Yesterday whilst I was in the throes of scribbling on that story I said would be up for free download at Amazon Shorts for Christmas, the phone rang. As is my wont, I yelled for my mother to pick it up. Then I realized it was probably her calling for me to come take away her breakfast dishes, so I paused the story and stomped through to the other end of the house to give her a tongue-lashing.
Startling me by stepping out of the bathroom in the hall, she held out the portable phone. “Public relations, for you.”
“What? Who is it?” I snarled. Probably someone trying to get me to buy a publicity package or promo package for my books. I get a lot of those.
“It’s a public relations woman. Be nice! Take it!”
I took the phone and glanced at the Caller ID. HUNTER PR, it said, with a 212 area code.
I knew instantly who that was. “Hello,” I said suavely.
“Hi! This is [can’t remember her name now–Sara?] at Hunter Public Relations. How are you?”
“Wonderful! You’re the people who handled my appearance at the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper Contest in New York a couple of years ago. I remember that so fondly, and everything went so well. What can I do for you?” (Note that I did not say “do you for,” which is lucky, because almost everyone in Texas says it that way)
“We have a Dallas TV station that wants a short segment on tricks of gift wrapping for the morning show, and we want you to show them your special tricks! You were so good in our test interviews on video. Would you be available?”
Would I ever! I could hold up copies of my books, too, in my introduction, and wow could that be neat.
“Of course! I’d love to do it! Now, there are a couple of days I’ll be out of town–from the 28th of this month to December 2nd or 3rd–but otherwise, great!” Don’t know why these words came out of my trap.
“Oh, no! It’s on December 2nd! That’s this year’s contest date.”
“Oh, no! The arrangements are all made.”
“Where are you going? Is it a vacation?”
“It’s a business trip that I’m going on with my husband. But it’s not to Disneyland–it’s to Wichita, Kansas.”
Merry laughter and disbelief from the New York end.
“I know. Isn’t it ridiculous? But I’m going to scatter book promotion all along the I-35 corridor. That’s one reason we’re going.”
“Well, that’s great. Maybe they’d move the segment to the fifth of December–you said you’d be back by then?”
I assured her I would and gave her my e-mail address and new cell phone number. We parted on regretful terms with her saying that perhaps they’d still be able to use me.
When I hung up, I was still kind of gobsmacked. It is very flattering that they remembered me, thought I was television-positive, and asked me to do it. I really would love to do it, with reservations as listed later, but I am committed to going on the trip at this point. Wish I had been more “awake” when I talked to her. I was still mostly in the world of the story and only far enough out to deal with Mama’s needs and the dog’s needs and whoever might be at the door and so forth. Writers will know what I’m talking about. Others should imagine being interrupted in mid-coitus or mid-drug-deal as a similar state of mind. Not a New York State Of Mind at all.
It took me about an hour to realize that she didn’t suggest taping the segment in advance and then showing it on the 2nd. Most TV stations do that. This is an all-live “Good Morning Texas” show, but surely they have that capability. I called back but didn’t get her–I left a message with their reception desk who wasn’t sure which of their reps had called me. Probably just as well if they find someone better.
Because here’s what they want. (I know this from last year’s experience and from all the newspaper interviews I did the year before, when we did the contest.) They will ask, “What are your secrets? Where is the magic?”
And there ARE no secrets. At the risk of sounding like one of those published writers who says there are not secrets . . . in the case of gift-wrapping, there really aren’t any. I can’t tell you any way to get good at it without a lot of practice. I started doing it when I was in fourth grade and wanted to wrap the presents I had picked out. My first efforts looked like it. I became interested in wrapping things to look like other things, and it ballooned from there. You know, like wrapping a frying pan to look like a fried egg, and so forth.
But they will want SECRETS. Fast and quick ways to do the impossible! Four special spells to construct a tribal lay that really gets you laid! And so forth.
There are a few tips I always give. I’ll work up a post about those with some photos if I have time before I go on the trip, or soon afterwards if I get too overwhelmed. The tips, though, are NOT what they want to hear. They’re just mundane common sense things. The newspaper reporter who wrote up my initial trip to the contest for the Morning News was really frustrated and didn’t use any of them, instead making it a human interest story. “My editor wants the tricks,” he complained. Too bad I could not pull one out of my, um, hat. But anyway.
O’course you all know you should use double-sided tape. That’s half the battle right there. You can get a wrist-mounted gizmo from Scotch Brand that dispenses precut strips of double-sided tape, and once you get used to it, it’s kind of cool. Awkward at first to pick the stuff off your wrist (it’s a dispenser with an elastic bracelet attached.) Instead of scissors, use one of the plastic cutter things, like the one Scotch Brand sells. It’s tough to get the tear started on cheap paper, but it works well once you get the hang of it. Cheap paper, by the way, is awful. Use expensive stuff, the thicker stuff they sell at Hallmark shops, or door foil. That is a big factor in the appearance and durability of your package. Your corners should be crisp, and they can’t be with slippery, thin paper. The corners of the box will poke through and ruin your wrapping project. Just use the nicer paper once and you’ll see what I mean. Carpenters don’t say “measure twice, cut once” for no reason.
Also, think of alternatives to those premade bows. Even using two premade bows makes a nicer package. You can use a cookie-cutter and printed recipe card, tie those to curly ribbon, and tie the curly ribbon to your regular ribbon. One year I used wooden sled miniatures that I got from a mail-order catalog and wrote giftees’ names in gold paint pen, and that was a hit. They worked as personalized ornaments for years after that. Anyhow, stuff like that makes your package stand out. It makes the recipient happy. And that was the point of the gift, wasn’t it?
Anyway . . . I’m disappointed now that I won’t be doing it, but then again I won’t have to stand there and tell them there are not any shortcuts to becoming good. I won’t have to worry about stammering or my teeth or looking fat or being an idiot on TV. I’ll just relax and hope that the Universe awards the appearance to someone who’s prepared and happy to do it.
Meantime . . . we still get to go to Kansas. . . . Yay?