The learning never stops

So I was sitting in a Czech bistro in Springfield, Oregon. Yes, I said “Czech”. Yes, I said Springfield, Oregon. Springfield doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of ethnic bistros.

Nevertheless, I was there, with sixties rock playing, nursing a latte and two kolaches–pastries with filling. In my case, raspberry filling and mandarin orange filling. I had my second radio interview under my belt and I was at the bistro for a book signing. I’m learning so much with every passing day.

My first radio interview was over the phone with a small station in Enterprise, Oregon. Today’s interview was in person at a station in Eugene, Oregon, population 160,000, market reach 600,000. Each one was a learning experience. The interview I had today had me a little unnerved because I was on air, live. Such an experience keeps you on your toes and you’re so very aware of what you’re saying that you find yourself making mistakes. Although, articulate alderman that I am, I just cruised!

But I learned that I need to enunciate better because a word can come across garbled. I need to give succinct answers. I need to answer the question rather than give more of what I want to say. It’s part of the art of learning. A certain level of humility. And humble I’m not.

This week has been somewhat crazy. I had a book reading/signing in Canby which was very successful and lots of fun. Last night I spoke at a Department of Human Services meeting of potential adoptive parents in Salem. And today the Eugene interview and Springfield signing. To make things a little more interesting, I also secured radio interviews in Bend AND Lebanon with potential interviews in Klamath Falls, Newport, Portland and Salem.

And with each passing experience I learn yet more. Last week I looked at my schedule and realized that I didn’t have enough books. That resulted in frantic ordering of another 150 copies. The last thing an author wants is to run out of books! After the order was placed, the requisite worrying then began regarding the arrival dates. Would they get here in time? (They did.)

I had to make sure that I had everything I needed for each function. Books? Pens? Square that allows me to accept credit card payments? Notes? Jar full of lemon drops? (LEMONade, get it?) I now have to remember look into the future to make sure I’m prepared. It takes at least a week for books to arrive which means that I might have to make a substantial investment in order to be adequately covered.

There is always so much to consider and it’s all my responsibility because I don’t have an assistant. And don’t get me started on the minutiae surrounding income, taxes, receipts, mileage, marketing, etc. How would I handle all this if I were still working full time? Would I even have had the time to schedule so many activities?

And the learning doesn’t end there. It doesn’t just extend to responsibilities or lists. It involves responses and results. I have to observe what is happening and the net results of my efforts. There will be times when the response to my book will be less than impressive–perhaps non-existent. Hell, it’s happened already. There will be times, perhaps many times, when I will be spending money and not making anything. Hell, THAT’S happened, too!

This is to be expected as a new author. In order to rise above the din and make myself heard, get myself recognized, make an impression, I will need to remain disciplined and continue forward even when there is a net financial deficit. I can’t expect massive profits for awhile. But I will have to remain alert and not necessarily pursue every avenue tossed at me.

Yes, there is the chance that that one person, someone somewhere might buy my book at that one obscure location who will then take me into the stratosphere. Nevertheless, I still have to temper that with economic reality. I’m not made of money; I need to analyze where to spend my limited funds to get the maximum exposure and maximum result. I still know that there will be mostly a net deficit because I’m starting out. Yet the money I spend, even when I’m in the hole, is still an investment. “You have to spend money to make money”.

I’m really anxious to find out the results of these radio interviews. Something tells me that Portland will probably be more lucrative for obvious reasons, it’s a potential market of three million. Yet, radio still doesn’t have the pull of television. Yes, there’s Internet radio where a person in Memphis can listen to a station from Bend, Oregon, but what are the real opportunities there?

No, I believe television will be the true pot of gold. Which is why it will be so difficult to get noticed. Would chaining myself to their front door make me look like a stalker?

There’s so much to learn, so much to observe. I must be constantly diligent so I make intelligent decisions. And the thing is, even as I promote this book, there’s a very real chance that it won’t sell tons. I always knew that. What I’m hearing from others is that maybe book number 2 or 3 or 4 will be the breakthrough. What I do now will reap benefits down the pike. What I learn now will determine how large those benefits are. And if I’m able to live out my dream.

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It’s more than just sales

So last week I had a book signing at a wine tasting in Sherwood. This was held at Quailhurst, just outside Sherwood in the glorious wine country. Views of seven mountains, equestrian property. What’s not to love?

The wine tasting was from 11-4. I had to pretty much convince them to let me come. I’m a member of this wine club so I thought it would be apropos. In the past, they’ve not had much luck when they have partnered with someone else during a wine tasting. People come for the wine, nothing else.

Nevertheless, I persevered. And I sat there and surfed the Net on my iPhone for three hours, debating as to whether or not I should pack it in. The owner, an awesome and gracious man, did his best to direct people to me but…see last sentence in paragraph above.

Then, a couple came in. They’re wine club members but they didn’t come for the wine; they came to see me. They are adoptive parents and wanted to meet me and buy a book. I was shocked. I figured if anyone spoke to me it would be overflow from the tastings.

It was very gratifying. We had a wonderful conversation. Then, an appearance by an old grade school friend of mine who was down from Redmond, Washington for a wedding shower. Then six of my friends arrived at different intervals.

Now I say all this for a reason. For those who know me, this book has always been about reaching out and touching people, making a difference. And I’ve been seeing that happen. This couple was very interested and excited to “talk shop” about adoption and to hear my story and share theirs. And, as my little area began to fill with people, we were all sharing together.

The second thing that resonated with me so much was my beautiful friend, from Redmond, Washington. Her brother (also an old friend of mine from grade school), had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I was able to put her in touch with someone from the winery who is working on a very encouraging treatment for Parkinson’s. She was flabbergasted and now her brother is going to be involved in a control group for this treatment.

In addition, I was able to introduce several of my friends to this winery. They were blown away by the quality of the wine and the beauty of the property and are considering joining the wine club.

OK, I tell all of this because I came away from that day walking on air. I sold only three books, but I was able to bring people together for a mutual benefit and a mutual blessing.

Sometimes success is more than just sales.

Radio Radio

This is the week that was. I had my first radio interview. It was with a small radio station in the Eastern Oregon community of Enterprise. Ironically enough, this is where my editor lives.

Anywho, the individual interviewed me over the phone. It was about a four and a half minute interview but in those few minutes I learned quite a bit. I asked the interviewer to send me an MP3 of the interview for my website and, possibly my Facebook page. I’m also going to send it to other radio stations that show interest in me.

In listening to my interview, I learned some things about myself. One, that I’m a chatty Cathy. Now, I’ve known this for a long time. And, for interviewers that can be a blessing and a curse. If the person never shuts up, it’s a curse. If the person is intelligent and engaging (like moi), then there’s no problem.

However, I see where I can improved beyond my obvious strengths. I’m learning that I need to get to the point and let the interviewer ask more questions if they choose to do so rather than taking over the interview. I’ve also learned that I need to enunciate more. Some words can come out as gibberish, especially in a phone interview. This particular interview was done about a week before airing. I truthfully don’t hold out a lot of hope of much in the way of sales. Enterprise, Oregon has fewer than 2,000 souls and Wallowa County, of which it is the county seat, only has 7,000 residents.

Today I was in Eugene, Oregon to drop off copies of my book. This station, KPNW, is going to interview me on Friday, September 27 for fifteen minutes! I was shocked that they were devoting so much time to me. In the email I received from them, they sounded genuinely excited to read my book and interview me.

This is a little unnerving. I feel unworthy of this type of “success”, if you will. I guess I feel that I need to grovel for acceptance, for any type of positive affirmation. Instead, I need to accept it and accept the fact that I deserve this. Whether or not the Eugene interview results in many sales remains to be seen. The Eugene market is probably 600,000 people. Of course, not everyone will be listening to this interview. But, if it gets played several times or has substantial response, there’s tremendous potential there. Plus, who knows? Perhaps other stations will jump on the Bob Mulkey bandwagon.

I also have serious interest from a station in Grants Pass, Oregon. Two stations in Newport, Oregon also want to interview me and a third might be interested. Guess I’m on my way.

You know, I’m glad it’s starting out kinda slow. If things had popped immediately, I wouldn’t have been comfortable. I’m very much the type of man who wants things to increase organically. Although, I wouldn’t mind making about $50,000 right now!

Italy, here I (hope to) come….?

It is no secret that my greatest desire is to go to Italy and live. I think of it often. I picture the piazzas lined with ristorantes. I can almost taste the food, the espresso, the dolci. I can hear the exotic echo of the Italian accent, the lyrical quality in something as simple as an exhortation to come in for dinner.

Somehow I feel at home there. There’s nothing keeping me in America anymore and the draw of Italy is strong. Having my family there makes Italy all the more desirable.

Yet, as is my typical modus operandi, I’m analyzing everything. I look at everything from all sides in order to make a decision. A decision like this cannot be made unintelligently. One of the things that concerns me is, well, me.

I am Facebook friends with my aunt’s nephews, two very fine young men in their late twenties. They each have older sisters who have recently married and had children. Soon these two young men will get married and settle down. My two beloved cousins, Maurizio and Sergio have already done so. Can you see where this is heading?

Italy is a very traditional society. Family is huge; it’s everything. In the past, when I’ve visited, there have been questions about my marital status. There aren’t any more. And there are no questions about my parental status. At fifty-four, it’s pretty obvious where that’s going.

I believe I’ve said this before, that I don’t want to end up the oddball, like the weird uncle who never got married and wears clown pants all the time. In America, everything is celebrated and people are encouraged to be who they are. I don’t want to say that Italy forces conformity, but there seems to be an underlying desire to see everyone married off and popping out children. Or, at the very least, a desire to not to see someone alone. And that is the impression I get about me and my situation.

If I were to live in Italy, I’m sure I would establish myself in my own lifestyle. Perhaps with other expatriates? Perhaps with creative types? Perhaps with writers? Only time would tell. Perhaps I would isolate myself, only venturing out to have pasta or a latte. I like to think that I’m daring and sophisticated enough to truly pursue a life in Italy if the opportunity presents itself. But it’s so easy to just be comfortable and that comfortability is to sit and dream rather than to effect change.

And yet, my cousin Sergio, and I spoke recently about my upcoming trip to Europe for the holidays. My plan had been to spend Christmas with my relatives and then ring in the New Year in Paris. Sergio said, “Bob, why don’t you spend New Year’s with us?”

How can I refuse such an entreaty? Such a request speaks volumes about their desire to have me in their life. Doesn’t it negate the conflicts I feel? Shouldn’t it negate the conflicts I feel? Besides, who knows? Perhaps, as a friend suggested, I will meet someone in Italy. Hey, stranger things have happened. I mean, look at my life!

Back and forth

A three year old girl was recently reunited with her adoptive parents in South Carolina. This is not necessarily big news, until you dig a little further. It turns out that she part of the Cherokee Nation tribe of Native Americans in Oklahoma. When her mother was pregnant, the mother agreed to give up her baby to adoption to a couple in South Carolina.

The mother is not Cherokee; the father is. The father signed away parental rights to the mother, not knowing she would give up the baby for adoption. Before the adoption was finalized, the biological father stepped in. The little girl was returned to Oklahoma after living with her adoptive family for two years. The courts determined that the father did not have any standing and demanded that he work something out with the adoptive family. He refused and the South Carolina has demanded that he be expatriated there to face charges. Oklahoma has agreed and says the baby, “Veronica”, should be returned to her parents. The Cherokee Nation has also been involved.

So, where does the child stand in all of this? According to the press, she is 3/255ths Cherokee. Is this truly a desecration of Native American blood to have this girl adopted? After living with her adoptive parents and bonding with them for two years, is it truly in the best interests of the little girl to yank her away and take her to a man she doesn’t know, who willingly signed away parental rights? What did he care if someone else raised her? The biological MOTHER wasn’t Cherokee, yet that seemed to be okay with him.

And is anyone, including the Cherokee Nation, considering the effects on a small child who has spent the first two of her formative years? How is this impacting her growth and cognitive ability? How is this impacting her emotionally? When do politics get a rightful kick in the groin so common sense can prevail?

I see issues like this so often…children given back to abusive, dysfunctional families in feeble attempts to “keep families together”? These children are our future, as Whitney Houston sang. Shouldn’t we put their best interests first?

Any thoughts on this?