No chocolates or roses. Equal living-wage pay, please.

No roses, chocolates or congratulations, please!  Do you know these women? Guess why not!

Who was Anita Whitney?

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Leader and early founder of the American Communist Party, she was an ardent suffragist and working women’s rights advocate who went to jail for her beliefs.

Who was Valeska Bary?

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Working within the government, she advocated zealously for the minimum wage for women with the Department of Social Welfare in California, and went on to an appointment to the Federal War Labor Policies Board in 1918.

Women’s Day was designed to commemorate the women who led the Labor Movement in 1900-1920 and it began as a socialist “holiday”. No roses, chocolates or congratulations please. Just an equal right to work, to fair and living-wage pay, to benefits and to success on our own merits, thank you. ‪#‎WomensHistoryMonth‬ ‪#‎InternationalWomensDay‬

the harlots pen

Read more in The Harlot’s Pen, the story of women in the labor movement in 1920, as told by a woman journalist, through the eyes of a prostitute. And no chocolates, thanks.

Spotlight: 7 easy places your readers can discover you

I interviewed my book club last night. All are women 50 years old or more, and very much part of my reader demographic. They all read at least a book a week. They rarely if ever read romance or science fiction, and read memoirs sparingly. They like literary fiction, biographies, historical fiction and classics.

As a writer, I want to reach them. So do so many of my writer-friends. What to do? So I asked!

I asked, “How do you find books to read?”

Their answers, in order of frequency, were a little bit of a surprise.
1. Recommendations from friends.
2. Visits to indie bookstores, where the covers are turned to face the room.
3. Staff picks at indie bookstores.
4. Amazon “people who bought this book also bought…”
5. NPR book reviews.
6. New York Times book reviews.
7. Oprah and New Yorker.

Hmmm… I was noticing a trend. Are we the only ones still haunting the bookstores? No, it turns out that indie bookstores have grown in the last year. And they influence our generation of reader. This could pose a problem, though, for indie-published authors with no reach into bookstores. But indie bookstores are far more open to hand-selling, or visits from a local author. Hope kindled!

Indie-published writers aren’t likely to get on NPR, NYT, or Oprah, but we can get on our local radio stations, get featured in our home-town papers, and give talks at our community libraries. It’s a matter of scale.

I asked, “Do you ever buy a book because you heard about it on Facebook or other social media?” The answers were again interesting, in part because I asked this as an open question.

1. No, but if I like an author will follow him/her on Facebook.
2. No, but if I see the cover on Pinterest I might look the book up. (That’s a “yes” to me, but I was interviewing, not arguing.)
3. No, but if I like a book I will read the other books, and tell my friends, sometimes on Facebook and maybe post the cover on Pinterest. (another covert yes.)

So, if you belong to a few groups on Facebook, and you’re talking about books, your Facebook friends are listening!

I asked what social media they were on. Again, the answers reflected my demographic. Studies show that women over 50 are all over Facebook! Our results:
1. Facebook. All but 1 member use Facebook, and most visited it at least once daily. Sure, we all started out using it to stalk our kids, but now that they’re grown, we use it for fun, family and entertainment.
2. Pinterest. Half of us enjoy Pinterest, mostly for fun.

I was the only one on Twitter, a couple of us were on Instagram but limited only to closest friends and family. 
So, that’s my book club for you. Maybe interesting… and maybe not.

Readers vary by genre, age, gender, location, and taste. Again, my book club readers may be different from yours. I’m sure there’s a scientist can say this better, but I want to point out that this is a small sampling, and the questions I asked were open ended, so maybe they use Goodreads and no one thought to mention it, maybe because we’re older we’re more likely to rely on brick-and-mortar indie bookstores, maybe the fact that there are no big bookstores in our community right now skews things…

So perhaps you can poll your own book clubs and see where they find their books and share this info here as a comment!

Showing our face to the world

One of the oddest things about being a writer today is the need to post, blog, publicize and talk, not about our books, but about ourselves. Gone are the days when the books spoke for themselves, and writers could, well, write. Now we talk about our personal lives, our hopes and fears, and share intimacies, all in the name of building a community.

It’s true, there are lots and lots of books out there, and it’s almost impossible, without a big, moneyed machine behind you, to be heard above the noise. How on earth will I get you to read my book? How will I get you to read this blog post, and then, maybe, look at the book?

The truth is that I don’t know. But I am part of the new world order, so I too have learned to share. In fact, there’s a beautiful post about growing up in Mexico today in Arleen William’s Finding Home series. Please read it, and love it and share it! There’s also and interview with me at Indie Book Promo, where I disclose the secrets to writing…among other things.

Do come and share my writing life with me. It’s all part of living today, so join me on line, and let’s live together. Claudia

When Art Matters #jesuischarlie

As a writer I join the thousands of voices responding to the horrors in France yesterday. I should be better at putting into words the anger and disgust I feel at the massacre of Parisian cartoonists and the two policemen who were gunned down with them at Charlie Hebdo. While the civilized world expresses its shock we marvel at the power of the cartoon to incite this unpardonable violence.

Once again we are reminded, art matters. Words matter, songs matter, pictures and theater and dance matter. We express the orthodox and the outrageous, the pedestrian and the political. When art challenges or offends it fulfills one of its missions. When art delights, soothes or comforts, when it enlightens or surprises, then too it fulfills its mission. And when human beings lose their lives for the right to create this art, art matters.

My son, an actor, has said he wants to create theater that matters. While he would love to make a living wage, his goal is to create, through performance, selection, production or education, art that changes the world. Maybe the world of one audience member, or maybe a nation, but ultimately a theater of change. To him, art has always mattered.

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis posted today, “If a little cartoon can threaten your belief system, get a new belief system.” Brilliant though he his, I must disagree in part with him. A cartoon should threaten your belief system, make you think and worry, infuriate you or challenge you. That’s its mission. Your belief system, if it’s any good, should be able to respond to the challenge, and you should be able to analyze, accept or reject the purported insight of the cartoon. But where we agree is that the cartoon matters.

To the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, art mattered. To the policeman responding to the gunshots, who too gave his life, service to his city and its citizens mattered. To Salmon Rushdie, to the Scandinavian cartoonists, to film-makers in the McCarthy era, to all of us as writers and artists, actors and policemen, lawyers and teachers, art is the change we want to see in the world. An MFA can be more powerful than an MBA. It’s all in how you use the weapon, isn’t it?