Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Stout

9781400067695_p0_v5_s192x300Lucy Barton is lonely and ill, missing her daughters and her husband in a sterile medical world when her mother arrives. The two women haven’t spoken in years, yet she has come to comfort her daughter. This story is about the personal growth and understanding Lucy achieves through her solitude and her illness and about the path to reconciliation with her mother and, ultimately, herself.

Strout’s narrative is an amazing blend of Lucy’s current thoughts and memories of her childhood. Lucy’s mother tells her daughter the local gossip about people Lucy remembers, and Lucy’s thoughts return to the painful experiences of her childhood and why she had wanted to escape to a better world as an adult. However, Lucy finds both comfort and clarity during the long nights of conversation and sleepless contemplation.

From a writer’s point of view, I found the book a study in style. The sentence and paragraph structure was literary, which I normally equate to a hard read, but this story captured my attention right away and held it throughout. The characters of both Lucy and her mother were rich with convincing strength, believable expression and realistic, nuanced interactions. Strout wove into the main character’s experience several “ah-ha” moments that delivered a powerful impact.

I thought this story well worth studying in order to use Strout’s method in my own writing. I will be adding this book to my list of books that writers should read to develop their craft.


Writers Have To Learn Marketing

books-985954_1920Most people who want to be writers don’t envision ourselves becoming master marketers, but we dream of seeing our books on the shelves of a bookstore. We see ourselves writing the “great American Novel” or the next New York Times bestseller or even a Pulitzer Prize-winning book. We dream of the day our name becomes a household word. We see ourselves traveling and signing our books for fans who stand in line for hours just to see us. That is the ultimate! We’re popular. Our books are loved and our fans can’t wait until the next one comes out. Then reality settles in when the first book contract is signed. You and I are responsible for 99% of the marketing for our book!

Where to start and what to do ?!?

Networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and what about the groups and hangouts where we’re supposed to develop relationships with readers. Oh, don’t forget Goodreads and Shelfari because that’s where the readers are.

Follow marketing blogs and make comments. Read marketing books and take their advice. By all means, you must have a website that is simple, clean, and easily navigated but includes all the information your reader needs and gets them to convert from browser to buyer. Don’t get pushy, just court them into a purchase.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? We’re just getting started.

STOP! Take a deep breath and relax. The way to learn networking/marketing is one step at a time. While you’re writing your book, start reading the books on marketing during your breaks from writing. Read a few blogs when you check your email and follow the ones that are the most helpful to you. Sign up for newsletters. After a few months, keep taking the ones you find the most valuable to you. Unsubscribe from those that are not as practical and useful.

Learn one thing at a time. Focus on a few things and do them well. It’s easy to get spread too thin and join lots of groups and end up participating in none of them or rarely showing up. I’ve learned that you have to cut down to the ones you can actually participate in and let the others go. You’ll feel better about handling the networking part of marketing and the people you talk to won’t feel used. You’ll be able to start relationships with other writers and with your readers.

Remember and take heart. Every New York Times Bestselling author started the same place you are beginning your writing career.