Most artists -- including the legendary and influential -- would give their eyeteeth to meet the folks who've taken the time to embrace their work.
If you knew how easy it is to bring your favorite artist right into your living room, you might get inspired! I'm going to tell you the secrets.
When someone says, "Susie, are you touring in Syracuse? Fort Bragg? Iowa City? Central Florida?" -- it kills me that it's not on my schedule. It's not for lack of interest!
What are the requirements to make it happen?
It's very basic, and it's the same for writers, actors, musicians, dancers, painters:
And mostly, one reliable person who's got the moxie to say, "Why Not?"
Before I go on, you may be smirking to yourself, "Well, this is fine for mid-list nobodies and failed-heavy-metal-hair-bands, but what about the BIG STARS?"
Actually, access and invitation are not that different in Hollywood or the Cote D'Azur than anyplace else.
What I'd like to emphasize at the moment, is that the authors you see in the newspaper every day, who win national Book Awards, who garner critical acclaim, the artists you've felt changed your life... most of them are NOT wealthy snobs, and they need encouragement to keep going. They are modest and overwhelmed.
I know, I've worked and published hundreds of them, from bestsellers to one-hit-wonders and poet savants. They're all trying to pretend it's easy to pull off being a professional artist, but it's not. You lend a kind hand, and you'll be amazed at how they'll come through for you.
So, step one, go find your beloved artist -- which is incredibly easy online these days. Or, look up their alma mater, their favorite bookshop, a place they're known to hang out. Practice your letter-writing skills! Suggest an event date about six-eight months in advance -- that's what they're going to need to make a plan; it takes that long to do it right.
I've stood in line at performances or hung out at the stage door just to walk up to one of my artist-heroes and politely put an envelope in their hand: "I think the world of you, and I'd like to invite you to show your work in my town."
That's it! -- Walk away and no stalking!
Many artists like myself have a couple tiers of public-event work. One is for large institutions, like universities, museums, theaters, arts centers, conferences. These pay well and are often funded through a coalition of groups. You'll expect to bring out a few hundred to a few thousand attendees.
Do not be initimidated by threats of "cut-backs," "hard times," etc. I like to point out that recently, Bristol Palin was offered 20K to speak at Washington University in St. Louis on sexual abstinence -- the money is there, for sometimes-ludicrous proposals.
As Michael Moore said, this country is not broke, it's just that the money is the hands of fewer people. Many of them run these budgets, and they are looking for talent. Why not your favorite artist?
I have a brochure for large-scale lecture/performances, and so do most working artists. If I wanted to bring "Susie Bright" to my hometown, I'd make a list of all the likely suspects: at colleges; gender studies, writing, politics, performance, journalism departments; then the local progressive arts organizations.
I'd find out who directs those events, and pitch them, using the talking points on the artist's PR materials, plus brainstorming to figure out local angles. Again, be confident: THE producers need good content and ideas for their programs, you're not out of line.
When you invite an "old-timer" like me, she/he will usually have some insane story about their life/connection that directly relates to your hometown. YES. Try me.
Then, there's the small workshop level, which can be offered through a store, small school, private house party, etc.
For example, here's a list of my workshops I'm offering this year:
one on parenting and sex,
an erotic memoir writing workshop,
and a seminar on editing and publishing memoirs.
If you think a local sex toy shop, bookstore, community center, library, etc. would be a great place to have me, pitch the workshop ideas to them! It's the the kind of scale that can work anywhere. It's the same for your favorite author: if they don't have a list of classes they'd like to teach, suggest one: "Cooking with Lizard Blood," or "Writing for Insomniacs."
Keep in mind that when an artist makes a visit, even if they're only working 1 day/night, there's usually two days of traveling, which might make the rest of their week difficult to schedule.
The author is not only looking for travel costs, they also need to support their family/dog/drug habit while they're on the road. (My drug habit is Advil, nettles, and gin right now, in case you're wondering).
The rest is pretty easy: provide your artist a comfortable room to rest in, whatever local transportation is needed, their favorite food/teddybear/sexual crutch, and you're DONE!
I'd also suggest making a simple contract, or letter of agreement, about what's going to happen, and any worst-case scenarios you want to address. I use one; most artists have something familiar they can provide you with.
What about pro bono work? Authors are very generous as a rule, but they want you to approach them already understanding their priorities. I do free events every year at high schools, prisons, family shelters, picket lines, low-income clinics -- you get the picture. Every other artist has issues they are passionate about too... if you know their work, you can write a convincing pitch letter.
I've made life-long friends producing events together -- it's a really special occasion, to get to know people who've "made a difference" in your intellectual, aesthetic, and sensual life. I've been on both sides of the equation, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The ivory tower and writer's garrett are highly over-rated!
See ya soon... in your hometown, with bells on!
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