Monday, 28 April 2014

Tips for Business Travellers

In a former life, I spent more than twenty years working internationally. I spent more time in airports, railway stations and hotels than I did in the office. If you are one of those people for whom travel is part of the working day, here are a few tricks I learned along the way to make the experience a more positive one.

Monday, 21 April 2014

You MUST Read This? I Don't Think So

I came across an astonishing outburst on Facebook the other day. OK, so this is Facebook, where astonishing outbursts are two a penny, but this one took my breath away.

In scrolling down my wall, I noticed a post in capitals. [Now, I used to write all my email subject lines in capitals, which I thought gave them emphasis, until a business colleague pointed out I was considered to be shouting, so I stopped.] This post was one of three from an author [whom I’m not going to name] informing her followers that unless they not only read her blog posts, but commented on them, she was going to unfriend them. She’d had it with ‘hangers-on’ and they could ‘take a hike’!

As a writer myself, I know where she’s coming from and can understand her frustration. I’ve written blog posts that have included questions at the end; I’ve sat waiting for responses to flood in (although even a trickle would be nice); I’ve wondered if the deafening silence means people hate what I’ve written, or just aren’t interested enough to respond, or haven’t actually found me in the crowded blogosphere.

But as a business woman I was horrified. Writers rely on readers and potential readers not only for primary sales, but unbiased book reviews, recommendations and repeat sales. John Wanamaker, one of the early proponents of marketing is believed to have been the originator of the phrase: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." The same can be said of any marketing or promotional activities. We just don’t know how effective anything we do really is. But I think it’s a safe bet that telling people to go away if they’re not reacting the way we want them to is NOT a good promotional tactic.
I was also shocked by the rudeness of the messages. I do not know this author personally and do not solicit links with unknown people; therefore the only way I could have ended up on her list is through responding to a request from her. So, she invited me into her world in the first place. Now she was threatening to expel me because I didn’t behave exactly as she required. Result? I posted a polite message pointing out why I thought her approach was wrong — and left.
Writers write for many reasons: for ourselves, for family, for other people, for fame, for fortune [good luck with that one!] but often, just because we have to; the words won’t stay in our heads any longer.
No-one has the right to demand anything of readers. So while I hope lots of people read this post and it would be nice if some of you leave a comment afterwards, I promise I won't shout at you if you don't!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Elizabeth Chats With...Tank Sherman

[My guest this month is one of the people I've really enjoyed meeting since moving to the South West. He's a funny man, both on and off stage. Even when he seems deadly serious, you just know there's a punch line coming and his joke phone-calls catch me out every time. But he's also extremely generous with his time and his talent, and a great supporter of the annual Variety Concert and other entertainment we run in our little town of Chudleigh. I am delighted to welcome Devon comedian Tank Sherman to Elizabeth's Page.

Hello Tank; good to see you. Let's start with a memory test. What is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?

I was  about 3 years old. My mother would take me to St Thomas Pleasure Park in St. Thomas, Exeter, where we lived, and my earliest memories were of a beautiful warm summers evening being pushed across the grass by my beautiful mum.
And I bet you were making them laugh event then! Moving on a few years, what was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?

I loved history, something that has stayed with me to this day (big Time Team fan!!) But I always wanted to avoid Cross Country. Never saw the point of running 3 miles through fields, mud and stream to return back to the start line!! My own fault though, healthy eating didn't exist for me back then.

If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?

I would hope that my pets would run out anyway, but I would have to take my wife Julia, my son Chris and my daughter Amy.

Well, I can see the dogs running out on their own, but I suspect your other pet might need a helping hand?

Tell me, Tank, how do you relax?

It used to be Sea Angling out in a boat, but due to work commitments, it is now watching the television, feet up on a pouffe, eyes wide shut!!

If you could change one thing about yourself or your life so far, what would it be?       

To have looked after my fitness (diet and exercise) a lot sooner than I did.

If you were a car, what type would you be — and why?

I would be a Ford Prefect E493A. The reason's quite simple. It had a large chassis (ditto) an engine that plodded on (bit like me) and needed constant servicing (no comment) and love and attention!!!

Ford Prefect E493A (Photo: Jason Vogel)
Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?

Watch a film.

If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?
The Royal Variety Show (well, we can all dream xx)

Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?

Definitely a mix of both.
Tank, I've set the earlier questions. Now it's your turn. As they say in job interviews, what question should I have asked and how would you answer it? 

My question would be 'What do you love about your chosen career?' I love to go out on stage and make a difference to people's lives. Laughter is the best medicine and to know that for an hour that I  have made someone forget the rubbish that is going on in their lives and to have lifted their spirits - it's a priceless feeling.

And having sat with tears rolling down my cheeks at more than one of your performances, I can testify that it's certainly a great tonic. Tank, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come and talk to me. 

If you want to find out more about Tank, his website can be found here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Accidental Apprentice by Vikas Swarup

Sapna Sinha has already seen more than her fair share of tragedy and hardship. The eldest daughter in a family of three, she has lost one sister and her father. She is the breadwinner and mainstay of the rest of her family: an ailing mother and a self-obsessed younger sister. When she is approached by one of the country’s richest men and offered an unbelievable opportunity, she is naturally sceptical. But circumstances conspire to draw her, against her will, into his scheme. She is told if she can pass seven tests from ‘the textbook of life’, she will become CEO of his company.
What follows is a thrilling, fast-paced chronicle of six months in Sapna’s life. She is challenged, overcomes obstacles, makes friends and discovers enemies. The ending is ingenious and although I picked up some of the clues along the way and guessed some of the minor points correctly, I was completely surprised by the final twist.  

Like most people, I have heard of Slumdog Millionaire and enjoyed the film. However, I had never read Q & A on which it is based. The Accidental Apprentice is Vikas Swarup’s third book and I suspect it is also heading for a film adaptation. Writing in the first person as a member of the opposite sex is not easy, but Swarup presents Sapna’s voice beautifully. We travel with her on her journey of discovery and self-development. We meet some great characters along the way. My favourite was the kleptomaniac Gandhian, Nirmala Ben. The vision of modern-day India is as believable as it is shocking.
This is one of those ‘can’t put it down’ books. I read it late into the night and then woke early in the morning to read the closing chapters. Highly recommended. 
[5* review]
[ If you enjoy the monthly reviews posted here, check-out all my books reviews on Elizabeth's Book Reviews.]