Writing And The Art Of Shameless Self-Promotion

Warning: Read this when you have a little extra time. On second thought, read this when you have a ton of extra time. Our columnist has included more than a few embedded links in this one! Or you could skip them!

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. ~ Steven Wright

I’m frequently asked how I come up with the topics for my columns. I write two columns weekly for Patch.com and work on several other writing projects during the week including a book I’ve been working on for a long time – a very long time!

Believe it or not, I start every column by typing, ‘by Bob Havey’, at the top of the page and then putting, ‘Bob Havey is an Easton-based freelance writer. His column, “The View From Here”, appears each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com and his other column “Take Me Back” runs every Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com’, at the bottom.

That’s it! No title. Often no clue as to what I’m going to write about – nothing! Then all I have to do is fill in everything else in the middle! I know that’s funny, but it’s the truth. That’s actually how I write my columns. Of course, filling in the middle is a bit more work. I spend a lot of time shut up in my office, listening to the voices in my head and staring at the walls.

I received a lot of feedback about last week’s column, Remembering Jack’s Café, The Hall And An Old Friend. There are substantial numbers of you townies out there, past and present, who have found the Mansfield Patch to be a great way to stay connected and, hopefully; you’ve found this column to be an entertaining, enjoyable retrospective that conjures up fond memories of yesteryear. I hope you enjoy reading my columns as much as I do writing them. I’m having a blast!

When I started writing full time, others in the business told me, “If you’re a writer, you have to get on Facebook.” I had not even an infinitesimal interest in becoming a Facebook lemming. As a matter of fact, I’d told anyone who would listen that I’d never join Facebook – never! But, after much resistance and a lot of prodding, I decided I’d at least do a little research.

I was rather surprised at what I found. Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, a book I’ve mentioned several times in past writings, and a man whom I consider somewhat of a mentor, is on Facebook. I dug a little more and found that another of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, also has a Facebook page.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “maybe there is something to this Facebook thing.” I can be very amenable when I’m not being a stubborn, thick-headed Irishman. That’s a bit of an inside joke for my friend, Fred.

Upon further investigation, I found that Donald Miller, who had authored several books I’d read, was also a facebooker. I’d written a review of Don’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Own Life, a few years back and had figuratively ripped it to shreds. In fairness to Don, his publisher had sent out error-laden Advance Reader’s Copies for review and; after reading the corrected version, I can honestly say that A Million Miles was a great read.

Still not thoroughly convinced that Facebook was for me (I told you I was thick-headed), I Googled Rob Bell, whom I had interviewed for an article published in The Burnside Writer’s Collective and found that Rob also had a presence on Facebook as does that very same Burnside Writer’s Collective and its long-time editor-in-chief, Jordan Green.

Good grief! I’ve certainly given you a lot of links to check out, haven’t I! But I did warn you in advance, so no complaining! Hey, you’re the one who chose to read this!

So, after much research, a lot of kicking and screaming and a little good old-fashioned blood-letting; I decided to join the legion of Facebookers out there and jump in- for about two days!

As soon as I activated my Facebook account and ‘friended’ a few people, all hell broke loose. I was bombarded with Wall Posts, pictures and all kinds of miscellaneous ramblings I had neither anticipated, nor asked for. Following two days of extreme trepidation and much gnashing of teeth, I apologized to my ‘friends’ and closed my Facebook account.

I received a few emails from friends asking why I’d bailed out on Facebook and offering their assistance in ‘cleaning up my page’. Realizing my problems may have been created primarily out of my own ignorance as to the inner workings of this social networking phenomenon; I acquiesced and gave it another shot.

I’ve been a Facebooker for several months now and have found it to be an invaluable tool for keeping up with family and reconnecting with old friends but, more importantly; I use it for one of my favorite pastimes – shameless self-promotion!

Facebook is a tremendous resource for sharing my column and other writings; a way to get my name and my work in front of more people. I’d guess that a little more than half the hits my column gets on Patch.com come from a link to my Facebook page. Networking is an important part of my business.

To all who said, “If you’re a writer, you have to get on Facebook”, I say, Thank You! You were right! It’s a terrific promotional tool. Of course you forgot to mention Twitter, LinkedIn, BLOG’s, personal websites and ……

Never mind. I think you get it. It’s a jungle out there in the publishing world. Shameless self-promotion! It’s what a writer does! It’s what a writer has to do to survive.

Now for a very brief flashback to Jack’s Café. My sister-in-law, Earline, or actually my ex-sister-in-law I guess. I don’t know. I can’t keep up with all this in-law, ex-in-law, and outlaw stuff. It’s much too confusing. As far as I’m concerned, she was and still is my sister-in-law. I’m not letting her off the hook that easily.

As I started to tell you before I interrupted myself; Earline reads my columns and this past week she emailed me and mentioned one of the long-time waitresses at Jack’s, Norma Melfie. Norma and Ruthie Gunrud had worked at Jack’s for a combined total of about two-hundred years I think. Okay, I may be exaggerating just a wee bit, but they worked there for a long time. Anyone who has frequented Jack’s in the past or Geno’s in their early days knows these two ladies.

Norma is the mother of my brother Bruce’s old running buddy; Joey Melfie, guitar aficionado extraordinaire. Seriously, Joey is a fantastic guitarist. He can play anything, including stuff like this. If you didn’t click on ‘this’ you’ll never know how good Joey is and it’s important that you know, so go back and click on it. Go on! Do it! And I thought I was the thick-headed one.

Norma was a sweetheart. She always called me, ‘honey’, whenever she waited on me. I was amazed that no matter how long it had been since she had seen me last, she always remembered my name with one exception when she called me, Bruce. I believe it may have been the last time I ever saw her. I never corrected her. She was getting along in years and I didn’t want her to feel bad about getting my name wrong – which she would have.

Ruthie was a classic character. I remember her from her younger days when I was probably around twelve years old. In addition to waitressing at Jack’s, she worked at Lord’s Drug Store, which was in the building where The Family Dog is now located.

A bunch of my friends and I would go in to Lord’s to get ice cream. That was back in the day when most drug stores had a soda fountain. The truth is, we actually went to Lord’s for another reason. Now this is adult material so all you kids go in the other room. Go on! Beat it! Okay, so let me tell you what at least two generations of adolescent boys who grew up in Mansfield already know. Sorry guys, I’m spilling the beans. Your mother can’t ground you or send you to your room anymore so don’t worry about it.

Here’s the truth. We went to Lord’s to see Ruthie. No lie. We’d be sure it was a day that she was working and then we’d go in to the drug store and say we wanted to get some ice cream, knowing that she always worked at the ice cream counter. We’d order whatever ice cream was the closest to the front of the freezer case, so Ruthie would have to lean way forward to scoop it out.

Ruthie was kind of a Mansfield prototype of Marilyn Monroe, both looks-wise and, well…..anatomically. She wore miniskirts before most women knew what a miniskirt was and she had an affinity for blouses with plunging necklines. So, I suppose by now you’ve figured out why every pubescent boy in town ate lots of ice cream from Lord’s Drug Store – and always from the very front of the freezer, regardless of the flavor! I probably gained ten pounds in the summer between seventh and eighth grade.

Sorry mom!

Make it a great week!

Bob Havey is a freelance writer and a Mansfield native, currently living in Easton. His column “Take Me Back” appears every Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com. His other column, “The View From Here”, may be seen each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com.


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