Author Archives: kendrabonnett

I Can’t Grow Dirt

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #29

I sort of hate admitting this to you all, especially given the many exceptionally dedicated gardeners among you. Susan Tweit and Susan Albert particularly put me to shame. Every time I look at one of the beautiful flowers they post to Facebook I’m consumed by a mixture of disgust and envy.

Disgust as I try to convince myself that gardening is a waste of time. Envy because secretly I’d like to be good at it.

See, here’s a picture of my thumb. Notice how brown it is.

The proverbial brown thumb...up close and personal

Matilda puts me to shame, too. Her gardens and landscaping in Gilroy, California, were a sight to behold…dozens of olive trees, artichokes, figs, Kefir lime, herbs…thick stands of lemongrass. Beautiful hedges. And oh the Meyer Lemons. Now she’s in the early phases of creating her gardens in Corvallis, Oregon. I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m looking forward to going out in October and seeing all that she’s planted.

Two years ago on a trip to California to visit Matilda, Jodi Avery, a friend and student of Matilda’s and mine gave me three heirloom tomato plants. Oh so carefully I carried those little sprouts home from California. Since I had driven out from Maine bringing them home was easy. I set the small pots on the car’s dashboard on the passenger side. By the looks I got along the way, I think people thought I was transporting Cannabis sativa rather than Solanum lycopersicum.

Each day when I put new ice in my cooler, I poured off the ice water and used that to water my little tomato plants. And by the time I got home they had actually grown quite a bit.

This time I was going to succeed. I could just feel it.

It was early June, which can still be quite cool in Maine. I waited almost two weeks before I planted my three tomatoes outside. And things looked good…for a while. My little plants seemed to thrive. I actually had to stake them, just as I’d seen my father do every summer.

I was going to have tomatoes. I could see the tiny flowers forming. In weeks I had fruit. I watered and watched them grow daily. I could already taste the heirloom tomatoes I was going to have. Feeling confident, I began planning my first heirloom tomato salad. I’d cool the tomatoes in the fridge—just enough to be refreshing but not so cold as to hide the rich flavors.

I had started going through my mother’s recipes looking for the perfect dressing for my heirloom tomato salad…when I saw it. It was a morning in early August. And two of the plants were droopy. Then the third. Flowers failed to result in fruit, and the fruit already formed and that had been growing daily seemed to stop. And only one tomato had begun to turn red. Something was wrong.

You think, Kendra?!!

They said it was blight. I say it was my brown thumb.

Three tomato plants, and I harvested exactly one, undersized tomato. But it did taste good.

Now that's a head of lettuce.

The next summer I didn’t even bother to try. Once again I gave up my secret dream to grow vegetables. But 2011 is shaping up to be different. Join me at to learn how I turned around my horticultural luck. Here’s a hint: It starts with structure.

And speaking of structure, Matilda and I have just announced our all-new, two-day workshop that we’re holding in Las Vegas this October. It’s called Lucky Sevens! 7 Steps to Winning Story Structure that Takes the Gamble Out of Your Memoir Writing. We’ve developed a process that we call Structural Alchemy, and it’s sort of a prequel to Writing Alchemy. As Matilda says, “Even the elements of powerful writing can collapse under their own weight without a well-designed and executed framework.” We hope you can join us for fun and writing in Vegas. You can learn more about our Structural Alchemy workshop by clicking here.

Is Memoir the Origin of Storytelling?

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #28

This past weekend, I received an email telling me about, a new storytelling engine for creatives. It’s in beta now, and I’ve signed up to test it…just as soon as they’re ready to let some more of us in.

I’m not sure that is going to be some sort of incredible productivity and creativity-enhancing tool for memoir writers, but you never know. I’ll check it out and get back to you on that front. Or follow the link above and sign up to test it yourself. Also, today over on Women’s Memoirs (Memoir…it is about the story) I have a sister post that lists some of the interesting tools that I’ve found online that just might help aspiring memoir writers think through their story lines. I hope you’ll take a look.

And on Thursday, please be sure to check out Bettyann Schmidt’s ScrapMoir post on Women’s Memoirs. She’s got a special gift for everyone. I think you’re going to like it; Matilda and I are thrilled to be able to make this available.

Is a Traditional Storyteller a Memoirist?

So thanks to the email, I got to thinking about storytellers. They’ve been part of our culture for such a long time…centuries before we could write. In fact, storytelling is more of an oral tradition that a written one. My mind kept questioning as my eyes and ears wandered across Google, YouTube, blogs in search of anything on the storytelling tradition.

Cave paintings date back at least 35,000 years. We have records of the stories and tales from Medieval minstrels and Renaissance bards. The fairy tales Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected in the 18th century had already been passed down from family to family, generation to generation. Hymns. Greek myths. The oral tradition of our native American tribes. Heroic epics…Gilgamest, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, Childe Harold. The Bhagavad Gita. Even the stories depicting Sasquatch date back to and have been passed around since the middle of the 19th century.

And the list goes on. But I got to thinking, how many of these stories were originally what we might call memoir vignettes? In each case, was there once a person who told the story in terms of his or her actual life? Did their children go into the woods, never to return? Was a curious lad killed by wolves? Did a handsome brother seek to admire his reflection once too often and fall into a river and drown?

I’m wondering if what we call myth, story and fairy tale today was–once upon a time–someone’s story. A memoir captures not only the events of our lives, but the thoughts, fears, emotions we carry within us. The ability to turn some of their experience into metaphor and allegory only suggests their talent as storytellers.

And the rest? Well what if the stories as they have come down through the ages is the result of the biggest, most elaborate game of Telephone we have ever imagined?

Will Social Reading Sell Books?

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #27

If you haven’t been over to Women’s Memoirs since the beginning of the new year, you might not know that we’ve been running an 11 in 11 series of posts. Starting on January 1st, each day we’ve been posting a list of 11 tips designed to inspire, motivate and prompt writers to move forward with their writing in 2011. Here’s the full list:

11 Memoir Predictions

Journal Writing–11 Tips to Stay Motivated

11 Memoir Writing Tips to Remember

11 Memoir Writing Prompts

11 Memoirs to Read in 2011

11 Tips for Saving Your Story in 2011

11 Memoir Contests for 2011

11 Tips from Editors to Consider in 2011

11 Ways to Use Writing for Healing

And that brings you up to today’s post: 11 Tips and Insights for Marketing, Publishing (and Selling) Your Memoir in 2011. This is my post, and originally I was supposed to post last Friday. But the more I got into my subject, the deeper in websites, flux and new models I found myself. I had to beg Matilda for more time as I dug deeper, trotted out my iPad to test sites, and began downloading a wide range of ebooks and generally try to make sense of what is shaping up to become a publishing sea change.

Without a doubt, our industry is changing. How it falls out is really anyone’s guess today. Oh make no mistake about it, ebooks are here to stay. What’s in question is just about everything else: What will be the most popular format? How much will readers pay for ebooks? Can traditional publishers make money selling ebooks? Does this make publishers out of every author? How long will the traditional book survive? Can publishers make friends on Facebook and gain followers on Twitter?

And the biggest question of all…Do we want to become Social Readers?

I don’t know the answer. Nor do I think anyone else knows today. But we have to consider that the Internet and social media generally have spawned a cultural conversation. We’re sharing our thoughts, emotions, opinions, photos and activities on Facebook and Twitter. We’re making recommendations and posting product and book reviews. We’re using mobile computing to encourage our friends to join us at stores and restaurants around our cities and towns. But are these the basic building blocks for a new way to sell books? Amazon certainly is the pioneer. They’ve built their book sales around reader reviews and recommendations.

When you consider that more than 500 million people are on Facebook, some 145 million have Twitter accounts (although I’ve heard that as few as 30,000 are active Tweeters) and YouTube receives more than 2 billion views a day, social media is a force to reckon with. Social networking has caught the attention of even the largest of traditional publishers.

Publishers are looking for ways to use social media to sell books through something they are calling social reading. And I find this fascinating. Reading is one of the most single, solitary and personal activities we do. Can publishers turn it into a group activity where we discuss the books we’re reading, share our reviews, discuss concepts? In short, can publishers turn the Internet into one giant book club?

I’ve spent time looking at some of the current generation of sites, and I encourage you to do the same. There’s a revolution taking place, and as writers we need to consider how we can put this change to work for us as we try to promote our books. I’m in the process of writing a lot more about this in the weeks to come, including the fact that I’m developing an ebook on the subject that we’ll be making available in the next few weeks.

I invite you to read my 11 Tips and Insights for Marketing, Publishing (and Selling) Your Memoir in 2011 and then visit some of the top social reading sites:








I went into my analysis being very pessimistic about the future of publishing and opportunities for new authors. I am coming away from my research with a different (and more encouraged) view. As writers we need to compete harder than ever, but there are being developed and many new tools that will make it easier than ever for us to produce our books. Our new challenge will be to understand the tools available to us online and how we can make them work for us. Stay tuned.

Prepare for Your Book’s Publication with Social Media Marketing (the YouTube edition)

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #26

It was a dark and stormy night…and day…and night…

We’re on day five of a seven day storm here in Maine, and I feel as though it’s time to break out the dingy. That’ll do. No Ark necessary. I only have three cats, so I won’t be marching the animals in two by two.

It’s been raining since Thursday, and I have only two things to say:

First, thank goodness it’s only rain. If this had been snow, we’d all be climbing out of second-story windows. I still can’t imagine that much snow, but it’s a story I grew up hearing. My grandmother spoke about South Dakota winters in the early 1900s so brutal that not only did they exit through upstairs windows but four babies who would have been my aunts and uncles all died. In winter, my grandparents actually tried to keep each of the newborns warm in the oven–a sort of pioneer incubator. Wow.

Well since I’ve lived here in Downeast Maine, I’ve again heard the stories about house-bound winter folks used to climb out the second-story window. The worst I’ve seen is snow up to my chest.

My second “thank goodness” is that as the rain and wind kick up outside, I can sit here inside. Safe. Cozy. Warm. Dry. I’m wearing a smile because I’m prepared. The terrace furniture is stored in the basement. I’ve added an extra cord of wood to the woodpile. The lawn is mowed neat and short, and the John Deere tractor is winterized and covered. I’ve stocked up the freezer with chickens, fish filets, venison and an assortment of vegetables. I’ve even bought 5 gallons of kerosene and several lanterns. I’m ready for whatever winter throws at me.

Such preparation wasn’t always the case. When I first moved Downeast in 2003, I didn’t think any farther ahead than dinner. What do you expect? I grew up in suburban Connecticut. Most anything I needed was within my immediate grasp. Town was just six minutes away. Every half hour, I could catch a train and in 40 minutes be in New York’s Grand Central Station.

My transition from a bustling cosmopolitan life to rural Downeast Maine didn’t happen overnight. Oh no. First there were the distances to deal with. Portland, our biggest city, is four hours away. The closest Staples is more than an hour away in Bangor. We’re so remote that I once saw a bear crossing the road in front of me while driving to the supermarket. And another time, while driving to Bangor for a toner cartridge, I saw a moose standing beside the highway.

When I first moved Downeast, I spent half the day driving. I was going to Bangor four, sometimes five, times a week and occasionally twice a day. “Oh, I need printer paper.” Jump in the car and go. “Alice, my Airedale, needs her special dog food.” Off we go. “I feel like going to the library and researching lobsters for a story I’m writing.” Why not?

Because the library is an hour and a half away; that’s why not.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me almost six months to figure out that I could plan ahead, keep a list of items that were getting low, and even stock up on essentials–an extra tube of toothpaste, a few boxes of Kleenex and a big bag of kitty litter. And that was just the beginning of my transition. In another three months, I was going to Bangor only every two weeks. Within six months, I was down to once a month.

My final conversion to Downeast Maine life came with my understanding that country people prepare for winter. They don’t wake up one morning to four inches of snow and turn to the dog and say, “Hmmm. I wonder who I can get to plow the driveway? Well I guess I better buy a snow shovel.”

I’ve come a long way in seven years. The proof: It’s been six months since I’ve been to Bangor. And, yes, I feel smug this winter.

Prepare for Your Book Launch

Since preparedness is the theme of this post, I would be remiss not to make the link between life’s preparations and starting early with your book marketing. If you haven’t been over to Women’s Memoirs in a while, I’d like to invite you to check out our series of Lists for Writers posts. Our goal is to help you get started early with your book marketing and platform development.

This week, we’ve posted on using YouTube as part of your book promotion: Lists for Writers: 10 Tips for Using YouTube to Promote Your Memoir (or Any Book)

In past weeks, we’ve also posted:

Lists for Writers: 10 Tips for Blogging Your Memoir or Any Book

Lists for Writers: 10 Tips for Putting Twitter to Work

As with all aspects of social media marketing, you need to prepare ahead and not wait until your book is published. Give yourself six months to a year for your efforts to catch on.

Be the Pied Piper of Blogging

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #25

From the time I was very young, I loved the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. While the story was intriguing, in my case I’m sure it was the illustrations that really captivated me. My mother, Moo as we called her, was a commercial artist and most of her work was for children’s books. Well,  that and Snap, Crackle and Pop of Rice Krispies fame.

Since she was an illustrator, our library at home was filled with the work of famous illustrators. I was particularly mesmerized by the fairy tales of Gustaf Tenggren, the nymphs and naturescapes of Maxfield Parrish, the trolls and scary trees of Arthur Rackham and the pirates of Howard Pyle. I would look at their work for hours at a time, imagining the stories represented in the pictures. Before I could read, I’d make up my own stories to accompany the illustrations.

When I was four, my father, mother and I drove from Connecticut to California. We were six weeks on the road, and my father bought a snappy powder blue Dodge convertible with huge tail fins for the trip. We saw a lot of the country on that trip, and despite my age I  have many vivid memories.

be the pied piper of bloggingI remember the day Moo and I were on Market Street in San Francisco. She treated me to lunch at the Garden Court in the Palace Hotel. I don’t recall what I ate, but knowing me it was probably a fruit salad with a scoop of sherbet. I do, however, remember staring at the glass ceiling and thinking how easy it would be for someone to break it by throwing a rock. I was a little frightened that something might happen while I was sitting underneath it.

Needless to say, we made it through our meal without incident. After lunch, we strolled down one of the hotel’s corridors. “I think I have a very special surprise for you, Kendra,” Moo said as we stopped outside a door. “Now you wait here while I go check to see if it’s all right.”

She was back in an instant and held the heavy door open for me as I walked into a dark room. “It’s this way,” she said, taking my hand. A few more steps and I was standing in front of the hotel’s bar. Above the bar was the biggest painting I had ever seen. It was Maxfield Parrish’s Pied Piper and it was beautiful.

“Come sit up here,” the bartender said to me, pointing to a barstool. “I have a very special job for you. I want you to count all the children in the picture, and if you get it right, I’ll give you a Shirley Temple.” I set about my task. I don’t recall how many children I counted or if I even got it right, but I did get my free drink. What a great day.

The Pied Piper as Metaphor

When I’m working with a writer or entrepreneur to help her establish herself on the Internet, I often use the Pied Piper as a metaphor for how she needs to work online.

It all starts with a blog. I believe that anyone who is trying to create a presence on the Internet needs a blog. But starting a blog without learning how to make your prospective audience know of your existence is a waste of energy.

No one is going to know about about your blog and all the wonderful stories and information you have to share unless you show them the way to your blogsite. The fact is, there are hundreds of millions–maybe as many as 600 million–blogs on the Internet. Getting found is an uphill battle…unless you are a Pied Piper.

Learning how to increase your visibility online and get the most out of a blog is a huge topic. I’ve just barely brushed the surface of this topic this week on my Lists for Writers post. This week it’s 10 Tips for Blogging Your Memoir or Any Book.

I want you to pay special attention to the topic of guest blogging because it’s an excellent way to gain attention. The people who start reading your guest posts on other sites may just follow you home to your blog…hence you become the Pied Piper of Blogging. Like Matilda Butler and me, many of the women who post here on Story Circle’s Telling HerStories have their own blogs. I hope we’ll all enchant you enough over time so you follow us home.

And if you have a blog but are not yet guest blogging somewhere, I hope you’ll consider giving it a try. You can guest blog right here by contacting Amber Starfire. And Matilda and I are always happy to make room for a guest blogger on our Women’s Memoirs; all you have to do is suggest a topic. We’ll be waiting for you.

Making Marketing, Publishing and Social Media Work For You…One List at a Time

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #24

Congratulations to Amber Starfire for this seamless move to the platform. Nice job, Amber.

Many of you are on Facebook. I know because we’re Facebook Friends. Some of you are on LinkedIn, and we’re connected there too. I read the blogs of a few of you, too.

That’s all a good start, but frankly every writer–whether published or aspiring to that first book contract–should be using social media for all its worth. Here are just a few reasons why. You can:

  • Create a platform (a topic) upon which to build your message and awareness for your work.
  • Build your web presence. It’s not enough to be online or to have a blog; your prospective readers need to know you’re out there and how to find you.
  • Get yourself on the first page of Google for your best keywords, which will ensure that even more people know what you’re doing online.
  • Find your prospective audience by joining other social media sites and groups and networking with members.
  • Alert your audience every time you post something new.
  • Tell agents and publishers about the following you have online…it may make the difference between getting a contract or not.

And this is why Matilda Butler and I have started “Lists for Writers” on our Women’s Memoirs blogsite. Each week, we compile a list of at least 10 links, tips, tweets, and YouTube videos on some aspect of marketing, publishing or social networking, and we develop these lists with the needs of writers in mind. We annotate the listings with our thoughts and personal experiences.

Are You Tweeting?

Yesterday (Sunday) I posted “Lists for Writers: 10 Tips for Putting Twitter to Work.” Twitter has to be THE most misunderstood and under-utilized social media tool on the Internet. It was launched in 2006, and I was among the early users. At the time, I was providing some marketing and social networking advice to young musicians and YouTube celebrities. I could see the potential for building a live connection with fans through Twitter. If the artists could encourage their fans to follow them on Twitter, they could send out real-time comments about where the bands were appearing, dedicate songs to their Twitter followers, shout out comments and phrases from videos and songs that mean something to fans, and a lot more.

It worked, and I knew that was just the beginning for Twitter. But as I’ve said, Twitter is misunderstood by many. In fact, a lot of people are turned off because they don’t see the point. They can’t write much within the 140-character limit. They don’t care to know what someone is having for dinner or that they just came in from walking the dog. And it’s true, you do find a lot of that on Twitter…but not as much as there used to be. People are learning how to communicate effectively, connect with audiences, share personal but relevant information and links, use hashtags (#) to start discussions and search the huge database of information, ideas and trends stored on Twitter. This is a rich tool that’s only now coming into its own.

Putting Lists for Writers to Work for You

I’ve put together this week’s “Lists for Writers” to help you get started with Twitter or put it to better use. You can find Women’s Memoirs on Twitter and I have my personal Pookakoo account. I hope to see you all on Twitter. And I hope you’ll become regular readers of our weekly Lists for Writers. In the past few weeks, we’ve posted “10 Tips for Writing Your Memoir,” “10 Tips for Building a Writing Platform for Your Memoir, Book or ebook,” and “10 Tips for Marketing Your Memoir, Book or ebook,” to list a few.

What Would You Like to Know More About?

And if there’s a topic you’re interested in having us list, drop me an email or leave a comment on this week’s Twitter list or here.

Puppies, Divorce and Memoir…There is a Connection

Kendra Bonnett–Getting Read #23

Quinn I'm in Connecticut this week doing a favor for two very dear friends. They had an opportunity to go to Mexico for a week but couldn't find anyone local to take care of their puppy, cat and two horses. So, I'm house, dog, cat and horse sitting.

Quinn, the puppy is a beautiful English Setter with a heart of gold. He's about eight months old and brimming with youthful energy. In short, he's into everything and driving me crazy. Yesterday he broke into the special area where we put out the cat's food. When I discovered what he'd done, it was too late. He'd eaten the cat's food…and since I couldn't find the bowl anywhere I began to think he'd eaten that too! I found the bowl about six hours later…after checking every room and under every piece of furniture. Twice. I'd forgotten how much attention a puppy requires.

Quinn likes to run into the woods where he picks up ticks. He transferred one onto me yesterday. I'm paranoid of Lyme Disease so I freaked. Today, I walked him on a leash. He chases the neighbor cat that ventures into the yard, steals my slippers and follows me wherever I go (including the bathroom). You haven't lived until you've been puppy slimed as you step out of the shower.

But what does this have to do with memoir writing and divorce? Don't worry, I'll explain. It took me awhile to see the connection too. I watch this dog all day and realize that every day he confronts something new in his life…the leaf that flutters by and scares him…the little calico cat next door who comes up to the slider and peers nose to nose at Quinn…the pumpkin on the doorstep that needed to be told off with a good barking…the stairs leading to the dark, forbidden basement.

Someone going through divorce for the first time must feel a lot like Quinn with new and frightening experiences cropping up almost daily…lawyers, settlements, custody, single parenting…and so much more. That's where (DWO) comes in to my story. DWO is an online magazine for “women of all ages (20s-60s) who are contemplating, moving through or beyond divorce.”

Founding editor Delaine Moore contacted me last week to tell me about the site's success to date and her plans for its future. Currently, DWO gets about 25,000 views per week and reaches some 100,000 women overall. What this means is Delaine is looking for writers on a wide range of topics, including stories, health tips, fashion advice and more. Read my post "A Call for Writers: Large Online Magazine Offers You Publishing, Publicity and Platform Building Opportunities" for all the details. I posted this yesterday and already we've been able to direct one writer to DWO. If you think you have something to say to women contemplating, facing or getting over divorce, you just might find a good platform for yourself that will give your work exposure to a large audience of women. Matilda and I will be doing a monthly writing column.

And speaking of writing, I'd like to point aspiring memoir writers to my Friday column on tips for memoir writing. Women just starting to write may find themselves facing a world of scary unknowns…just like Quinn. I'm hoping this list of links will be a good place to start. You can click here for "Lists for Writers: 10 Tips for Writing Your Memoir." I've even embedded the first part of Susan Albert's and Susan Tweit's delightful reading and conversation sponsored by The Wittliff Collections.