The public side of writing a book

This may be stating the obvious, but to write a book you have to be able to sit in a quiet room for hours a day, for months and months, and be alone with your thoughts, and write. Words may flow like honey, or they may ooze, drip by painful drip, like wringing blood from a stone (me!). But being comfortable with sitting in a quiet room for the better part of a year is an essential part of the process.

How weird it is, then, once that book is written, to switch into publicity mode in order to sell your book. Suddenly you’re standing in front of a crowd of people or television cameras, or you’re giving interviews by phone. This may be stating the obvious, but it’s an entirely different experience than sitting in a quiet room with your own thoughts. You have to be comfortable in the spotlight, talking about yourself and your ideas, and generally putting yourself out there. That’s the mode I’m in right now, and for this introvert it feels like riding a roller coaster: equal parts scary and exhilarating, with giddy relief afterward that all went well and I didn’t die.

Within the past week and a half, I’ve given a public talk and two newspaper interviews, called in to John Dromgoole’s radio show, and taped an appearance on KXAN’s Studio 512 with host Amanda Tatom. My son, who went with me to KXAN to help haul plants and my other props, took these photos during my Studio 512 taping about making water-saving container gardens.

What a learning experience! First, huge thanks to Barton Springs Nursery for letting me borrow plants for the taping. My goal was to show that you can have a beautiful container garden that doesn’t need watering every day during the hot Texas summer. In my own containers, I rely on succulents, yuccas, agaves, tough ornamental grasses, and native plants in deep pots, and that’s what I brought on set. To punch up the color, I added bright pots and blooming plants like ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, Mexican honeysuckle, and four-nerve daisy and plants with bright foliage, like ‘Color Guard’ yucca. Oh, and my cute Texas license-plate planter that I found at Potted in Los Angeles, of all places.

Amanda is a pro at putting guests at ease, and she made it all seem easy with a genuine interest in each guest’s topic. She likes to have hands-on demonstrations to engage viewers, so we did a quick cactus-potting demo, using BBQ tongs to carefully maneuver a prickly golden barrel cactus into a new pot. That made for a funny moment, as Amanda joked about using the tongs to flip your steak on the grill after potting your cactus. You can watch my segment here, if you’re interested.

Before the taping I referenced two posts by fellow garden bloggers who regularly appear on TV. Props to my friend Noelle Johnson of AZ Plant Lady, a Phoenix designer and garden coach who has shared helpful behind-the-scenes details about taping gardening segments, and to author and Garden Ranter Amy Stewart, who’s written about what to wear — and what not to wear — on TV.

A few days later I gave a talk at The Natural Gardener, a wonderful nursery in southwest Austin, about making a water-saving garden. My friend Shelley went with me to help me set up and sell my books afterward, and we got there an hour early to get prepared. With a little extra time to spare, I sat in the cedar gazebo by the labyrinth to gather my thoughts — and took this photo of a Texas redbud in full bloom.

It’s been a couple of years since I gave a public talk, and I’m always nervous beforehand (a feeling Central Texas Gardener host Tom Spencer once wisely advised me to embrace to stay sharp). But it’s also heartening to see a full house — 90 people, standing room only — gathered to hear what you can share with them. Several of my garden blogging friends were there too, which was so great to see. Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil took this photo during my talk and kindly shared it with me.

And Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer shared this photo from my book signing after the talk.

After the book signing, several friends joined me for a celebratory lunch at nearby Jack Allen’s Kitchen, which was great fun. From left to right: my friend Shelley, Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer, Rebecca of Rebecca’s Retreat, Cat of The Whimsical Gardener, Lori of The Gardener of Good and Evil, me, Cheryl of Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, Caroline of The Shovel-Ready Garden, and gardening friend Theresa. Shout-out to two other garden blogging friends who came to my talk, Vicki of Playin’ Outside and Bob of Central Texas Gardening. Thanks for your support, friends! (If I missed anyone, I apologize and please let me know.)

I was really honored that this fun bunch of women drove all the way up from San Antonio for my talk: Melody, whose garden I visited in 2014; Cheryl and Shirley (again); and Jeanette of Gardening Volunteers of South Texas.

Thanks to everyone for coming to my talk at The Natural Gardener, especially YOU, dear reader, if you were there too!

Speaking of book promotions, my virtual book-release and giveaway party kicked off on Monday and runs through this Sunday, March 6th. Six blogging friends and I are offering 7 great giveaways related to saving water in the garden. Huge thanks to the excellent businesses who partnered with me on this and donated the giveaway items: Potted, The Rain Barrel Depot, Gardener’s Supply Co., Epoch Rain Barrels, High Country Gardens, General Pumice Products, and Boxhill.

Visit each blog listed below and leave a comment on the giveaway post to be entered:
North Coast Gardening
Gossip in the Garden
Red Dirt Ramblings
Danger Garden
Clay and Limestone

These bloggers — from Tennessee to Oregon, and from California to Oklahoma and Texas — all focus on sustainable gardening, water-thrifty plants, and/or gardening with less water, so you’ll want to follow their blogs if you don’t already.

I welcome your comments! If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.


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37 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    You gave a great talk! It was fun to hang out with you and the Austin bloggers. I’m honored to have one of my photos on Digging again!

    Drawing such a contrast between writing and publicizing a book was interesting and not something I would have thought of.

    You’re off and running now. Here’s to the success of another book and we look forward to your talk at Festival of Flowers.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m looking forward to that too, Shirley. My favorite talks are slide-show presentations because I get excited about sharing images. As you can tell from my blogging style. —Pam

  2. peter schaar says:

    I wish I could have been there, but I know you did a great job. I figured out long ago that what really gives an audience confidence in you is cheerfully admitting you don’t know the answer to a question. Then they know that when you do give an answer it’s because it’s correct.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Good point, Peter. Another piece of advice I’ve heard that has been personally helpful is knowing that the audience wants you to succeed. —Pam

  3. Awesome clip of 512 – you did a great job, the set and props looks perfect and it seemed very smooth.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Diana. I was happy with how the props turned out. I brought a few more plants than I ended up needing, and I took your advice not to overcrowd the table, so thanks for that. —Pam

  4. I bet you did great! You’re so calm and well-spoken on the Central Texas Gardener episodes I’ve seen you on, so you at least know how to fake feeling comfortable even if you’re not!

  5. Renee says:

    How fun! It’s great that you’re sharing your message with so many audiences.

  6. Nice interview, Pam! You’ve been busy! I never would have guessed you’re an introvert. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. :)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Beth. You know, they say you can’t identify an introvert by whether he/she speaks well in public. It’s all in how you get energized. If it’s through interacting with other people, you’re an extrovert. If it’s through alone time, you’re an introvert. I enjoy meeting people and socializing, but I definitely recharge through alone time. —Pam

  7. Rebecca says:

    I enjoyed learning about ripple gardening and your paper plate theory. Looking forward to sitting down with your book.

  8. Evan says:

    That’s a lot of publicity! It sounds exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I’m introverted as well as shy, so it’s always inspirational to learn of other introverts who put themselves out there.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      That’s why I wanted to share this, Evan. I know a lot of other bloggers who describe themselves as introverts. It doesn’t have to stop you from putting yourself out there. —Pam

  9. Thank you for your kind words, Pam. I am sure that you rocked all of your interviews. Your book is excellent and almost sells itself! I am still waiting for the time when appearing in front of the camera happens without the nerves, but I still get them :-)


    • Pam/Digging says:

      And you’ve been doing this for a while, which just goes to show. Did you happen to see the movie Seymour: An Introduction? It’s a remarkable portrait of a professional pianist who suffered from stage fright for years. It always interests me to see people work to overcome what’s often described as a fear greater than that of death. —Pam

  10. Here’s a little secret, I was very casually approached by a publisher awhile back. Nothing at all concrete, but the mere thought of all that public speaking and promoting…oh my! You really do seem like a natural.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      If you’re interested at all in writing a book, I urge you to go for it, Loree, and not let the publicity side trip you up. It’s very rewarding to publish a book, and pushing oneself to be an effective publicist for your work helps you hone your message and allows you to make new connections — both good things in themselves. Just plan on lots of alone time after each event! —Pam

  11. Jenn B says:

    “…that all went well and I didn’t die.” ? Your talk at the Natural Gardrner inspired my husband to actually get out there and help me build some “check dams” and you killed it on the 512!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Your comment has me grinning, Jenn! I’m so glad to know that! Are you going to blog about your check dams? I’d love to see them. —Pam

  12. Oh Pam, You are working so hard. You book will be a great success. Your subject is so pertinent now especially with the droughts and our climate change. I wish you great success and I hope you can stand up to the grueling work. You are mightly blessed with such supportive friends and you can count me in as one of them. Best wishes.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Lisa, you have always been so supportive. Thank you! P.S. I hope I didn’t sound whiny. It’s really not such grueling work. Publicity skills are just at odds with a writer’s temperament, or so it seems to me. :) —Pam

  13. P.S. Great job on tv.

  14. Mary says:

    I thought you did great, and you didn’t seem nervous at all. You seemed very natural!

  15. judy says:

    I came from Pflugerville for the talk and met a friend from South Austin there. It was well worth the trip. I’m eyeing my tiny, sloping front yard and planning a C-shaped dam and then a bed of ground cover next to the walk. Considering gopher plant. I had never heard of it before.
    First the Digging, then planning, then the HOA approval,Then the buying and the digging and the planting. Life was simpler when I just plopped things into the ground willy-nilly, but my yard is looking much better since I became your reader. Thanks, Pam.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Judy, your comment made my day. Thank you for coming to my talk AND for letting me know that you’re finding inspiration and getting results from my blog and books! I’m thrilled to hear it! —Pam

  16. Les says:

    I know some of what you are feeling. Although I write, it is not at your level of accomplishments. However, I have spent my fair time on television, especially at my last job, where I had a weekly spot for two years on the evening local news as “garden expert”. For someone who spends most of his time quietly living in his head, it was a huge stretch for me.

  17. Josh says:

    Pam, I am at a loss as to what to plant in a shallow, light blue pot. I love to ask myself “What would Pam do in this situation?” I think some sort of agave would be wonderful, what would you plant? Best Wishes,