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Reflections on Contemporary Travel, with a Poem

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When my husband and I travel, we usually use one motel chain, one which claims, and usually provides, certain amenities such as a decent breakfast, thick towels and internet service.  This practice also enables us to build up points toward a free stay once or twice a year.

There is one problem with having a “rewards card” however.  It means they have our email address.  After each stay we get a request to fill out a survey.  There is no “I choose not to” option at this point – if we don’t answer it we’ll get a “friendly reminder.”  Part of the survey includes “when did you last stay in a motel?”  “Which brand was it?” and “Did the brand name influence your choice?”  By this time I want to scream “Yes!  Of course the name influenced us!  We have a rewards card!  Aren’t you paying attention?”  But they are not paying attention.  They offer no place to make a comment to the organization, instead of to the individual hotel.

But the question which gives me the most trouble is “Was this trip for business or pleasure?”  If I have to get across the country to visit family, there ought to be a third category.  Would it be both?  Neither?  This became an acute issue for me when I was travelling to visit my mother because she was ill.  The culprit that time was an airline, but the reaction was the same.  Is it business or pleasure?  It’s both.  it’s neither.

My chapbook The Map of Longing includes a number of poems related to my mother’s last months.  The fact that it happened at the same time we were preparing to move made everything sharper and more complicated.  In the poem below I tried to express some of my frustration.

Choice

The form asks, “business or pleasure?”
No “other” category for this trip
which is neither―or both:
my mother’s business,
her pleasure in our visit,
our pain in the strained connection,
spoiled arm, scattered mind.

The web of family combines
what marketers want to segment,
as if pain and pleasure could
be wrapped separately, like
the chocolates she loves, as if
“all of the above” were an option
one could choose not to check.

The Map of Longing is available through Amazon.  You can get a signed copy from me via ERYBooks.

Thanks to All My Readers

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This is the first anniversary of the publication of my biography, John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher.  I’m celebrating, first by saying thank you to all who have read it, are reading it, or are reading about it (along with other things) on this blog.

I’m also celebrating by offering two free copies on Goodreads, one of the places I first made connections beyond my existing circles.  If you’re interested, go to www.goodreads.com and check out their giveaways.

The book’s “launch” was a soft one.  Xlibris is good at fast turnaround.  They kept me moving to the next stage of production when I thought I’d have more time to prepare for marketing.  Suddenly the book was done, while I was on vacation, and they wouldn’t wait until the date I wanted to start publicity.  They sent out press releases – to whom I could not figure out from the data base they sent me – three weeks before I was ready.

I know about book signings, presentations, emails and post cards and went at those steps eagerly.  But this book is a niche item.  It appeals to people interested in freethought, history, and/or Kansas City.  We are a relatively small group.  Yet I know I have not gotten the word out to all of those who would enjoy reading the book.

I didn’t know what to do next.  I looked up freethought groups, religious historians, regional libraries and sent a variety of letters, announcements and sample copies.  “You need to market on line,” people said.

Xlibris wants to do marketing for its authors.  They set up a website for the book as part of my production package, but I have no access to it.  They will happily provide additional services, many at more than the cost of production.

“How will you target the niche this book is intended for?”  I asked.

“Librarians,” they answered.  “We will put an ad in their journal and send out emails to librarians across the country.  For you, a $500 discount on the price.”

“No, thank you,” I said.

“New York Times Book Review,” they suggested.  It must be nice to see your book as one of eight on a full page Xlibris ad in the New York Times, but there’s no room for any of the words I’ve carefully crafted to explain why it’s a good story. [See my Books page, if you haven’t already.]

I felt I was very considerate not to laugh out loud at the Xlibris salesman who suggested television ads.  Was he going to survey freethought historians before deciding where to place those ads?  I thought not.

I’ve learned a lot this year, connecting on social media, getting advice from many sources, sending out more letters, creating this blog.  As a “platform” this is still a bit wobbly, but I progress.  If you can’t find your niche, you make one, right?

Such was the beginning of my non-fiction book in the world.  Next time, I’ll turn to the beginnings of the story IN the book – for those of you who haven’t read it yet.