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7 things I’ve learned #throughglass

Now that I’ve revealed the 5 reasons I care about Google Glass, it’s time to keep this discussion going.

If using Glass has taught me anything, it’s that people want to try it.

At festivals, conferences, outdoor shows, or even just while walking down the street, people approach in pairs, groups, or solo. Their eyes widen, and they ask: “Is that it?” I nod, they smile, and a conversation begins.

“What are you seeing right now?” they ask, ogling the eyepiece above my right eye, not noticing its darkened state.

“Right now, I’m looking at you. So I see you.”

“Oh, but are you recording everything? Should I not say anything incriminating?” A giggle then, ranging from innocent to slightly disturbing.

Through a smile, I answer, “The battery life isn’t huge, so no – I don’t waste it.” I wink or I don’t wink, depending on my mood and the attractiveness of the guy asking (yes, it’s usually a guy).

After the friendly ribbing, I try to summarize what I’ve learned – for the non-disturbing folks, at least.

I'm the star of many people's first #throughglass pics.

I’m the star of many people’s first #throughglass pics.

Sean Hemeon and I, in someone else's #throughglass pic.

Sean Hemeon and I in another first #throughglass pic.

1. Glass isn’t what you’d expect.

Since I picked up my Glass on May 29, at least 30 people have tried it. And whether by telling me (as more than half did), “This is much less intrusive than I thought” or by putting it on wrong (placing the display directly in front of their right eye rather than above and aside), it turns out the vast majority were surprised at how Glass actually fits and feels. Its display is meant to look like a 25″ screen from 8 feet away. Is that intrusive?

2. Glass is “of the moment.”

I mean, look at it. The hardware’s very design is an on-your-face hint that Glass is about NOW. (And I love the now.) It’s best for receiving important info right away and sending your own without much feather-ruffling. Rather than retreating into the rabbit holes of your smartphone, you can remain in the world.

“Glassware”

  • Texts – via Bluetooth from your phone
  • Gmail – Priority Inbox message notifications
  • Google Now – quick info and alerts based on your calendar events, location, etc
  • Facebook, Path, Tumblr, Twitter – notifications and sharing
  • New York Times, CNN, Elle – news alerts, as they’re pushed out

3. Glass helps you consume content AND create it.

Along with surfacing “of the moment” content to take in, Glass has impressive on-board tools to help you create and share content of your own:

  • 5MP still camera (for 2528 x 1856 photos)
  • 720p HD video camera
  • Voice-activated photo and video captions (per app capabilities)
  • Near-instant automatic photo enhancement, within Glass
  • Sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Path through wireless connection or your phone’s data via Bluetooth
  • Auto-backup to Google+
  • 12 GB onboard storage
  • Battery life: 45 min continuous video or 3-4 hours off-and-on usage

4. Glass can tell stories.

For video that documents a moment, an event, or a conversation, Glass blows any smartphone camera out of the water. I recorded my first Glass video on Google’s campus in Venice, CA the day I picked up Glass. Here’s what I’ve observed since then:

  • Glass’s onboard mic sits inside the frame, more protected from outside noise. As a result, self-narration comes out ultra-clear.
  • Framing is set-it-and-nearly-forget-it. If anything, you only need a quick look or two at the display while shooting.
  • When someone’s looking at your camera, they’re also (mostly) looking at you. So, once your observers get past their initial Googley-eyed state, you can record a pretty solid interview. In my first days with Glass, I was reminded of Errol Morris’s Interrotron, which allowed interviewees to look at the face of an interviewer rather than at a camera. I’d love to know what Morris thinks of Glass.
  • Recording is hands-free. “But GoPro video cameras do that, too,” you might think. Indeed, they do. But Glass is so much smaller and way cuter. And a GoPro certainly can’t do the other stuff mentioned in this post. As WIRED Gadget Lab’s Matt Honan points out, Glass could easily kill GoPro the same way smartphones put point-and-shoot cameras to rest.

A few tests I recorded and edited:

5. Glass can educate.

Since Glass has the hands-free video advantage, and since it can also connect to a live Google+ Hangout (where others on the call will hear your voice and see what you’re seeing), I believe Glass offers a whole new window on education. Using Glass, you can share anything from “How to apply long-lasting lip liner” to “How to fix the engine of a space shuttle” and everything in-between.

I tested this theory as well. Please enjoy the results!

6. Glass makes augmented reality make actual sense.

Many others have noticed this already. Because Glass is the first unobtrusive, head-mounted display, it’s poised to catapult augmented reality into actual reality for a mass (or more mass) audience. Some even call Glass an “augmented reality head-mounted display” (as this early article does). I wouldn’t go that far, because as yet the device does not “perceive” what’s seen through the lens in order to layer information over it. Yet.

That said, Google has banned display advertising on Glass. And though I’ve worked in the ad industry for 14 years, I heartily agree with the ban. Glass becomes much more a part of its wearer than any other technology, and that must not be taken lightly. With Glass, I feel the new digital adage “mobile first” doesn’t go far enough. With Glass, I believe apps must be “helpful first.”

7. Glass turns regular people into celebs – and celebs into fanboys/fangirls.

This one will take a little explanation: in short, I’ve been working with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the past several weeks to create social media content promoting this fall’s Primetime Emmys. Prior to this, I’d only seen the first part of this point (regular people as celebs) come to life – when I wore Glass to an outdoor festival in Chicago this summer. Several groups of people approached me there, or just gasped and whispered to their friend, “That’s Glass!” Nope, not kidding.

The other half of my point (celebs as fanboys) came true, more or less, on my second day at the Television Academy. That evening, a director and crew shot a Primetime Emmys promo piece that will soon appear on United Airlines flights. Hosting this piece was Kunal Nayyar, whom you may know as Raj on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory. Using Glass, I shot a fair amount of behind-the-scenes footage and stills (G-roll, I’ve coined it).

Kunal Nayyar tries Google Glass

Kunal Nayyar tries Google Glass

During a few minutes of downtime, Kunal asked about Glass and tried it out. A few moments later, he was called back to the set. After a few takes, when the crew had to reset for a new shot, Kunal raced back to try Glass again. He put it on, and I coached him through his options. He said, “Okay Glass, send a message.” Because Glass is linked to my personal Google account, it listed my contacts. Using his voice, Kunal sent a message to my friend Laureen and another to my friend Dave. After that, he accidentally started a Hangout with one of my Google+ circles – about 85 people. (Oopsie – sorry, circle friends.) After Kunal was called to set again, we chatted a third time – and I “Glassed” the whole thing. To see that video, click the SxSW tile below!

Our SxSW session idea: “And the Emmy goes to… Google Glass”

In just a handful of weeks at the Television Academy, we’ve seen what Glass can mean for interviews, access, and a new, more inclusive POV on the television industry. We all feel it’s worth talking about, so we’ve proposed a session at SxSW Interactive. (UPDATE: Less than 15% of the proposed sessions were picked up for SxSW 2014 (ouch!), and we weren’t one of them. No worries; we’re just getting started. Look out, 2015.)

⬇  Click this to see the proposal!  ⬇

Vote_My_Session

5 reasons I care about Google Glass

1. I’m a nerd. (Duh; have we met?)

Thus, of course I was attracted to Google’s #ifihadglass program: a chance for a few thousand consumers (read: NOT developers) to get an exclusive sneak preview and beta tester status for Google Glass wearable technology and its “Glassware” apps/platform. Up to that point, only developers who’d attended last year’s Google i/O conference had gotten a chance to preorder it.

2. I’m a techthusiast.

I took Computer Science classes in high school, but my techthusiasm didn’t fully develop until I began to work for digital marketing firm Critical Mass in 2007. As a Senior Copywriter there, I’ve gotten the chance to brainstorm websites and apps for clients from Pampers to United Airlines, and even a project for Google. Dreaming up these solutions made me realize how smart and helpful technology could be. This work also showed me that I could help shape its future. Awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

My first #throughglass pic

My first #throughglass pic

3. I make up worlds with different technologies – for fun.

In 2009, I wrote the first draft of my young-adult speculative fiction manuscript 30 Decibels. The technology in the story stems from a separate set of circumstances: in a future society, only some people can talk and the rest have to whisper. These “Whisper Rules” took effect after social media-triggered food shortage riots killed half the world. Tech and social media are as regulated as possible, and each person’s volume signifies their level of access. Whisperers use a few devices for text-based messages while Leaders still have all the networks and devices we do – and more.

4. Glass seemed so familiar…

30 Decibels is set in the year 2123, and the tech is well removed from ours. Or so I thought. See for yourself, with a quick excerpt where main character Ava sends a message to her best friend:

Maybe I should warn Michele. I hold down a button on my specs ’ponder and sweep my eyes left to bring up a list of who’s around. After selecting “Robby,” I type the rest using gestures along my left temple. My movements are well-versed enough that most people probably don’t notice – including Robby – but my heart races anyway. Holding down all the buttons sends my message:

FIGHT W/ROBBY.

More on ‘ponders (“transponders”): To create messages, you’d use your voice, mouth movements, or combo of touch, eye tracking, and location-based info. Security “scentsors” identify you by your unique smell, so your ‘ponder only retrieves your data when you’re the one wearing it.

As you can probably guess, when I first read about Google’s plans to introduce Glass, I geeked out. Sure, the “specs ’ponder” described above works a little differently – for instance, Glass’s user interface doesn’t use an eye-tracking interface (yet), and gestures are made on the right side rather than the left. But, I’ll be honest; I sure felt smart.

5. Google picked me (nerd-girl Margo!) to try it.

My #ifihadglass entry, submitted via Google+ in February, wasn’t groundbreaking; I listed a few primary ways I’d use it on a regular basis: hands-free navigation while riding my bike (my only wheels), recording new ideas on the spot (also hands-free), and showing my son what my Los Angeles life is like between visits back to Chicago. Frankly, I expected nothing to come of the entry.

On March 27, Google invited me to be a Glass Explorer.

Hearing the news set my heart on overdrive, not only for all the ubernerdy reasons above and because I wanted to get my hands on Glass, but also – admittedly – because it meant the judging panel may have considered me savvy with the social medias… the Facebooks, Twitters, YouTubes, the G+es. I’d heard the selection process would consider applicants’ influence through social networks. (Note: A few peculiar Glass invites early on triggered speculation about Google’s judging process, but most of that has been cleared up.)

My career as a copywriter in the digital space often has me thinking in the languages of social media and branding, at levels ranging from mom ‘n pop to conglomerate. I can’t guess how many research abstracts, insight briefs, and articles I’ve read on the subjects in my 14 years of ad & marketing experience.

The philosophy I try to follow with self-branding is to spend only the time with it that’s enjoyable, and no more. Case in point, to SO many people, I am the WORST EVER blogger because I don’t write posts at least once a week. Sue me; I’m too busy writing for other brands – United, HP, USAA, for instance. (Now; if only I’d put that writing into blog posts. Sure I’d get into HUGE trouble with work clients, but man would I look prolific!)

An invite to Project Glass meant my online “presence” may’ve had an impact – and that made me glad and proud I’d taken personal branding (at least semi-) seriously. Professionally, receiving the invite was a bit like receiving the ultimate LinkedIn recommendation – from effing Google! Pardon my effing French.

I picked up Glass at the Google office in Venice, CA. The experience is well-documented here, in the LA Times. Fair warning: nerd-girl appears throughout the featured video.

Google Glass through the eyes of an early adopter [LA Times]

Google Glass through the eyes of an early adopter [LA Times]

Read the follow-up post: 7 things I’ve learned #throughglass.

Like 68,928 other people, I backed the future: Pebble.

Well, the future is running a tad late.

Pebble’s Kickstarter project promises a glimpse of Tomorrowland: a watch you can customize with apps that access your smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. It will be the first “smartwatch” that works perfectly with both Android and iPhone. The Pebble is much smaller and lighter than similar devices, but the stand-out differentiator – for nerdies like me – is its high-res ePaper display. That means this thing will look totally sharp in direct sunlight. Hear, hear (if you hadn’t already)!

The team had projected they’d be shipping Pebbles (including my chosen color, “Arctic White”), by last month. Unfortunately, manufacturing is still underway. The Pebble, in "Arctic White"

After I finally get my Pebble (by mid-next year, they’ve assured), I plan to check texts from it, see who’s calling, control my favorite Pandora channels, keep stats on running and bike-riding, see my notifications, and probably a bunch more cool stuff – hands-free.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Pebble is the Open SDK the company will offer alongside it. That means smart people everywhere (shouts again, to my nerdies!) can develop apps for the Pebble. When I heard this, my mind bee-lined to the implications for my young-adult speculative fiction novel Thirty Decibels. In the story, both classes (Whisperers and Leaders) use devices called ’ponders – they’re within eyeglasses, contact lenses, desks, mirrors, and windows, but they’re primarily worn on the wrist like a Pebble. A ’ponder makes use of more native technology than a Pebble, but I bet we’ll soon see these developments. I believe Pebble’s SDK and its open-source philosophy will make it possible.

Pebble’s Kickstarter project has ended, but you can still pre-order Pebble.

Are you a developer interested in building a Pebble app? Let’s talk. Drop me a line by leaving a comment below or clicking my picture on the top right corner.

Check out these choice quotes about Pebble:

“Kickstart [a] nice e-paper watch! Your Backer, e pluribus unum!”
– William Gibson

“Smartwatches haven’t really caught on with mainstream buyers – but that might change with Allerta’s new wrist-worn creation”
– Wired Gadget Lab

“Proven track record…Incredibly useful product”
– Forbes

How I Was Convinced to Join Pinterest Today

Just like you, I’d been hearing about Pinterest from every corner. And quite possibly like you, I hadn’t joined yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I ♥ social media. It celebrates individual voices while also creating a new concept of global reach. (As a writer, I’m always wowed by how powerfully social media brings writerly comrades together – we’re a very solitary ilk, after all.) That said, Pinterest didn’t seem like my thing. Scrapbooking meets wish-listing? Meh. I’d just wait until something extraordinary convinced me.

Today was that day.

Jacqueline Courtney (center) united her backgrounds in design, publicity, and digital strategy to create Nearly Newlywed. (Photo ©Lisa Beggs)

Today, I heard about nearlynewlywed.com, a website that sells pre-worn designer gowns and gives buyers a guaranteed opportunity to sell them back afterwards. “A smart business in itself,” you’re thinking, if you’re anything like me.

What I learned afterwards drove me to click.

(Keep in mind: I’m the farthest from wedding-gown shopping as you can get, without being a dude.) “Nearlyweds,” as the company calls gown shoppers (I’m falling deeper in love at every turn!), can request personal shopping service via Pinterest. “WHAAAAT,” you’re thinking, if you’re anything like me.

How it works:

    1. A gown shopper (AKA nearlywed :) makes a Pinterest board with gowns and/or visual inspirations for her gown
    2. She follows Nearly Newlywed on Pinterest and leaves a comment with a link to her board
    3. The personal shopping team visits her board, then tags her on their own dresses they think she’d like.

As I read more about the personal shopping service on the site, a friendly chat message popped up:

Hi, we’re online right now and available to answer any questions or discuss feedback! – Jacqueline

Hmmm. I decided to bite. What transpired was an impromptu interview with the site’s founder, Jacqueline Courtney:

Margo: I love the Pinterest shopping feature – how did the company come up with that?

Jacqueline Courtney: It was really an organic idea – we wanted to find a way so that I could chat with girls about their inspiration, and also offer advice on dresses that they may not consider or see in storessince some of our gowns are a few seasons past. Pinterest seemed like a natural choice, since it is so visual. 

M: I think it represents what Pinterest should evolve into. Another example of true customer service via social media.

JC: Definitely – and one thing that is important to me is to have our Pinterest site still be authentic, so our products are contained to one or more board. And we are also suggesting other dresses and staying involved in the larger discussion.

Ironically (and downright metaphysically), Jacqueline was proving her point about being a part of the larger discussion… by making herself available for this tiny one with me.

So, the clues are all there – her business savvy is spot-on. In fact, the idea was born out of a huge needs gap – Jacqueline herself had bought (and then sold) a Vera Wang gown for her own wedding years ago. The process was less-than-pretty; it was in dire need of elevation.

Where the magic comes from: my theory

Nearly Newlywed’s mission statement, “Making brides happy,” comes to life on the site. NN makes a daunting shopping process easier and budget-friendlier for nearlyweds, most impressively by meeting them on a platform they’re already using (or should be). Simple move, but it stands out. It proves that they’re motivated to become more active in emerging channels and platforms – not just to say they did – but rather to create an extraordinary experience for their prospects and customers.

Jacqueline’s love for what she does has become almost tangible. And in my estimation, that’s when and why the magic happens – why some companies just seem like they’re “doing it right.” NN is living, Pinteresting proof that companies that embrace change will have more customers falling for them (and will even inspire those outside the target market to blog about them). Companies that embrace change – just as their customers do – will forever mark themselves as thought leaders.

All this love talk has me a little flustered… So let’s turn to you – who do you think is using social media to the fullest?

Last week, a friend invited me to be part of his marriage proposal.

The friend was Len Kendall (one of the founders of the3six5.com). First, he mobilized hundreds of people by inviting them to a Facebook event. This was his venue to explain his plan to propose to Katie using an internet meme. The FB event also opened up a venue for discussion (and a little trash talk) among contributors.

This morning, Buzzfeed let Len take over their homepage for the day. (They loved the idea when he approached them with it two weeks ago.)

On Len’s proposal post, anybody could post their contributions through a meme generator embedded in the comment tool. Buzzfeed created this tool just for Len. With it, users simply uploaded a background, positioned the picture layer of Len proposing, and added their own message. Hundreds of us added to the “meme” and shared the posts to their social networks. Len even directed contributors to share with the hashtag #SayYesKatie.

At about noon CST, Len posted an update – Katie said yes!

Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s managing editor, says, “It’s been one of the biggest and fastest growing community reaction posts we’ve ever done.” Jack Shepherd at Buzzfeed even posted a Best-of #SayYesKatie post.

So the story traveled, as good stories often do.
#SayYesKatie appeared on MSNBCThe Chicago Tribune, and Mashable, among other outlets.

My contributions

(Buzzfeed post)
 
(Buzzfeed post)
 
(Buzzfeed post, based on Marquese Scott’s jaw-dropping dance video.) 
 

So, what does it mean, Double Rainbow?

Stop – I’m not even half as cool as a DR. But here’s what I think.

With the maturing and evolution of the social web, people now have the power to bend the internet. We’ve used the web billions of times to promote other media, but now we can do so much more to harness its own power. I know this is all very meta, but just think of it this way:
When television was first came along, people thought it was a great way to advertise radio.

If an individual like Len can “bend” the internet to tell his story, in what amazing ways could the social web tell yours?

Okay, so I’ll try to tell it as best I can. I think my blood pressure’s plateaued enough.

If you’re my Facebook friend, you might have seen a link I posted recently – Printer’s Row Lit Fest‘s Pitchapalooza.

The Book Doctors, AKA Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

What the heck is Pitchapalooza? Here’s the description from the sign-up page:

The Book Doctors, aka, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published,” want YOU to pitch your book at their acclaimed event. Pitchapalooza is like American Idol for books – only without Simon. Writers get one minute to pitch their book ideas to an all-star panel of publishing experts. The winner receives an introduction to an appropriate agent or publisher for his/her book.

20-25 people will be randomly selected from the list to give their one-minute pitch.

I clicked the “Register” button. Saturday, June 4th at 4pm, Dearborn and Polk, Center Stage. This click seemed to set off a little flutter in my stomach. Was I already nervous? You better clickin’ believe I was.

But I had a solid base for my one-minute pitch – my query letter for Thirty Decibels, which has actually won its own award (more on that in an upcoming post…). I didn’t think of that first, though. Instead, I crafted a two-sentence pitch for Thirty Decibels – a pitch that would pique interest in the plot, not outline it. But as the time came, I began to realize a minute is a good hearty length. Two-hundred-something words, at least. Not only that, as Pitchapalooza began on that torrentially rainy afternoon, panelists Arielle, David, and colleague Joe Durepo explained that they’d declare a winner. David and Arielle are multi-book authors, and Arielle has been an agent for nearly 20 years. They’d refer this winner to an editor or agent appropriate for their work. I just came to pitch. The winning part hadn’t even registered.

I sat in the front row, rain pelting the parking-lot tent, listening to the first few pitch critiques on stage. “Your pitch needs a beginning, middle, and end.” “I need to know about the villain.” “What are the stakes?” “Everyone needs a climax.” (That was from jokester David.) “Tell us your genre and comp titles, so we know who your audience is.” “Your pitch needs to show me how it’ll feel to read your book.”

Hoo-wee. Luckily, I’d sent my manuscript and half-page pitch to a slew of test readers this week, so the email thread was still fresh in my inbox. I pulled it up on my phone and started scribbling away. I had to carve off a couple of subplots, but after a few minutes, I had something I could (probably) get through in a minute. Probably.

The pitch and critique process fascinated me. It’s no wonder Arielle and David (AKA The Book Doctors) travel around so much for these events. The pitches themselves can be pure entertainment! One in particular seemed to capture the panelists’ hearts, from a Mr. Adam Sleper. The voice of his main character seemed to leap out from the podium, and as he described his contemporary coming-of-age tale, all I could think was “craft.” This guy was good; he’d probably win.

The panelists called my name toward the end. The last time I remember being that excited to share something with an audience was for a vocal solo in high school. Everyone loves “Georgia on My Mind.” As I stepped up to the podium, I also knew they’d love Thirty Decibels.

Here’s my pitch, with a few side notes:

100 years from now, this would never happen.
[I point to the room of us – a crowd of people taking turns at a microphone]

That’s because in 100 years, only some people can speak and the rest have to whisper.
[The crowd laughs]
It’s determined by how long the candle stays lit on your fifteenth birthday. But Ava won’t let some fairy-tale tradition control her fate.

THIRTY DECIBELS is a young adult dystopian novel about a girl who makes herself a Whisperer. She can’t laugh, cry, argue, or speak louder than 30 decibels.

The Whisper Rules have kept the world quiet since riots called The Great Scream killed half the world. But as Ava looks closely, she sees cracks in the system and hears rumblings of change to come. She escapes regularly to the library, the only place Whisperers hold authority.
[Laughter again!]

While discovering music and other stories of silence, she finds her own voice. When her mother’s high-powered politico boss plans to silence Whisperers in unspeakable new ways, Ava must come clean about everything in front of an audience of thousands and take a stand.

This is young-adult dystopian for fans of John Green and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Arielle, David, and Joe gave me a few comments and kudos. Some of it was a blur, but I took notes as best I could with a quaky hand. The first thing I heard was “That was awesome.” I think Arielle said it. She also said something about loving the concept and its freshness. “I don’t consider myself a fantasy fan, but… you got me.” I’ll never forget that. David said he’d like to get an image of “how the world is different.” He said “the way everything fits together” is really cool – like Whisperers and libraries, and Arielle agreed. Joe’s suggested the background on the society be more upfront, and that I use a comparable title at the end of the pitch. I’m sure I was glowing – they seemed at a loss for more to comment on. :)

At the end, the panelists walked away to deliberate. I assumed it’d take a while, so I popped out my phone and texted friends – It’s done, they said it was awesome! – but after about 90 seconds, they reconvened onstage, holding two slips of paper. “We have two winners,” David said, and Arielle read them. “Margo Rowder,” and ohmigosh do I stand up? Okay, I’m standing up “Ohmigod, thank you!” That guy’s the other winner, isn’t he? “…and Adam Sleper.” “I knew it!” I blurted. I’m such a goof.

As we approached stage left, a girl from Newcity (a weekly Chicago newspaper) asked to take our photo. After meeting Arielle, going over next steps, and talking with fellow pitch-ers, I practically forced Adam to join me for a sandwich… after all, he was probably the only one who understood my sentiment at that moment: “What the heck just happened?” We walked, shell-shocked and only semi-lucid, into a Potbelly sandwich shop. We discussed our plans for these books, ideas for our nexts, and the writing community in general. Oh, and turns out, when Adam heard my pitch, he knew he was in trouble.  :)

Update, 6/10/11: Here’s Newcity Lit’s coverage of the event!

My Dinner with Audrey Niffenegger

On Wednesday night, I had dinner at Russian Tea Time, sharing a table with Audrey Niffenegger.

Audrey Niffenegger's The Night Bookmobile

Audrey signed my copy of The Night Bookmobile

I’d bid on and won the seat through Evanston Public Library FriendsArmchair Auction. The 11 other lucky bidders came from varied backgrounds, covering an age range from college student to retiree.

Blink and you may not have noticed Audrey’s entrance – because contrary to popular belief, bestselling authors put one foot in front of the other just like the rest of us. They also sit at tables, introduce themselves, and seek fellow guests’ names just like we do. When the introductions reached me, I shook her hand and said my name.

But this wasn’t the first time I’d met Audrey.

In July 2007, Ms. Niffenegger gave an illuminating discussion and Q&A on THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE at the Chicago History Museum. Afterwards, she signed my limited-run first edition, complete with her own jacket illustration: a beautiful sea of flowing red hair. And I got up some sort of gumption. I told her about a short story I planned to develop into a book, and could she take a peek? (I’d like to imagine I was very charming.)

Audrey has a flair for creating real, flawed characters, so I’d probably mentioned that and a few other nervous blubberings. Out of an outsized kindness, she invited me to send her the story. Wow, was I ever excited, and so lucky – the chances of this happening have to be slim, given Audrey’s multiple, established, and busy careers as a writer, artist, and teacher.

I sent her the short story that same night.

Less than two weeks later, I received several paragraphs of questions, comments, and notes from Audrey. Totally unexpected, wonderful food for the mind. She also said I was an “interesting writer” and she’d be glad to see the next stage of the story.

More than three years passed. Audrey’s email and her recommendations to read “The Lottery” and re-read THE HANDMAID’S TALE helped shape the novel-length version of THIRTY DECIBELS. (Back then it was named FIFTEEN, until the Boring Police called.) I outlined, wrote a few chapters, stalled a bit, completed draft one, and hurtled through many months of revisions.

So when Audrey shook my hand on Wednesday night, I expected to be a new face.
Instead, her head tilted the tiniest bit.

“We’ve met.”

“Yes.”

“I read your story.”

Oh. My. God.
“I’m so impressed you remember!”

I guess that was the best reply I could come up with. I’d like to imagine I was very charming.

The evening couldn’t have been more engaging. Nearly all of us had fine arts backgrounds. We discussed the merits of rye bread. We laughed about silly things, and reflected on sad things. Technically we were strangers, but for at least that night, we were good friends.

And someone – let alone an incredible writer – remembered reading my story, three years later.

Thanks to everyone who’s joined Readers Aloud.
After two weeks, we’re 60 readers strong and counting!

I *just* drew the winner of the 3-Chapter Readers Aloud giveaway, via random.org. Without further ado, the winner is…

S. Kyle Davis!

The prize: I’ll read 3 chapters of Kyle’s work-in-progress and send him an audio file. This way, he can listen to his work and find the spots that may need more attention. Many agents and editors highly recommend incorporating this step into the revision process. (Here’s an article on why this technique works.)

So, what does Kyle think about his win? I’m such a nerd for giveaways, I had to ask him:

I think that Readers Aloud is awesome! I’ve already done my first reading, and I’m excited to do more. It’s easy and a lot of fun. I am so excited that I won the contest, and I’m looking forward to hearing the results. I’m very curious to hear how my book sounds during a cold read, and think this will be a huge help during my writing and revisions. Thanks Margo!

Yay, Kyle! I look forward to reading those chapters.


Could you use a fresh perspective on your WIP?

Visit Readers Aloud, a free and open exchange on Facebook designed to help revising writers. Our willing readers can help you take your manuscript to a whole new level – and you can do the same for someone else.

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