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Rabidly Whimsical Tenacity

Dec. 19th, 2012

09:58 am - Online Marketing & Promotion Thoughts

I’m an artist and author who’s made a living selling my work for over ten years. I’ve learned a lot about talking to people both in person and online, and since I’m a BIG fan of sharing knowledge, I’ve written a by-no-means-all-inclusive piece about getting the word out to your clientele. A caveat: this will skew towards creative folks, cuz that’s what I do, and what I know.

So, you’re finally running (or are ramping up to run) your own business. I’ll assume that you have the basics down: a product line, a website, a pronounceable business name. How the hell do you get the word out? Where do you find your rabid customer base? Isn’t it enough that you have cool stuff to sell and the world should be stampeding your door like Black Friday Walmart shoppers?

Sorry. No. Unless you’re selling water in the middle of the desert, you’re gonna hafta do some legwork to find the people who love you. And the easiest, least expensive place to start is online.

There are many outlets to promote what you do: blogs, social networking sites, video, Amazon author pages, write-ups on aggregate hubs, but let’s start with Facebook.

Yes there are others, but this is the main one I use, and If you’re a business owner (and artists, performers, authors and musicians are business owners, too), and you’re NOT using it, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s free, everyone’s on it, it’s integrated, and once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. No, Facebook is not a perfect world. For example, they have the rights to the images you post, but plaster everything with a big watermark (we’ll get to that later) and chalk it up as the cost of doing business. Let’s start with:

Make a Page. If all goes well, there are going to be people who love what you make or do, and you will have NO idea who they are. You may not want to open your private life (ie, your personal profile) to everybody who’s ever perused your wares. A Page allows people to jump on board without you even knowing. They can also jump off just as easily, so make staying worth their while. A Page reminds you that this is for your company, so it may give you pause as to what you put on there. Which leads me to:

Nobody gives a damn what you had for lunch. Unless you’re a chef, or you’re teaching a cooking show, or it’s somehow relevant to your business, no one cares. Save the music videos, song lyrics, and baby pictures for your personal page.

Nobody wants to be spammed non-stop. If people have “liked” your Page, great! That’s a privilege, not a right - treat it accordingly. It’s fine to show what you have to offer, but what sells it is the backstory, your enthusiasm about what you, do, and why people should want it.

If you own a clothing business, talk about the jasmine drink given to you by the ancient crone who sold you the silk fabric while you were on a shopping trip in Thailand, THAT’S something to get behind. People want to be entertained. As an artist, I’ve discovered people love the stories BEHIND my work (literally behind it – I insert the inspirations behind the piece into the bag & board in which it’s packaged.) The stories give a point of commonality between your patron/client/customer. If all you say is #buy my shit, no one cares, and they tune you out.

Be consistent and engaging in your posts. If I like a Page, but it’s only updated every six months, I’m gonna get bored & hop off. Engage your audience. Photograph the sculpture as you work on it, get them involved in the process, and eager to see more. Talk about what gets you excited about your new performance. Tease them. Link to cool things that are tangentially related to your business that you think they’ll enjoy. Don’t go overboard, or you’ll never get any work done. You’ll figure out the right amount posting based off of the new fans you get, and how many of them actively engage with you. FaceBook has metrics to track this. The REALLY good stuff gets shared, and this can lead to new fans of your work. Which leads to:

Watermark your work with your website. You never know where your images are gonna turn up. They might get shared, Pinterest-ed, yanked as wallpaper, or used to illustrate someone’s blog. (All of this has happened to me.) You may or may not get asked for permission. Embedding a watermark at least shows that it’s yours, and can drive traffic back to your site from the weirdest of places. There is an app (cost me a buck) called “Text on Photo”, and it’s allowed me to bypass Photoshop. Now I can shoot a new painting, import it into the app, slap my watermark on it, and send it out to the ether, all from my phone.

Images beat words. And images with words on them get shared the most. You know that what you’re doing is working when people go from liking a post, to commenting on it, to sharing it. When the conversation ceases being about YOU, and goes to being about what you DO, that’s the best. Remember though, that if you write something in text, and attach an image, and that image gets shared, the text doesn’t necessarily get shared along with it. If you want your words to go with your image, embed them ON the image.

Write like a grown-up. If your update sounds like a Ritalin-free tween typed it with her thumbs, stop it. Read your work aloud. Does it sound like you? Does the voice represent your business? Would you want to talk to the person who wrote it? Does it sound trustworthy?

Trust is a big deal. There are so many visual clues that we just don’t have when gaging another human online. For your business to grow, you have to be ON it. Respond to questions in a timely, polite fashion. Be friendlier than you might be in person to make up for the lack of eye contact and body language. Be exquisitely professional.

Keep it positive. Save your bitching, whining, trolling & snark for your personal page. Better yet, keep it offline. It’s a timesuck, you never know who’s reading, and the internet is forever. Do you really want to lose customers over a Dr. Who flamewar? Instead, focus on what you do, what brings you joy, what gets you juiced about your business.

You can talk about some of the challenges with running your business (again, that cool backstory stuff), but it’s a delicate balance. Think about what YOU’D like to know about someone who does what you do. Start there. And make sure that anything confidential with a client stays that way.

Cross-post with complementary businesses. Cultivate people in your life who are doing work they’re excited about. See if they’d be cool swapping links, or saying something nice about your product. If you like their stuff, and they like yours, chances are there will be fans of your product in common.

All this does take some practice, and if you’re not willing to learn, hire someone to do it. But, you got into what you’re doing because you’re passionate about it, it excites you, the details make your heart sing. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious, and no one will be able to promote your business quite the way you can. Your online presence, ideally, is a love letter to why you got into what you’re doing in the first place.

This is not a complete list, there are exceptions to every rule. If you’ve got advice to add, please do so in the comments. I’m almost always up for learning something new!

(There’s lots more info like this, along with full color paintings and kinky clown stories in my book, or you can see a mess of my artwork here. Finally, this is my Facebook Page.)

Thanks for looking!

Aug. 22nd, 2012

12:41 pm - On being fat.

(Updated from a piece I wrote in May of 2008)

I’ve had a weight problem all my life. That I’m chesty & hippy and short waisted & not tall doesn’t help matters. Lousy eyes & knocky knees & wheezy cough & flat feet ensured that sports weren’t much fun for me when I was a kid, and I wanted to be reading or drawing or writing, anyway.

I grew up on simple meals: pork chops & apple sauce, French cut string beans (yucky!!), spaghetti, roasted chicken. We had cookies & licorice in the house, but we didn’t live on chips & fried foods. But, the plate had to be clean, and meals were often emotionally loaded, and the amounts of what I ate got bigger and bigger, and this coupled with the low levels of exercise ensured that I was always kinda round.

When I got older, I joined a gym, and lifted weights, and ran, and rowed, and sweated like a broken refrigerator, and MAYBE got down ten pounds. I couldn’t understand it. I was working out five days a week, busting my ass, and NOTHING was happening.

I grew despondent, frustrated. Clothes never fit well. The summertime Thigh Chafe Plague. The self-loathing. Wondering why inside, I was agile, elegant, my mind a lean rip of sinew and lightening, but outside, I was a dumpy earth mother, good for making goulash and plowing the fields.

My dad died of a diabetes-tinged heart attack when he was 51. He’d had the disease since he’d been 17, but never took very good care of himself. When we hugged, his belly was that hard, round press against me that pointed to layers of constricting fat around his internal organs. I mourned the absence of him, I still do, every day, but the shape of his body etched harder in my brain than the expression on his face or the shape of his hands.

And I’m seeing that shape more and more among Fandom. Kink, sci-fi fantasy worlds & renfaires are so inclusive of everybody that no one ever wants to tell anyone, “No, this thing you’re doing is not alright.”

I think it’s because we live so much in our heads. Fandom is packed with REALLY smart people, many of whom, like me, didn’t have the best time of it when it came to sports or thinking about our physicality. I could spend hours in a book, mindlessly popping sour cream & onion potato chip after sour cream & onion potato chip into my maw, light years away from third grade bullies and the Presidential Fitness Test.

But now, people are dying.

Lots of them. Wonderful, bright people. Organized, driven people. Amazing people that leave a hole in my heart by their absence.

And because telling someone you love, “You’re fat, and I want to help you” is somehow so much scarier than “You’re an alcoholic, and I want to help you”, we go about our day, and ignore the signs in ourselves, in our friends, in our lovers. The wheezing. The bad joints. The lack of energy. The mottled skin. I see more & more folks taking pills for medical conditions, when just stepping away from the computer would be enough.

The end of 2007, I got on a scale, and was stunned by the number. 178 pounds. I’m 5’4”. Almost. This was me:



If I didn’t get a handle on it fast, 180, 200, 250 were waiting with moist, pudgy faces and labored breathing, just over the next hill.

I looked at my diet like I had a thousand times before. I couldn’t see what was wrong with it – salads, chicken, turkey burgers, fruit, some ice cream here & there. I watered down juices. I didn’t drink sugary sodas. I rode my bike & even worked out on occasion.

I decided to go outside of myself, and tried Nutrisystem. The food’s palatable, and it’s easy to prepare, but it was the AMOUNT of food that confirmed my suspicion:

WHAT I’d been eating was just fine. THE AMOUNT I’d been eating was about 3 times more food than I needed.

A bowl of cereal will fit, dry, in a cupped hand, NOT a big, double tiered bowl with a whole banana chopped into it that you eat in front of your favorite TV show, and then when your show’s over, but the thing on afterwards isn’t THAT bad, and you have milk left, so you pour in some more cereal, but oops, that’s too much, better add a bit more milk...

A piece of meat is NOT pound of burger, dripping with two pieces of cheese & mayo & ketchup on a big whole wheat bun. It’s a piece the size of your hand if you cut your fingers off.

It doesn’t matter if you eat a big bowl of steamed broccoli if it’s layered in butter & three kinds of cheeses.

I learned that if I want a big varied dinner, that’s fine, but I need to adjust the amount I eat for lunch & breakfast. And, if I’ve overdone it the day before, I need to watch my ass (and my intake) the next day.

I’ve learned that I overeat to procrastinate, or because I’m lonely, or because I “have to finish what’s in front of me”.

I’ve learned to put my food on smaller plates. American marketing insists that we have HUGE plates of food, which OVERFLOW the borders of those plates, and we are MISSING OUT if we see the slightest bit of negative space buried within the vast cornucopia we’re about to force down our gullets.

I’m a visual girl. I fell for the trap. Hell, just look at a toothpaste commercial. See the way the toothpaste is layered on, all along the toothbrush, and then squeezed out just a bit more, so it backtracks on itself? That’s so you get visually conditioned to go through toothpaste faster, and yup – buy MORE toothpaste.

They’ve been doing this to us with food as well, and we’re killing ourselves as a result.

I want to be around a long time. Hell, I want to be around FOREVER, until I’m ready to move to the next level. I want you around, too.

If you’re a guy, and your belly is hard and round, and projects like a bowling ball, it’s not a cute party keg. It’s an indicator that you’ve got fat packed around your heart, and it’s having a harder & harder time beating. And you’re killing yourself.

If you’re a girl, and the girth of your belly exceeds your chest or hips, or you’ve got huge rolls above & below your bra strap, you might call yourself a Rubinesque goddess. You’re also killing yourself.

Before I get jumped on, this post is not about buying into a thin-freak culture. I have no desire to be a size zero. But there’s a difference between loving our bodies the way they are, and slowly killing ourselves because we don’t take a hard look at our actions & emotions & the reasons we’re overweight.

I’m down about 25 pounds from that picture up there. I’m stunned. I actually had to go out & buy new pants cuz my stuff was starting to look like a punchline on me. And, this is my husband, Jay, who will be returning from deployment in a few months. He runs ten miles a day.



Try living with THAT, and see what it does for your self-esteem:)

But I think I’m figuring out how to do this. I hope this time it sticks. And I hope that by baring my struggle here, I can help someone out there with their own.

Aug. 15th, 2012

09:48 am - I wrote a creepy poem...

...they show up in whole chunks when I'm trying to go to sleep, or driving more than five hours. Enjoy:)

It’s queer, but I fear that that the kid in the mirror
Is running the show, not me
He does these bad things, I’m a puppet on strings
But it’s only me that they see.

The teapot he broke, I took the blame for
The marker on baby, I took the pain for
I’m his fall guy for every offense.
And they won’t believe me, they only tease me
About my invisible friend.

I’ve a sneaking suspicion I’m onto his mission
Once I’m banished up to my room
No use to explain, they’ve tired of the game
Unaware that they’re sealing my doom

They’ve locked my door, so they can ignore
The tears streaming down my face.
My reflection, it grins. I’ve paid for his sins
He wins by taking my place.

With my face and my name
They won’t notice the change
He’s smarter and sneakier by far
To be outside is what he wants
I lost this war from the start

He’s stronger than me, that I finally see
No protest comes from my mouth
Day turns to night, he steps into the light
And I just. Wink. Out.

Unrelated, I just posted a mess of new art over at my FaceBook Page. Hop on & see:) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marrus/53754388488

Aug. 7th, 2012

04:38 pm - I've gone digital!

After a year of much more work than I could have foreseen, my book is finally available digitally!

If you're a Kindle user, you pick it up here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008TE3GYQ
And you Nook-sters, this is for you: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lightsurfing-marrus/1112327943?ean=2940014931496

Of course, I'm still shipping out signed hardcopies, if ya want one. They're chockfulla full color art (so are the digital versions,) kinky clown stories, and hard-won knowledge of how to make a living doing what you love. Grab it here: http://www.amazon.com/Lightsurfing-Living-Life-Front-Mouth/dp/0976850826/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

Enjoy the ride, and thank you for supporting my work:)

Mar. 18th, 2012

11:31 am - Naketiquette

Last night, a friend invited me out to the Country Club, a New Orleans bar/restaurant with a clothing-optional pool & hot tub in back.

I’ve been to the front end of the house, but hadn’t actually gone swimming before. I was under the impression that the clientele was mostly gay guys, so I thought the whole thing was gonna be pretty chill. The night was perfect, with a slight breeze, the flowers were blooming, the pool was heated, so I wrapped myself in my new zebra sarong & drove over.

The pool area was beautiful – lush palm trees, lit water, starlit skies, great music, people in various stages of clothednes. I found my girlfriend, grabbed a drink, stripped down, hopped in the hot tub, underestimated the last step, and came down hard on my left foot. Ow.

The bleach-blond, bloated guy to my right grinned: “You need me to rub it & make it better? I’ll even do your foot, too.”

Ignoring him, I scooted to the other side of the tub.

After being gifted with another cocktail by the bartender, I headed into the main swimming pool, only to be confronted with another guy. He insisted on discussing my various body parts in detail, as much for shape & size, as for flotation devices. When my friend suggested we head to the other side, he insisted on following us. She rolled her eyes & got out, while he tried to monopolize me, all the while keeping his hands suspiciously below the water line & attempting to get me back to the sauna. ANOTHER guy showed up, bringing even another, which pissed off the first guy, and when I got them all talking to each other, I went home.

Gentlemen, if you are lucky enough to be in a situation where there are lots of happy, conversational women who just happen to be unclothed, try to follow a few basic rules:

1.BE COOL. Yes, we know we’re naked. No, we don’t need to be reminded of it every time you open your mouth or look at us. Be friendly, conversational, respectful. If people are naked, use your manners and be a gentleman – even more so than you would otherwise.

2.KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF YOUR BITS. We know what you’re doing under the water. It’s probably a turn-off to us, especially if you’re doing it in the first four minutes of meeting us.

3.KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF US. Unless you’re invited, unless there’s actually a connection, you’re still just some naked male stranger. See rule #1.

5.NAKED DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN SEX. Just because that's what YOU might think, doesn't mean it's also what WE think. Move beyond your assumptions.

4.NO MEANS NO. A woman rolling her eyes, crossing her hands across her chest, looking away from you, or getting up and going to another part of the room/pool/club/bar/country, also, most likely, means no.

Think about the consequences of your words, behavior, or actions BEFORE you do or say them. Don’t be the jackhole who makes all the women put on their clothes and leave. And on second thought, most of these rules work for clothed encounters, too.

Ladies, feel free to add gentle suggestions in the comments section. Maybe some potential creep will get a clue.

Feb. 25th, 2012

10:26 pm - Gonna stick various news clips I've been in here...

VCC Fight


VCC Fight #2 (Couldn't get it to embed)
http://www.abc26.com/videobeta/6ace2518-8eca-4262-9b4c-e5e677054b10/News/Some-artists-on-Royal-Street-say-they-re-getting-picked-on-by-the-Vieux-Carre-Comission"

Drugs are bad, mmmmkay?
 

Jan. 30th, 2012

01:09 pm - Something beautiful happened at the Comic Con yesterday.

I’d just finished setting up when an excited fellow in his 60s approached my table. “Are you the artist?!”

“Yup.”

“I had to come & thank you for what you did for me!”

“Excuse me? Did I meet you at the gallery?”

“No, I met you here last year. We talked about Katrina and your husband’s volunteer efforts, and about how it was frustrating that church groups were fixing up Section 8 housing & rentals for people who were just making money off it, rather than living in the homes themselves.

I’ve volunteered and come back to New Orleans four times, and I do my research. I make sure I’m helping homeowners who work on the house with us, who will then live in that house themselves. Thank you for talking to me, for inspiring me to do this. It’s an amazing experience, and it’s made me realize how the world really doesn’t understand what happened here, and how wonderful this city is.”

And he shook my hand and disappeared back into the crowd, and I finally managed to close my mouth, and spent the next hour grinning like a lunatic as tears threatened to burn my eyes.

THIS is why I try to talk to people, to connect, to be positive, even if I’m going through a tough time. The words and attitude we put into the world are sacred, and the smallest gesture from us can cause the most cataclysmic ripple. Perhaps we have some control over the outcome of that ripple if we greet the world with joy and openness rather than fear and suspicion.

Jan. 3rd, 2012

07:48 pm - I sang my Army Wife song into my webcam...

It's on my FB page if you wanna see it. Dunno how to embed non-Youtube stuff here...

A few folks have expressed interest in REALLY recording this, like in a studio with actual musicians! That'd be cool, but will hafta hold til I get back from my signing later this week.

If you have tribe out that way, please let 'em know I'll have books & art at JRay's, 1302 Platte Falls Rd, Platte City, from 6-9 this coming Saturday:) Thank you!

Jan. 2nd, 2012

03:55 pm - I wrote a song...

...I give you, "Army Wife Blues":

Well my man joined the Reserves at 38
And “Army wife” was never what I thought was my fate
COs were quick to learn what I’d always known
And now he’s downrange leaving me all alone
I got them Army wife, Army wife, Army wife blues

You get great healthcare When they take your man
Stick him on a Blackhawk in Afghanistan
While he’s saving lives way up in the sky
I got too much to do, too sit around and cry
I got them Army wife, Army wife, Army wife blues

They got a lotta acronyms in Army life
Took me awhile but I’m getting it right
MOS, DOD, LMNOPQ,
Didn’t want this info a civilian can’t use
Yeah, I’d rather learn Italian, I got them Army wife blues

I fixed the leaky toilet, I’ve raked up all the leaves
They’ll be nothing left on his on his honey-do list
When he gets home to me
I’m getting good at doing all the stuff he use to do
Baby, come home quick, I got them Army wife blues

I’m a pro at getting hairballs outta the drain
Cleaning out the gutters so they don’t clog in in the rain
Cats don’t fill the silence, and that’s the God’s honest truth
I got them Army wife, Army wife, Army wife blues.

You’re out there, but I’m back here
And this deployment feels longer than a year
I’m proud of what you’re doing, but I’m all alone
And I just can’t wait til you get back home
I got them Army wife
Stop this war and strife
Never thought this would be my life
Army wife, Army wife, Army wife blues.

Current Mood: musical

Dec. 25th, 2011

11:02 am - Hey, Mid-west tribe! Incoming!

So, I've never been to y'all's neck of the woods before, but archway is changing that for me.

She's set up a book signing for "Lightsurfing" on Saturday, January 7th for 6-9pm, at a restaurant called JRay's at 1302 Platte Falls Rd, Platte City, Missouri. Oh, and I guess I'm coming, too!

I'll have a few books with me, and some art, and a helluva lot of eagerness to share what I've learned. Please, use my brain like a hotel towel -if you have questions about making a living doing what you love, branding, marketing, creative stuff in general, a portfolio you'd like me to look at, bring it!

For the FaceBookers among you, the event page is here, and to see the nice things folks have said about my book, that's here.

Last but not least, I'm using LJ now mainly for big pithy writings, and to show new art, but if you wanna keep up with me, I post much more regularly on this page. Thanks for looking, happy holidays, and I look forward to meeting fabulous new people - even if it means freezing my hot-house-flower ass off:)

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