Anesa Miller

Marketing & Heartbreak in Olden Times

Decoration by Lonnie Rosenberg from “A Road Beyond Loss.”

An Installment in the Saga of DRAWER NO MORE!
>> View all posts in this series.

Almost 20 years have passed since I self-published my book of poetry, A Road Beyond Loss, and 24 years since the death of Tiina Panksepp, the lovely young woman in whose memory I wrote many of the poems. My life has certainly changed over that time. I married Tiina’s father and have done my best to give him emotional support while also grappling with the losses in my own life.

Writing has always been central to that process.

Today a new era prevails. For one thing, fewer garages are cluttered with self-published books since the advent of online marketing and electronic distribution. Such innovations have leveled the playing field, at least somewhat, for the average non-famous author. But “The Net,” as we called it, existed back in the 1990s, as well. I surfed it via a program known as Netscape. (Remember the icon of a large N riding something like a tidal wave?)

And how does one sell stuff on The Net? I’ve often been advised to start with a target audience. So in 1995, using a pre-Googlian search engine, I discovered some half-dozen “chat rooms” for grieving families.

One of the largest of these was GriefLog.* The name sounds almost shocking to me now—like off-key gallows humor—but the site represented a serious attempt for bereaved parents and others to find support by sharing with those who could best understand their pain.

I viewed GriefLog on the 10 x 8″ screen of my Macintosh Color Classic desktop, but the color capacity was superfluous here—like on many user-driven sites at that time, posts appeared as white letters on an even gray background. There were no graphics. No visuals. No diverse fonts. Threads were tricky to disentangle. But a desire to share my poems drove me to try.

A list of rules for GriefLog stated that no commercial activity was permitted on the chat board. I found this reasonable: no one in the midst of sorrow wants to be pestered by salesmen. But then, what exactly was I doing there? I thought of my husband: Every day I tried to help him live with grief: I listened, read him humorous stories, sang, chatted, walked by the river, gave of my time (not to mention cooking and cleaning). This seemed important because my husband wasn’t one to visit chat rooms or join support groups. How could I translate the positive energy I gave him to strangers at GriefLog?

Of course, I wanted to offer my poetry, but it had to be done in a non-commercial way.

I engaged in discussions and mentioned in passing that I had a book available upon request. To anyone who showed interest, I sent off a free copy with the hope (and gentle suggestion) that they urge friends and family to purchase additional copies. My hope was that this approach might gain its own momentum over time through spontaneous recommendations.

One man who’d recently lost his teenage son gave me some very touching feedback. He said he kept my book on his bedside table and read a poem every night. When he finished the book, he started over and, in the process of re-reading, chose a few favorites. These he revisited, over again, always one each night. Months later, he was still reading and still kept the book by his bedside.

There came a day when this man left me a message on the chat board, saying that I should visit some particular group or thread where he believed the folks were interested in my book. But how to find these people? I was still confused about the organization of threads. It’s not as if you could send out a tweet or direct message. You just had to wait for them to turn up at the chat room.

I nosed around the site as best I could but never found the allegedly interested folks. It looked as though this type of “marketing” would yield precious few results.

In fact, I didn’t sell a single book on GriefLog. To keep perspective, I remind myself that many poets, including those more talented than I am, don’t sell lots of books, either. Grief, after all, is a topic people naturally tend to avoid.

Decoration by Lonnie Rosenberg from A Road Beyond Loss

But—! Thanks to the wonders of PayPal technology, I am now able to offer my books here, at this website. If desired, I’m happy to sign the title page and provide a dedication (“For Sam on this special day…”) at no cost. I’m also making available Jane Click’s lovely CD with my poems set to music, and a score of the songs arranged for two voices, piano, and flute!

Please click the link below for details.

View available books and music.

As ever, please share your thoughts, opinions, or your own story in the comments section below. Many thanks for visiting DRAWER NO MORE!


*GriefLog is not the real name of the site I frequented, although the other name conveyed a similar tragicomic quality.



8 thoughts on “Marketing & Heartbreak in Olden Times”

  1. It is time for me to read again your collection of poems in A Road Beyond Loss. I remember the poems as being both inspiring and powerful. Reread your poem, Ladder of Words, on this website today -beautiful.

    1. I’m so glad you could stop by and visit the blog! Your good words really keep me going–many thanks for that. Hope to meet you here again soon.

  2. I’ve been online since inception. I remember the days of Netscape and home pc. I was first to AOL online chat.

    Online publishing has such an important purpose as it matures in capability.

    Thanks for contributing the stories of your life to become a pioneer in web publishing.

    1. I’m grateful to you for visiting the blog and sharing this information, Sharon. Indeed, we have all matured since the days of Netscape and chat rooms. Older AND wiser, I hope! Hope to meet you in these pages again.

  3. I like this. Grieving is such an important part of moving past so many things. Like the relationship between Light and Dark, Sorrow makes Joy all the more sweet.

    I am glad that you have made your poetry available to everyone. Do you ever post samples of your work on this blog? Will you post one of the recordings here when it is ready?

    1. I’m so grateful for your visit and interest in the blog, Klara! As you mention, I’ve always been one to give the sorrowful side of life its due. Denial never pays.

      In fact, I posted a poem from ARBL a few weeks ago. You can find it here, along with the musical recording:

      And a few more clips are here: at the very bottom of the post. Please do spread the word, especially if you know anyone in the music therapy field.

      Thanks again for visiting. Hope to meet you here again and, meanwhile, enjoy the Spring!

  4. Your story took me way back to the days that I ran an internet relay channel for a couple of years and the close bonds you can form online with a group of people you may never meet face to face. Also, having worked at a cancer center for 11 years, I can’t think of any other greater bond than grief. Sharing your poet verse to help others is TRULY a beautiful and MOST admirable thing. Many blessings to you for what you do.

    1. Thank you for those encouraging words, Cynthia. You give me a boost I really need right now. I hadn’t thought of “GriefLog” in many years, but it’s gratifying to see how you and others clearly relate to the mood of those times and that sort of forum. It has changed over time but still serves a real need for connection in times of loss. I really appreciate your visit and your kind thoughts. Hope you may stop by again.

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