Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I have arrived!

The other day Nelson Telson – The Story of a True Blue Blood received its first negative “review” on amazon.com.  There is a reason why I put the word review in quotation marks.  Was it a review?  Or was it simply a bad rating by a disgruntled person on Christmas Day?  The “reviewer” (pardon the quotes, but I just can’t help it) didn’t say what it was that made her not like it.  All she wrote was, “Kids didn't like it and neither did I. No one even finished it.“  And that was that.  No explanation.
   Based on sales, school donations and Kickstarter rewards, I’m guessing about 400 people have read the book.  To date on Amazon it has twenty-four 5-star reviews where reviewers explain why they love and recommend the book; one 4-star, “It was perfect for young readers! A lot of useful knowledge introduced in a easy read...,” and then this little 1-star Christmas gift.  Yes, it is a gift.
   At first I was perplexed. What?  Someone, not just one person but a whole family, didn’t like my book, and didn’t even have the courtesy to say why they didn’t like it - on Christmas Day, no less.  I looked at her other reviews; she was a real person and not just a troll.  She’d reviewed only one other book, non-fiction, a movie, and a bunch of consumer items.  Who is this person/family who didn’t like my book?  And why didn’t they like it?  It wasn’t so much the lousy rating as the lack of substantiation that irked me.  But it got me to thinking:  What are the differences between reviews, opinions, and ratings? In this world of instant messages, texts and quickie online ratings, it only takes a few seconds to rate a book.  Just a click of the mouse and a few curt words is all it takes to be a “reviewer.”

Review - A book review usually consists of these basic elements:
  • A brief description of what the book is about without being a plot spoiler.
  • What you liked and/or didn’t like about it (characters, plot, pace, style, emotional impact, denouement, etc.) and why.  Was it satisfying, or were you left wanting in the end?
  • A summary to wrap it up – the type of reader you recommend it to (or why you can’t recommend it); any authors or books you’d compare it to, its value, stuff like that. 
Opinion - Due to the nature of the beast, and the modern reader’s time constraints, an Amazon “review” a.k.a. opinion is shorter.  Opinions are just that, but still require a modicum of supporting evidence.
  • Give it a star rating between one and five
  • Briefly explain what you liked and/or didn’t like about the book and why you rated it the way you did.  “I didn’t like it.” isn’t sufficient, however, “I didn’t like it because it is poorly written, the plot feels contrived, and it contains gratuitous violence that I find offensive…” would suffice on a quickie online opinion.
Rating - Click the star, and because the program demands it, write a few words.  No explanations necessary, unless you’re in the mood to write an opinion or review.  If you are too lazy or disillusioned  to actually read a book to the end, this is the perfect option for you.
   The thing that all three of the above have in common is that they are subjective in their nature, and as with the judgment of any work of art, be it writing, painting, theater, music or whatever, it’s what the experiencer brings to the table that colors his opinion.   And in the case of the 1-star “reviewer” I respect that with all of my being.

Why have I arrived?

It’s not because I sold a million copies or went to St. Louis with the companion science curriculum in hand.  It’s not because the book has become part of many schools’ core curriculum. It’s not because a few literary “gatekeepers” reviewed it favorably. It’s not because I got a movie deal with Disney.  It’s because I know now that my book is part of the bigger picture. It made me feel whole. Thanks unhappy Christmas Day rater for the perfect gift.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lists Not Resolutions

People often ask me how I manage to find the time to do all of the things that I do.  In addition to my teaching classes each week, I also manage to run regularly, and get a painting in now and then.  In the first six months of this year I illustrated, designed, formatted, made final edits, did a Kickstarter campaign, fulfilled rewards and thank-you notes for over a hundred backers, and released my book.  That was the easy part.  With the daunting task of marketing, I’m navigating unknown waters.  From the outside it might look like I’m highly productive, but internally I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.  As my son keeps reminding me, frequent blogging is a very important part of market visibility.  With Christmas less than a week away, I’m writing this while my eggs dry.  Every year since 1984, I’ve been making these intricate painted eggs as gifts.  No shopping for me, just egg-making.  At one point I was cranking out 48 eggs for the people on my list.  This year I tried to whittle down the list and made a dozen to sell and another 30 to give.
So, people ask, “How do you do it?”
I awoke this morning with the answer: Lists

I dream up my lists in my sleeping hours, wake up, and jot down the stuff I dreamt about. I even have a list to make on my list!   My list today includes:
  • Make holiday food list (from planned recipes for beef Wellington, lava cake, duxelles, bordelaise…)
  • Grocery shop - that can wait until Monday
  • Finish eggs (that means personalize the eggs, put the final finish on, let them dry, pack up the ones that need to be mailed, go to the post office, and move forward into the holiday)
  • Get Phoebe’s gift, wrap grands’ gifts, pack and mail
  • Call Perry’s – order 2.5 lb tenderloin (no silver)
  • Horn Book award submission
  • Order art supplies from Dick Blick
  • Vacuum and wash floor – doubt that’ll happen
  • Write blog post
Never before have I put blogging on my list, and when I woke up this morning I knew the only way I’d get it done is to put it on the list.  The list gets triaged, and some things can wait for another day.
The photo shows how I operate. 

There’s my egg list, today's list, art supply list, calendar with student list.
All the while I’m dreaming up my list for the New Year.
  • Get a companion curriculum prepared for Nelson Telson
  • Make a piece of really compelling collateral for the book that includes curriculum
  • Make a reservation to the IRA convention in St. Louis in July (airline and hotel, too)
  • Figure out how to engage educators and home schoolers
  • Get the book in schools
  • Sell the movie rights to Pixar, Disney or Spielberg
  • Sell a million
You get the picture.  Now I can check that one off the list

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – no resolutions here, just lists.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Not old news

This morning I see Roger Sutton at The Horn Book has written an editorial.  You can read it here: http://www.hbook.com/2014/10/opinion/editorials/editorial-self-service/#comment-290974, and my response:

Hi Roger,
   Having initiated this with my original letter to you, I must take this opportunity to bring my intention to the discussion once again.  The exasperation I have felt just trying to get the book read by unbiased reviewers was the springboard.  Over the four months since releasing the book (old news already, eh?) I have been entering competitions (I'm out of luck with your "golden ticket" timeline, and was 2 weeks too late for entering this/next year's HB awards), not qualifying for reviews within exclusionary submission guidelines; writing letters to the likes of you, urging readers to review on amazon,  blogging and tweeting and twiddling and facebooking, and spending so much of my creative energy on these things, I'm jaded and weary—but I still believe in my book.
   That said, I can see how those in the industry see a single-handed writer/illustrator/publisher/publicist as way too close to the work to be objective, but we are not all like that.  As you said, self-publishing authors are now employing editors and collaborating with others to get those much-needed objective eyes to move the work into the best form possible.  I am lucky to have such sharp-eyed friends and the willingness to utilize criticism.
   Based on the input of readers, I believe in my work now more than ever. I’ve sold a few hundred, and have had nothing but positive feedback. It is being considered for a few One Book One School programs, a professor of science education has made it required reading for his science ed majors, and no matter how long it takes, it will find its way into schools, because yes, it’s that important, timeless, and good.  But I am only one person, now engaging as many people as possible to read Nelson Telson – The Story of a True Blue Blood.

   During our initial exchanges, since your parameters excluded my book from any possibility of review, I offered to send you a copy, no strings, just for your enjoyment.  You ask, "How can we make them part of the family?”  My offer still stands.
Sheesh, I feel like such a kid.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kindle Book!

After much moaning and groaning and gnashing of teeth, I finally have a kindle version that looks great!  #nelsontelson #kidlit #horseshoecrab Check it out: Nelson Telson Kindle Book
Flying high :-)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Banned in Boston

So, how’s an independently published author supposed to go about garnering a few reviews in her home city?  My family has been in the Boston area since 1633.  I went to school in Boston.  I even consulted on the Boston in a Box board game, and appear in the credits.  But when it comes to getting the Boston Globe and Horn Book to take a look at the work of a home girl, all bets appear to be off.
            The email I sent Nicole Lamy, Books Editor at the Boston Globe, and a fellow Emersonian no less, has been ignored.  I’m guessing the media packet I sent her is moldering in the slush pile.
            After stirring up Roger Sutton at The Horn Book, and even getting him to admit that not all self-published books are terrible, I still can’t get a review!
            These so-called gatekeepers have everything locked up so tightly. They’ve secured the realm of publishing with the barbed wire of old-school rules and timeframes to keep out the independent riffraff at the expense of readers everywhere.  It is ironic that those whose job is to bring good books and the love of reading to the public are refusing to acknowledge some really good books that are as much a benefit to humanity as “traditionally” published works.
            If you’ve read Nelson Telson, and wish to recommend it to Roger, feel free to respond to this thread: http://www.hbook.com/2014/10/blogs/read-roger/challenge-self-publishers/.
            If you’d like to see the response to the letter in my last blog post, you can read it here: http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/read-roger/open-letter-self-published-author-feeling-dissed/

#hornbook #bglobebooks #nelsontelson  Flip me over.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My rant which just became a Letter to the Editors:

I find it hard to believe that, here we are in the age of communications, and publications such as the Boston Globe Horn Book are still stuck in the old industrial paradigm, serving only established publishing concerns when there are so many great independently published books out there, including my middle grade novel Nelson Telson – The Story of a True Blue Blood.  Google it.

When I read submission guidelines: “Books produced by publishers that are not listed in Literary Market Place are not considered,” it just breaks my heart to see that literary people whose job is to bring good books and the love of reading to the public are actually suppressing information and thereby robbing the very reading public they are supposed to serve.  Freedom of speech itself is wrapped up in this highfalutin reactionary, exclusive brotherhood between reviewers, agents, and publishing houses.  If you haven’t noticed, we entered the Information Age three decades ago; we’re riding the Third Wave now, and that includes independently published works of exceptional quality.  Hop onboard!

Yours truly,
Heidi Mayo

P.S. Were my book eligible in your exclusive domain, you would have received the following letter with my submission. 

Dear Reader,

I have enclosed my middle grade novel, NELSON TELSON – The Story of a True Blue Blood and supporting materials for your consideration.   For the sake of brevity, please find the synopsis on the back cover and brochure.

When I decided to self-publish, I embarked upon a very successful Kickstarter campaign that was funded 415% and covered all costs while pre-selling nearly 200 copies.  Based on the input of readers, I have come to understand the vast and outstanding value of this book to children, adults, and educators. 

Recently, I was excited to learn that the University of North Dakota’s Professor Lars Helgeson, Ph.D. has required Nelson Telson for his Primary and Secondary Ed. majors.  Additionally, a handful of middle school English Language Arts Coordinators have been happy to accept the book for inclusion in their libraries and English, Science, and Critical Reading classes.  This book will be adopted into core curriculums nationally as, along with its engaging story of fantasy and real-life characters and situations, it offers countless important learning opportunities about ecology, global interdependence, history, philosophy, relativity theory, and how perspective impacts reality, to name a few.  Enjoyed by readers of all ages, it’s a middle grade novel that grows up before your very eyes.

The enclosed book is of a special edition printed by Powder Horn Press (ISBN 978-0692234785) as rewards for my Kickstarter backers.  On page 199 there is a color feature not found in the books distributed online by CreateSpace Independent Publishing and Amazon (ISBN 978-1499538441).  A Kindle version will be available soon.

In the media packet you will find:
*   business card
*   marketing brochure
*   author Q and A
*   author bios
*   2 press releases
*   sampling of Amazon reviews

Links to video interviews and forthcoming articles can be found at www.heidimayo.com on my media packet page.

Thank you so much for your time and kind consideration. Enjoy the book!

Monday, September 8, 2014



CONTACT:  Heidi Mayo


PLYMOUTH, MA, September 8, 2014 – Local author, artist and teacher Heidi Mayo will be at the Plymouth Farmers’ Market at Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Avenue, Plymouth, MA on Thursday, September 18 from 2:30 to 6:00 for a special book-signing event.  Heidi will be available to answer questions and share her experiences about her just-published book, NELSON TELSON – The Story of a True Blue Blood, a story that takes place in Duxbury and Plymouth, MA.  Visit www.heidimayo.com for more information about this very special middle grade novel enjoyed by readers of all ages. Part of the proceeds will benefit Plimoth Plantation.

NELSON TELSON is available locally at Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury, Plimoth Plantation Museum Shop, and online at amazon.com. 

The author loves presenting Nelson Telson to the public, media, groups, and schools.  To book an interview, appearance, or book signing, please contact heidi@heidimayo.com.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


NELSON TELSON - The Story of a True Blue Blood signed special Powder Horn Press Edition books available at Westwinds Bookshop and Plimoth Plantation Museum Shop.

Book signing event at Plymouth Farmers Market, Plimoth Planataion, Sept 18, 2:30-6:00

#nelsontelson #horseshoecrab #westwindsbookshop #plimouthplantation


PLYMOUTH, MA, August 29, 2014— Local author Heidi Mayo’s book NELSON TELSON – The Story of a True Blue Blood is a middle grade novel with many lessons for young and old alike. Readers take away concepts such as the interdependence of all living things, the need to sustain our environment, and the importance of selfless giving.  In that spirit, Mayo, with help from Powder Horn Press, has donated numerous copies of her book to Plymouth Intermediate Schools, Rising Tide Charter Public School, Duxbury Middle School, Duxbury Bay Maritime School, and South Shore Charter School.

When shy and lonely Mariah Miller finds a magic spearhead on the beach that enables her to talk to a wise old horseshoe crab, she travels through time and space and learns many lessons.  Nelson the horseshoe crab shares the wisdom of the ages, and along the way we learn just how important horseshoe crabs are to the survival of many species including our own. Horseshoe crabs thrived on this planet for over 455 million years without human interference. Now they need our protection. Mayo’s work supports the Ecological Research and Development Group of Dover, Delaware whose sole purpose is to stabilize global horseshoe crab populations. The author encourages people to shop through smile.amazon.com choosing Ecological Research and Development Group as their charity, so proceeds with benefit this important work.

MEET THE AUTHOR—Among Mariah’s many adventures on the shores of Duxbury and Plymouth, she visits the first Thanksgiving and learns much about the People of the First Light – the Wampanoag. You can meet the author right there at the Plymouth Farmers Market at Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Avenue, Plymouth, MA on Thursday, September 18 from 2:30 to 6:00 for a special book-signing event. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Plimoth Plantation.

NELSON TELSON is available locally at Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury, Plimoth Plantation Museum Shop, and online at amazon.com. 

The author loves presenting Nelson Telson to the public, media, groups, and schools.  To book an interview, appearance, or book signing, please contact heidi@heidimayo.com.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Press Release 7-30-2014


CONTACT:  Heidi Mayo
Email: heidi@heidimayo.com


“A must read for humans of all ages, this middle grade novel grows up before your very eyes.”

PLYMOUTH, MA, July 30, 2014— Local author Heidi Mayo has launched her middle grade novel NELSON TELSON – The Story of a True Blue Blood just in time for summer reading.   Mayo, a local pastel painter and teacher of fine art, wrote and illustrated NELSON TELSON over the course of nine years, and then, like the horseshoe crab in the story, it rested in the mud for a while. Mayo said, “Suddenly the world was ready for Nelson, so at the turn of the year I finished the illustrations in ink, formatted it to industry standards, and edited the heck out of it with a little help from a few of my highly literate, sharp-eyed friends.”  Her love of the local shoreline, all of its inhabitants, and the natural world that sustains us is the inspiration for this book.

Set in and around the waters of Duxbury and Plymouth, Massachusetts, painfully shy and lonely, eleven-year-old Mariah Miller hates being a human; she’d rather be an animal so she wouldn’t have to go to school and deal with mean old Mrs. Tarbox and her nasty cousin, Travis, who has invaded her life.  Enchantment abounds when she finds a magic spearhead on the beach that allows her to talk to a wise old horseshoe crab and a host of other animals.  Her father becomes seriously ill, and throughout her trials in the real world, she is often surprised by the unpredictable power of the spearhead.  As she magically travels through time and space, and listens to the wisdom of creatures and people, Mariah makes leaps in her own personal growth, discovers the interdependence of all living things, learns how perspective creates reality, and what it really means to be human.

Mayo conducted a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to finance the first edition. This edition has two printings: Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing edition is available at amazon.com, and a special edition printed locally by Powder Horn Press is available at Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury and signed copies can be purchased directly from the author at www.heidimayo.com.

Mayo is available for interviews and appearances. For booking presentations, media appearances, interviews, and/or book-signings contact heidi@heidimayo.com.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Author Q&A

AUTHOR Q&A - Heidi Mayo on NELSON TELSON – The Story of a True Blue Blood

Q Why did you write this book?

A This book just had to be written. When an artist has a painting that needs to be painted, or a writer has a book that needs to be written, it happens.  As an artist, writer, teacher, and activist, I had this story, all these words and pictures that needed to come out, so I let them.

Q How long did it take you to write the book?

A I wrote the main book over a period of about nine years.  I started making the illustrations during that time, too.  Then it sat for another seven.  The world wasn’t ready for the book yet.  Relativity theory hadn’t become popular; people weren’t so interested in horseshoe crabs, and independent publishing was still looked down upon as “vanity” publishing.  But when I brought it back out to publish it, when I read it I was amazed.  I asked myself, “Where did this come from?  Who wrote this?”  I’d find myself crying at certain heartfelt parts, laughing at word play, and such. That’s how cool and surprising whole the process was.

Q How did you become interested in the topic?

A Having spent much of my childhood and adult life in and around the waters of Duxbury, Massachusetts, where much of the book takes place, I always felt great affinity for the natural world and its creatures.  I have a strong sense of the interdependency of all living things on the planet, the web of life, and a special concern for how our species is forcing itself into extinction by disregarding this fact.

Q What did you hope to accomplish by publishing your book?

A As I say to my students all the time, “It isn’t about the product; it’s about the process.” Like any artwork, the process itself is the accomplishment, but to be able to share the work with the world is the bigger reason.  Kids (and grownups) today are especially disconnected from the outdoors, from the natural world that sustains us.  This work serves to reconnect us.

Q Who is your intended readership?

A The book’s tag line is: "A must read for humans of all ages, this middle grade novel grows up before your very eyes."  The book is intended for everyone, and is accessible for readers around fourth grade and up, though some of my younger students are able to read it too.  It’s also the kind of book that a parent or teacher can read to younger kids.

Q When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

A I loved writing in high school, and had a fabulous English teacher who encouraged me.  I was also the unwilling editor of the high school newspaper.  I went to Emerson College in Boston ten years later than my peers (and graduated as valedictorian, woo woo).  My concentration was in scriptwriting and filmmaking. I did a lot of fiction writing at that time, too.  Again in college I had one teacher in particular who really validated me as a writer. My writing is very cinematic, and NELSON TELSON will make a great movie.  I actually started writing the screenplay at one point.

Q How did you research your book?

A Over the years of the writing, I referred to many books, articles, web sites, and scientists for information about horseshoe crabs, medicine, relativity theory, the first Thanksgiving, and the Wampanoag People.  These appear in the book’s Acknowledgements.  But most of all, I referred to my intuition and direct experience. 

Q What traits and other tidbits do you share with your main character?

A Mariah isn’t so keen on being a member of the human species.  She’s sensitive to noises and sights and smells, and is sort of an outsider in the human realm.  She doesn’t like being cooped up in school when it’s nice outside.  In fact, she’d rather be an animal so she wouldn’t be related to these human creatures that wreak such havoc on the planet.  As solitary as I feel, paradoxically I’m also a big communicator and clearly see how we are all connected.

Q On page 42, Neslon says, “We’re ‘fifth business’ in the great dramas of the earth, always in the background, never starring in a leading role…”  What’s that all about?

A One of my favorite books is Fifth Business by Canadian writer Robertson Davies.  The idea of one small character who threw a rock in a snowball, or in the case of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, a baseball, can have such impact on the story even when the thrower of the rock seems to have no role in the drama; not the hero or heroine, lover or rival, but the story can’t unfold or conclude without him.  He knows secrets that nobody else knows.  And it’s no coincidence that Nelson is a baritone.

Q What surprised you about the process of writing your book?

A I was always amazed at how the story just took on a life of its own.  Although I wrote it, it was more like I facilitated it.  I’d get completely lost in the process, just as I do when painting.  It came through me.  Over the years of writing, so many serendipitous coincidences lead me—and the characters—in the right direction.  When I started making the illustrations, I was suddenly struck with the need to create art, just for the sake of it.  So, I took a little detour and became a pastel painter and art teacher as a result of that.  And when the time was right to publish, I picked it up again, did the illustrations in ink, made the cover art in watercolor, vetted and edited with a little help from my highly literate and helpful friends; formatted the book, and voila, here we are!

Q Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?

A I have a soft spot in my heart for E.B. White, everything from The Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte’s Web to One Man’s Meat, and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.  I was delighted when a review started with, “In the tradition of EB White, this beautifully illustrated middle school reader will appeal to all ages.”  That made my day.  I wanted to write a book that has a universal message, that everyone will love, and people across the ages can share.  I believe I’ve done just that.

Q What made you decide to self-publish?

A Publishing is a mean business.  If you don’t have an agent, no one wants to give your book a look.  Just check any publisher’s submission information, and you’ll see the big guys don’t accept unsolicited work.  If you don’t have representation or haven’t already sold a bunch of books, they aren’t interested no matter how great the work.  Back when I finished the meat of the book, that’s how it was.  I’m pretty thin-skinned, and after approaching a bunch of agents and publishers, jumping through the hoops, giving each one the submission just the way they wanted it, and getting rejected, I figured my time is better spent at creative endeavors.  Seven years went by, and during that time self-publishing became acceptable.  One really neat thing is that I was able to do it all, from writing and illustrating, to making the cover and formatting the interior all by myself.  Just finding the right font for the drop caps took me hours, but I knew what I wanted.  I feel very fortunate to have that skill set, and/or the willingness to figure out how to get the book to look the way I want it.

Q What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A Like Mariah, I need to be outside a lot.  I have a running route that takes me along my local shoreline, so I keep in touch with all those animal characters that appear in the book.  I also like to row in my shell on the Billington Sea, the pond mentioned in the book.  I teach art around three times a week, and sometimes even get to make a painting now and then.

Q Where do you see this book going?

A Firstly, it’s a great book for summer reading, no matter what your age.  I see the book in schools from the east coast of Canada down to Florida as a starter.  As one reviewer said, it should be in the core reading curriculum of middle school science teachers of ecology, biology, marine science, or even Einstein's theory of relativity.  I also see it on the shelves of public libraries and reading families. I am working with Ecological Research & Development Group of Dover, Delaware and their www.horseshoecrab.org to make sure a portion of Amazon sales through the Amazon Smile program to further the protection of the world’s horseshoe crab population.  I also see the movie!

Q Are you working on another book?

A I am playing with many ideas right now, about whether to write a sequel to this book or to just make another stand alone book.  If there’s another one needing to happen, it certainly will.

Any more questions?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Adventure in Publishing

Now that my book, NELSON TELSON - The Story of a True Blue Blood is published, it appears the pressure is on for me to maintain a blog as a good marketing practice, so that's what I'm doing.

What an adventure! I am enjoying the ride, just like the book's main character Mariah Miller as she flies over Bug Light on the cover.

When I decided it was time to publish, I created a modest  Kickstarter campaign back in May, 2014.  During that time I went into overdrive giving the book a final vetting, creating the watercolor painting for the cover, formatting the book and cover, so I'd be ready to roll it out at the end of the 27-day campaign.  During that time I employed the social media matrix to spread the word.  I was stoked when the campaign ended and my project was 415% funded.

Using Powder Horn Press, my local printer, I was able to create a special edition book that has a little color feature that the books produced by Amazon's CreateSpace don't have.  These are the books I am distributing as rewards for my Kickstarter backers, and selling as signed books.  I love keeping this piece of the action local, and Powder Horn does great work.

I am now in the process of preparing my media packet for the book so I can start marketing to schools and such.  Stay tuned for my next installment: Author's Q&A.