Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Traveling Vegetarian

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 30 years and for me traveling is still a challenge. Yes, it has gotten easier over the years, however it still requires a bit of work and sometimes it makes me downright grumpy.

My main challenge is twofold - the quality of the vegetarian options in restaurants and the general lack of availability. Why do so many chefs either have too much imagination or not enough imagination? Why do they think that for every item that is removed from their dishes (in this case meat), they have to add another oily sauce or pat of butter. Or, why do they think that a vegetarian can be happy dining on a salad and a piece of fruit? Don’t laugh. I’ve been offered dinners that consisted of one or two canned veggies and a side of applesauce. And on highways that are heavy with fast food joints, the choices are so few and far between. I guess would be fine if I were content to eat a slice of cheese on a white bread roll, maybe topped with some shredded iceberg lettuce, because that’s about all these places have to offer. Most people still don’t understand that vegetarians eat more than just what’s left when the meat is taken away. We really don’t graze along the side of the road.

Since hubby and I travel a lot, we’ve learned to be very creative. We look for places like Panera Bread, Crispers and Whole Foods that have a number of vegetarian options. (Check out the delicious grilled portobello mushroom sandwich in my picture). We look for new “healthier” type of Mexican restaurants that offer burritos with beans, avocado and veggies. We love Italian food and are always happy to fill our bellies with pasta and marinara sauce. Asian restaurants are always an option, too, but only if the staff understand the concept of “no animal broth.” Greek restaurants make me literally jump for joy! There are a number of choices. We just have to try a little harder to find them.

This rant leads me to my first rule when traveling - Never leave home without your jars of peanut butter and jelly!

Bobbie Hinman

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do You Give Your Books Away?

I have spoken with many fellow authors about whether or not they believe in giving away sample copies of their books. The results seemed to fall equally on both sides of the fence. The main reason cited for not giving away books seems to be that “if someone is genuinely interested, they should at least be willing to cover the cost of the book”. Also heard a few times was, “my books are not free to me, so why should they be free to others.”

On the other side of the fence, I have had a number of very large sales that were direct results of my freebies. Two days ago I visited a major bookstore that did not have my books on the shelf. (The books are in the computer, but were not in that particular store.)I asked the manager if she would be interested in ordering a few books and said that I would be happy to come back when the books are in to sign them. I then handed her a copy of each of my three books (along with my contact information and some bookmarks) and told her that they were a gift to her to acquaint her with the books. I also suggested that she might use them as display copies to generate interest in the books. Two days later I received a call from the manager saying that she did display the books and then she read them during storytime. She also held a drawing in the store, using the books as prizes. She thanked me for sharing the books with her and asked me to please stop by in a few days to sign the 30 books that she had ordered for her store. In addition, she requested a book signing which we scheduled that day. All this from three sample books.

The same day I dropped off three books in an upscale children’s boutique. I introduced myself to the owner and gave her the books “as a gift, to acquaint her with the books” which I assured her would enhance the already wonderful gift selection in her store. This time it was only one day before she called to place an order for her store.

I also give free books to my close friends and relatives. They have turned out to be quite vocal when it comes to sharing my books with their friends and relatives, resulting in many, many sales.

A few guidelines that I use:
Just don’t be too free with your freebies. I give away only one of each book to each customer.

Don’t take the books back. If a store manager decides not to purchase books, I never go back to reclaim my books. I told them they were a gift. Let them keep them or sell them. You never know what will come of it.

Be sure to leave your contact information. This means a professional business card or colorful postcard, not a scribbled cell number on a scrap of paper.

Be sure to follow up. While people mean well, many need a friendly reminder.

Don’t forget to ask your tax professional if you are entitled to a tax deduction for the free books.

Good luck.
Bobbie Hinman

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Don’t Men “Get” the Silent Signals?

Have you ever noticed that women have the innate ability to communicate by silently mouthing words to each other? Age is irrelevant. I can silently “talk” to my granddaughters, my daughter and my mother. My best friend and I have been sending each other silent signals since high school. We definitely had the advantage on double dates when we could send each other message such as, “He’s hot,” right in front of the boys without them ever catching on.

Why do men just not get it? My husband and I have been married for 30 years and yet he is clueless when I try to send him a silent signal. Just yesterday we had a meeting with what turned out to be a very persistent salesperson. I looked across the table at my hubby and mouthed “tell him no”. Hubby gave me a look that clearly said “huh?” (Women are also great at reading looks.) I then mouthed “let’s go”. No use. Next I resorted to one of those famous kicks under the table. You guessed it. He responded with “ouch”. Really!

You’ve heard that popular expression, “read my lips?” It doesn’t seem to work with men. Try it with the men in your life. They just don’t get it.

Bobbie Hinman

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Authors, Are You Engaging?

As I watched the adorable little faces on the childen in the class I visited yesterday, a question crossed my mind: Am I engaging? (I think the answer is “yes”. At least, I hope so.)

Nope, I’m not talking about being attractive or delightful. Yes, it does help to have an engaging personality, and it does come in handy when working with children. But, while this is important if you wish to prevent the risk of boring them to death, I’m talking about the word “engaging” when used as a verb. Most parents and teachers have probably realized that the longer you talk to children, the less they hear. Talk too long and they hear nothing…nada. Engage them and you have an entirely different situation.

This really holds true if you are an author and are doing classroom visits. If you talk “at” children, if you bore them to tears, not only will they not respond to you, but they also won’t buy your books.

Here are a few clues as to whether or not a group of children is bored with your presentation:

1.The children's eyes appear to have glazed over.
2.You call on a child and their answer is "huh?"
3.You ask the group a question and no one raises their hand.
4.You tell a joke and no one gets it.
5.You ask a question about your book and someone raises their hand to tell you a totally unrelated story about their new cat.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way suggesting that we act like a clowns or think we are there to be entertainers. However, it's really important to ask the children questions throughout your presentation. Do you have some props to show them, such as a lantern like one in your book or a hat like the one worn by your character? Can you interject a song? Can you have the group repeat a difficult word that you have used or read aloud with you a line of text? Do you have colorful pictures or charts that you can hold up? If we do these types of things, we can make the class a part of the experience, rather than just a group of onlookers. You’ve probably heard that expression, “I see your lips moving, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah.”

Bobbie Hinman

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do students reflect the personality of their teacher?

During a recent school visit I made a very interesting observation.

I was in the process of setting up for my presentation in the school media center. About 5 minutes before the designated starting time the third grade class arrived, led by their student teacher. Their classroom teacher was nowhere in sight. The children were seated and my presentation began. During my presentations I ask a lot of questions, always encouraging interaction and engaging the students. It didn’t take me long to realize that most of the children in this class, with unpleasant frowns on their faces, didn’t particularly want to be engaged. The answers to my questions tended toward the negative and, when asked to create their own fairy ideas for a story, many of the children contributed ideas such as the Robber Fairy, the Toy Fairy (steals toys) and other mean-spirited fairies. I should mention here that this particular school is in a rather upscale suburban neighborhood.

Twenty minutes into the presentation the children finally seemed to relax and we were having a nice discussion. Then the classroom teacher appeared. No surprise – she had the same negative expression on her face that the children had had when they entered the room. In fact, the first words out of her mouth were, “Sara, stop talking. Jason, put that pencil away.” She proceeded to sit, arms crossed, staring into space while I went on with my presentation. Is this why the children acted the way they did?

When this class left the media center and the next class arrived, I watched carefully. These children entered the room smiling, accompanied by their teacher who was also smiling. This presentation proved to be one of the most enjoyable I have ever had. Not only did the children have lots of creative ideas, but the teacher even raised her hand a few times and offered her own creative story ideas. The children and the teacher all had the same positive attitudes. The ideas this class offered for their fairy stories were kind fairies such as the rainbow fairy, the snow fairy and the messy desk fairy. In retrospect, the teacher of this class looked and acted as much as Mary Poppins as anyone I have ever met. What lucky kids!
ooking at these two examples, coming from the same school on the same day, I have to wonder - is this a coincidence or do teachers have this much influence on the personalities of our children?

Bobbie Hinman