As an entrepreneur in the publishing and entertainment field, the time and money to take a vacation is rare. Every writer, publisher, and corporate entertainment entity operates on its own schedule, not mine. The clients and colleagues with whom I work bring to life the television shows, music, books, games, toys, and news consumed by millions everyday. And I have to be prepared and available when needed. That is why I jumped at the opportunity to travel with a friend, who is also the Public Information Officer for the town in which we live, to Clearwater, Florida recently for her annual pilgrimage to the NIOA (National Information Officers Association) Conference. I know that work never stops. But, I looked forward to the chance to change the view and my surroundings, and a little fun, while I kept up my daily work schedule. Not to mention the semi-vacation was about half the cost of what a real vacation would have been. Sign me up! I packed my bags and we hit the road. I was intrigued by the notion that I could learn about the NIOA and hear from my friend about some of the cases they were to cover at the conference. Among the highlights of this year’s conference, they covered how the FBI managed the media for the Boston Marathon Bombing, the 2013 Alabama child-hostage bunker crisis (Midland City, Al.), and Cleveland’s kidnapping victims of Aerial Castro. NCIS also gave a presentation about the Washington Navy Yard Shooting Rampage and its challenges. While I was unable to attend the conference sessions, it was great to hear about what the attendees were able to learn from the presentations.
You may be asking what any of this has to do with books, bookstores, or my work. Well, when I stepped out of my isolated world of marketing and promotion, and landed at the NIOA Conference little did I know the opportunity to meet so many new people—some of whom will be my friends for life—awaited me. I also did not expect my work with books and publishing to be aided in any way by attending. We in publishing meet people all the time who have “just written a book.” And if you mention your line of work people are always intrigued. But, this was different. To quote my friend “Many of us (PIOs) work as islands and are one-man/woman bands who specialize in anything that involves the written and spoken word. As multi-taskers, we are speech-writers, social media experts, part journalists, video/photographers, special events planners and we are also the landfill for any unassigned task.” Well, that sounds a lot like me, what I do, and who I am. The result: instant connections. The men and women I met at this conference have become invaluable to my career in such a short time. For example, as I worked from the beautiful hotel lobby/poolside each day, I encountered many conference attendees and guests of the hotel who were intrigued by my pop-up office. One day in particular I happen to meet a woman who is the PIO for Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now, that may not sound exciting to you, and not even to me on a normal day, except that I had a current author traveling to Albuquerque for a book signing at Bookworks—go figure. As the person tasked with filling the seats at the upcoming book signing I could not be more excited to meet someone (with influence) from Albuquerque! Fast-forward a few weeks, and my new found friend and her family helped to spread the word about the book signing, attended the signing, purchased books, and then hosted a dinner for the author at the restaurant they own. Talking about being in the right place at the right time! Needless to say the rest of the conference afternoons and evenings were spent talking about what I do in and around publishing. I have attempted to run away from the publishing industry several times—even more than twenty years ago when I was first introduced to it as a marketing assistant. Yet, I cannot seem to escape.
That was just one of the ways in which my job took over my summer vacation. There were many more stories from my Clearwater workcation (working-vacation, not a real word, but it works) that were equally as amazing and influenced by my work with books. Those of us who work within the publishing industry are used to books being a part of everything we do. I just didn’t see this one coming. But, then again I never saw the day I would have anything to do with Albuquerque coming either. That’s what books can do for you.