Time to Get Gishy

I am Deanna, one of the editors here at Stitched Smile. A couple of weeks ago, I told the big bosses here that I would have to take last week off for a vacation, and I was told that would be fine, as long as I blogged about it.

So strap in, because this blog post is going places.

Before I delve into this year’s epic adventure, I should probably explain a little about how I got involved with this event in the first place.

In June of 2013, I lost one of my very close friends. He was 27 years old. It’s really hard to explain how hard it is to rebuild after something as tragic as this was; to feel like life it worth it without that person there to laugh with. Not long after his passing, I discovered that the sign ups for a super weird scavenger hunt were open. I had seen a little bit about it the year before, so I figured, why the hell not, and signed up on a whim. After signing up, a did a little googling to see what it was that I had just gotten myself into; and let’s just say that I was not fully prepared.

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World has Ever Seen (or Gishwhes) is an epic event created by one of the actors from the CW show Supernatural, Misha Collins, who plays the Angel Castiel. The first hunt took place in 2011. The following year, the year before I got involved, it became the GishWhes as we know it. The basics are as follows: there are teams of 15 international players. Some teams are formed beforehand; others are created at random by the GishBot the week before the hunt begins. During the hunt, players have to create or find the items on the list. It’s a mixture of classic scavenger hunt and the most absurd arts and crafts you’ve ever done. There is a countdown clock on the website; when the clock strikes zero, the list is released, the website promptly crashes for a half hour. This happens every year. Once the website is back up, you have 7 to 8 days to complete as many items on the list of between 150 to 200 items as you and your team can. Sounds easy right? That’s enough time and enough people to do all those things? Yeah no.

Items on the list have included things such as: Get an astronaut in the international space station to @reply you on twitter. Get a mountain on Mars named after your team. Make a dress entirely out of cheese, wear it, and pose next to an antique car or motorcycle. Make large animals out of feminine hygiene products (animals have included a dinosaur, a safari animal, and angel, a dog, and a panda),  Create a portrait of Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles out of skittles. Must be at least 4 feet by 4 feet. (Funny story, Mr. Ackles entered an electronics store after a day of filming and discovered one of these masterpieces in progress. This is him talking about it). There were also kindness items, like donating blood with a friend, donating hair, joining the bone marrow registry and becoming and organ donor.

Needless to say, when I first actually looked into what I was going to be doing that week in August 2013, I was terrified about what I had actually gotten myself into.

However, the week came, I was paired with 14 other first timers, about 6 of us actively participated, and I met some amazing people and did things I never thought I would ever do. Partly because who builds a lion out of maxi pads? And partly because they push my comfort zone.

For the first time in the months since I lost my friend, I felt like everything would be okay. I could hear his laughter as I lay on my deck in a bathing suit covered in chocolate. I felt whole again like I could laugh again. Gishwhes did that.

I’ve never been one to be “normal.” I enjoy being weird and doing weird things. I’ve always felt like I was a little bit on the outside looking in, but that week, and the weeks after once I became part of the GishWhes network on Facebook, I felt like I found my people. I had never felt more at home than when I discovered the Harry Potter fandom on the internet when I was in middle school.

In 2014, I joined a team with someone I had been mutuals with on Tumblr. I had another amazing year. That year William Shatner, yeah, Captian Kirk, joined. Durning the 2013 hunt there was an item that involved him, and then Misha got a cease and desist letter from NASA for bombarding the astronauts, and Mr. Shatner was curious, to say the least, so he created a team to try to win. (He did not win). I have a fantastic year that year as well. We were a laid back team, a fun team. We created dressed in kale and items only found in bathrooms; we cosplayed as famous landmarks. It was wonderful. Time of my life.

Last year, I decided to get serious. I applied to a “competitive” GishWhes team a team in it to win it: Team Banana Ninjas. Last year was a blast. We complete about 95 (I think) items. We killed it. We made the coffee table book, which is a huge feat considering the competition.

I made a raft out of water bottles last year which of all the weird stuff I’ve done is my favorite thing. I’ve linked the video above. However, the video is set to I’m on a Boat by The Lonely Island, which has a lot of curse words in it, so I would suggest headphones if you are in a public area or at work.

Which brings me to the meat of this post the 2016 GishWhes. When I told Donelle that I would be taking a week after I finished Grad School (I completed my degree on July 31st) to be part of a scavenger hunt. She said cool, what is it? So I tried to explain it quickly: the Skittles portraits, the cheese dresses, the cease and desist letters, William Shatner. I was met with a little bit of confusion and a lot of “Please post pictures.”

I was once again I was part Team Banana Ninjas. We are a team that has members in England, Romania, France, Canada, and across the USA. A lot of the items are US-centric, so it’s great to have people spread out all over. There is usually some place specific events. Last year there were a bunch in NYC, there was one in Iceland once, this year there was on in Austraila. We are a great group of people. I love my team I love hunting with them. It’s been two days, and I can’t wait to start hunting with them again text year.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s delve into this year.

GishWhes started on July 30th, that same day I ran in a mudderella, which luckily fit into one of the items. I had to tweet myself accomplishing something that I was afraid to do. That tweet was liked by Kim Rhodes, who besides being an actor on Supernatural with Misha Collins was also the mom of the Suite life of Zack and Cody, and that was kind of a big moment for me. I may or may not have cried when I got the notification (I totally cried a little I’m blaming it on post mud run exhaustion).

tweet

Sunday, since I was incredibly sore and had a horrible sunburn because I’m an idiot, I tried to keep it easy. I created a rather large panda out of maxi pads.

panda

Monday was a big day; I started out by handing out coffee at a bus stop.

waiter

Then I went to the cemetery that my aunt, uncle, and cousin are buried to tweet Governor Pence about the dangers of smoking

And then I went to a 5-mile walk to hatch a 10km Pokemon egg. We stopped for lunch in the middle of it, and during lunch, it started to rain, so we walked 3 miles in the rain to hatch Pokemon eggs for a weirdo scavenger hunt because I wasn’t going to not do that item because it was raining.

Tuesday was my day to make someone happy. So on my way to my friend’s house to have the help me make shoes out of pineapples, I stopped to get her two-year-old daughter a donut, and to say she was happy about it, well, I’ve never seen anyone more excited about a donut than that little girl.

Then we made shoes out of pineapple, and I ran down the street.

This isn’t directly hunt related, but I also met a stormtrooper in the street on my way to an improv show Tuesday night.

strom troopers

One of the items every year to get someone dressed as a stormtrooper to do something. If only I had my butter churn with me at the time.

Wednesday I helped my team get retweets on a post about saving smelly penguins and how to help someone having a stroke. I became a citizen of a small country.

I watched my teammates create such amazing things, like Trumppunzel. A teammate mailed their baby. One member created an amazing image showing what their reflection really shows. One dressed as pirates with her son and visited nursing homes, save bees, build sandcastle trailer parks and try to bully William Shatner, who decided to sit this year out because he had “work” or something, into giving us his address so we could mail him a crap ton of postcards. One of our teammates repurposed artichokes in creative ways. Another drew a Picasso style painting of Castiel.

 

Thursday I drove to a Haunted Lake and poured wine off a roof onto my friend.

Friday was a video and photo editing day.

Saturday, I met up with other Gishers in New Hampshire to spread positive messages at a bus stop: like “Be the unicorn you want to see in the world” and “every Magikarp evolves in a Gyarados”. And then I dressed up like a thunderstorm.

cloud

That was the end of my hunt this year. I helped my teammates edit their photos and videos before the gishwhes website, youtube, and Imgur crashed again and waited nervously for Misha to post some last minute item.

We complete 100 of the 178  items this year. The most that we’ve done as a team, the most that a team I’ve been on has complete. (I got to use that 100 emoji unironically, which was another big moment for me. As my French Teammate Amelia said after I expressed my excited about using it It’s the little things that bring us the most happiness).  I completed 11 individual items personal best.

Every year when I compete in Gishwhes, I’m asked what I win. Well, this is a hard question to answer. The grand prize is a week-long vacation with Misha Collins and our team. This year the trip is to Iceland, last year it was Costa Rica. But Gishwhes is so much more than that. Without being a runner up or a “winner,” we won. We did more items as a team and individually than we have before. We could make the coffee table book again this year, we could end up the Gishwhes hall of fame, we could end up being runners-up, but no matter where we end up, we are winners. We made amazing things last week. We forged friendships, pushed ourselves to our complete mental and physical limits.

Gishwhes is about pushing limits, about doing things you never thought you could do. It’s about being #waywardAF. It’s about killing normalcy and learning about yourself. It’s an exhausting week, mentally and physically, but I could never see myself spending the first week of August any other way. It makes coming back to the regular 9-5 life boring. As I sit at my desk at work and try to catch up on the weeks worth stamping invoices, and start to work on editing a new manuscript, I remember what I was doing a week ago, a year ago today. Running around in the rain hatching Pokemon eggs it the rain, covering a friend in butter, building a raft out of water bottles. Normal life feels boring, stressful in a different way.

gish team

Developing your Image

jackie stitched

As an author, your online presence brings your readers into your world. The images and verbiage you choose will either create a deeper interest or a divide that will be difficult to mend. This article is for those who have had some works printed and have already started to bring a voice to social media outlets. It will help you to focus on ways to create a stronger bond with your audience.

Great you have created a few books and some online interest in what it is your producing, but what do you do in the meantime to keep them glued into your creative life?  You make sure that they feel like they matter to you. How do you do that? By giving them clues into your author lifestyle.

How do you create? Where do you create? Why do you create? Why should they care?

You’re a writer do what writers do best WRITE! Create a blog about writing… not necessarily. There are many blogs on how to write content, or how to create a full manuscript, and honestly, we don’t really need another one.  What I mean by write is to invite the curious into your life.  Write about what you like, what you feel compelled to care about, what your motivations are, how you like to relax, who you are interested in, & even daily little life events. How can you decide what to write about and when?

Many times writers are persuaded by their passions. They feel strongly about a particular method, a genre, ideology, strength, weakness, a dream, a deep desire to write that will not quit till they complete the task. These are the things you write about on your blog. Things that matter to you. They don’t always have to be about the genre you write, but they do have to have substance to keep your audience engaged.

What is it that you want your audience to know about you? How can you bring your life into your writing career without compromising your personal life?  Once you start building your blog around the suggested ideas, your audience will begin to interact with you, and they will lead you towards what they would like to know about you. You simply need to open the dialogue get people talking about you. It is though important to keep your private life private. Create a blog that is author content only. This way you can still maintain contact with your family and or close friends with whom you have a more intimate relationship with.  Do NOT cross the two ever. Once you start to mix the two groups, you will loose your private identity.

Now here is substance for you:

How often do you come into the mind-space of your audience and/or potential reader?

When you have captured their view what feelings do you invoke in them?

Does that feeling make them want to know more?

The above questions surround one main idea, and that is RELATIONSHIP.

How relatable are you? Do you evoke someone who wants to include others? Or do you push them to the side as you create? If you want them to be 100% invested in you and buy what you create then you need to be invested in them too.

Some of the potential readers you will come across are writers too. You will have a light bond to them already simply because you are both creatives. They will relate to you through writing style, through genre choice, through common postings, through groups, and sometimes simply because of gender.

Does it matter initially how the common bonding happens? No, but will it keep them interested solely on this first reasoning? Probably not. Think about this new found person as you would a potential friend.  Communicate with them ask them what brought them to your page. Recognize them for the fact that they decided to engage in your content.

You will want to write on a regular basis perhaps in the beginning devote 10-15 mins a day with something new. If you find that you have walked into an idea that is just something that fascinates you, then write longer, but make sure that you write with the idea of engaging your potential reader.

Did you recently finish a book written by a favorite author? Hear something on radio that struck a cord? Hear a conversation at the coffee house that made you do a double-take? See something on the drive into work, or on an errand? Had something locally happen in your neighboorhood that you think would make a good story line?  If the idea is touching or poignant in any manner, then write. These are all ideas to help you create your online presence and engage your potential readers.

Also, there are not really simply ways of posting videos online just short few mins to talk about something you find interesting, or just to simply say hello. As you get comfortable with creating the videos, you will also start to find your niche and find lots of ways to engage your audience.  For example, Facebook has Facebook live I will post a link for you to learn now to use this very simple Facebook live  f0rmat.

ONTO SOCIAL MEDIA

You want your username to be your name for your author works. If you want something more cutesy or daring you can make another account for that. Remember you are representing YOU. Make sure you keep it that way when your talking about your writer works.  Make sure also for all your author related venues you keep things with your name. (i.e. @DonStover, DonStover.com, facebook.com/donstover, twitter.com/donstover etc.) If your exact name is not available, try something like @DonStoverauth.

Your profile picture is a huge big deal make sure it is YOU. Not something sorta like you, not a filtered funny photo, but YOU. If you do not take yourself serious as a professional author then why should anyone else? This photo should be used across the board so that people who see you in one venue will start to recognize you in others. Make sure this photo also reflects who you are as a creative. It does not have to be a professional picture, but it does have to have a quality look to it. It may not be a selfie. Get someone I don’t care if it is a total stranger to take your photo as long as it conveys a great image on film.

Tell me what you Think, Feel, and Hear! Entertain Me.

~Jackie Chin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stitch of Madness

“A Stitch of Madness” by A.J. BrownMadness: extremely foolish behavior.Imprisoned for the murder of his best friend, Johnny Cleary sets out to tell what happened on the day Bobby “Buster” Lennon died, but are the words he writes true or does the deception run deeper?

Madness: the state of being mentally ill, especially severely.There is something wrong with Irene. Momma’s dead, and a ragdoll speaks to her in a voice that is hauntingly familiar. And what about the stitches, the very things that just might hold Irene together?Madness: a state of frenzied or chaotic activity. After an odd stranger pays Robert Wallenger a visit, his world begins to unravel and the past comes rushing back, along with a sickly sweet scent.

There is madness in everyone. For most, the madness never surfaces. For others, all it takes is one thing, big or small, for them to spiral out of control.A.J. Brown is a southern-born writer who tells emotionally charged, character driven stories that often delve into the darker parts of the human psyche. Most of his stories have the southern country feel of his childhood.

A.J. writes in a conversational style that draws the reader in and holds their attention. His characters are average people with average lives who are layered with memories and emotions and are fallible, just like anyone else. More than 150 of his stories have been published in various online and print publications.

His story Mother Weeps was nominated for a Pushcart Award in 2010. Another story, Picket Fences, was the editor’s choice story for Necrotic Tissue in October of 2010. The story, Numbers, won the quarterly contest at WilyWriters.com in June of 2013.

A list of his publications, along with links to many of his stories can be found at Type AJ Negative (https://typeajnegative.wordpress.com).“A Stitch of Madness” is available in paperback and for the Kindle, and has a 5-star rating on Amazon.

Source: A Stitch of Madness

So You Have Been Stitched Now What?

Have you ensured your Amazon book page has a great book description, amazing cover and your book is competitively priced and has plenty of reviews?

Your answer:

Have you looked up similar books to yours on Amazon and noted their Amazon categories and possible keywords? If yes, please input categories & keywords.

Your answer:

Have you placed a back page in all book versions with a request for reviews and a link to the book on Amazon and a mention of other books you have available and a link?

Your answer:

Have you identified prizes to offer readers who sign up for your email list?

Your answer:

Have you imagined a series of blog posts you could write related to the book and started writing them? If yes, please write the subjects you will be covering.

Your answer:

Have you identified people who can share or post your blog posts https://stitchedsmilepublications.wordpress.com/ and asked them will they do so?

Your answer:

Have you identified book advertising sites such as https://twitter.com/ReadersGazette  &  http://www.readersintheknow.com/list-of-book-promotion-sites to advertise your book?

Your answer:

Have you identified controversial, emotional or helpful themes from your book for use in posts, graphics or Tweets https://twitter.com

Your answer:

Have you created animated GIFs for Twitter https://imgflip.com/images-to-gif  and a book trailer http://www.booktrailersforreaders.com/How+to+make+a+book+trailer? (Michael Freeman and Lisa Vasquez can also be a huge help in this department.

Your answer:

Have you sent out review copies far and wide?

Your answer:

Have you reviewed a book at the Stitched Smile Publications Facebook Review group and submitted your book for reviewing?

See: (Work In Progress)

Your answer:

Have you checked your website and blog and Facebook page and Twitter profile and any other sites you are on to ensure they are up to date?

Your answer

Have you added any new social site you might need?

Your answer

Have you created a list building page with an incentive to build your email list?

Your answer

Have you created a Nouncy http://nouncy.com/ or Thunderclap https://www.thunderclap.it/ campaign to get group promotions and have you promoted it?

Your answer:

Have you sought endorsements from anyone prominent?

Your answer:

Have you prepared a press release https://www.standoutbooks.com/book-press-release-template/ and sent it out to media contacts and newswire services?

Your answer:

Have you had a live book party and enjoyed your moment?

Your answer:

Have you put the first few pages of your book on your site and created a Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/upload audio recording?

Your answer:

Have you created #tags http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/creating-twitter-hashtag-7-steps and used them?

Your answer:

Have you a SmartUrl http://authorbookpromotion.blogspot.com/2014/03/using-smarturl-to-promote-your-book.html for tracking hits to your Amazon book page?

Your answer:

Have you posted about your book to Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/user/sign_up?connect_prompt=true  & LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/ or Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/ or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ , as appropriate?

Your answer:

Have you written anything provocative about your book?

Your answer:

Have you set up Google Alerts https://plus.google.com/  about your book’s themes and are you adding comments to posts about them?

Your answer:

Have you personally thanked ALL your supporters?

How to Build an Email List for Authors

What is list building?

You offer something of value for free in exchange for an email address. You can set up auto-responders which are automatic emails that go out directing the person to more useful information.

This is permission marketing. You have given something to the person and in exchange asked permission to send them more useful information.

List building is NOT list-buying. It’s the growth of your own list over time in exchange for something of value.

What is the point of having a list?

If you have people’s email addresses, and you are a trusted provider of useful information,  people will open and read your emails. This means you can use the email list to market your books (if the list has been set up for that purpose).

Imagine how powerful it is to have a list of 10,000 people and to send an email saying “My book is available now. Click here to buy”. This is the basis of all the Amazon bestseller campaigns which generally use other people’s lists. If you build one yourself, you have a much more targeted list, and you are a trusted provider to those people. Remember, if people know, like, and trust you,  they are more likely to buy your book.

How do you build a quality list? 

You need to have something to give away for free that is:

  • Valuable and useful to people
  • Related to your product/book

Once you have that, you set up an email signup box like the one designed by Mail Chimp People enter their email and then get the free product.

It is very important to use a reputable service that:

  • manages this all for you automatically and is scalable (yes, you could have 50,000+ subscribers within a few years!)
  • lets people to unsubscribe easily (mandated by anti-spam laws)
  • enables you to send out broadcasts when you like as well as setting up auto-responders
  • enables you to manage and download your list
  • allows you to set up multiple lists from one account

What free giveaway can you do?

As authors, we are uniquely placed to offer some great free giveaways as we produce quality information relatively easily. It is also very important that you giveaway something that is related to what you are selling. There’s no point in giving away an e-book on finance if you want to sell romantic fiction on your blog.

Here are some ideas for your free giveaway:

  • First 3 chapters of your book, or a short story, or the first novella in a series of 3
  • Top 10 tips for <insert your niche here> e.g. Top 10 tips for creating authentic characters / Top 10 tips for writing horror
  • Audio of you reading your work or talking about the subject you are writing about

The most important thing to remember:

You want to be a valuable resource to people, either for information or entertainment. You do not want to be seen as a spammer. So give away great information, offer quality on a regular basis for free, and people will be happy to buy from you when you have something they are interested in. Don’t send unrelated offers. Don’t abuse the list or they will unsubscribe. It’s all about respect.

If you are interested in housing your creative horror works with a publishing house that puts the author first contact us TODAY! Stitched Smile Publications