Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another Retirement Home Event

I did another presentation at a retirement community yesterday. Since I used a microphone, most of the people could hear me. Afterwards during the question and answer session, we got into a discussion of geezer romance. One resident questioned the unique circumstances of Paul Jacobson (my protagonist) having a romantic tryst. One of the ladies in the back piped up and said, “Aw, that’s nothing. After my grandmother died, my octogenarian grandfather who lived in West Virginia used to walk five miles into town every Saturday night for a woman. Then afterwards, he’d walk five miles back.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008


What will be one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century? In addition to global warning, it will be the need for services for the aging population. The baby boomers are entering their golden years, and medical science is keeping more of us alive longer. By the year 2030 the U.S. population of people 65 and older is expected to grow to 71 million of which 9 million will be 85 or older, a doubling of this population from the year 2000. On a worldwide basis the median age today is 26, but by 2050 it is forecasted to be 36. And a major issue worldwide will the shift of people into the retired age bracket. In 1950 there were twelve people in the working age group for every person in the retired category. By 2000 this ration had shifted to 9:1 and by 2050 it is expected to drop to 4:1, putting tremendous pressure on systems such as Social Security and Medicare. Our political system will need to step up to this reality.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guest Blogger: Maryann Miller on Book Signing Experience

We've all encountered good and bad experiences at author events. I'd like to welcome guest blogger Maryann Miller describing her worst experience at a book signing.

Whenever I travel I like to try to do a little book promoting when I can, so a couple of years ago I arranged a signing at a senior center where my mother lives and one at a nursing home where my mother-in-law lived. I contacted the activities directors at both facilities well in advance to schedule the events, and both assured me that there were lots of avid readers among the residents and they would love to meet an author.

At the senior center about fifteen people stayed after lunch to hear me speak, and I even sold a few books. My mother was thrilled to introduce her daughter, the writer, and it was a fun afternoon. The residents were eager to talk about books and writing, and seemed equally thrilled to meet a writer.

Two days later, I made my appearance at the nursing home. I was scheduled to follow the late-afternoon bingo game when folks would already be assembled and willing to stay since dinner would immediately follow the talk. I stepped to the microphone the bingo caller left live for me and introduced myself to the audience of about twenty.

They were not an easy crowd.

I knew I was starting to lose them when a gentleman sitting up front asked if I was ever going to get the glass of water he’d asked for an hour ago. Then three women got up and left, muttering loudly that they must be in the wrong place since dinner wasn’t coming yet and it was past time.
In an effort to salvage something – anything – I abandoned my prepared speech and tried to engage the rest of the audience on a more personal level. I asked if they liked to read. One woman said she couldn’t read but she liked to sing. I told her that was nice and tried to engage someone else, but she interrupted to ask if I’d like to hear something. Before I could respond, she launched into a lusty version of You Are My Sunshine.

The other residents cheered when she was finished, so I took the hint. We spent the rest of the hour in a sing-along.

I guess I should have taken my guitar instead of my books.

Maryann Miller

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Use of the Term "Geezer"

I received an email after my last blog posting expressing concern that the term “geezer” was off-putting. The person felt it was okay for older people to use the term about themselves but not appropriate for younger people to call older people “geezers.” I guess this is like certain young persons of color using the “N” word among themselves but it not being appropriate for a person of paleness to use the term. My intent is to use the word “geezer” in an affectionate way. My protagonist Paul Jacobson calls himself a geezer, old fogy and old fart. I’m only a geezer-in-training at age 63. As posted last month, I have come across references to many unique geezers and my definition of geezer is “an interesting older character.” But I’d like to hear from others. Do you find the term “geezer” appropriate or inappropriate?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Author Events at Retirement Communities

Author events at retirement communities are good venues for writers whose books appeal to an older audience. For my geezer-lit mysteries, I’ve found this a good fit. I’ve spoken at nine retirement communities with four more scheduled and have learned what works well for the audience and speaker and what doesn’t. For authors planning to speak at retirement communities here are some useful hints:

  • You can find a list of retirement communities in the yellow pages or other listings. Make sure you contact independent living facilities and not care homes or nursing homes. Call and ask to speak with the activity director. This is the person who schedules events. Start with upscale communities as these are the folks that can afford to buy books. Since my book comes in hard cover, I want to do signings where people can afford twenty dollar books. Some retirement communities have book groups. Several times I’ve been directed to a resident who heads up a book group and schedules programs. Some of the people in these groups will buy books ahead of time.
  • Offer a program, not to exceed an hour. I never charge a fee but do insist on being able to do a signing. My program is a twenty minute presentation, approximately twenty minutes for questions and then twenty minutes to sign books. You will find that some retirement communities will not allow programs where products are sold to their residents. I’ve experienced this restriction at about twenty percent of the organizations I’ve approached. Say thank you and move on. It’s their loss of a good program for their residents.
  • If you have a large print edition, bring copies to sell. Since my large print edition came out, I’ve sold approximately half large print and half standard hard cover.
  • Understand the set up of the room you’ll be speaking in. I have spoken in auditoriums, meeting rooms, the lobby and the dining room. I always ask for a large table or two small tables for my books, bowl of candy, bookmarks, postcards and display poster. Sometimes a lectern is available and sometimes I roam. For large rooms see if they have a microphone. At the retirement community I visited two days ago, they had a sound system and provided earphones for residents with hearing difficulties. This was a big plus.
  • Once a program is scheduled, work with your contact on promotion. I’ve sold anywhere from two to forty-seven books at these events and the main difference is promotion ahead of time. Make sure notices are posted throughout the facility, published in the newsletter if they have one and even mailed to outside parties. The retirement community where I sold the most books had an outreach program to bring people from the community in to see the facility, and they promoted my event to contact outsiders as well as residents and staff. One enlightened marketing director even purchased twenty-five copies of my book as a promotional give away. I also promote the event and have brought people from the outside community in to attend.
  • Follow up a week ahead of time to reconfirm. I learned my lesson at one poorly attended event, when I found the event coordinator had neglected to put a notice up that day.
  • Always arrive a half hour ahead of time to set up, scope out the room and meet residents. I usually cruise the lobby or dining area handing out book marks and inviting people to the program. Several retirement communities I’ve spoken at had libraries. That’s a good place to find interested residents. Also see if the facility wants to buy one or more books for the library. Some facilities have public address systems, so ask to have an announcement made fifteen minutes before the program begins.
  • Have fun. You’ll meet great people who ask good questions and are engaged. As I like to say, all my programs have been successful—no one fell asleep and no one died.
  • Send a thank you to your contact person afterwards and keep the information on file for your next book.

People in retirement homes often come up and share interesting stories. I’ve incorporated several ideas in to the book I’m currently writing. Last Friday I was told about a woman who was a widow and took a chance on marrying a man in the retirement home who had never been married before. A month later she went to the retirement home director and said she wanted a divorce and to have a room to herself again. When asked why, she said, “All he wants to do is fondle, fondle, fondle.”

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mystery Novels with Older Protagonists

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is the classical example of an aging mystery protagonist. As I have attended writers’ and mystery fan conferences, I’ve met a number of other geezer-lit mystery authors. Here’s a sampling for your consideration: Rita Lakin’s protagonist is 75 year old Gladdy Gold, a self-proclaimed private investigator living in a condo in Florida. Rita’s mysteries include Getting Old Is Murder, Getting Old Is the Best Revenge, Getting Old Is Criminal and Getting Old Is To Die For. Nora Charles writes the Kate Kennedy senior sleuth mystery series including Who Killed Swami Swartz? Parnell Hall has the puzzle lady mystery featuring the incorrigible, gun-toting Cora Felton. Cynthia Riggs writes the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Series starring 92-year old poet Victoria Trumbull. All of these have enjoyable and interesting senior sleuths, so add these to your reading list if you haven’t already.