy glare of an iPhone. In other words - she was real. She was raw.
I didn't know that on that story filled day so many years ago that the continuing story of that young writer would wind it's way into my life and into my heart. But it did.
Please discover Jolina for yourself at her website and blog. And if you be the praying kind send up a few for her continued blessings for her husband and home.
(Demons and Dolls PART 2 - please scroll down and read Part One below)
Now a few years later Aunt ate felt that her time was growing short on this Earth and wanted to give away some of her little things. She pulls out this little doll, no wait, she pulls out a little clown doll. I swear. And says, "I want you to give this to Kayla," my little niece. Umhum. Niece is my sister's child. And, sister is not no way not happening going to let that little Chuckie thing into the house. No way.
"River, I see that look on your face and you better do what I'm telling you and give this doll to your sister to give the baby you hear me."
"ANd you better promise me you going to give it to her. You promise me?"
"Ugh, aunt Kate, I don't really think that she's gonna want . . .
"What's a matter with that doll? Nothing's the matter with it. I'll tell you what. It's a collectors item. Now you better promise me that you'll give it to her when you get home."
I lock the doll in the trunk and head for Nashville driving kinda quick. Just as soon as I get home I tell Sister that Aunt Kate sent her something very special.
Ughuh. She sent you something special and made me promise to give it to you so you need to come by here and get it with a quickness."
Sister comes by on her way home. She has to hurry and that's not a problem for me. The thing is still in the trunk. She stands by her car waiting as I pull the little thing out of the trunk of my car and start toward her. She begins to back away. Like a whirlwind caught in a hurricane. There's a dust trail wafting in her wake.
I give her just enough time to get home and call. "Okay, where'd you put him?"
"Ha. You think that little demon from hell is getting in my house? Oh, hell no. I tossed that thing out the window going eighty miles an hour and then kept swerving so he couldn't pull up and get my tag number and follow me home."
If some creepy little doll jumps up along that stretch of 100 outside Nashville I'm so sorry but there are some things me and sister don't tolerate. Demon dolls is one of them.
(A version of this story first appeared in The Deep, Down, Dirty South: A Southern Girl Recollects.)
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