Friday, October 07, 2016

BREAST Cancer: Yesterday’s Risqué - Today’s Yawn

Artist AleXsandro Palombo  series called “Survivor” that imagines what well-known female cartoon personalities ...

A few decades ago I deleted an entire segment in the TicklesTabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy manuscript, because talking about breasts in a children’s book about breast cancer was just too risqué.

When it comes to addressing topics others deem risqué or offensive, it appears I’m no longer a step ahead of popular perception, but have fallen on my unbleached butt and can’t get up.

I've fallen and can't get up!

Now that I’m almost retired, I spent my summer arranging potential “Summer Adventures 2016” journal entries for my grown children, ensuring my landscaping survived the hottest East TN summer in years, doing DIY projects in the basement, and -every once in a while- checking in to see what type of stories and/or experts the media is looking for these days.

Some of what I learned sure was… educational.

For example, I learned that freelancers were looking for experts on butt bleaching. Even more enlightening, I learned that I need not have bothered running a google search on butt bleaching, I could have just asked my children what that was.

In my previous blog, I gave some of the backstory and backlash regarding the controversy surrounding my children’s book about nuclear power plants.  In the wake of Fukushima it is not difficult to understand why a children’s book about nuclear power plants might not be a welcome edition on everyone’s book shelf, but a children’s book about cancer?  

“Why would you ever want to do a book about nuclear power,” asked one of my colleagues, “after establishing a career based on a sweet, beloved, children’s book about cancer?”

His comment only goes to show: Yesterday’s controversial and risqué is today’s yawn.

In the late 1990’s, when I first pitched my sweet, beloved children’s book about cancer it was not considered so sweet. It is unimaginable today, but back in 1994 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was discussed in hushed tones amongst adults, over the heads of bewildered children.

Talking to children about nuclear power would have been far less controversial than a children’s book about cancer. Especially one that included the emotional mood swings (depression) pictured in Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy.  If cancer wasn’t depressing enough, one critic (another writer) told me the mommy in my story (a nicer version of myself) was just too mean!  

I did receive some positive critiques from several well-respected mainstream publishing houses. They loved the story, but there just wasn’t a market for it. After all, young mothers with children didn’t usually get breast cancer… I was just unlucky.  They left out the part about me being unlucky.

I didn’t know it at the time, but for any unknown aspiring author to receive any comments at all from an editor was huge. I thought they felt sorry for the cancer mommy, so I packed up my manuscript and focused on LIVING.  

Today it’s common knowledge that young women do get breast cancer, good moms aren’t always nice, and even moms without cancer get depressed. If you’re in the book business you know that editor’s affiliated with large publishing houses care about marketing potential and not the feelings of aspiring writers, whether they are dead or alive!  

Just about everything I experienced back then sounds unbelievable to young people today, and makes for humorous story-telling. If only living it had been as funny! This October it will be fifteen years since my children's book on cancer was published, and made its debut on the Rosie O Donnell talk show. 

We used to have a saying when I was a kid: Last laugh’s the dog’s laugh.  Woof, woof, is sort of how I feel when I reflect on my experience writing and publishing Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy!  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! 
And a reminder to women of all ages to examine their breasts!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Radiation: Friend or Foe?

That’s the controversial question asked in the fall edition of Talking Story, an e-newsletter for educators. Talking story is published by authors Carol Baldwin and Joyce Moyer Hostetter. Most of their readers are teachers, media specialists, or homeschool parents.  They stuff every issue with links, books, learning activities, GIVEAWAYS, and people related to a particular theme. 

I’m radiating with happiness to announce that one of the people featured in their newsletter’s fall edition on radiation is Andrew Handley!  Andrew is the talented, young graphic designer who illustrated my children’s book, Nuclear Power: How A Nuclear Power Plant Really Works! 

According to Joyce, the goal of Talking Story is not to promote one opinion or another about radiation, but rather to encourage students to take a look at the use of radiation in medicine, energy production, warfare, etc.  They hope to stimulate students to thoughtfully consider the various ways radiation is used in our society and to connect them to literature and writing activities on the topic.

This is what I love about writers and authors like Joyce and Carol who are also educators.  Whether they agree with a topic or not, they understand the importance of allowing a child to learn about it. 

After all, one way to learn about, understand, and give an educated opinion on a topic is to study both sides of an issue, right? Who wouldn’t want a child to do that?

As I have discovered during my career as a children’s book author: Plenty of people!

So many that when Joyce contacted me regarding using the illustration featured in her newsletter, I ran a google search on both her and Carol before replying.

I wasn’t always so jaded, but then a children’s book about nuclear power plants wasn’t always so controversial.

In fact, when I first started marketing my book about nuclear power plants, its topic was perceived as so lackluster the book almost didn’t get published. Not even the nuclear industry, due in part to the United States post- Three Mile Island safety record, was all that thrilled about a children’s book about nuclear power plants.

Community relations and educational school programs on nuclear power plants like the one I had created and administered in the 1980’s were no longer deemed necessary. 

In the 80's our  school program was front page news.
This came as a surprise to me.  Elementary education was well funded back in the days I worked in the nuclear industry. We fielded requests not only from schools, but all types of civic groups who were interested in learning how the local nuclear plant worked.  

In 1983, that's me
 presenting to a class of sixth graders.

Back then nuclear power was a hot topic, (pun intended) but this didn’t make the information I was required to teach any less yawn-provoking.  The book I eventually wrote—and Andrew so brilliantly illustrated—is a creative spin on a brochure I used to hand out to my students. 

Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works! is the type of book I had wished for back when I was doing my school programs about nuclear power plants.  I wanted to pique the interest of children who didn’t always grasp the technical, but responded to art or stories.  (Kids like me.)

One of the illustrations that sold me
on Andrew, but is not pictured in the book.

I had forgotten all about this book idea, until 2002 when my family moved from Minnesota to North Carolina where not too far from our home was a nuclear power plant.  While other children spent summers at the beach, mine got visits to the nuclear plant.  (This is where my children would insert what they call “my evil laugh.”)

The book had been work-in-progress for years by the time I hired Andrew to illustrate it, and started to seriously market it.  What most laypersons do not realize about publishing a book is that sales, marketing, industry reviews, and a host of other things begin years before the book is actually published.

It was during this time that I decided there just wasn’t enough interest in my book to justify publishing it.  I told my husband I was going to pay Andrew for his work, and just forget about it, until the “nuclear renaissance” that was often mentioned in the media actually happened.  Maybe then there would be more interest.
A young boy I spied reading my book,
while I was at the Dentist. 

The words were hardly out of my mouth when Japan was hit by a tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred. If ever there was a time children might need, and parents might want an explanation about how a nuclear power plant worked, I thought that might be it.

I soon discovered not everyone felt the way I did.  I can laugh about it now, but try to imagine spending years on a story you wrote for good intentions, and then being publicly bullied for it on social media.  Most of my critics had never even read the book. I know this because at the time they commented the book had not been released to the public yet.  The only way to obtain a copy was via its author …that would be me.

So when Joyce contacted me regarding permission to use one of Andrew’s illustrations from my book, and said their next issue was going to be titled Radiation: Friend or Foe?  I ran a quick “friend or foe” google search, and immediately (before they could change their mind) responded that I was more than grateful to her for addressing the topic without prejudice. Then I gave myself permission to glow… with happiness. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016

When Traveling Abroad meant Texas!

Tabitha, center with her XploreAsia colleagues-yep they're exploring!
My millennials, who had returned to the roost, figured out their next venture and flew off. Tabitha flew to Thailand for a programs internship.  You can read about her adventures on her blog: Keeping Tabs

Jordan and his TESOL classmates, he's the tall one on the right.

Jordan flew to Costa Rica to hone his Spanish
and teach English as a second language.

 Although I love them both with all my heart and cried big fat crocodile tears when I dropped them off at the airport, I was not unhappy to see them go! I will never not worry about them, but I am happy that they are happy and they left with my blessing.

It brought back memories of my own departure from the small community of Walnut Hill, Florida. I couldn’t wait to leave home and see the world.

That's me atop that TX Longhorn.
That experience is why I always advised my children to see the world while they’re young and unencumbered. Pretty much the exact opposite of the advice my parents gave me!

After college the Peace Corps was not encouraged, and becoming a flight attendant (my original career goal) wasn’t feasible for lack of demand. So I hightailed it to the most exotic location I could get away with—Texas!

For the female millennial who finds this definition of exotic unbelievable and/or hysterical, it’s only because you have never been expected to find a husband prior to finding a career, advised that your best possible career options were nursing or teaching, or were turned down for employment with degree in-hand because the company you applied to didn’t need any secretaries.

When I graduated high school in 1977 I was encouraged to marry a doctor, not to become one. Young women were just beginning to do things like enlist in the armed forces.

Bucket List: Become s a Flight Attendant, check!

At my parent’s house, the mere mention of traveling outside the paradise they fondly (and embarrassingly) referred to as Solomon’s Happy Hill Farm was just proof that my brain was damaged at birth. And while my brain damage was common knowledge in my immediate family, they didn’t want the neighbors or the rest of the world to know.

As a child I once overheard my father exclaiming to my mother that, while he was pumping gas at the local gas station, a woman who appeared to be educated and decent was purchasing gas while traveling from out of state—and she was traveling alone! My farmer dad cultivated chauvinism like he did soybeans. There were some things decent women just didn’t do, and traveling across the country without a male chaperone was only one part of a long list.

I couldn’t wait to leave home and become indecent.  

You would think at age 56, I would be impervious to the guilt heaped on me by my parents, but nope. I’m sandwiched between my son complaining that I’m a helicopter parent for expecting him to check in from Costa Rica, (his sister is keeping tabs) and my parents who blame me for their grandchildren not being in the United States of America.

My mom: Have you heard from Jordan?
My white lie secured via Instagram: Why yes… He’s doing his practice teaching.
Reality: Has Hades had an ice storm yet?
It’s not lost on me that my own children often offer me a large helping of exactly what I fed my parents when I was their age.

If only guilt was as sweet as the cream horns I crave.

Reality....                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               how I wish it was....

Off to Costa Rica

Zooming thru Hua Hin on a motorcycle.

Update: Apparently Hades does get ice storms.

Congrats to Jordan and his classmates who are now certified to teach English as a second language!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Train Ride to Heaven: A Love Story about Living, Dying and ALS.

Today I have the privilege of posting my review for a memoir written by a school friend:

Train Ride to Heaven is author Vanessa Maholovich’s heart-rending memoir about her husband Glen’s fatal struggle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis  (ALS) or what is better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Emotionally it was not an easy read for me, which is why I could not put it down.

Vanessa and Glen Maholovich and I went to school together. They graduated in 1975, just two years ahead of me, and I grew up in the same rural Alabama-Florida panhandle communities that Vanessa so thoughtfully details in her book.

When I think of Glen Maholovich I still picture that curly-headed (afro curled perms were the style, but his was all natural) boy, running off the football field after a game, grinning. Everyone knew he was searching for Vanessa, who would be waiting on the sidelines to embrace him.

Vanessa’s memoir made me homesick for the people and places I left behind all those years ago. It made me laugh, and it made me cry as I reflected on those optimistic, unjaded children we once were before life experiences -and diseases like cancer and ALS- turned us into grown-ups.

In her memoir Vanessa describes Glen as smart, imaginative, innovative, and funny, the type of person whom everyone liked and no one had a harsh word for; she could just as easily have been describing herself. I would also add that they were unpretentious. 

Vanessa and Glen 's Wedding 1975 
They were those rare high school sweethearts that everyone liked because both individually and as a couple they were kind, considerate, and thoughtful to all their peers. If Hallmark made their story into a movie it could conceivably be the first time Hollywood actors were not more alluring than the people they portray.

Facebook did not exist back when we graduated from high school, and prior to it I could count on one finger the number of school chums I had kept in contact with.  It had been decades since I had seen Vanessa, but my parents still resided in the panhandle community of Walnut Hill, Florida, and it was my good fortune to run into her on a visit home.  She expressed such joy that we had bumped into each other and it was a pleasure to reconnect. I had no idea that Glen had only recently died, nor what they had gone thorough until much later, when I read her book.

Train Ride to Heaven first came to my attention via my Facebook feed! It was such a profound moment when the book arrived and I saw Glen’s face superimposed on the cover. It now resides on my bookshelf alongside other books I cherish.

As someone who has a cabinet full of journals with significant gaps in their dates, I am in awe of how Vanessa managed to juggle her career as a professional nurse and her responsibilities as Glen’s caregiver and still have the energy to write.  I know how tired she must have been and can appreciate how difficult it was to maintain a journal when the plans and dreams she had hoped to chronicle vanished.  

As an author and cancer survivor, I understand what compelled her, and the resolve and commitment it took to see her memoirs published.  It is one thing to keep a journal, but it takes strength and courage to allow the world a glimpse inside your private pain, and her book deserves our reverence.

Glen in his prime, age 41 years
In Train Ride to Heaven Vanessa gives her readers a blunt account of what her self-described ordinary family goes through during her husband’s battle with ALS.  She does it with humor, humility, and grace. Despite everything Glen goes through, Vanessa makes sure his dignity remains intact, and permits her readers to see the larger-than-life man she loved; not an incapacitated invalid

She makes it obvious that she did not pen this tribute to Glen to solicit pity. Instead her prose beseeches all of us to recognize the solace, humor, and love that are found in the worst of times, and to be grateful for them.

Train Ride to Heaven is an inspiring read for any caregiver, and for families struggling with ALS, or any other catastrophe.  However, it is much more than a memoir about an ordinary family’s inspirational journey with a fatal disease; at its core this book is a love story.

April 2015
In the book's touching epilogue Vanessa addresses the poignant questions she asked herself when she realized she was falling in love again after Glen's death. Her answers- like her book- are wise and full of heart.

Despite the sorrow and inevitable outcome her memoir chronicles, readers will be unable to resist yearning for what Vanessa and Glen Maholovich had. They may have been ordinary people living a small town life, but theirs was an extraordinary love story and it is evident on every page of Train Ride to Heaven.

Glen Maholvich died at 4:22 PM November 22, 2011, but the legacy of his love lives on.

Authors Bios:

Vanessa Maholovich is a Registered Nurse. In 2015 she was chosen "Best of the Best in Nursing" by the residents of the Atmore, Alabama community where she worked and lived. Today she has remarried and resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with her husband Barry Carden.  She continues to work as an RN and is persuing becoming a Certified Caregiving Consultant.

Sherry Sapp is a freelancer who writes for newspapers and magazines; this was her first book. According to Vanessa, " I shared my story and writing with her, and she brought my words to life. I could not have done it without her!" Sherry Sapp resides in Pensacola, Florida.

Amelia Frahm helped pioneer cancer resources for children. She is the author of the award-winning children’s books,  Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy, and Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works!   

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nuking the Easter Egg!

Last year, I was helping some of my colleagues in the nuclear industry as we got ready to bring the Go Nuclear Website online.

It goes without saying; they did not bring me on board due to my engineering expertise, but rather as an advisor for public relations/marketing and education as it pertains to nuclear power.  The technicalities and politics of nuclear power can leave me feeling overwhelmed and under qualified, but I have noticed some people feel the same way about PR and marketing. 

At STPNG 1980's
Over the years I’ve implemented marketing events of all types and scope, in venues as diverse as the causes and organizations I represented.  One thing they all had in common was that they were an opportunity to educate and inform about my cause while providing my target audience with a good time.

Since Easter is approaching, I thought I would share one of my favorite, least expensive, and- because most Americans are familiar with the concept- easiest, marketing events to implement: the Easter Egg Hunt. 

It can be adapted for any age group, used to raise funds, or promote a cause; but there’s a big difference between holding an Easter egg hunt and nuking that Easter egg into a marketing event that promotes your objective! It calls for careful planning, hard work, and CREATIVITY!

Get ready to brainstorm; success hinges on your marketing pitch.  The marketing pitch is what can take an ordinary Easter egg Hunt and what in some circles is the yawn-provoking topic of nuclear power or any other yawn-provoking topic, and turn it into a Nuclear Powered Glow Party. 

When Nuclear Power:How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works! was published my daughter, Tabitha came up with the bright idea (all my puns are intentional) of  making our annual neighborhood Easter party a glow-in-the-dark Easter Egg Hunt to celebrate my book’s release.

That year the Easter Bunny got his eggs from Nukie Nuclear Power Plant!

I know my colleagues in the nuclear industry are rolling their eyes at how ridiculous it is to suggest that Easter eggs obtained at a nuclear power plant would glow in the dark. 

This observation and an invitation to attend a glow-in-the dark Easter egg hunt is just the sort of marketing pitch that can be used to shine some light on a topic like nuclear energy! 

Here’s ten ways to radiate a Nuclear Powered Easter Egg Hunt:

1.      Create your Pitch

The pitch, either written or verbal,  is the invitation/advertisement you use to capture your "target markets" attention to convince them that they want what you've got! Competition is fierce in today's social media savvy world. Your objective is to come up with an idea that will tie your event to your product or message in a creative way that gets noticed!

The moment  your pitch leaves your real or virtual mail box you are setting the mood for your event.

Here we took a  plastic hard hat resembling the ones worn at a nuclear power plant and turned it into an Easter Basket! My book's cover is adhered to the front, and I  included a character from the book!  You could easily insert your invitation into an egg. This would be a great way to invite a classroom or civic organization to your event.

I usually pitch the media via e-mail.  If possible I always include a visual with my pitch. You have about 15 seconds to grasp their attention!

To set the mood for our nuclear Easter egg event, I used an illustration from Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works! and the following verse in my invitation:

This year the Easter Bunny had some help from:
A Pretty Blue Bird , a White Lab Rat, and Red-furred Cat
who got their Easter eggs from Nukie Nuclear Power Plant.

Nutcracker Publishing invites you to:  Hop on Over!
We are Cracking Open Easter eggs that Glow in the Dark.
Join us for a Nuclear Powered Easter Egg Hunt that Radiates Brilliance!

2.      Target your Market

What is it that you really want to do?

Educate your Community
Let people know your company/product exists
Raise Awareness
Raise Money
Who do you want to do it to?

Pro Nuke Colleagues
Anti-Nuke Neighbors
People on the Fence
Media…who will reach all of the above.

Parents at 1980 STPNG Easter hunt

Inviting children to your Easter Egg Hunt does not necessarily mean you’re targeting children.  One of the first things I observed while working in the nuclear industry is that parents would use their children as an excuse to educate themselves about nuclear energy.  The elementary school program I created was frequently requested and presented to community civic clubs.

An Easter Egg Hunt that begins after dark can easily be adapted into an adult party.

If your objective is to raise awareness go ahead and invite your anti- nuclear neighbor!  BUT if you are trying to raise money DO NOT invite or ask for a donation from anyone who does not support your cause! 

If you are targeting the local media, find out if they have children or grandchildren.  When you contact them with details about your event invite their children to participate in the egg hunt.

If you had to work weekends wouldn’t you appreciate an assignment where you could bring along the kids?

3.      Figure out your Budget

Only you know what you can afford, but the thing I love about an Easter Egg Hunt is it does not have to cost a fortune.  Plastic eggs along with glow-in-the-dark sticks can be obtained at the Dollar Stores.  You can ask volunteers or even the people you invite to bring cupcakes/cookies/plastic eggs etc. 

It’s been my experience that when you’re hosting a neighborhood or community event open to everyone that people are grateful that someone is doing all the planning and legwork.  They are happy to donate eggs YOU can stuff and hide.   

Seek out a sponsor who supports your cause and ask them for donations.  Easter supplies are not expensive, and it is easier to ask for and receive Easter eggs or bunnies than money. 

If asked, local businesses will often donate their products or service in exchange for advertising.  

Your goal is to be Memorable not Expensive.

4.      Recruit Volunteers

Talk to the local school/college/church.  In today’s competitive world I’ve found that high-school or college students are often happy to do a volunteer gig that earns them a letter of recommendation that can be listed on a college application or resume. Don't overlook younger children. They complain less than adults! As you can see from the photo above they enjoy helping. 

Make the big decisions BEFORE you recruit anyone to help you.

There will be plenty of opportunity for disagreements on the smaller decisions- like cupcake flavor.

The more planned out your event is before you recruit your volunteers the smoother it will go.  This will make your job look easy, fun, and glamorous to anyone on the outside, who is wondering how you managed to work yourself up to such an enviable position.   With luck, next year you will be able to congratulate them on their promotion as chairperson and let them head up your Easter Egg Hunt.

5.      Pick your Date/Time/Venue and  Pick your Rain Date/Time Venue

Notice I placed this after recruit. 

Easter often coincides with Spring Break so it’s a good idea to make sure the majority of your volunteers will be able to make the date/time/ venue of your event, and are not in a condo on the beach somewhere.

Once the arguing has subsided and your date, time and venue has been programmed into everyone’s smart phone, you need to come up with a rain date.  Perhaps it will make you feel better to know that despite always doing this, I have never had to use a rain date for an Easter event.

Snow is not a deterrent for a nuclear powered glow-in-the- dark Easter Egg Hunt!  It might even be an advantage.  You will not need to wait until dark to hide your Easter eggs!   If you do not bury them too deep, they will radiate that nuclear glow right through the snow.

6.      Props, Prizes, Food, Entertainment

Get ready to spend your budget money.  

You will want as many plastic Easter eggs filled with glow in the dark items that you have the funds, time, and energy to stuff and hide.

Here is how we “nuked” our eggs.   We purchased glow-in-the dark bracelets, activated a bracelet and then inserted it into a plastic Easter egg.  I got eggs and glow sticks from the dollar stores.  Making the eggs glow was not expensive…


The glow will not last forever, so we had to wait until just hours before our hunt to activate the bracelets and stuff our eggs.  Also the bracelets were a tight fit inside the egg.  So nuking (stuffing) our eggs took longer than expected.  So find the largest eggs and smallest glow item you can!

I have noticed that today you can purchase glow-in-the dark eggs, but I would advise doing some research and reading the reviews before you do. 

When it comes to decorative props I usually purchase items that will decorate my venue, but later I can hand out during and after as prizes.  Such as:  Easter baskets, large stuffed Easter bunnies, floral arrangements, decorative jars filled with jelly beans, even Easter flags.

Whatever you purchase to decorate the premises with can usually be used as a prize that participants can win.  People love to win prizes.  Spread the love and opt for a lot of inexpensive prizes vs. one big ticket item. 

Even adults can guess how many jelly beans are in a jar, or participate in the Bunny Hop or Raw Egg Toss.  Children love to see their parents participating.

Sometimes guests will show up without an Easter basket to gather their eggs in.  Make sure you have some sacks or plastic buckets with your company logo on them that can be used.


My favorite thing about any party is the food!   So when I plan a party I plan on giving myself an excuse to eat all those fattening treats I usually avoid.  However, some people have will-power and /or health concerns.  It’s a good idea to have diet drinks, gluten free something and anything that might illicit an allergic reaction labeled.

Even if the party is for children, you need to feed and satisfy the adults as well.


The competition of the hunt itself is usually entertainment enough.

However, you will also need something that will keep everyone occupied while waiting for dark, and your volunteers hide those nuclear powered eggs.

Like pin the tail on the bunny, and dancing to the bunny hop.

Or the video you see here. 

It’s entertaining, educational, and self-promoting.

This is your opportunity to get your message out in a way that is fun. If you squeeze it between your video and a dance party;  make it fun, call it a game, and offer prizes to the winners you will find that no one minds a dose of self-promoting Trivial Pursuit or nuclear fun-fact Jeopardy.  

7.      Costumed  Characters/ Visual Interest

Whether it’s the Easter Bunny, a company mascot, or a storybook character like Tickles Tabitha,
Someone is going to have to dress up and that’s all there is to it!

Plan far enough in advance to make sure you get the Easter Bunny and not the Easter Chicken.

Journalists and especially TV journalists want to see both a compelling story and colorful visuals.  Let them know you can provide both when you send them your pitch.

A costumed character provides a great video and photo opportunity.   When they are posted on Facebook it will help get the word out about your organization. 

I would suggest creating a backdrop out of an old sheet that has your company logo/ and or website address.  Strategically place a bench where the bunny can sit in front of it and have pictures made with attendees.

8.      Competition

Easter Bunny Competition.

I will never forget my first corporate Easter Egg Hunt.  We failed to mention that the grand prize was random and NOT going to the kid who collected the most eggs. It was a parent free-for -all as they literally ran over each other’s children to make sure their own child got the most eggs.   I was twenty-something, child-less, had zero tolerance and much disdain for those parents.  It took about a decade and having two children of my own before I had any empathy.

Even if you are having a friendly neighborhood fundraising event, announce your ground rules prior to the hunt and make sure you have volunteers stationed to enforce them.

Here is the way I have handled the stampede.  Let the youngest participants go first and every minute or so let another age group join the hunt.

The cat won!

9.        Marketing your message:   Nuclear powered eggs should be served over-easy! 

An Easter Egg Hunt may provide a captive audience of excited participants, but it is not the time for a lecture on the technicalities of nuclear power or any other lecture.

While most local reporters enjoy attending and reporting fuzzy bunny tales like your Easter party, it is not a breaking news event. 

Make sure someone writes, films, and photographs your party.  So later, if the media is a no show, you can express regret that they missed a great party, and send along your own stories and photographs for publication.  Most will appreciate it, and often will publish something you have sent.

If the local media does not, the social media experts attending your hunt will!  Thanks to Facebook just about everyone is a social media expert these days. 

As any five-year-old knows the best parties are the ones that give the attendees something fun to brag about later to the kids that didn’t go, and a yummy goodie bag to take home.  The same can be said for grown-up marketing events. 

So give your participants a memorable event, and send them home with a goodie bag filled with conversation provoking marketing  maybe a picture book about nuclear power! Wink, wink.  

10.   Follow up

This is the section of marketing 101 that distinguishes a PR expert from a marketing amateur. It contributes to how people perceive you, your company, and your message. It will make it easier to keep or recruit volunteers for the next event.   It indicates your level of professionalism.  It will help promote your message.


Say it, write it, and most of all mean it!

I was horrified to discover a story I sent a journalist several years earlier, that I thought had never been published, had made several regional papers where I lived near Raleigh, NC.  It was the second time that journalist had published a story on me, and probably would have been the last- even if she had not left journalism for another job. She did me a huge favor and I had not bothered to say thank-you.  I didn’t become on expert on any of these tips without making my own mistakes along the way, and I hope you can benefit from my mistakes.

Although it is the final step on my blog, it should be at the top of a “To Do” list.  Even for an informal event I have written down a verbal thank you to say the day of, have composed thank-you notes, and a letter of recommendation that can be personalized with the names of volunteers who helped out.

Thank everyone publicly during any welcome speech the day of the event, including the people who show up to hunt eggs.
Say a private verbal thank-you to volunteers afterwards.
Post your thanks on your own and their social media pages.
E-mail a thank you to colleagues.
Write and deliver a letter of thanks and recommendation on your company’s or organization’s letterhead for your volunteers. 
If the media attends send them a thank-you via whatever social media you used to contact them ASAP. After your story is published or airs send them a handwritten thank-you note.  If possible, one that pictures your company’s logo.

Sadly, the only time some people adhere to this advice is when they’ve spent mega bucks to hire a PR consultant who offers up what my mama told me free of charge:   Use your manners, show some class, and say Thank you!

So….thank-you, for reading through my rather lengthy nuclear powered Easter blog. 

Happy Hunting! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Leaping over Lent!

February 2016 is a leap year.

Children's Book/Work-in-Progress

Instead of leaping over the file of unpublished manuscripts cluttering my office space I decided that since I now have an in-house illustrator I would attempt to publish one of them.

All creative writers have their muse and mine happens to be milk chocolate candy accompanied by a cup of coffee.  

Consequently what I would really like to leap over is Lent. This year in support of my vegetarian daughter I gave up meat along with chocolate candy for Lent.

My Lenten sacrifice has nothing to do with religion. If it did I wouldn’t be posting it on this blog.  My own personal belief is that posting your pay it forward good deeds and self-sacrifices all over social media does not impress Heaven.  It only annoys us heathens.

I’m giving up meat and chocolate candy to impress myself and annoy other people by proving that I can!  It could also mean dropping a few pounds due to healthier eating habits-unless you’re me. Read on….

Since I would be spending some of Lent at my parent’s home in Florida, I knew better than to classify fish or seafood as a meat. Giving up meat was sin enough as far as they were concerned. I grew up on a Protestant farm and the cows that still reside there are not being groomed for the petting zoo. Their future is in fast food, if you know what I mean.
Solomon's Happy Hill Farm Cattle

Watching the cows graze did nothing to diminish my resolve to go without meat. Also it helped that the Florida Panhandle where I’m from has some of the best southern fried seafood you’ll ever eat. This trip I went to David's Catfish House

Doing without meat is not so bad when you have fried seafood as an option.  It has been rather unfortunate for my husband (who did not give up meat) and has been cheated out of his ritual BBQ pork meals that his wife no longer feels obliged serve.  

It’s not the meat, but the chocolate covered Valentine’s and now Easter candies on every store shelf I shop that’s really teaching me the meaning of Lenten sacrifice.  

I was afraid it would be after Easter and a dozen or so of those Cadbury bunny eggs before my creative abilities would flow ever again. Luckily I found a bakery the next town over from my hometown here in Tennessee!  

It’ll take a few more trips to decide, but I think the cream horns may be even more productive and muse worthy than a Hershey bar.   I’ll let you know….

Simply Sweet Bakery