Graffiti Grandma

Graffiti Grandma Earns Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

Graffiti Grandma

Elderly antigraffiti vigilante Ellie Miller finds that teenage street kid Sarah Jansen resurrects her long-dormant maternal instincts in this gritty yet heartening examination of the significance of family. Fearing the increasingly malevolent Jeff—who uses brutality and murder to dominate a family of runaway teens—but loyal to her friends, Sarah’s conflicted yearning for guidance and friendship impels isolated Ellie into re-engagement with everyday life. Barney weaves a multifaceted narrative with quick shifts in time and focus to show how flawed individuals overcome, or are destroyed by, failed relationships. The destructive impact of alcohol, drugs, and sexual abuse on children is abundantly displayed—and made stronger by the absence of graphic or exploitative portrayals—but the struggles of policeman Matt Trommald, who care for his autistic son, and Ellie’s fragile, evolving commitment to Sarah reveal that even dedicated parents face difficulty in maintaining positive relationships. The grim, understated scenes of young people coping with the seamy side of life ensure that this is no lighthearted read, and Barney’s convincing portrayal of ambivalent teen psychology prevails over the perhaps too-pat ending to provide a powerful glimpse of an underground world unknown to many, whose inhabitants are capable of transformation through love and acceptance.

Link: Review on Publishers Weekly website 


Sometimes we get so buried in our worries and To Do lists and doubts of our sanity that we can’t see past the glass of white wine in our hands. No, change those pronouns.  I, my.  No use playing Wise Woman to the world.  No use not admitting that I found myself in a really deep funk for a couple of months, a period that included self-medicating to no good end, just morning headaches.
I blamed my bad outlook on the completion of a goal, the paperback publication of Graffiti Grandma, not necessarily a good thing, it turned out.  Because what was next was the ghastly marketing siege that occasionally brought on nightmares involving flaming computer keys and missing fingers and daymares of me tossing my onerous efforts into a bottomless internet abyss, hearing, “Shit. Here she comes again.”
So I explained to my friends that what I loved most was writing, not the marketing.  I didn’t really, really, care that Amazon had sold only four copies of Graffiti Grandma, probably a record of some kind. I began Edith and inched my way through a first draft.
I sold a few more copies to Rotary club members who responded in their helpful ways to my husband’s description of his clever wife’s accomplishment. I think what inspired his support was the box of books he stumbled over every time he walked into our clothes closet. The box emptied. But then Createspace, in some kind of perverted promotion, surprised me with twenty free Graffiti Grandmas. The box remains in the closet.  Rotary can only do so much good.
However, last week something kind of miraculous happened. Trolling through my emails I found one that seemed to be saying that I and Graffiti Grandma had been chosen to be spotlighted in the Kirkus Review publication. Would I be interested?  “Will it cost me money?” I asked.  I am suspicious of out-of-the-blue miracles.  “No. This is for the promotion of your book which, as you know, got a very good Kirkus review.  In fact, the reviewer will be contacting you soon.”
And he did.  And he’s writing the piece as I write this blog, my first in months.
But the miracle is what the miracle did for me. Yesterday, in a surge of self-confidence, I started a list of ways I could promote my book–locally, not to strangers in the ether:  Readings in coffee shops, discussions at book clubs, gatherings in retirement homes, classes in writing at Senior Centers.  I would approach the books stores that have Graffiti Grandma on their shelves and ask to be included on their readings schedules.  I would ask for reviews from the readers of the book who could give it at least three stars.  I would spend the money I’d save by eliminating my medicinal wine to purchase reviews from publications that charge (like Kirkus ) for the privilege of  critiquing it to thousands of people.

Well, maybe not the wine part.  The reviews cost a lot more than the wine and I do like a celebratory glass once in a while, after a busy day of checking off items on this new To Do list.


So, most of the corrections have been made and Graffiti Grandma looks almost the way I had imagined her: good font,  clean, readable pages, most if not all glitches caught and corrected. Except. Somehow she’s wearing a faded yellow nightgown of a cover, instead of the planned, vibrant, even shocking, orange ensemble. She will not reach out and grab any perspective reader not matter how hard she tries inside.
So she’s returned for a makeover.  It will take another five days, then I’ll be sent another proof. And then I’ll be forced to face reality. I’m thinking of telling my publisher to take his time. I’m not ready to begin marketing. 
I know this because I spent the weekend re-reading old articles from writers’ magazines, reading blogs, printing out email offers, looking for advice from marketing gurus who somehow know I’m about to launch a self-published book.
Launch. An  interesting concept.
I’ve only launched one thing in my life, and the word pulls the experience out of the archives that have stored it for seventy years. World War II. My school was having a war bonds assembly. Each class was to give a short patriotic skit, and since our teacher’s husband was stationed somewhere in the Pacific, we built a wooden replica of his ship which we were to launch as we sang “Anchors Away.” Several of us believed we should be the girl to crack the bottle across its bow, but Shirley was chosen, probably because, rather than canning jars and milk bottles, she brought in a pretty perfume bottle bound in ribbons. At the end of our song, Shirley stepped up and took a whack at our ship, but the bottle didn’t break. Another whack. After the third attempt, the teacher grabbed a rope attached to the stern and yanked, and the ship, now dented with parts dropping off, slid down its slide and into blue painted waves. We clapped as the curtain closed. Shirley broke into wails, and some of us smirked as we patted her shaking shoulders.
What I need right now is someone to pull the rope for me. I do not need a perfume-bottle-with-ribbons plan, but marketing support that will get Graffiti Grandma to go down the slide and out into the great sea of books. Could I at this very moment be deciding to hire one of those people on the internet offering to do just that?   
l also wonder if a few on-lookers will be hiding smiles when Graffiti Grandma’s curtain closes.  No matter. “Anchor’s aweigh” means that the anchor is raised and clear of the sea and therefore, the ship is officially underway. I look forward to the voyage.

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