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Archive for March, 2010

I am still roaming around aimlessly on the internet. I am told that social networking should not look like it is marketing. Are you kidding? It seems that ninety percent of what I see is obvious marketing. Occasionally I read a post from someone who admits they have been kicked off Facebook or Twitter for marketing, but then they turn around and open another account that is named something else and go right back to the same program advertising a product, a business, or a service which they themselves offer.

I must admit that there are some groups that call themselves shameless self promoters. I don’t have a problem with that and I guess the social networking sites don’t either. Then there are groups who want to link their websites up which is supposed to help you sell whatever you’re selling. So, I found people pushing their real estate office, mortgage company, sunflower products, beauty products, custon bakery goods, etc. I am interested in people knowing about my memoir, Becoming Alice. I don’t seem to fit in anywhere.

Well, that’s nothing new for me. If you’d read my book, you’d know why. WWII had a lot to do with that, but that’s over now. So here I am still strying to find my niche. I thought one way was to ask those of you who are gracious enough to be following me, to let me know where you come from. Are you history buffs … adolescents … Jewish … family therapists … or what? Why is it that you are interested in an author who wrote a true story about a kid who escaped from Nazi persecution, grew up feeling different and an outsider, much like a fish out of water, lived within a mixed  up, fighting, agonizing family with unsolved problems, trying to get to a better place in live.

From which one of the niches do you come from? Please introduce yourself with a comment.

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I am a newcomer to the internet, and to social networking and blogging. I probably would have had to learn how to get on the internet for the sole purpose of being able to email my friends … and maybe to receive confirmations of purchases. Of course I would have had to learn how to make purchases online. I did all that. I learned how to make reservations with the airlines and book hotels on Expedia. I learned how to buy books on Amazon and clothes from the Land’s End catalog. And I learned how to communicate with iUniverse, the publisher of my memoir Becoming Alice.

Then I got sucked into pulling information out of Google and found out that as a published author I should be social networking and blogging. I think the idea is that my presence on these sites would stimulate sales of my book. However, I was warned not to let anyone know that was my intention because I could get kicked off the sites. Lucky for me, it has turned out that most of my connections on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn  aren’t all that interested in my book. I think they are there to hauck their own book. But that’s okay. I think there are some very interesting people among them that I am happy to be connected to.

The next step is to start blogging, which I did about a year ago.  I don’t know much about who is reading my blogs because from over a thousand blogs which I have written, I have received only 26 comments. I am happy to say they are good ones. The big surprise has been that I have actually enjoyed blogging. Perhaps that is because I am a writer at heart, and not much of a salesperson.

My curiosity made me read an article written about how to be successful at blogging.  I found out that there are two kinds of bloggers, niche bloggers and generalist bloggers. I tried to figure out what I am and had to admit that I woud fall into the generalist department. That is because niche bloggers aim their blogs at a target audience and I have never been able to figure out a specific target audience for Becoming Alice. It seems to appeal to both men and women, perhaps a bit more to women. It appeals to history buffs, especially those interested in WWII. And young people, especially adolescents who seem to identify with the young Alice. So, I’m all over the map with trying to find a niche audience and I kind of like it that way.  I won’t get into trouble with being caught marketing and I can write about whatever comes into my mind.

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I don’t understand the internet very well. I am neither  in the age group that learns as fast as the speed of lightning  nor in the age group that socializes with friends via the internet. I’ve come to it past those years. I play catch-up with the technology. It seems that as soon as I become familiar with one site or learn to master one progam, I become interest in half a dozen more sites and programs. Therefore, I am forever blown away by what the internet can do.

Two things have recently happened to me using my computer that shocked me into disbelief. The first was my receiving an e-mail from an editor of Reed Magazine, a quarterly publication sent to all people who have had any connection to Reed College. If you’ve read my memoir, Becoming Alice, you might remember that I spent my freshman year of college at that school. The e-mail asked me if I’d object to their placing a short bio of me in the Class Notes section of their magazine, and a short synopsis of Becoming Alice in the Readiana section of their publication. The Readiana section publicizes former Reed students who are authors and the books they have written. Are you kidding? Of course, my answer was, “Please do!”

I was amazed that they knew I’d written a book and asked how they found me. Apparently, the search engines and spiders on the internet … I don’t really know how they work … will pick up on the words “Reed College” for them.  I’d written about my time at Reed in my book and they had somehow gone inside my memoir to find me. It did give me a bit of a jolt in terms of privacy, buy hey, isn’t it great that Becoming Alice would be travelling elsewhere again.

Then the next amazing thing happened. I received another e-mail out of the blue. It came from the son of a person I’d written about in my memoir, that person being the friend of my father with whom he studied to pass the Boards for licencing physicians in the state of Washington. He had read the my book in the Readiana section of Reed Magazine, bought the book, and come to the part where I describe his father and mine studying together in our living room.

From there the adventure is easier to follow. The son gets on my website, www.alicerene.com, finds out I’m on Facebook and sends me a message. I don’t really use Facebook that much, I prefer to telephone my friends, but in this case, Facebook worked great for me. Since connecting, this son and I have exchanged memories of our two families backgrounds and experiences. Amazing … and so much fun. I have a new-found respect for the power of the internet.

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I have just received an invitation from my cousin inviting me to her Seder dinner at Passover. I accepted with pleasure. I don’t see my cousin often, perhaps twice a year, and I thought back to the last time we were together. It happened to be at dinner at a local restaurant with our husbands included.  During the course of the meal, her husband asked me about my memoir, Becoming Alice. I was happy to tell him that, to my surprise,  Alice was doing very well. My cousin’s husband put the spoon back into its bowl and looking me straight in the eye, asked, “Is your book making any money?”

I didn’t know how to answer him. What did he mean by “making money?” How much money did one need to make in order to be successful? Would my book  need to be a best seller to make any money? I think I could answer that one myself and the answer is a resounding YES! However, I have  read an article by an author of a best seller who, by the time he paid for all his promotions, ended up with a profit that he termed “pocket change.”

When I got over the shock of hearing his question, I was able to find my personal answer. “One doesn’t write books to make money?” I explained that if your object was to get rich, you’d be far better off to find a career on Wall Street or in corporate America. Writers write for the sake of writing. They write because they have something to say. They write because it is their compultion. They simply can’t “not write.

Money? What has writing to do with money? Of course, there are those who do strike it rich writing a best seller, especially if it is made into a movie. But there is no way they could ever have foretold that happening. The chances for those successes, in my opinion, are like playing the lottery. Sure, you can make money with book, but you better have a day job along the way.

I haven’t hit paydirt with Becoming Alice, but I consider it being a success every time even one person buys it.  I get paid every time someone writes a review or sends me an email, telling me how much they enjoyed reading it.

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I can’t count the number of times I heard people say, “I could write a book.” What I think they are saying, is that the thing that just happened to them, or the difficult situation they find themselves in, or the problems they’ve had to overcome, or the multitude of reasons out there, are so unique and interesting, that zillions of prople would be interested in reading about them.  That could be. Even if they aren’t about something that has never happened before, the book may become a best seller because so many readers woud be able to relate to the subject matter, the characters, their particular personalities so strongly that the book would be successful.

My own opinion is that people are more interested in reading about things they know very little about. The first time I was told to write a book was when I was about nine years old. It was September and I’d returned to school after an almost endless summer vacation. I was placed into a new class with a new teacher. Her first assignment was to ask us to write an autobiography about ourselves so that she could get to know us bettter. Of course, in my class of second or third generation of Italian Americans, my autobiography stood out like a kitten in a dog run. Who else would have written about a Jewish refugee girl who had gone through a harrowing escape from Nazi persecution in Europe? I got an A+ and told the teacher, “Yes, I will write a book.”

I forgot about that remark until recent years. I was too busy living my life in the meantime. It was not until my grandson brought me back to those early years and made me realize that my story was indeed interesting. It was the impetus for me to write Becoming Alice, my memoir. I intended it to be for my friends and family, but if my sales are any indication of the number of others who found it meanaingful, I was wrong. It was the begining of an adventure of a lifetime for me as an author.

What I have learned is that everyone’s life is unique. If you think your story is one for the books, go ahead and write it down.

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Going to War

The reality of going to war came to me last night again as I was watching yet another episode of the old BBC series of Upstairs Downstairs. This particular one took place in 1914 as England was getting ready get into the war that eventually became World War I. What was so remarkable was the enthusiasm that everyone had to get into the war in the first place. We see a great deal of patriotism by most everyone, people wanting to fight for their country, for royalty, for a place in history. Young and old men alike wanted to get “into the fight.” One in particular was angry that he had been assigned a desk job instead of being sent to the trenches. Men in uniform were fawned over by their family, friends, and even total strangers. They saw themselves as heroes. They anticipated they’d be decorated with medals. They could have done nothing better with their lives than to go into the military.

I saw that same ferver take place among my neighbors as a small child in Vienna in 1938. If you remember in my memor, Becoming Alice, I wrote about watching Hitler’s band of murderous Nazi soldiers marched down my street. I witnessed my fellow Austrians pour onto the street waving flags and shouting welcoming greetings to this army that made no secret about going to war and ruling the world. Young Austrian boys and men coudn’t wait to join in the fun.

Not in WWI or WWII did anyone ever anticipate that a son or a husband, a well-liked neighbor, or a friend might be killed, or maimed for life. No one ever considered losing the battle. No one could imagine that bombs might destroy their homes and kill wives and children. No one thought that London might be bombed and Berlin reduced to rubble and that a genocide would take place.

What did these enthusiastic supporters of war thing “war” was? And why are people, even today, continuing to be at war? Is war really a human condition and need, like eating and sleeping, that we cannot do without?

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At home we subscribe to Netflix and watch a lot of foreign films and also films that we may have wanted to see, but never got the time to do it. Never having enough time applies to a whole lot of other things for us. Lately we have gotten a few discs of the old BBC productions of “Upstairs / Downstairs” and have become totally addicted to the series. Along with the settings of stately mansions in which the aristocracy lived and the incredibly ornate clothes and hats worn by women, we have been reminded of the roles each of the sexes played in that era.

Usually a patriarch ruled his family, unless of course he married money and then her family ruled his family. Women were required to obey their husbands … unless their money came from her family. Women were not allowed to cook in the servant’s quarters, take a job, vote in elections, or behave in any way which might embarrass their husbands.

Slowly, the rules began to change. Suffregetes demanded voting rights and were jailed for their efforts. The world wars brought women into hospitals tending soldiers in battle; women became the workers who built airplanes and tanks, and tended the businessess that men left behind at home. They did not return to their parlors to do needlepoint.

More recently women have demanded and gotten the right to serve with our armies in war zones; they have risento new heights in the corporate world, even though their salaries may not have equaled those of men. They have been competitive in sports,  art, literature, teaching, universities, etc., etc. Still in many areas, there was a “glass ceiling” hanging over women’s heads.

Yesterday, I was overjoyed to see that another crack was put into that ceiling by the selection of our first woman Film Director, Kathryn Bigelow. Right on, I say!!

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