From Fangirl Blogging to Tweeting with Shelagh Rogers


“Elvis” (Kobo director Mark Leslie Lefebvre), Barnaby Bones, reader Lesley Orr, and Melissa Yi. Yes, I know this is a giant picture. But it’s so awesome. Photo by Margaret Caldbick.

So I was pretty excited when my friends told me that we’d made the Standard Freeholder and Seaway Valley News last week and the Glengarry News (with this photo) this week.

Then I got retweeted by Shelagh Rogers.

When I was at McMaster University, cloistered in a windowless basement apartment that cost only $275 a month, I’d listen to Peter Gzowski and Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio’s Morningside and dream about them interviewing me, about my books.

Yes, I know. Only me and 10 million other people had the same dream.

But yesterday, I moved one tiny step closer. I was approving comments on my previous post, a rave review of the show Emergency Room:Life+Death at VGH, And not only did the show’s producer, Kevin Eastwood, thank me on Twitter, but a few people had favourited it and retweeted it. Including…

@shelagh reteweet Screen Shot cropped 2014-04-03 at 4.55.22 PM

So what do you say to one of your media idols? I don’t care if this question is so 2002. Comments welcome!

In the meantime, a few people have asked where they can buy Terminally Ill.
melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final daisho

Why, online, of course, through Kobo and other fine e-railers, and in trade paperback at R&L’s Book Nook (613-525-9940; in Alexandria.

Personalized copies are also available from the author (moi), but I am sold out, and a rush shipment should arrive next Wednesday, right in the middle of a bunch of my ER shifts. If you see a zombie staggering around with a stethoscope and books, say hi.

From Elvis to CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning


On Saturday, “Hope Sze” successfully resuscitated “Elvis,” to great acclaim. Photo by Margaret Caldbick.

Wei Chen will interview me on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program tomorrow at about 8:22 a.m. So please tune in (there’s a live stream online here, on the right side bar) and/or Tweet @CBCOntmorning. I’ll reveal a secret code for a free Kobo copy of the e-book!

For anyone who’s wondering about the back story, and isn’t sick of my spam (I was going to give it a rest, but I do want you guys to listen to me on the CBC, Tweet, and pretend I’m popular. Because that would make up for, say, when I was thirteen years old and my classmates would call me bag lady):

On Saturday, the escape artist, Elvis Serratore (Mark Leslie Lefebvre) was chained and nailed in a coffin and dropped in the St. Lawrence River, but Dr. Hope Sze (moi) brought him back. In other words, we acted out the opening scene of Terminally Ill for two appreciative audiences who fought through a blizzard to get there.

Today, I struggled to write. Anastasia’s latest game is that I’m the baby and she’s the mommy, so I’m mostly supposed to lie down, cry, pretend to drink milk, and play with the toys she brings me. A little difficult to juggle my laptop at the same time.

When I did get a break, I should’ve doubled down to work on The Goa Yoga School of Slayers, but saw that I’d gotten this on Twitter:

cbc radio sandy marlowScreen Shot 2014-03-24 at 6.59.43 PM

When I called Sandy Mowat, he said, “I thought you sounded like someone with a dual career who might enjoy talking on the radio.”

“You would be right!” I exclaimed. I asked how he’d found me.

“We go through all the newspapers, and I found the article in the Standard Freeholder.”

standard freeholder todd bigger Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.57.46 PM

So, as part of this book launch, I’ve had one previous article in the Standard Freeholder, one in The Seaway Valley News, one in The Seeker, and fingers crossed that I’ll get a mention in the Glengarry News (their reporter, Margaret Caldbick, took the amazing photo above at the Alexandria book launch). But it took Todd Hambleton’s latest article to get the attention of the CBC. Just like in the publishing business, you’ve got to reach critical mass before you might catch someone’s eye.

Or ear, as the case may be tomorrow, on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning. Check us out!

Top Ten Reasons to Do a Book Launch


Second Time Around Books. L to R Melissa Yuan-Innes, Denise Nielsen, Yasmin Harrison, Monty (dog)


Cornwall book launch

Book launch at Sat Nam Yoga: Erin Bush & Juice, Julie Herman, Alan Davis, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Max, Luc Paquin

1.    It’s a party/miracle

I always felt a sort of post-partum letdown after publication.  I don’t know why.  In 2000, Writers of the Future hired an illustrator for my story, flew me out to L.A. for a week-long workshop with A.J. Budrys and Tim Powers, and hosted a huge gala.  I posed for photos and gave an acceptance speech in a sapphire ball gown.  But I still felt a bit of a letdown.

Fast-forward to 2009 and my publication in Escape Clause:  the Anthology.  Here’s one way of looking at it:  it’s a poem.  Big deal.  I’ve already been paid for it.  I should just stay home and write more.  This is how I spend 99 percent of my life.

And this is the other way of looking at it:  success!  My poem is published in a book!  Let’s celebrate.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Which one do you think is more fun?

2.    Good karma

Ink Oink Art is a start-up publisher.  Kit St. Germain is a writer/actor who says, “Any idiot can renovate their kitchen. It takes god’s own egg-splattered fools to make books.”  I heart any artist who has the chutzpah to fly in the face of conventional logic and risk their own money in order to support other writers and illustrators.  So when I had the same choice, to accept my contributor’s copy meekly or to risk my time and money trying to sell this puppy at a book launch, I leapt into the abyss.  I call this good karma because I’m helping the publisher and thereby myself by getting my work out there.  But obviously I used my judgement.  I still made sure I wrote 1000 words/day and marketed my novels and stories instead of going all book-launchy-wonky.

3.    It teaches you flexibility

I now live in the country.  The nearest bookstore is 20 minutes away in Alexandria. Gale, the owner of Second Time Around Books in Alexandria, was delighted to host.

The closest chain that sells new books is about 40 minutes’ drive away.  The manager seemed underwhelmed at the idea of launching a book, maybe having been burned by self-published tomes.  But I still wanted to do a second book launch, so I thought, why cling to the idea that a book launch has to take place in a bookstore?  I know a high-ceilinged, wooden-floored studio that’s one of the most elegant places in Cornwall where we could read by candlelight.  Erin Bush, owner of Sat Nam Yoga, said no problem and even agreed to make mint tea.

4.    Small business training

A book launch is a business.  I’ve done book launches in Montreal, Berkley, and the aforementioned LA.  I showed up, read if asked to, and signed books, blissfully ignorant of who ordered the books or provided free eats.  (This was my father’s most-impressed moment.  “Who’s paying for this?”  he asked, eyeing the cornucopia of food and drink.)    Since these events were DIY, I asked Gale what kind of cut she wanted, thinking she’d order the books and take a percentage of the profits.  It turned out that she’d prefer to take no cut (and no risk).  Her bookstore would just be the venue.

So I bought the books myself.  At first, I thought ten would do it.  I should be able to move five and if I had to give a few away as Christmas presents, so be it.  But when Christina Dudley Facebooked that she’d sold 77 in one night, I realized I was thinking too small.  Also, shipping was egregious, and the more books I bought, the more I could spread the costs out.  So I ordered 20.  If I sold 14, I’d break even.  If I didn’t, well, that’d be a lot of Christmas presents.

5.    Marketing

I did Facebook and Twitter, but what I think helped the most was that I told our local paper, the Glengarry News, about the book launch and Steve Warburton decided to do a feature on me.  Old school works!  If nothing else, I got my local 15 minutes of fame.

Even more old-fashioned, I printed up posters and asked my friends to post them.  I chatted with people at both hospitals and asked them to come.  Repeatedly.

Since I hate hard sells, I emphasized that it was a party and you could buy a book or not.

In my emails, I explained that I was taking a personal financial risk with the book launch.  Three people bit.  Before the book sale, I’d pre-sold three for cash and gotten verbal promises to buy another eight.  So if I sold three at the book launches, I’d break even.  Shoot, I might even run out!

6.    Plan for success, prepare for failure

I bounced into Sat Nam Yoga with 24 cream puffs and 30 banana muffins, all mini-sized to minimize the guilt.  Erin had set out three types of cheeses, pepper jelly, hummus and pita, grapes (“Look, Mommy, they have grapes, just like us!” my son Max exclaimed), cookies…a feast.

The hordes of people who said they’d come or might come turned into a handful. I felt like a right idiot. But my son was in heaven:  a giant space to run and slide in his socks.  The reading turned into a cozy candlelit Q&A about my writing and a discussion about our missions in life.  I felt bad that Erin had splashed out for a small crowd, but she said it didn’t matter to her if there were five people or 50.  In the end, I decided the only person who could decide if it was a failure or not was me.  And I had fun:  good food, good company, and I sold three more books, so if all the “save one for me” people came through, I’d already broken even.  I probably wouldn’t choose to do another event on a Friday night, especially the night of Black Friday, but it’s all learning, right?  That’s a metaphor for the writing life and maybe life in general.

7.    Networking

Ottawa author Leslie Brown joined me the next day in Alexandria.  One of the first things she did was ask me if I’d joined Access Copyright.  If you have Canadian publications, you can sign up and two years later, they’ll start sending you money.  I don’t know the details, but it’s a million dollars they’re dividing up.  I’d never heard about this, but I don’t really end up talking to writers much, and a lot of my writer friends are American.  I’d let my SF Canada membership lapse just because I changed email addresses and I didn’t want to wade through all their emails.  My bad, but something I was able to correct by networking at my book launch.

Networking, part II.  The Glengarry News article talked about another writer, LindsayBelow, who came to the book launch with her mother.  I actually knew her because her teacher, Andy Rorabeck, had invited me to speak to his writing group at his high school a few years ago and she was one of the members.  They invited me to join their critique group.  Since my latest book is set in high school, a recent graduate and two teachers could really give me some reality checks.

8. Get the audience reaction you craaave

After I read my poem, one of my friends mouthed “Wow.  Wow.”  The audience applauded.  Leslie’s brother Steve said, “It’s the kind of thing you have to sit for a minute, and then you applaud.”  No higher honour.  And not the kind of thing you get sitting in your room.

9.  Sell your backlist

Only two people read the magazines I brought with my previous publications, but one wanted to buy “Space and Time Books” and the other “Waiting for Jenny Rex.”  This is a tiny taste of what it’s like if you write, say, _The DaVinci Code_ and then everyone runs out to buy _Angels and Demons_.  Small scale, but still beneficial to the magazines who bought my work even years ago.

10.  Pay it forward

I hope Erin might get more yoga subscriptions.  I know Gale certainly got more business.  My neighbour didn’t even know where that bookstore was, but he walked out with $82 worth of books, not counting my own.  Other friends browsed and bought, including children.  Who knows how their imagination may get fired up by their books?  An elderly lady bought my book and said she wanted to give me some greeting cards.  I paid her $10 for the cards.  She didn’t even know what to charge me because she wasn’t used to asking for money for her work.  “Don’t be ashamed to make money from your art,” I told her.  Maybe it will help her. Who knows?

It certainly helped me.  I sold my 20th book in Alexandria, leaving me with just my contributor’s copy–plus at least six people who couldn’t come to the launches but asked me to save them a copy.  So that’s a help to the publisher, Ink Oink Art.  And for me, because I’ve always been afraid I could never make a living from my writing.  I would like to make a cork board and pin up all the cash I made from these books so that every time I se it, I think, “Look at what you did.”  Of course the money is trivial compared to what I could have made in the emergency room, but I don’t care.  The money is a tangible reminder that dreams can come true and that I am trying to live as though everything is a miracle.

Second Time

The hordes at Second Time Around Books, incl. at table: writers Lindsay, Leslie Brown, Melissa Yuan-Innes

More photos here.

Copyright Melissa Yuan-Innes, 2009