I'm getting really excited and can't wait to share my experiences of being a self published author.
April 5th, at 6:30 pm, I'll be giving my public author talk at the Freeport Library, in Freeport Maine.
I'm getting really excited and can't wait to share my experiences of being a self published author.
Today marks my first experiment as a book busker. Book busker you ask? Portland, Maine, is one of the progressive cities that allows busking and the selling of artwork you produce yourself. As I learned from the other crafters and artisans, there are some specific regulations that you must follow to be in compliance with the city's ordinances, and luckily I was. This was by sheer luck, I might add.
On Saturday mornings from April to November, Deering Oaks Park in Portland hosts a farmers' market. The artisans and buskers use this event to sell their ware's and perform.
Today I filled up my van with a small table, some books, and a folding chair. My wheels started turning before the sun rose to get parking before the market opened. After parking, I sheepishly walked to where I had seen the artisans set up a few weeks before. This being a cold November morning, there was only one person setting up at that moment. His name is Steve Hall. He was selling a variety of hand made wooden cutting boards, and ingeniously designed wood products. Being a total noob, I asked politely if this is where I should set up, if I wanted to sell my book. Steve was very kind and invited me to set up next to him.
I trotted back to the van and brought my little set up back with me. I assembled my table near him, and waited for the lines of cash rich customers seeking a good read.
Soon more artisans began showing up with tables and bins of goods they had made themselves. A knitter named Allyson Eller set up to the right of me. She had a very inventive display using ironing boards she learned from another artisan. Being light weight and height adjustable, the ironing boards made her display of knitted products very inviting and unique.
Even though I was new, and all the other sellers knew each other, they treated me like an old friend. I listened intently to their knowledge of the city regulations and horror stories of those who tried to skirt the laws. Allyson and Steve made the day very enjoyable, even though I don't think any one of us could feel their toes it was so cold.
Throughout the day, I watched as these experienced artisans interacted with potential customers. One unspoken law I learned was, if you're talking during a lull, and there's a customer nearby, the conversation will end instantly, to be resumed in the next lull.
I was also given plenty of useful advice that I hope to implement on my next direct marketing adventure. All in all, it was a great experience.
I had a whopping sale of 1 book. Towards the end of the day, it was looking like the it was going to be the big donut hole for sales. Thankfully, a kind and talkative gentlemen struck up a conversation with me, and bought a copy. Sir, whoever you are, you really did make my day.
The market ended, and we packed up our wares. Thank you to all the kind people that treated me so warmly today. I hope I can put your advice to good use. I also wish you good luck in your endeavors. You're all good, hardworking, and talented artisans.
Why encourage kids to creatively write?
I’m afraid the reason is totally selfish. As an adult in my middle age, I look to what's going to benefit me in my old age. Some would say money is the most important thing. Yeah... not so much. What's really going to benefit me the most is being surrounded by creative, educated, and compassionate people. And how do you achieve that? You put your time and energy into encouraging, and being an example of those values.
The last thing I, or anyone else wants, is an uneducated, unfeeling, and boring people. When I have been given an opportunity to speak with students, I see exuberance and hopefulness. They are already creative and willing to learn. Anything I can do to cultivate and nourish them, is pure joy to me.
I especially like to show kids the self sufficient aspects of do it yourself writing and publishing. Today they have access to platforms that allow them to share their work that I could only dream of as a kid. And not just writing either, we’re talking music, and visual arts too. I believe being able to do it themselves grows self awareness and self confidence. The use of platforms like Create space, and Kindle Direct Publishing, have given me the ability to bring my novel to life. I would not have flourished in the traditional writing paths. I was not planted where I would succeed in that world. I want kids who may have been planted in similar soil as me, to take advantage of these types of resources.
Creative writing is an excellent way for kids to express themselves and grow. Participating in the arts in any form builds confidence. I believe learning to allow themselves to be creative, will make my, and all our lives better. Social pressures from peers and society often squelch self expression. Wether intentional or not, we don't want to force kids into the same old square hole. This is why I also encourage them to seek out sources of inspiration. One cannot find inspiration from the confines of four walls and a cable TV connection. To fill their books with great content, they must first fill their lives with great content.
I will quote from, Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
If kids are not shown the broader world, our society shrinks and becomes small little walled enclaves. This is definitely not going to improve my golden years. I fear wasting away in ambivalence more than all else. Without vibrant people in the world, I cannot live a vibrant life.
Just as I like to promote creative writing to students, I’d like to promote to anyone who has an opportunity to encourage and expose kids to new experiences; please step up and share. It’s not only the morel thing to do, it’s going to make your life better too. A win win as it were. To enjoy the lives we would like ourselves, we must help the youth of today to learn, create, express, and fly.
Mark Evans © 2016
Littleton, New Hampshire, is a small town located on route 302 close to the Vermont border. On a recent exploration adventure, my wife and I decided to stop there and see what we could discover.
Driving into town we noticed banners hanging from many of the light poles along the main street. The banners showed the silhouette of a girl with her arms flung wide with the slogan ‘The Glad Town'. How much more welcoming a banner could you have than that? We would later discover that Littleton was the residence of Eleanor H. Porter, the author of “Pollyanna”. ‘Be glad’ is the name of a game that Pollyanna plays that helps her and many of the characters in the book brighten their lives. The whole town exemplifies this motto.
Our first stop was to the library, which displays a statue of Pollyanna right out front. The Littleton library is a Carnegie library. I had never heard of these before but apparently Andrew Carnegie funded thousands of libraries all around the world. Not only is the architecture of the building beautiful, but their art collections is amazing. A local resident, Daniel C. Remich donated a collection of paintings from his collection to the library. If you enjoy traditional paintings, take the time to stop in and look around. You would have to go to a museum to see paintings like this on display.
After the library we decided to walk around town. As we strolled the Main Street, we came across a colorfully painted piano. On the cover was a sign proclaiming, “Be Glad Make Music”. The public is being invited to play these instruments whenever the inspiration strikes. We would find pianos all over town. Local artist painted the pianos colorfully, and with playful designs. a guitar with the same logo sat ready for playing in the doorway of a local business.
Just when we thought Littleton had shown us everything, we were pleasantly surprised to see there was more. Along a walkway, close to where we parked the adventure mobile, several unusual sculpture caught our eyes. Turns out these were not only sculptures, but musical instruments that anyone could play. A series of xylophone inspired instruments were permanently installed along the river park. No one could pass them by without playing them, including us. Selfies and posed photos of people playing the instruments happened continuously.
Littleton has shown us what a community inspired by literate and music can become. Discovering Littleton reminds me of a quote by Mark Twain,
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” I like to think I’m attempting to live up to this quote.
As I look to fill my life with experiences, I am often drawn to music. In 2008, I bought my first guitar, and asked my wife to teach me to play. She taught me what she knew and I picked up a lot by playing at a bluegrass drop in, and taking some lessons. She and I both play together now, and have formed a band with my cousin Eric and our good friend Fred. I'm what I call a recreational guitarist. For the most part I use chord and lyric sheets to play, but my chording and rhythm are solid.
This summer my wife and I have explored two music festivals. Having never attended a music festival before, I developed a hankering for one. One of the festivals we attended was the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival, “PAMfest" for short. It's held in Peacham, Vermont. I noticed the advertisement on a bulletin board in New Hampshire, after a recent hike. Researching the event, I found it showcased several things I really wanted to do, a bluegrass jam, guitar workshops, and something called a band scramble.
The band scramble caught my imagination. You would put your name into a hat, and then be assigned a band as the names were drawn. The band had to come up with a name and a song to perform at an evening concert. You had no idea what instruments the other musicians played, or skill level. It sounded so cool I had to try it out. My wife was being a great sport. This was not her idea to come to the PAMfest, much less take part in forming a band with complete strangers. I applaud her willingness to give it a try. She truly saw how much I wanted to participate.
The names were drawn. There were enough musicians to form two bands. My wife and I were in different groups. She was placed in a group with two harmonica players, and a man who played the banjo for their performance. I was in a group with three other guitarists. At this point the bands separated and found some empty rooms to begin our work.
My band mates and I made introductions and one of the guys proposed a song. It became apparent very quickly that I was the weak link in this ensemble. I had landed in with some very accomplished guitarists. I will leave it to say that my heart sunk a bit during my struggles to learn a new song at the pace these guys could. Their words of encouragement were kind, but the reality of my being able to make a passable performance on this song was not there.
Band drama. As much as I liked these new found friends, I was not willing to stand on stage to be totally lost for the entire song. I figured it was better to let the band perform without me. I was not going to be let off the hook that easily. The guys told me to bring a song I knew and to teach them one. I agreed, although, it was awkward to do so.
After retrieving my music, I introduced my song. It was an easy three chord song with very predictable chord changes. My band mates didn't miss a note. It was a breeze for these guys. They did some great fill work to make the song sound great.
We would perform both songs that evening. My song was done first, and I sang and strummed for all I was worth. I added a few notes with my harmonica to the song they worked on. Because of their willingness to let me show off what strengths I had, it became the wonderful experience I’d thought it would be. All in all, I think it was a good job done well.
PAMfest gave us much more than the band scramble. I sat in on one of the best run open bluegrass jams I’ve ever attended. The leader made sure we all knew the key of the song, the chord progression, and any crooked parts that might slip us up. Many of the songs were the same ones I play at my local bluegrass drop in. The performances that happened all day were from many varied acoustic genre’s. Musical inspiration from these performances continues long after the festival is over.
The experience I got from music festivals is one I will be repeating. It takes many dedicated volunteers make a local music festival. When local folks are willing to volunteer year
It has been many years since I was in high school. Counting back, it has been over 37 years since I left my home town school. The building no longer exists. The vintage brick and mortar building has been torn down and replaced by a modern institution on the outskirts of town.
My diploma does not have the school name on it. My diploma is a general equivalency diploma issued by the state of Maine. I earned this two years after I would have graduated, if I had stayed in school.
Because of the invitation from Melissa Haskell Ayres, I have faced a paradoxical situation. I have spoken as an author encouraging young students about writing. A subject I did not have any passion for when I was their age. If my high school self were in the room, I would have used the time to daydream or lounge. Instead, I and three other authors, Duane E. Coffill, Michael Goyet, and Dede Moore, faced a group of inquisitive students.
Luckily for me, I am habitually early to events, and I had time to get accustomed to the library. Jane Seeley, Head Librarian, and Audrey Walker, the Assistant Librarian, greeted me warmly. After talking for a bit, I relaxed as much as I could. My fellow authors and I were seated in the front of the room as a guest panel.
The kids trickled in and soon we began talking about our books and perspectives on writing. I was expecting disrespectful and bored students, but instead these kids were very interested in writing. Thank god my former self was not in the room. Many of the students had started writing short stories. They asked many good questions about the writing process.
Each author had a different way they liked to write. A lot of us used self-publishing to one extent or another. The writing world is changing at an amazing rate. It was nice to share our stories with the next generation of writers.
I was also given the honor of being asked by a student to read the opening of a story they had written. I don't think they will ever realize how good it felt to be asked for comment on another author’s writings.
My life would probably not have changed very much if an author had spoken when I was a student. Life was very complicated for me at that time. It's refreshing to see kids who are enthusiastic about expressing themselves. I would like to think I had a positive influence on them during my short visit. If they took away a fraction of the good experience I had, I’ll feel I did my job.
This writing adventure I started has taken me to places I would scarcely have imagined. I hope these students find joy in writing and creating. Too many times success is measured in monetary amounts. As I age, I value experiences much more profoundly than money. What do people do with money? They pay to have experiences. Some of my best life moments have been things I have worked for, not the ones I paid for. I poured my soul into my book, and my life experience bank is being compounded with interest.
I thank Melissa Haskell Ayres and the Oak Hill School system for making me rich with experiences.
On a recent trip to, Quebec Canada, I discovered some masterpieces of artwork you will not find in travel guides. All of these works are painted on structural concrete supports holding up a major roadway.
I have to preface this a little. This is artwork that was sanctioned and allowed by the local powers that be. Some of it will appeal to some, but not all.
I will be the first to say that if you paint onto something that you do not own, you are committing a crime.
Because these works are approved, I love sharing this find with everyone. Some of the works show the grit that comes with street art. A lot of it show some incredible technical talent that is unmistakable as that of a practiced hand.
Young Writers Club
I have seen advertisements for ‘Writers Retreats’, many times in online groups and local publications. Never did I think I would participate, let alone speak, at such an event. But here I was along with a room full of enthusiastic young writers.
The Retreat was called “Right to Write, Writers’ Retreat, 2016”. It was put on by the Oak Hill Young Writers’ Club. The quiet town of Sabattus Maine Is the home to the club. Melissa Ayres is the point person and leader for this band of excited writers.
Tom Block, a talented illustrator, Steven Powell gifted writer and myself, also a writer, were the guests for the day. I received a spirited introduction from one of my young fans who had read my book. ‘It does not get any better than that.’
After the introductions, the young writers were split equally between the three of us. Along with the kids were several parents and dedicated volunteers. I was able to discuss my book, and engage the kids about why they like to write, and some of the techniques I employ in my writing. The groups would rotate through after 20 minutes or so, giving each of us guests a manageable group to talk to.
Each time I have participated with the Young Writers’ Club, I have come away with a deep respect for the efforts of not only Melissa Ayres, but the whole community. The event was sponsored by local businesses who believe in promoting and encouraging their kids. Reading and writing are the foundations of education, and this town supports them.
I am honored to be invited as a speaker to this retreat. I would like to list the businesses that sponsored this event. Debbie Strout CPA, Percy’s Hardware, Sabattus Knights of Columbus, Sabattus Auto & Truck Sales, and Maine Family FCU. The support that these businesses show are what will make the future for these kids much brighter.
My hope is the vision this group has will take off and inspire more towns to form their own youth writing groups. Many of the kids told me things like, ‘I love to write, and I have several stories started, I just cant figure out which one to finish first.’ One of the writers club member has sent me several drafts of her first novel. I did not have half her talent at this age.
The final gift I received was from a writer who presented me with a drawing she made during the day. Having no children of my own, I do not get very many hand made drawings. I will find a suitable frame for it as a memento of my experience.
Thank you again Oak Hill Young Writers Club. You hav made my dreams come true.
© Mark A Evans 1/20/2016
The large brass bell atop the town hall calls the archers to the field. Several times a year the village holds a contest allowing we, the archers, to put our skills to the test. The rewards are like that of many contests, money and prestige.
The field upon which the contest is held stretches out far into the distance. Excited villagers come to cheer and watch the competition.
Targets are place incrementally farther and farther away from the shooters line. The rewards for hitting them become more lucrative the greater the distance they are away. Some targets are so close it is almost absurdly easy to strike them. The archers risk very little in aiming at these. The rewards are as minimal as the risk. They are considered safe and reliable, but no glory or cheers will be heard from placing your arrows into them. Some archers choose this target not willing to risk their precious arrows. Better to have won something, than to have risked, and come away with nothing. It is also a favored target of those with bows of poor design, or an arm without the strength to pull the string far enough to reach the greater distances.
The next targets are smaller and father away. You need more skill, strength, and experience to hit these. Sometimes though, even the weaker participants will find luck on their side. They will win the prize that was actually beyond their real skill. This line of targets has, of course, much more reward. This is why less skilled archers are willing to risk taking aim at them. The better archers will often shoot for the middle distances. The jingling of coin in their pockets attests to their skill.
The farthest target is way off almost out of sight. The reward for hitting it is staggering. Perhaps only one archer in ten years of contest will claim this prize. That is not to say that it is not shot upon regularly. Many an archer will waste an arrow if he feels his quiver is adequately supplied to warrant such a risk. The young and foolish often shoot at this one, only to watch the arrows fall short. They do not even understand the limits of their strength and accuracy, until they are humbled in front of the crowd. Oh what a spectacle when an arrow hits this lofty mark. The wealth, glory, and fame are intoxicating. The stories and songs that fill the tavern after this triumph will be spoken of for years to come. This is why so many archers are willing to take aim at it.
The contest is about to commence. My turn will not come until long into the afternoon. My strategy has been to play it very safe for several years. This time however, I will set my goals upon the middle row. Oh I may land a few, just to be safe, in the closest ones, but I am more ambitious today.
I watch one by one as the other contestants stand before the crowd and shoot their arrows. The first participant is a wealthy man who’s quiver is full to the brim. Those wealthy enough to afford more arrows have much more opportunity to be successful. He has no reason to play it safe. He does not shoot any arrows at the close safe targets. His aim is at the middle distance, of which he often hits. With his wealth and skill, he also shoots plenty of arrows at the farthest mark. It is of little consequence to him. Already he has plenty of gold from the middle distances. Try as he might though, he does not strike the farthest target, even though he shoots many arrows at it. He is much more interested in prestige than money at this point. The onlookers enjoy his attempts, but there is little excitement because he is expected to shoot for this prize. His turn is done, and he has used is brimming quiver to brim his pockets as well.
Then next archer approaches. This archer is well known for their skill, only they have very few arrows in their quiver. One after another the closer targets are struck. Disappointed looks pass among the audience. Such a skilled archer, and yet they take the safe and easy path. The onlookers show little respect for this archers careful use of what little resource they have. The crowd lives for excitement, all the while they are not risking anything themselves. The audience did not come here to see safe, they have come here to see glory.
It is now my time to stand before the range. As I approach the shooting line, I take notice of a young man standing very close by. He is well know about our village. Dirty and disheveled, his appearance displays his fate. He has no family or means of prosperity. Like the other archers, he has a bow, but in his quiver, there is not a single arrow. He seems strong and able. I am sure he could muster enough ability to hit the closest targets, if only he was given an opportunity.
Time after time I launch a salvo into the middle and closer targets. I have lost a few arrows, but for the most part, I am quite successful. I reach down one last time and feel the rough and misshapen shaft of my last arrow. It is old and week, but it is probably good enough to fly to the nearest marks. Instead of placing the arrow to my string, I turn and with a self righteousness place it in the poor man hands. I smile and beam as if I had just saved the mans life. The crowd cheers and waves their approval of my generosity.
A hush comes over the field. All eyes watch as this final archer places the crooked arrow into the bow. All know he can not afford to shoot at any but the closest target. We fully expected him to take aim at the nearest goal and earn his pittance. Then hopefully he'd return the favor and thank me for my kindness.
Before anyone had time to think, the man pulls the bow full back with all his might, then let's fly his arrow. I thought for sure the paltry shaft would shatter with the force. His intention is for the farthest target. Not a breath could be heard as everyone watched his arrow in flight.
The village will never forget this day. The poorest archer taking his only opportunity, and shooting his arrow risking it for all, or nothing. Maybe he will be rich, or maybe he will not. The one thing we know is, he risked more than anyone this day.
The question your going to ask is, did his arrow find it's way, or did it fail to achieve? To tell you the truth It does not matter. The only thing that really matters is why the arrow’s owner chose to send it on this course.
© Mark A Evans 1/20/2016
Today I was visiting my local Freeport Community Library and visited my book. I’m sorry, yes it's like seeing your first born at preschool. Here are a couple of pictures from this proud author. The best thing of all is seeing the two stamps indicating two people have checked out the book. I can’t tell you the feeling you get every time someone says they have read the book and enjoyed it. This is indeed what makes it all worth while.