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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 268

Updated on August 5, 2019

Something to Think About

Some of you know that I’ve been involved in farmers’ markets for the past few years. They are great places to hang out if you’ve never been to one, and you can always count on healthy, fresh veggies and fruits.

Not only is a farmer’s market a nice place to hang out, but it is also a lesson in marketing and product. Some vendors do extremely well with very little to work with. Some do poorly even though they have tons of product.

One couple in particular stands out at the Tumwater Farmers Market. They have the smallest of the local farms represented at that market, but they usually match or exceed the sales of the larger farms. They have infectious personalities. You can’t help but like them if you stop by their booth. They also have an innate understanding of marketing displays, and their produce is always some of the most attractive at the market. Add it all together and they get great sales week in and week out.

Just something to think about for my writer friends . . . there is no shortage of writers out there. How do you stand out? What makes your writing i.e. your short stories, your novels, your how-to articles . . . special?

Ponder that for awhile.

Let’s look for some answers in this week’s mail, shall we?

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Guerrilla Marketing

From Paul: “I’ve seen you mention guerrilla marketing before, but I’m unclear what it means. Care to clarify?”

I can give it a try, Paul.

Guerrilla marketing comes from a book written, I think, in 1984. I have no idea who the author was, and I guess it’s not terribly important. Anyway, guerrilla marketing is a way for a company to promote its product without spending too much money. Guerrilla marketing recognizes the fact that advertising is expensive, so it calls on promoting a product using surprise and unconventional methods. It relies upon imagination and quirky rather than billboards and television ads.

I drove by a lemonade stand the other day. Two little girls were manning the stand, selling the ice cold drink for a buck apiece. One of the little girls was holding up a handmade sign which said “I don’t want to end up homeless in twenty years.”

That’s guerrilla marketing!

The Weather

From Jean: “Does the weather affect your writing and, if so, how do you adjust to it?”

It’s an interesting two-parter, Jean, and I have a two-parter in response.

Weather really doesn’t affect my freelance output during the year. I write first thing in the morning, day in and day out, to meet the demands of my customers. Mornings are comfortable in the summer, and they are comfortable in the winter. I’m doing mundane stuff for customers, so I don’t need inspiration.

But weather does affect my creativity. If it is sunny and hot outside, and fairly muggy inside the house (we don’t have AC) my creativity stops flowing. Period! End of story, literally. I just give up trying to write short stories or novels in hot weather. All other weather is fine for me and my muse, but hot weather? forgetaboutit as my NYC friends would say.

A good day for writing
A good day for writing

Encouraging and Influencing

From Jim: “If you could go back, be a younger version of yourself but with today’s knowledge, would you encourage your students to be a writer?”

What an interesting question, Jim! My goodness, that’s a first. Talk about coming out of left field.

I would do the same thing then as I did then, if you follow that time line. As a teacher back in 1978, and as a teacher in 1990, and as a teacher in 2000, and finally as a teacher in 2006, I would encourage kids to be whatever they want to be. Not what their parents want, and not what their friends think would be cool, but what they want to be. I would also tell them that one must be realistic. Not everyone can “be like Mike” and be a professional basketball player. Not everyone can be like Bill Gates or Donald Trump. I would tell them to make a checklist of their strengths, another checklist of their dreams, and then marry the two and see what they come up with.

Bottom line: be happy while you pay the bills!

The Flow

From Mary: “I always love your closing words. Yes, what really matters is how we live our life. Bill, there are no shortcuts but weren't there some gifted ones who just put their thoughts on paper and presto, a novel came? There are also times when everything just seems to flow and without much labour, an article comes. Or, isn't this the result of hours and hours of thinking and observing and whatever else it takes to write with such flow?”

Mary, this is like the nature vs nurture debate regarding human behavior. Does brilliance in literature just appear in some? Are they just born with the brilliance of an exploding star?

What you are about to get is simply one man’s opinion; nothing more and nothing less.

I think there are people born with the gift of creativity. I think they come out of the womb with a huge advantage over us poor kids who have to scratch and scrape for every ounce of production we can wring out of our meager supply of creativity . . . but . . . without learning and observing and honing their craft, they will always just be a footnote on the ledger of history i.e. the greatest writer that could have been!

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a big fan of hard work and learning the craft.


From Eva: “You’ve mentioned your ‘Shadows’ series before. I have not read any of it. What kind of writing is it? Care to elaborate a bit about it?”

Oh, if you insist!

The Shadows books are paranormal thrillers, for lack of a better classification. They are my imagination playing with the concepts of Good vs Evil. They have good guys who are actually killers, and killers who are sometimes likeable. They are about the multi-layers of all humans.

Here’s an excerpt for you, from “Shadows Over the Hangman’s Noose:”

How could I be so sure about catching the Noose Man? I’m not sure I have an adequate answer to that question. I’m not only visited by the dead in my dreams, but I know the predators who are out there among us. I know what they think. I know their cravings and their fears. I know what drives them along their depraved path. When I’m on a case like this, the monsters I seek crawl inside my skin and flow through my veins. They become me and I become them, and I know how crazy that sounds and believe me, there are days I’d like to sign up for a padded room and let the medications do their magic, but I really don’t have that option.

This is who I am.

I’m the Shadow Hunter.

And That’s All for This Week

A short one this week, but that’s fine. We have an exceptional August day ahead of us, so let’s get out there and live it like it’s our last.

There is only one writer like you among the seven billion plus on this planet. Let that fact sink in as you go about your day. Embrace that uniqueness. Make it work for you!

Catch you next week! Go visit a farmers market if you have nothing else to do this week. You just might learn something about marketing your work.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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