An Installment in the Saga of DRAWER NO MORE!
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Almost 20 years have passed since I self-published my book of poetry, A Road Beyond Loss, and 24 years since the death of Tiina Panksepp, the lovely young woman in whose memory I wrote many of the poems. My life has certainly changed over that time. I married Tiina’s father and have done my best to give him emotional support while also grappling with the losses in my own life.
Writing has always been central to that process.
Today a new era prevails. For one thing, fewer garages are cluttered with self-published books since the advent of online marketing and electronic distribution. Such innovations have leveled the playing field, at least somewhat, for the average non-famous author. But “The Net,” as we called it, existed back in the 1990s, as well. I surfed it via a program known as Netscape. (Remember the icon of a large N riding something like a tidal wave?)
And how does one sell stuff on The Net? I’ve often been advised to start with a target audience. So in 1995, using a pre-Googlian search engine, I discovered some half-dozen “chat rooms” for grieving families.
One of the largest of these was GriefLog.* The name sounds almost shocking to me now—like off-key gallows humor—but the site represented a serious attempt for bereaved parents and others to find support by sharing with those who could best understand their pain.
I viewed GriefLog on the 10 x 8″ screen of my Macintosh Color Classic desktop, but the color capacity was superfluous here—like on many user-driven sites at that time, posts appeared as white letters on an even gray background. There were no graphics. No visuals. No diverse fonts. Threads were tricky to disentangle. But a desire to share my poems drove me to try.
A list of rules for GriefLog stated that no commercial activity was permitted on the chat board. I found this reasonable: no one in the midst of sorrow wants to be pestered by salesmen. But then, what exactly was I doing there? I thought of my husband: Every day I tried to help him live with grief: I listened, read him humorous stories, sang, chatted, walked by the river, gave of my time (not to mention cooking and cleaning). This seemed important because my husband wasn’t one to visit chat rooms or join support groups. How could I translate the positive energy I gave him to strangers at GriefLog?
Of course, I wanted to offer my poetry, but it had to be done in a non-commercial way.
I engaged in discussions and mentioned in passing that I had a book available upon request. To anyone who showed interest, I sent off a free copy with the hope (and gentle suggestion) that they urge friends and family to purchase additional copies. My hope was that this approach might gain its own momentum over time through spontaneous recommendations.
One man who’d recently lost his teenage son gave me some very touching feedback. He said he kept my book on his bedside table and read a poem every night. When he finished the book, he started over and, in the process of re-reading, chose a few favorites. These he revisited, over again, always one each night. Months later, he was still reading and still kept the book by his bedside.
There came a day when this man left me a message on the chat board, saying that I should visit some particular group or thread where he believed the folks were interested in my book. But how to find these people? I was still confused about the organization of threads. It’s not as if you could send out a tweet or direct message. You just had to wait for them to turn up at the chat room.
I nosed around the site as best I could but never found the allegedly interested folks. It looked as though this type of “marketing” would yield precious few results.
In fact, I didn’t sell a single book on GriefLog. To keep perspective, I remind myself that many poets, including those more talented than I am, don’t sell lots of books, either. Grief, after all, is a topic people naturally tend to avoid.
But—! Thanks to the wonders of PayPal technology, I am now able to offer my books here, at this website. If desired, I’m happy to sign the title page and provide a dedication (“For Sam on this special day…”) at no cost. I’m also making available Jane Click’s lovely CD with my poems set to music, and a score of the songs arranged for two voices, piano, and flute!
Please click the link below for details.
As ever, please share your thoughts, opinions, or your own story in the comments section below. Many thanks for visiting DRAWER NO MORE!
*GriefLog is not the real name of the site I frequented, although the other name conveyed a similar tragicomic quality.