by Hunter Liguore
Creating a homegrown presence for your writing can begin right in your own neighborhood and town, giving you immediate opportunities to connect with readers. When I think ‘homegrown,’ I think local, and local, for me, means accessible and reachable. Those are the benefits I tout when I’m marketing myself to local businesses.
Where can you start to look for venues to support your homegrown writing? I initially started on my own street by dropping off a weekly poem and invite in my neighbors’ mailboxes, which led to a summer barbecue on my front lawn that everyone was invited to. Come to find out, I wasn’t the only poet on the street.
Although the barbecue didn’t spawn instant fame or a year’s worth of sales, it did start the beginning of a small group of readers interested in my work. Every connection is one step closer to a future where you are living your dream as a writer. The following is a list of local places to begin marketing your work and most of all you!
1. The Farmer’s Market
The farmer’s market was the first place I sought out to give readings to showcase my work. They usually occur in the center of town, weekly, and throughout the summer. You can build a following just by showing up every week. There is usually some kind of entertainment, like a band, and if there isn’t, you can suggest it to the people organizing it, by asking if they wouldn’t mind if you read some poetry/short pieces to people shopping. Most organizers are more than happy to have you. You’ll need a small amp and mic, which can be acquired pretty inexpensively from a local music store. (You might use it at some of these other places too.)
2. Historical Societies
Historical societies come in all shapes and sizes. They range from really tiny (as in you might even drive past it it’s so small) to being quite big, with a huge following. In either case, historical societies are usually equipped to offer events and have a ready membership and mailing list. If you can locate a historical society for an author, even better. If your historical society doesn’t offer readings, ask to organize one specifically for local authors, yourself included.
3. The Library
The library is the town’s hub for readers. Get in touch with those in charge of buying books and make sure to let them know poetry is important to acquire, including your own homegrown collections. Once your books are in stock, talk to the special events coordinator about arranging a reading or writing workshop. Both can go a long way in promoting your work. Be consistent and schedule events consistently to build readership and visibility.
4. Local Races
Depending on where you live, your town, or those nearby, should offer marathons or races regularly. Races attract a group of runners that often go town to town to compete. Most events also include vendors that give away product samples and information. Because the races are public, you can show up with your mic and work, and share them with a ready audience. (Check to see if you need a permit from the town first). At the least, you can hand out business cards and writing samples.
5. Churches, Occult Shops
Churches have become a source for entertainment and often have musicians, speakers, and authors perform. Often a paying opportunity, check your local newspaper for area events at local churches or temples to see which ones might be interested in a performance reading. Equally, your local occult shop or coven might also have reading opportunities. For instance, around Halloween, I bring out all my trick-or-treat-related writing to reach new readers; the store will usually carry your books for the month of October, leading to the event.
6. Natural Foods Stores
Most towns have a natural foods market that caters to local products and farms. I approach the owner/manager with my story of how great it would be to carry some homegrown writing on consignment. If the store has a café of any kind, I will do a giveaway for all those who attend—usually a sample of my work bound up in a one-of-a-kind chapbook and a free coffee.
Restaurants and bars are always looking for entertainment. If your local restaurant is booking musicians on Friday and Saturday nights, then ask if they’d be willing to showcase poetry on a Monday or Tuesday night. I often solicit establishments early in the year and try to schedule gigs around President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day or Valentine’s Day; the work I showcase is themed to the holiday. Just like a band, I read ‘cover-tunes’ from the classics, adding in a hit of my own and hope for an encore!
8. Nature Centers/Animal Shelters
Nature centers and animal shelters cater to a clientele with interests in the environment, animals, nature, walking, and recreation. They also usually have an education department that offers a variety of events or classes to the public. You might arrange a walking tour centered around nature writing or a similar workshop showcasing your work alongside the participants.
Being homegrown means interacting and getting to know your neighbors. People will start to recognize you, especially if you give them something to remember. Before long, you’ll have people coming up to you asking, “Hey, aren’t you that local author?” Then you know you’re on your way!
Hunter Liguore (she/her) teaches social justice writing at Lesley University. An award-winning author, her work has appeared in multiple publications internationally. Her cli-fi novella, L’Ultimo Polare was translated and published for readers in Italy.. She is ‘writing for the next generation of readers who care about the world.’ For more, visit: hunterliguore.org