Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Build Bridges with a Thank You

Do I sound like Emily Post if I ask poets to extend a special thank you to their reading hosts? And by that I mean to handwrite and mail a thank-you note.

You have given a featured reading or writing workshop at a poetry venue, bar, community center, school, library or bookstore. The host invited you, made all the arrangements, and drummed up an audience. The audience took time out from their schedules to give you their attention, and maybe approach you after for some chit-chat and shop talk. Some audience members even bought your book or chapboook, if you have one. And you likely did say a warm thank you to the host and the venue, perhaps as you opened your set and again personally before you left for the evening.

That's cool, and more than enough, right? Look at it this way. In the small world of poetry, there are few rewards. Organizing a poetry reading doesn't draw big bucks for any organization. The event definitely won't make its month, and it might even break it. Any effort to promote poetry, at least in today's environment, is a labor of love and based on a love of literature. Your host isn't making any (or much) money on you. And although you took center stage, your host stood behind the scenes. He or she needs strokes, recognition, gratitude and feedback. "What really happened that night, or was it just another reading among many?," the host may ask him or herself.

During the event, you may not have much time or chance to really pay attention to the person who invited you to read. And after a day goes by, you might give more thought as to what actually happened over the course of the evening, the kind of responses you got on your work, and what you may have discovered about your performance.

In these instant messaging days, sending your host a handwritten note about how the evening went for you makes a pronounced impression. Having been a sometime organizer and editor myself, I know that poetry promoters of all stripes often get little to no feedback after the door closes or an issue is mailed out. Is anybody out there, we ask. Your thanks and opinions will stand out and reassure, even if you point out some things that might need to be improved at a venue.

Mail your note within a few days and no longer than a week after the performance and include your personal literary business card, so the organizer knows how to contact you again. I'll write another post on creating literary business cards and websites sometime soon.

Even if you have some constructive comments to make after an event, don't burn your bridges, build them. When you add your personal touch in treating your reading hosts well with a handwritten note of sincere comments, it will likely result in being invited again next time, or even being referred to other venues looking for good talent.


No comments: