Thursday, September 22, 2016

Marketing 101 Part 4 - The Brochure: A Giant, Musltitasking, Business Card

The fourth installment of the Marketing 101 concerns that odd piece of gear called 'The Brochure'!

1. Questions about marketing.
2. The Logo: Do you need one?
3. The Business Card: Is It Working Hard, or Hardly Working?
4. The Brochure: A Giant, Multitasking, Business Card

I've had brochures for many years. I think of them as more involved business cards. I hand them out to people at showcases, but I don't keep them on me on a daily basis. I probably should.

I sometimes hand these out to people instead of giving them my business card.

So, I went looking for advice about brochures. It turns out there is some controversy about these things. Who would have thought?

Marketing firms and those who design brochures keep assuring people that they need them. 'You must have them', they claim, 'as part of your marketing package'!

You Must!

5 Reasons You Must!

Of Course You Need A Brochure.


Then, there was the other side...people who pay for them.

Nah, you don't need that thing!

Of Course You Don't Need It

You Don't Need One...You Need Five...Maybe None...

Then we get to the place I want to be....How do you know if you need one?

Well, let's get down to that.

1. What would you do with it?

If you don't ever have occasion to give something like this to anyone...don't get one.

If, however, you run into the odd person who doesn't know what you do, finds out about it, might be in a position to hire you, or would like more info, then you could always slip them a brochure.

Surely you've been somewhere when  someone told you about something interesting...I am not talking about the odd religious pamphlet you get...and you were intrigued. Surely you've picked up a brochure about something to get a little more information. The next time you pick one of these things up, imagine someone picking up your brochure and doing the same thing. Sound tempting? Then maybe you should have a brochure.

2. Who would you give this to?

I have friends...I'm looking at you Willa Brigham, who are really go-getters for marketing. She told me that occasionally she stops by schools she's never performed for, goes into the main office, introduces herself and drops off her marketing materials. If you do that sort of thing, you might need a brochure.

3. Do you do trade shows?

If you do trade shows, you can always give this to perspective clients. If they are going back through all of the stuff they got from Arts Market, you glossy brochure might be just the ticket.

4. Would you leave it with schools or venues who would keep it? 

After a show, if you do residencies, you could hand the brochure to the managing director or principal. You could use it to get the word out that you offer a wide variety of services.

5. I'm sure you could think of other reasons to distribute something like this...if you wanted one.

6. You can send it to people in the snail mail. There is always that!

7. Advocacy that you don't have to do out loud.

Ever tried to explain what you do to someone you meet if you are a performing artist? Well, the brochure is the best way to take the second step without you saying, 'Yes, I am a free lance performing artist. I've won blah de bah awards, I travel all over the world, I've got blah de blah recordings, I'm an author of blah de blah books and here is where you can find out more about wonderful me and all the wonderful things I do!'

You hand them the brochure, and the brochure does the talking for you. You can stand there and bask in their adoration as they read the carefully crafted words that say, 'You are standing in front of a damnably brilliant, talented person who does something you didn't even know could be a job!'

Then, they can ask about the items that most interest them instead of you reciting things and hoping you hit upon something they can understand.

So, maybe you need a brochure, maybe you don't, but if you did print one, what would you put in the thing?

Your logo or catch phrase can go on this thing


Product offerings

product offering!

Quick explanation of what you do


Online info

Make sure you keep the text bite sized.

Most people are going to scan this thing, not read it like a novel, so make sure there are points that pop!

The best thing about a brochure is that you can use it as part of making all of your marketing hang together.

It is another chance for branding.

It is an expanded business card with more info, but just enough to whet someone's appetite.

It can link people to your virtual marketing.

So, that's what I have to offer on the brochure. Here are some other thoughts.

Do You Really Need a Brochure: six questions to ask

So, follow the link above, ask your questions, consider your answers, and get one made or don't. If you do, however, consider how it fits with the rest of your marketing pieces.

Cohesion is the name of the game as you add pieces to your marketing arsenal, so if you don't already have a brochure, decide how it can compliment the pieces you are already using.

If you already have something that doubles as a probably don't need a brochure!

Happy Marketing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Your Business Card - Is It Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

Marketing Materials: Installment - 3 Business Cards

1. The Questions
2. Do You Need a Logo?
3. Is Your Business Card Working?
4. The Brochure

Wow. I just learned a great deal about business cards. You think you know a thing, and then you sit down and try to write about it.

The history geek that hides in my soul went looking for the reason we even have these things. The fact that I actually guessed the correct answer makes me think I might spend too much time reading period literature.

So, if you care to read about it...Here is the history of business cards.

"How did a simple card, 3.370 x 2.125 inches come to play such a central role in the business cultural of the world? Depending on the sources consulted, the cards may actually have originated in China in the 15th century."

The number of links I found that gave advice about business cards was extensive. There are lots and lots of things that people suggest about business cards. Some of the advice is contradictory.

So, I've endeavored to collect up what seemed to me like some best practices.

The first thing you should do is go and get your business card. Got it? Great! Now, let's see if your card is working for you.

1.What does this card say about you?

  Look at your card. What is the first thing that draws your eye?

1. Is it obvious what you do at a quick glance?
2. if you have a logo, does it convey what you do?
3. Does anything on your card draw your eye?

If it is not clear what you do or what you offer, then your card may not be working for you. If someone has to hunt around your card for some idea of why they have it, that is a problem.

2. Does your card look professional?

There are so many services you could use to get your card printed. These services offer cards at great prices.

You could go to Staples!
You could try Vistaprint!
Go Eco Friendly!
You could even have Vegan Cards!
Do It Yourself All Over The Place!

There are tons of services, and you can get fifty of the things for ten bucks!

You could drop some bank and let someone else take care of designing it.

You have so many options!

Here is one recommendation I've seen all over the place!

Don't do them on your home computer.

If your business card does not look professional, then you won't be taken seriously as a professional.

3. Be creative, but beware

I have seen some really cool business cards. People do what they can to stand out from the crowd. Well, it turns out if you are too creative, your business card might be remembered, but it won't be kept.

Most people have a system for keeping cards that assumes a standard size and shape. If your card doesn't fit into that standard, it will most likely be lost or tossed, according to the experts. Oversize cards are also a no go according to the people who claim to know such things. Better to find a creative way to stay in the standard size and shape...or so I've read. Several musicians I know have guitar pics as their business cards. Pretty cool. How many of you have ever seen a musician misplace a guitar pick during a set?

4. What size is your font?

Do you have teeny tiny writing on your business card? Would someone over fifty struggle to see what is in front of them?

Is your font in a really light color?

Don't miss out on a portion of your business because those who might purchase your services can't read your card.

5. Is your card too wordy? 

You need contact info, maybe something graphic, and something to identify what you are offering. If your font is big enough you won't have space to list the twelve things you do on the front of your card.

If your card is cluttered, then nothing draws your eye, and your customers have nothing on which to focus. (psst. this is where a logo would come in handy)

6. Are you using both sides of your card?

If there is nothing on the back of your card you are missing out on marketing space. This can be where you put your tag line, or a picture of yourself or something graphic and grabbing. You could also put info on the back. Again, make sure the font is good sized.

7. What kind of contact info is on your card?

Do you have your street address on the card? Apparently, giving yourself an address that isn't virtual makes you look more legit. Your virtual contact should be there as well. Some sources suggested putting the company blog or a link to a video about the company on the card instead of your website. I suppose that depends on what is on your site and how often it gets updated.

8. Is your card glossy?

This was a tidbit I found that had detractors. Some people like to write on business cards. They record information that helps them remember who they saw, and where. In some cultures, writing on a business card is considered taboo, rude beyond reckoning. Either way, if you get a glossy card or one that has an unusual surface, nobody will be able to take notes on it.

9. Is your card boring?

Your personality ought to be on this card. At least, that is what it is for in our trade, so if you are an artist and your card is boring...

10. Now, look at your card beside the rest of your marketing materials.

Does this card fit with the other bits of your marketing? Does the card reflect the brochure, reflect the marketing sheets, reflect the pictures, reflect the website, reflect the press material? If not, how different is it? Is there any cohesion in your marketing?

So, what do my marketing materials look like?


Back of Card

Front of Card


  When we run out of this batch, I'm going to change the font to black instead of the mustard yellow, despite the fact that it is in keeping with the color scheme!
Pocket folder for Press Packet

I have a brochure. I'll discuss what we do with this thing in the next blog post.

This is the front and back cover of my pocket press packet. I will unpack this thing in a future post and show the contents. This is a clever thing that looks really cool.

So, is your business card working for you? 

Here are some more links if you want EVEN MORE information about business cards.

21 Huge Business Card Mistakes You Must Avoid

Is it time for an upgrade?

Happy Marketing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ramblings From The Road

I wrote this over a decade ago for the NC Storytelling Guild Newsletter. Just found it in one of my old document folders.

They were a pair of active, nutty, silly, imaginative little people!

Ramblings From the Road
Donna Washington

I spend a good deal of time on the road these days.  My car has become one of my best friends.  It is a blue-black 1994 Saturn sedan.  I put about thirty thousand miles a year on my car which means that it has almost 200,000 miles to date.  I’ve gotten to the point where I look forward to throwing a couple of days worth of stuff in the back and buckling myself into that seat that is perfectly molded to my figure.  I love the feel and handling of that old car and I trust it.

I take strange u-turns, go for miles in the wrong direction and misread my maps at least once on every trip, but since I tend to leave the day before anyone expects me I just do what I have to do to get there.  My little car has taken me through the mountains in snowstorms and across flat flooded roads in torrential rains. Once I spun out and ended up off the side of the road and into some trees.  A couple of nice young men helped me get my car back on the road and I drove at twenty miles an hour to the nearest Saturn dealership.  They hosed the mud out of the wheel wells and it was as good as new!

I also spend a good deal of time in hotels with the television off and the lights dimmed, hunching over my keyboard working on books or writing exercises.  I have gotten used to these quiet evenings alone waiting for my husband and children to call or getting instructions from my contact in that area.

This June, I had a different experience.  For the first time my in life my children and husband went with me on tour for three weeks.

There are some things you can never be prepared for.  I dropped my sedan off with my sister and we loaded our station wagon.  I was not prepared for how much I missed my little sedan.  Another thing that didn’t occur to me was how crowded a hotel room can be when there are four people sharing one bathroom and two beds. 
Not to mention the fact that both of the televisions were on when we were all in the room together.

It was a strange mix of work and play that was at times wonderful and at times very exhausting.  I forget how much work children are if you are actively raising them.  We were constantly in search of museums, zoos, natural experiences, wildlife, local attractions and anything we could think of to entertain and educate our two children who are four and seven. 

We discovered that Georgia is number fifty in the nation in education and that through most of the state there are no museums or any other kind of educational or interesting places for children to go and experience things.  When I asked why this was I was told that most folks just send their kids to the pool all summer.  

My children loved all of the greenery of South Carolina and especially Florida.  They loved being able to go swimming every single day.  In fact, our biggest problem was that they are incredibly active and it was hard to fill their days with enough physical activity to make them sleep at night.  They loved all the travel and they spent their time in the car talking about the animals and the people and the places.  They loved the ocean and they loved eating at McDonalds at least once a day for three weeks.  They loved the hotel suites where they got a television all to themselves.  They loved meeting kids who were from all over the place.  They loved the car games we played and they loved the stories.

My husband and I were exhausted with trying to keep them occupied as well as getting me to two or three shows almost every day.  There were times when I was so wasted, David would take the children out somewhere and let them run around for a few hours so I could sleep between shows.

I missed my sedan and maneuvered the wagon as best I could, but it just wasn’t the same, luckily, no one was hurt.

I didn’t ride home with my family.  They drove up I-95 and I took a plane to Virginia.

As I sit here tonight thinking about the last few weeks I can safely say that this hotel room is much too quiet.

Here's to remembering what it was like to be a full-time parent!!!

Happy reminiscing!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Branding: Do You Have A Logo?

My first logo

This is the second post in my series on Marketing.

1. Marketing 101: Part 1 - Questions.
2. Branding: Do you Have a Logo?
3. Is Your Business Card Working?
4. The Brochure

I learned to write cursive in the third grade. I loved it. I watched as the elegant letters I'd always seen my mother make, come flowing out of my pen.

Words and how we use them have always fascinated me. Writing words and letters in interesting ways has been a passion of mine since I was little.

I am an unabashed logophile.

I started playing with different ways to express my initials somewhere around fourth grade, and within weeks of graduating from college, I put together the logo you see at the top of the post.

I put that logo on everything. I included a little graphic of it under my name when I applied for showcases or grants. For many years it was on everything I sent to anyone.

Now, some of you who have known me for a long time are staring at that thing and saying, "If you used this everywhere, how come I've never seen it?"

This brings up a good question. Do itinerate performers actually need a logo?

This short article by a company that generates logos doesn't think so.

"...ask yourself, do I really need a logo for my business?
Here’s how to tell…
Think about what a logo’s primary job is: to help customers distinguish between products on a shelf, or to tell one service apart from a competitors. For example, take a look at this glass of cola. Can you tell what kind it is?"

The image is a glass of brown liquid with ice. There is no way to tell what it is unless it had a logo.

So, I thought I'd go that way. A few images.

Who made this cap?

Who made this cap?

 What is in these bowls?

Is one of these pairs of shoes a knockoff? Maybe.

Obviously, branding matters when you have a shelf full of similar or possibly the exact same something, and you are trying to distinguish what is what.

Advertisers also use logos in order to subtly influence our brains for preferential treatment. They spend years telling us that their brand is different from other brands because they use 'better', 'stronger', more 'durable', 'tastier', 'organic', blah-de-blah-de-blah than their competitors.

We, as performers are not shoes, hats, or generic bowls of goo. Does having a logo make any difference in the world?

I would argue that while nobody is going to mistake me for Sherry Norfolk...
this is not me.

there is still a place for logos in our business.

The logo can be used to give your marketing materials a more professional look. Though nobody is going to look at a graphic and say, 'hey, that means that this is storyteller is more durable than that other one!' having a logo can make your marketing look fancier.

So, where could you find my logo?

I put it on my stationary. This is the same paper I used for my contracts, invoices, communication, and handwritten notes.

The little bit of writing you see on the left side of the page is something I said offhand once when someone was asking me a question about the veracity of my tales. It got a laugh, so I decided to keep it.

"Every story I tell is true...except for the parts I make up."

That little phrase has been used for so many introductions and bios that it is way more associated with me than the logo.

What is nice about the logo, however, is that it can be put on anything that is part of my work product. It gives my marketing cohesion.

One of the things I will talk about over the next few posts is having your marketing materials support each other.

Eight or nine years ago, The David and I decided to redo the marketing material. I had designed my business card and logo, but we chucked the works and rebranded the whole thing. We sent our old stuff to one of them slick marketing groups, told them what we were looking for, and they designed a brand new logo for me.

Simpler. Cleaner. I hated it at first.

This new logo arrived with mock-ups of all sorts of interesting things and a new look for the company. We redid the business cards, the stationary, and got new marketing toys. We even got a color scheme.

So, here are some of the things that changed after we put our marketing materials in the hands of people who actually know how to create stuff for marketing....

Stationary with contact info on the bottom

My new stationary doesn't have that little phrase on the side, but at the bottom, in that gorgeous purplish-red color is all of the contact information for the business.

We use this for contracts, invoices, letters, and anything else you would need for correspondence from the company.

There is a new addition to the stationary...that little frog. Don't forget him, he's everywhere.

The business card is less wordy, laid out in an easy to read manner, and my manager's name is  listed as the contact, not mine! Not only that...if you flip that sucker over....

My tagline is on the back, and there I am in technicolor so that it would be impossible for you to confuse me with Sherry Norfolk.

So, here is the thing about the logo. 

1. It isn't likely anyone is going to associate you with a particular logo since so much of our business is word of mouth, watching people on Youtube, or listening to CDs, mp3s, or finding us on the radio.

2. At some point, if you are working this as a business, it will be necessary for you to produce materials for marketing, legally binding agreements, or correspondence, so having a logo gives you something to put on all of that stuff.

3. If you don't want to create a logo, you don't need to do so. You are a unique performer, and there is no chance someone is going to distinguish you from someone else because you have a puppet theater emblazoned on your jacket. 

So, do you need a logo? Nope. Not a bit of it. Lots of people don't have them. You can have lovely marketing materials without using them. 

In our business, your name is far more important than your logo. Your name is your brand. All of this other stuff, well, that's just frosting on your cake.

Logophiles Unite!

Happy Marketing.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Marketing Materials 101: Part 1 - Questions

August and September are some of our biggest booking months. Showcases happen. PTA parents have returned to school and are choosing which artists will visit them in the 2016 - 17 school year. They call to check on everything from availability to pricing.

The David spends weeks on the phone and in email correspondence trying to hammer down dates all over the country for the entire year, making sure my touring schedule doesn't kill me, sending out marketing emails, explaining our block booking program, helping people fill out grants, and trying to convince me to teach residencies.

Watching him jump about gave me an idea for a quick blog post.

My plan this morning was to discuss marketing materials!

It seemed like a really good idea. Then, I started photographing my marketing materials so I could make this one of those really colorful posts.

After I did that, I uploaded the pictures.

I have a lot of marketing stuff.

Then it occurred to me I could do one of those 'then and now' type of posts.

To that end, I rooted around until I found my first business card and stationary. I photographed those too. Much less material...technically, since I don't actually have my first ever attempt at a brochure, and I was pretty sure I didn't have any of my old marketing sheets. Then, it occurred to me that I might have them...digitally.

What was meant to take me a few minutes because I could just post my own pictures and say a few things about marketing has turned into a quandary; what's the best way to talk about all of this stuff?

So, I guess that means I'm doing a multi-part blog series on marketing.

I know! Who doesn't want to do that, right?

Me. I don't really want to!

I realize that I talk about marketing every now and then. Most of the time I say things like 'it is very important', or 'you need to work hard at it', and random things like that, but I've never gotten down in the weeds and done a review of the different types of materials we use, and how they are deployed.
So, that is what I will attempt.

I offer this up with the usual caveat that this is what I do, you may have no need for most of this stuff, and you may have more effective marketing for your business. I hope, that if you have interesting things in your marketing process that you will be willing to share with me in the comments section of these posts. I am always looking to learn new things!

As always, I will explain my thought process behind each piece, explain what we do with it, and give some idea about its efficacy.

Since I'm not doing it all in one post, I will even do a piece about the things we don't do anymore, and why.

To that end, I put together a list of questions about marketing materials that this multi-part series will attempt to address.

In no particular order:

What materials do you use in your marketing?

Have you got a brochure? Do you need one?

Have you got a business card? You need one.

Do you have a press packet? What is that, anyway? Do you need one?

Do you have a logo? Do you need one?

Do your marketing pieces work together?

What are you trying to accomplish with your marketing?

Do you send out postcards? Why? Why not?

What message are you sending with your marketing?

How professional is your marketing? Does it matter?

What is your marketing budget?

I am going to attempt to do this in six or seven posts. I listed the subjects below.
I'll combine a few if I can. I don't know if I could write a whole post for some of these.

-Business Card
-Press Packet
-Ghosts of Marketing Past
-The Whole Picture

If you have questions of your own about any of this or suggestions for things I could cover about marketing in the next month and a half, let me know.

So, that's what I have planned for this space.

I can't wait!

Happy Marketing!

1. Marketing 101: Questions

2. Branding: Do You Have A Logo?

3. Your Business Card: Is It Working Hard, Or Hardly Working?

4. The Brochure

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Language Of Poverty: Reframing That Story

I remember one of my first teaching experiences when I was a young teaching artist in Chicago. I was in a school in an impoverished neighborhood. In one of my classes, a kid lost a dollar bill. I made an announcement that if anyone found it, it belonged to this child.

Not five minutes later, a child found the dollar bill and announced he'd found it, and was going to keep it. I pointed out that we knew who it belonged to and he should give it back. He refused.

I asked, "If you'd lost a dollar, and someone found it, wouldn't you want them to give it back to you?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Then return the dollar to her." 


I don't remember how that ended. I believe the teacher got involved and it was a mess. 

I taught in several impoverished schools that year. I realized something.

I was not an appropriate teaching artist for this population. I didn't understand these children. I didn't know how to reach them. I didn't know what I should be trying to achieve. My lack of understanding inhibited my efficacy in their learning environment.

I understood that a different approach was needed, but I had no idea what that should have been, or how to make that happen. My concern was that I could be doing damage. I certainly felt that I was, and there was a teacher who let me know in no uncertain terms that she thought I was.

That was twenty-eight years ago.

I perform in schools in impoverished areas all the time. I do workshops with kids in those schools, but I haven't taught any residencies in them.

I am a huge believer in literacy strategies and language acquisition tools in the classroom and at home. I am a huge believer that almost any child can be reached, it just requires the right keys, and I don't often know what those are.

This morning, as I went through my daily news input before getting down to work everything stood still.

My brain, as it often does, went a bit nuts after ingesting this information.

Disclosure: The article is long but worth the read.

The Findings? People who are exposed to long-term violence, privation, malnutrition, toxic pollution, danger, and or abuse from childhood have less developed brains. They have poorer problem-solving skills,  less empathy, more impulse control issues, and a whole host of other cognitive processes that make functioning in our society difficult. 

The story that unfolds is more about how this one girl manages to overcome the neighborhood and the violence and fear that surrounded her to head off to college.

The key seems to have been her parents working hard to make sure that despite everything around them, they kept their girls as safe as they could, and away from the world on the other side of their walls, and a single teacher who encouraged and supported her.

In her discussions about her life, the words 'safe' and 'warm' came up over and over again. She had places where she was okay, and she could still the fear. Those islands gave her a chance for a better life.

One of the points the article makes is that it isn't enough to work with the children of poverty, we must also work with their parents.

One of the takeaways was a fear that certain demographics in our country would be demonized because of this study, and a new Eugenics push could be spawned.

The biggest point the article makes is that we need to fundamentally rethink how we educate, interact with, and help people who live in poverty.

The private infrastructure we have now is not so much about helping people in poverty as it is about taking advantage of some of the problems, and pointing in confusion at others all while saying 'We Need To Do Something!' without having a clear idea of what we should do.

For Profit Prisons
Debtors Prison
Prisons and Poverty
Day to Day Expenses

The public funded elements of helping people in poverty are sometimes fueled by misinformation, ideological disagreements, and outright harmful decisions. Our government often tries to balance its budget on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised.

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients
Cutting School Lunch Programs
Government and the Poor

Our country and the world at large are fraught with situations of our own creation that ensure a segment of our population is going to struggle to find a productive place in our civilization.

Homelessness - Link to a post I did about telling in an affluent school and then one that serves homeless children in the same week telling the same stories.

So, I looked at the article. I considered all of the things I've read in the past, and the work I've done with so many children and it leaves me still.

I am fighting the despair.
I am fighting the anger.
I am fighting the frustration.

I am trying to be empty of these things so I can think. I am waiting for there to be clarity so I know how to go forward productively and without bitterness for what we do to each other every day, and what I must continue to try to do on whatever small scale I can.

I can't solve this problem by myself.
Nobody can solve this problem alone.
This work we must do together.

The realities are daunting.

The answers will be financially painful for some, and they will fight tooth and nail with very deep pockets to keep this system in place.

The answers will be uncomfortable for some, and they will deny them for everything they are worth loudly and with giant megaphones.

The answers will require a profound rethinking of how we educate our children, and that will require a revamping of everything from grad school to how we train our educators, and there will be those who claim it won't matter.

We have so much work to do.

Do we as a creature have the will to do it?

I don't know, but there are things of which I am sure.

This is why politics matters.

This is why how we fund schools matters.

This is why what we teach our children matters.

This is why we must show our children positive images.

This is why we must continue to tell stories...even the hard ones.

This is why I am trying to be still this morning. This is why I am trying to be empty.

Happy Taking It One Story At A Time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Everyone Has Special Needs: Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Encounter

When I do public shows, I tell the audience what my plan is before I perform. 

I do this for several reasons. 

1) Many of the people in the room may have never encountered a storyteller, and this gives them some idea of what is about to happen.

2) There are always children who are hungry, antsy, upset (for whatever reason) or just plain bored before it begins. This gives everyone a chance to know how long they have to sit, and what will be required of them.

3) Sometimes I ask what kind of stories they want. Do they want me to sneak in a kind of scary story? Should we do something really silly? I adjust on the fly as I get feedback.

4) This creates a very important bond with the audience. I'm asking their permission to let me conduct a tour through the imagination, engage in conversation with talking animals, suspend their belief as I turn into various objects, emit wild noises, and generally remake the space they are in with nothing more than my voice, face and body. There is a certain amount of trust I need!  

5) Last, and most important, it gets the very diverse group of people in front of me used to seeing a woman with dreadlocks, dressed in what is often a voluminous non-mainstreamed looking outfit, moving and speaking in a stylized way, all while using grammar, inflection, diction, and language that may or may not be familiar to them.

I never do reveals. I like people to get a chance to encounter me before they have to engage in telling with me. I discovered early in my career that if I do reveals, the audience might need time to get used to me before they can listen to me, and I can lose up to fifteen minutes while they try to decide who or what I am.

I've found over the years, that every single audience has special needs. I have to meet them wherever they are.

Figuring out how to do that is the trick.

The needs are varied. They include people who need sign language interpreters, participants who cannot see, adults and older teens who present as children, or children with a wide variety of  behaviors, abilities, and responses that might be distracting...and toddlers...yes, for me toddlers and children younger than two years are the most special audience members.

Sometimes I am successful at reaching these audience members, and sometimes I am not.

Before I ever begin, I've learned that it is important for me to ask organizers if they know if there are going to be members in the audience who have needs that will be unique to them.

You might ask, 'Why are you singling them out? Why does it matter?'

It matters because the adjustments I can make will not diminish the experience for anyone else, but they might very well help these participants enjoy the stories.

Some of the adaptations I make are as follows.

1 - Be aware of jump moments and loud sounds. (I love loud sounds in stores, but not everyone does. Jumps are fun, but only if you have good recovery.)

2 - Pacing is very important. Make sure that you are allowing the participants to experience the tale at its fullest based on their needs for processing time. Tell the interpreter what you are planning to do. 

3 - Depending on your audience, adjust the amount of detail, movement, sound, or asides you offer. 

You never know who is going to be in your audience, or how they are going to react to you.

In March of 2014 I was in Fredericton, Canada. I had a show at a playhouse. Afterwards, I sold books and CDs, answered questions, and took pictures with kids...and grown ups!

There was one adorable little girl wearing something my daughter would have left the house in when she was little. She took a picture with me, and she and her mom left. Afterwards, I got a link to a blog post her mom wrote about what had gone on the morning of the show.

At the Fredericton Play House

I was humbled. It made me think of all the reasons why I do this work. It makes me consider how much work there is left to do. It made me consider my abject failures and those small triumphs someone shares with me.

I go into this new performance starts in September...promising to do my best to be there for anybody who needs stories. I promise to be as patient as I can. I promise to challenge myself, and the audiences I encounter, to go as deep as we will, and share as openly as we must.

I promise to do my best to learn whatever it is people are trying to teach me.

I believe that sharing stories is the first step on the path to understanding each other...even when those stories are hard.

To all of my fellow artists - Good Luck in the 2016 - 2017 touring season!

To all of my fellow travelers on the raising children roller coaster - Good Luck and don't kill and eat them. That's illegal.

Son is in his 2nd year at RIT my daughter is at NCSSM

To all of my fellow educators, let's get with the knowledge enabling!

To all of my fellow humans who are going to be making the circuit around the sun for the next 365 days, let's see to it that as many of us arrive safely on the other side of this year as possible!

Let The New Performance Year Begin!

(Bangs the Gong)

Happy Learning!