This coming weekend I am going to be involved in two activities that concern writing.  Both are from the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop (PVWW). On Saturday, I  will be attending the workshop, Marketing Your Book Online! The presenter is Fungai Tichawangana.

I wanted to attend this session because, eventually, I will be done with my book and need to market it. I did almost all the marketing for Brewing Battles. That was almost fourteen years ago so I am sure things have changed.

The other event I am attending is on Sunday. It is the orientation for the year long manuscript group. As you may recall, I thought I was going to participate in that the last year, but I decided not to. This year’s group, which I will be part of, is nonfiction, non memoir. I think there will be people in the group who are writing things that are similar to what I am writing.

I am really hoping that the monthly meeting with the whole group as well as accountability buddies that you have during the month will  provide sufficient structure, motivation, and focus so that I can complete my manuscript. It is a big commitment, but I think it will be worth it.

Craft Beer Books

I came across this post about the “Five Best Craft Beers” on a website called The Manual. It reminded me of a post I did over nine years ago, “Beer Books on Amazon“. In 2009, Charles Papazian’s classic, The Joy of Homebrewing was no. 3 on Amazon’s list of “The most popular items in Beer”. It is one of the five  books The Manual thinks you should have on your book shelf.

Michael Jackson’s opinion on the best beer in the world, Ultimate Beer was number 23.  The Manual chose another Michael Jackson book, Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion.

I decided to look at today’s listing on Amazon to see what has changed in nine years. The number one listing is the Kindle edition of Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser Busch by  William Knoedelseder. The sale of Anheuser Busch to InBev  was a pivotal event for the brewing industry and it is great that someone wrote a book about it. I would like to read it when I get a chance.

Today on Amazon’s list of books about beer, Papazian is no. 72  and  Michael Jackson’s Companion is no. 408. That book is 25 years old which probably accounts for it’s lower listing. Michael Jackson, however, remains an authoritative source on all things related to liquor and drinking.

In 2009 the paperback of Brewing Battles was no. 84 and today it is at 1264. Oh well, it has been in print for 11 years.

In my post from 2009, I said I would, at some point, look  and see if Amazon had any listing for temperance books.  It turns out they don’t have a separate category for that and in the Social Sciences list, I didn’t find any books about temperance or prohibition. The takeaway is that Amazon lists reflect sales and popular interest not scholarly concerns.

Drinking Responsibly

Someone recently wrote a letter to the editor of The Roanoke Times complaining about the ubiquity of beer related stories in the paper. Writing from a public health perspective, Mr. Klein found it bewildering that a women’s health event that a local clinic was sponsoring was being held at a brewery. He wrote, “Have we really gotten to the point as a society where alcohol is so pervasive that it has to be used to entice people to every social event even those designed to promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Klein finds the integration and normalization of alcohol throughout society troubling. This was a big point of contention for the public health activists on the Massachusetts Alcohol Tax Force sub-committee that I served on. They were all people who were working to prevent underage drinking. They also felt that the presence of alcohol at so many community events sends mixed messages. This is something Klein also pointed out.

Klein reminded readers that alcohol consumption can lead to addiction; something that is overlooked in the promotion of events. He apparently lives in Blacksburg, Virginia which is a college town. I also live in a college town where students periodically drink to excess.

There were seven comments in response to Klein’s letter. One pointed out that college students are probably not drinking craft beer which has a higher price point. Most of the other comments focused on the economic benefits of beer to the local economy This is the perennial tension between the public health movement and officials seeking economic development.

Social Media

I have wanted to write a a post comparing Twitter and Facebook for a long time. I have been on Twitter for a longer period of time than I have been on Facebook. I have felt from the beginning that Twitter is a better arena for news, politics and connection with people I do not know.

Like anything, Twitter is what you make of it.  It took me quite a while to get over 100 followers – now I have 108.  Hash tags are everything; I could be better at coming up with good ones and more consistent in the use of them.

I have gotten the most responses to tweets that were essentially complaints about one or another big company.  Not only did individual people chime  in when I tweeted about Blue Host or Turbo Tax but the companies themselves responded.  There is something a little Big Brother about that but it also felt good to vent the frustration that comes with dealing with a faceless mega corporation.

Facebook, on the other hand, feels like a throw back to a village or bar where everyone knows your name.  It is very personal and enables you to stay in a minimal level of contact with friends and relatives. It is great that Facebook tells you when  it is someone’s birthday. Last week I dyed my hair purple and I got over seventy responses on Facebook to the picture I posted. I didn’t get a single response on Twitter to the same information. Once again, maybe a better hash tag would have helped.

To me, this shows that Facebook is about people you already know and Twitter is about a larger community. As a writer, I think Twitter, with the proper hash tags and tweets,  would be great to promote my next book. I don’t think Facebook would help that much except to tell people about the book party.





Book Review: Gilded: How Newport became America’s richest resort

Gilded: How Newport became America’s richest resort by Deborah Davis is a history of Newport Rhode Island with a focus on its wealthy inhabitants. In many very short chapters she tells interesting anecdotes about some of the famous and not so famous people who passed through Newport.

I read this book because I am always looking at popular non-fiction to see if there are ways to make the book I am working on more marketable. The book was easy to read but it was a little light on substance.

I didn’t really know that much about Newport before I read the book. I have been there once and saw the Touro synagogue (which she doesn’t talk about) and one of the Gilded Age mansions – the Breakers I think.

Her narrative goes from the colonial period to the present. Newport gained its identity during the Gilded Age. Davis’s depiction of twenty-first century Newport does not seem that different from the nineteenth century period. She describes opulent, extravagant parties in both eras. The book is similar to taking a tour of one of the mansions where you get to peek in on the lifestyles of the rich and famous.


Book review: Amy Bloom

A few weeks ago, I read a review of Amy Bloom’s Where the God of Love Hangs Out in the New York Times. The review said the book was a collection of related stories about academic couples. I decided to read it since I am using literature in Dames, Dishes, and Degrees.

A collection of two interrelated sets of short stories and four unrelated stories, Bloom’s work is only tangentially about academia. Despite this, I really enjoyed reading it. I have been reading so much nonfiction, watching reality television, and listening to the news that it felt like a real treat to enter the world she created.

Fiction, if well done, can be more realistic than reality. I thought the stories about William and Clare, a middle-aged couple who briefly find love, were the best. The people in Bloom’s stories are often deeply flawed but manage to survive.

Onto Next Year

I don’t usually make specific New Year’s resolutions. I do frequently make lists and sometimes they include more long-term goals or projects. Over a year ago, I started tweeting, which led to a chain reaction where I wound up blogging less. When I started using wordpress for my blog, I did less with my website. Each new technological advance means you use an older thing less.

I really like twitter. It enables you to be part of conversation in real time. During the recent blizzard, Keith Olbermann tweeted almost every hour on the progress of the storm and the lack of any cleanup.  Apparently, people stuck at airports used twitter to try to get seats on flights.

I don’t want to stop blogging because I enjoy it and it helps my writing.  I guess one of my goals for 2011 is to get back to blogging more frequently. I am playing around with some ideas but I haven’t made any firm plans yet.

When I think about my website and blog, I would like to find ways to make them both more current. As I move into writing about faculty wives, I don’t want to abandon beer and brewing. If I want to change how the blog looks, I will have to tackle wordpress, which I have found very difficult in the past.

One big goal I have for 2011 is to continue to make progress on my new book. I have one chapter written and would like to complete at least three more before my year at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center is up. I also want to try to get an agent and then a book contract. For Brewing Battles, I got the contract but no agent. This time I want to try to have the agent first. In some ways it feels more difficult. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Happy New Year!

Agent Anxiety

I found a publisher for Brewing Battles without the help of an agent. I wrote queries to both agents and publishers. I got two positive responses from different publishers before any agent said they would represent me. I sent eleven queries; eight were to agents and three were to presses. I found all of that very frustrating and time consuming.

One day when I was feeling particularly frustrated, I realized that a particular agent lived in my hometown. I thought I would call him since writing letters and emails felt so distance and impersonal. It was a big mistake. Apparently, there is an underwritten rule that you never contact an agent on the phone. He informed me in no uncertain terms that the fact that we lived in the same area was irrelevant. So much for local connections. Despite his very negative response to my calling him, he did look at the book proposal. He told me it would never be published.

This experience along with others I had while trying to get Brewing Battles published has left me with some anxiety about dealing with agents. I feel that there are some many “rules” about what you can and cannot say to them and that you must not do anything that they could perceive of as wasting their time.

Two weeks ago, I attended Write Angles 25, a writer’s conference. I had the opportunity to meet face to face for 10minutes or so with an agent. That alone was an unusual occurrence. The agent liked my pitch and said I should send him/her the book proposal and sample chapter as well as Brewing Battles. This, of course, was exciting. Unfortunately, he/she wrote all of the instructions on his/her card with a felt tip pen that ran.

I tried the best I could to remember everything he/she had said. I had a lot of trouble sending him/her the documents as he/she had requested. I thought, oh, no this will ruin my chances. I emailed to say I was having trouble and ask if I could send them a different way. I did not hear back for two days, which also convinced me I had broken some cardinal rule and lost my chance.  I did receive a response the third day.

This whole experience made me realize I am terrified of agents. I am so terrified that I do not want to reveal the agent’s identity, which is why I am obscuring the pronouns. I want an agent for my new project so I can get a better deal from a publisher. However if it is going to make me such a basket case maybe it is not worth it.

Beer Labels


I wrote this post in December of 2008 before I had this word press blog. It was part of a series of posts I did about the seventy-fifth anniversary of Repeal. I am reposting it because I just read a blog about the label on Lost Abbey’s  Witch’s Wit. Tenured Radical is circulating another blogger’s concern about the graphic of a woman being burnt at the stake while a crowd of men watches with rapt attention. Of course, the picture on the label is very small  but I am sure it looks worse when you actually see it. TR and others find it offensive.

December 2 2008

The Road From Repeal: Labels and Advertising

I wanted to write about aspects of beer advertising in the seventy-five years since Repeal but I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to say. I also wanted to touch on labels since they became a regulatory issue in the late twentieth century. While thinking about the topic I came across an excellent article about beer labels in All About Beer (no link available). Dave Gausepohl, a breweriana collector, examines the history of labels and describes the information labels contain.

Currently all beer bottles and cans contain a government warning about the dangers of alcohol use and abuse. Post-Prohibition, as beer consumption shifted from on-premises to off-premises, primarily the home, the packaging of beer became more important. Ultimately what the container looked like was an integral part of the product’s advertising and marketing.

Beer labels have a UPC code, dating information, the government warning and in some cases, alcohol content, but they do not list ingredients. Brewers, unlike most other producers of edible, consumable products, do not have to disclose what they have used to make the beer. They also do not have to say anything about how many calories the beer has.

What the beer bottle or can looks like is part of advertising but since Prohibition the major emphasis for beer marketing has been radio and television. Brewers gained an immediate and lasting advantage over distillers who, until recently have lived under a voluntary ban against advertising on television. Despite this free gift, post-Prohibition brewers were circumspect in their marketing because they feared a return of Prohibition. This self-restraint lasted to a good degree until the 1970’s and the onset of the “beer wars”.  The intense competition among the top tier brewers fueled by the influx of advertising dollars from Miller Brewing and its parent company Philip Morris led to a decrease in the propriety of beer television ads.

Prohibitionists never went away and one of their ongoing battles has been to limit brewers access to advertising. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a self-styled consumer and public health advocacy organization, has a Alcohol Priorities Project  which seeks to “promote a comprehensive, prevention-oriented approach to the role of alcohol in society by addressing alcohol advertising, excise taxes, changes in product labeling, and other population-based policy reforms.” In August, the Center sent a petition “signed by 60 Division I presidents, 240 athletic directors and 101 football and basketball coaches” urging the NCAA to prohibit beer advertising during college games. The NCAA declined to change its policies.  George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project, was extremely disappointed and commented, “In contrast, the NCAA rejects advertising for distilled spirits, most wine, sports wagering, gambling, nightclubs, firearms and weapons, and NC-17-rated motion pictures, among others.” Mr. Hacker also co-chairs the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems, a coalition of temperance groups.

Sports Biz, a blog, noted “The Mountain West Conference does not carry beer commercials on its network, the mtn. (Mountain West Sports Network) It also doesn’t carry commercials for Viagra and similar products, which is a blessing for those few people who actually can receive the mtn. Declining Viagra and Cialis commercials would be a public service that I recommend that the Big Ten Network and the WWLS adopt immediately. Football and basketball fans would be forever grateful.”

It is doubtful that the labels at the top of this posting would have played a role in the ongoing controversy over beer advertising. The image at the bottom however is a different story.

It’s Academic

Several of the associates at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center (FCWSRC) have decided to have a writing group. We met for the first time yesterday. Each person said what they would like to work on while at the center and what help they hoped to get from the group. I have to present a poster at the American Historical Association annual meeting in January. I have never even seen a poster at any conference so I definitely can use some help.

In a discussion of authenticity, which is a subject I wrote about in Brewing Battles, *(see excerpt at end of post) one of the associates said she would like to see my footnotes. I replied that the ideas mainly came from me. In other words, it was my original analysis. This exchange made me realize I have come a long way from my academic roots. Academic scholarship and writing often seeks legitimization by showing that an idea has prestigious pedigree. My current sense of accessible writing is to document the facts and the ideas and analysis are my own.

Another aspect of academe that seems to have changed is literature reviews. When I wrote my dissertation at Columbia University, you had to include a historiographical overview in your prospectus. A prospectus is akin to a book proposal. The actual dissertation did not contain a literature review. Two people in the group who have completed history PhD’s more recently both had to include literature reviews in their dissertations. This seems like a bad idea that will only make it harder to turn the theses into a book.

Before I became a nurse, I had a business, Academic Publicity. It provided promotional services and publicity to academic authors. It was a great idea with a fatal flaw. Most academics don’t think of themselves as writers or authors. Therefore, they do not want to pay to promote their books. By now, I really think of myself as a writer and author. I am writing Dames, Dishes and Degrees from that perspective.

* Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer (New York: Algora Press, 2007, 190.

The emergence of craft brewing highlights a battle within the brewing industry over authenticity and identity. Since World War II the national brewers have connected beer to all things American —  baseball, barbeques, race cars, and pretty, sexy women.1 Yet the nationalizing of the beer industry removed one of the most potent aspects of beer’s identity — localism. The new generation of brewers emphasizes its connection to place and community even more than taste. They stake a claim to authenticity via their roots in a specific locale.

Craft brewers, whether or not they start as home brewers, are entrepreneurs. In this way they are similar to the many hundreds of people who start a business every day. What is interesting about the thousands of people who started breweries and brewpubs since the late 1970s is that they created these businesses in an industry dominated by some of America’s biggest companies.

Craft brewers have been able to exploit a hole, a gap, in the huge edifice of American brewing. Some three to fifteen percent of the American beer drinking population didn’t and still doesn’t like drinking Bud, Schlitz, Miller, or Pabst. In the nineteenth century ten percent of Pabst’s customers wanted pure malt beer; craft beer drinkers of the twenty-first century are their  descendants. 2