Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Makes Something a Real Bargain?

I'm old school enough to believe that a bargain is not simply something you get for a cheaper price. That often means that you are getting

To me a bargain is paying less and getting more than you expected. Like finding a house that looks ordinary on the outside but is a treasure of handcrafted quality and exquisite design inside, and is priced to sell, too. Here's a smaller scale example: Last spring my husband and I went to the local Home Depot for something - don't remember what - and as we walked toward the entrance we saw a large group of hibiscus plants in black plastic tubs. Stacked higgledy-piggledy around a sign that said $8.97, it was clear they were there to be moved out quickly.

None of the plants had any blooms on them, though a few had small buds. One or two plants showed the remnants of a pale, peach-colored flower. A couple of years ago we had a hibiscus plant that we put out front for the pure pleasure of seeing the brilliant red blooms. Remember we are in Maryland where such plants don't survive the winter, and though we brought "Hortense" (yes, we named her) inside, she did not survive her second winter. Now here were dozens of potential replacements at less than half what the original Hortense had cost. What could we lose?

So Hortense the Second came home and took up her place by the front steps. Sure enough, she put out a peach colored bloom. But not just any flower - it was a double! Multiple layers of pale sunset-colored petals were so heavy that the slender stem could barely hold the flower up.

Then it happened. A few days later, a red flower, also a double. What? Red and peach on the same plant? Yes - and she has done it several times again throughout the summer. The pictures show two blooms that opened within three days of each other.

Peach colored double hibiscus flower Red double hibiscus flower

A plant that is healthy, puts out gorgeous double blooms in two colors, brightens our mornings, and came at an unexpectedly low price. Now THAT is a bargain!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Clicking for Kibble

There's a young lady in Oregon who has fed a lot of hungry cats and dogs. Not by taking them food, but rather by using the power of the Internet to stock the shelves of shelters across the country with almost 110 TONS of cat and dog kibble.

Mimi Ausland is a seventh grader who believes in making a difference in the lives of shelter animals. Inspired by a website that donates rice to needy countries, she and her parents came up with and, coming in June, Every day you can go to the site, answer a trivia question about dogs or cats, and whether you get it right or wrong, they donate 10 pieces of kibble to one of 13 shelters in the US.  As of today, 319,821,200 pieces have been donated!

I learned about Mimi through an article in Cat Fancy magazine - read it here: Cat Fancy article about FreeKibble. I love the end of the article where Mimi is quoted: 
"Just do whatever you can do, whether it's doing a lemonade stand or setting up a site like this," she says. "Just get out there and help something or someone. Try your best to help."

So every day I'm going to and answering their question. I got today's wrong, but so what? The cats and dogs still get the kibble, and I'm telling other people about it.

If a seventh grader can make a difference, so can I. So this weekend I'll be searching for odds and ends of acrylic yarn so I can knit "snuggles" for cat shelters - if you haven't heard about the Snuggles Project, learn more here.  Kira and Pipsqueak will help, I'm sure.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do Libraries Sell Houses?

What do I mean by "Do libraries sell houses?" Sure, local libraries are pinched for funding, but they're not going into the real estate business. No, I'm talking about all the considerations that add up to a sale.

This is an article I posted on the Active Rain site (for real estate professionals), but I think anyone who is selling, buying, or thinking about moving could add "Library Nearby" to their wish list for a home.

There's no single factor that will make a buyer decide that the house you have listed is THE perfect house. But after you get past price and location, there are many things that can tip the scales in favor of one house over another. Curb appeal is important of course, cleanliness and maintenance are too. But a major factor can also be the community that surrounds the house and what it has to offer.
Adults in library at table Children in library story time
Public libraries are always popular for families as they offer great resources and stacks filled with books on every subject imaginable. These days, they also include videos and music CDs along with computers, book clubs, author talks, and story times for the little folks. If a public library is in easy distance of a home for sale, that can be a feature of value to a buyer.
National Library Week banner
This is a great time to highlight libraries in your community. April 11 through 17 is National Library Week sponsored by The American Library Association. This year's theme is "Communities thrive@ your library" and local libraries will be celebrating with special programs and exhibits. One of my favorite events of the week is the release of the annual "Top 10 Most Challenged Books" list - these are the books that most often are subject to attempts to have them censored, banned, or removed from library shelves in violation of the First Amendment.
Communities Thrive banner
I don't know if libraries really do sell houses. But I do know that libraries and librarians are an important part of every community. This is the week to celebrate them and the role they play in making any community a better place to live.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Book is Brewing

That's right, another book is brewing...or perhaps I should say gestating. The life cycle of a book in some ways mirrors the life cycle of other living things. It begins with a seed - a thought. It grows organically, based on the genetics or outline created for it at the start. Even though there's a general plan, the growth of each individual organism or book is never the same as any other.

When you write a book you may know how it will end, but you don't always know how it will get there. If it's fiction you may find that your characters take over at some point. They surprise you with what they say, or they become stubborn and refuse to go where you send them. The plot that you thought was carefully constructed can take a twist you never saw coming.

In non-fiction such as my newest project - The Dog Lover's Book of Days - even with a good framework already in place, you cannot know for sure what the book will be until it's done. Just today I received an email from a woman who took the time to tell me about how her first dog died tragically young, and yet how that young life lead to another dog who is still with her. Better yet, she discovered a passion for rescuing and caring for dogs that has led her to a whole new phase of her life that gives her great satisfaction. That's a great story and I'll find a way to include it even though I had not intended to focus on pet rescues for this book.

And there's the secret whether you are writing a book or selling a house or simply taking a walk: Have a plan but be open to taking advantage of surprising changes as they come. See the opportunity and beauty that can come from something you didn't expect.

Now please pardon me while I go find a dog to interview. Think I'll start with my new neighbor, an adorable little West Highland Terrier who is all energy and wiggles. It should be fun to see the world through puppy eyes that are about 8" above the ground!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Creativity Kick-Start

For the last couple of months it's been difficult to get into the groove. Maybe you know how it is; something happens that knocks you off course for a while and you find yourself wandering around, being busy, but not actually doing anything.

When that happens, I need a change of scene, a creativty kick-start. As a writer and publisher, I can only wallow around in research so long (reading books, following internet links, getting side-tracked with interesting stuff that doesn't actually go anywhere!)  What to do?
John Simpson with videographer
I've found two ways to give myself that whack upside the head that can clear the cobwebs and get me back to productive work again, and both have to do with other people.
Porcelain jar with cats on topCeladon porcelain with cat on topFirst tactic: Find a craft show where there is an abundance of creativity and eye candy. Go look at what artists and craftspeople are doing - they are all living their passion, and some of it will certainly rub off on me. A favorite is the ACC show in Baltimore, of course, which Margaret Rome and I visited last month. A few minutes in Josh Simpson's booth, soaking up the glorious colors of his glass and chatting with this very approachable artist, clears my mind and feeds my soul. I also could not resist the work of Barbara Sebastian who makes exquisite small porcelain pots with carved cat beads on top; I loved the celadon green, but this one in earth tones with the mother and kitten came home with me.

Second tactic: Find a group of people who are doing what I do, but doing their own version. In this case, it's a group of independent publishers in the MidAtlantic area. We get together several times a year for sharing information and acting as a mastermind group for each other. The room fairly crackles with creativity! And I come home with new ideas that move me in a new direction. This time I presented the group with a question about what my next Book of Days topic should be. I gave them three choices, and they all looked at me with that "Are you really so dense?" look. Then almost in unison they said, "Dogs!" Yep - even though The Cat Lover's Book of Days is popular, I actually had not put The Dog Lover's Book of Days on my list! It is now, and I'm starting to collect the dog names, stories, and photos that will become my next Book of Days.

Finding and being around creative people works for me...what have you found to kick-start your creative juices?

Publisher of The Cat Lover's Book of Days and Zen and the Art of Negotiation: Successful Negotiation for People Who Hate to Negotiate.
The Cat Lover's Book of Days cover Zen and the Art of Negotiation Cover

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Proof That Marketing Pays

I realize that the concept that it pays to market is not new to most entrepreneurs and professionals. But I got positive proof just yesterday that letting people know what you do is the first and maybe most important step to building your business.
You probably know by know that I wrote a book - The Cat Lover's Book of Days - and several folks on have said nice things about it. But to meet my definition of success for this book I needed to reach a wider audience, so I chose to work with a PR professional to get the word out. She drew up a list of target media, we prepared a press release, and started to spread the news.

And it worked! In a matter of a couple of weeks we've sent review copies of the book to radio stations, magazines, and websites. Yesterday I got confirmation that I'll be interviewed on a national radio talk show, "Talkin' Pets" with Jon Patch, on this Saturday! It's going to be great fun and I would love it if you all called in with questions or comments. Here are the details:
Talkin Pets header
"Talkin' Pets" with Jon Patch - 5:00 p.m. EST - Saturday, January 30, 2010
Toll free call in number: 866-606-TALK begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              866-606-TALK      end_of_the_skype_highlighting (866-606-8255 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              866-606-8255      end_of_the_skype_highlighting)
Website - you can listen online:
The show runs from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, and I'm scheduled to be on during the first 1/2 to 1 hour. To find an AM station near you that carries the program, go the website and click on the "Station Info" button on the left.
Please call and say "Hi!" - I'd love to hear lots of friendly voices. This Saturday. 5:00 p.m. Fun

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

I don't know if there is such a category here as "Thoughtful Thursday," but that's what it is for me today. After a morning of networking, a midday of working on a press release and creating a new edition of a client's book, and an evening of more networking, I will be packing to go to my brother's funeral. In the past days I've learned things about him I never knew, thought a lot about him, and find that sad as it is, I'm looking forward to seeing many family members this weekend. We will drink toasts to him, we will remember him, and there will be as much laughter as tears. Mostly we will, as my cousin said, "celebrate a life well lived."

We've found old photos and sent them to his family so they could add them to a memory site. It was good to see some of those old pictures again, but even better to see ones I never knew of. This is my favorite - the man who loved golden retrievers was also a friend to cats, and they knew it.

Dick Silloway and friend
Dick Silloway and Coriander, both R.I.P.
We can all aspire to that...a life well lived.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tell Them You Love Them

I've been away for quite a while with some big projects. By now I had hoped to be back in the swing of blogging, but life threw a huge curve ball on Friday night. My brother who is only a few years older than me, died suddenly. I was reminded forcefully of something we all know and all forget - there is no guarantee of tomorrow, no assurance that someone you love will be there next week or next year.

Reach out, call them, hug them. Remind them that they are an important part of your life. Create good times and good memories together, for the day will come when you'll have to wrap yourself in those memories to keep warm. And when that day comes, it won't matter how many big deals you made or dollars you earned, only how good were the memories you made along the way.

Today I am wrapping myself in memories of my brother, Richard F. Silloway, 7/14/1941-1/8/2010. Big brothers aren't supposed to leave kid sisters. He was healthy and active which makes it that much harder to comprehend. His death has left a gaping, dark hole in my life, and I still cannot believe that he's gone.