Monday, November 26, 2012

My week of obnoxious self-promotion

This will surprise anyone who remembers me as an Ouzo-fueled streaker running naked across campus at Ohio University with bottle rockets shooting out my butt, but I’ve always considered myself a bit of a wallflower.

Reserved. Bashful.

The stupid things I’ve done that attracted the most attention were often done on a dare -- and I wish I could blame my chronic occupational predicament on that bone-headed motivation.

I guess it’s because being the center of attention makes me uncomfortable. The person I’m most interested in without exception is the person right in front of me.

The best conversations involve engaged strangers, full eye contact and topics that reveal what makes us tick. Have you kicked the drugs? Do you hate your job? What was the last movie that made you cry?

I have so little patience for small talk with people who look past us I’ve even coined a word to describe the phenomenon: Glibberish. It’s the pointless party chatter between two people who’d rather be talking to anyone else.

So with the exception of those times when I’m launching bottle rockets out my ass, I’m really kind of shy.

That means this week is bound to be a little difficult.

It started yesterday with Eric Heyl’s great B-1 story in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Eric and I were acquaintances who became friends after he wrote about my wrongful arrest for scalping Steeler pre-season tickets.

I’d sent him a copy of “Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness” with the hopes he’d find it interesting enough to profile.

I was thrilled he did and focused on my efforts to give the book away for free to anyone who says they can’t afford it, to servicemen and women, and anyone who asks nicely.

It says so on the book’s very first page under the headline “This Book Is Free.”

I’m sure I’ll look back on the story’s publication as a key date in the book’s success, still by no means a sure thing.

This is the kind of clip, I hope, that will create cascading attention. It already has from Eric’s readers. I received heartfelt requests for free books from 23 readers and orders from paying customers for another 15. That’s a good day.

You can check it out here and I hope you do. And share the ever-loving daylights out of it. Take it to bookstores. Have a sky-writer reproduce it above your town.

It would be cool if it were a coincidence, but hours after Eric’s article appeared I got a call from KDKA 1020-AM radio. Talk host Johnna Pro was eager to have me on to discuss the book.

Johnna and I were reporters together many moons ago. She loved what she’d read about my book and was eager to promote it. So last night one of America’s most historic news organizations hosted one of its least for 20 lively minutes.

Live radio can be an unnerving gig over the telephone, especially when you have two young daughters barging into the room to make monkey faces while you’re on the air.

You want to scream at them to scram, but know if you do listeners all across the land will say things like, “Hey, Myrtle, you gotta hear this! This guy who wrote a book about how to be happy is being a real asshole to his kids!”

Johnna couldn’t have been better. She really dug what she’d read and flattered me with great questions. I’ll post it when I can snag an audio clip.

This all happened one day after I posted the first YouTube video of myself speaking to a packed house at Allegory Gallery in Ligonier. If it sounds like there are only about eight people there, that’s because it was a very small house.

Observant viewers will note at the end of the video I look directly into the camera, a pre-arranged signal that it was time to shut it off just five minutes into a talk that went 30.

I wanted to give the video a cliff-hanger feel and I figured five minutes was plenty. I’m shy, remember?

What’s next? I’ll be sitting down with my friend Dow Carnahan of Latrobe’s 1480 WCNS-AM to tape a show that will air Saturday at 8 a.m.. I’ve known Dow a long time and we drink together so there’s a good chance he’ll ask at least a few potentially embarrassing questions and that’s always fun. 

The timing for Dow’s segment couldn’t be better because that same day from 2 to 4 p.m. I’m doing my first big book signing at the Greensburg Barnes & Noble.

I tingle in anticipation.

It’s impossible to underestimate what a lift the acceptance and support of B&N means to me and my book. Store staffers have gone out of their way to recommend the book to customers. And it’s really working. Store manager Megan Sowinski tells me the book is selling like crazy. Her exact words: "It's selling like crazy."

In my dreams, I see myself standing there behind a table like George Bailey at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” as everyone in the community approaches to fill up a big basket full of dough.

It could happen. I have a lot of friends around here who are eager to support me and my book. Then there’s all the people who don’t really like me, but have heard the book’s good.

Then -- and this is the majority -- there are people who have read there’s a local author who is vowing to give his book away for free to anyone who wants it. They believe I’m an idiot and my family will starve if they don’t pay for a copy.

Either way, it’s shaping up to be a banner day for me and my book. I promise I’m going to do everything I can to ensure Saturday will be truly memorable for everyone who attends.

And you know what that means.

Yep. I’m bringing bottle rockets!

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