the lost and found of an author identity

I sunk deeper into my seat when watching her on a short Q and A video. I felt her words were directed at me, as if to say, “and you know who you are.” But I dismissed the thought because I didn’t think my publisher’s recommendation for authors to update their websites every two to three years applied to me. I believed she was referring to those who considered their authoring and book publishing a career, a vocation, of which I can’t claim the wearing of that hat.

Sometime later, I reconsidered her suggestion and realized I hadn’t done much to this website since my memoir was published four years ago.

An then I thought update? . . . to . . . what?” No new publication announcements to report. But that lack of news shouldn’t deter me from keeping this site current. Buzzwords like platform, book marketing, content, promotion hovered around me and my site like bees to pollen, circling but sometimes never landing. I shuddered at avoidance in trying to figure out how to update it.

Something was missing as I use this site not only as an author to showcase my published work, but also as a writer of memoir and personal narratives that can be found in this Blog tab.

I realized what held me back was because of a void.

An author site is many things: a primary online presence, a part of a platform, a promotional tool, a place to market a book. It can elevate credibility or even tag an author as a professional. It’s where people can find information about an author and her works.

It’s also a place where a writer can present herself, published or not.

Whether a writing professional, writing hobbyist, unpublished writer, or somewhere in the middle, all writers have a thing in common.

A brand.

In college, I studied the basics of brands and marketing in advertising. After graduation, I was lucky to land a job with the largest advertising agency in the world. (Full disclosure: it was entry level in the Traffic department, scheduling commercials on all broadcast media.) Learning from the best was at my disposal. Leo Burnett advertising agency was all about well-known characters and campaigns creating brand images, from Tony the Tiger to Ronald McDonald, to the Maytag Repairman, to many more iconic brands with creative distinctions in the consumer packaged-goods markets. I learned how these brands were used to communicate messages, identify products, and gain users.

I reflected on my early learning when I considered what it meant for me, as an author, to have a brand. I looked at how my image is presented and how I could use it as a marketing tool and to build an audience.

For me, there was something about trees. It started at a young age with a sketchbook in charcoal pencil of deciduous and conifer trees, the ones I imagined and the real ones I witnessed. I’d give my trees burly, thick trunks and heavy limbs in kohl, and willowy branches waving slender leaves with lighter strokes of the pencil. And I’d have their arms stretch outward, parallel to the ground, and upward to grab the sun, with a deep web of meandering roots below.

Later, my writing reflected how I fit into the connected world, from what lies above to what is underfoot, from skies in shades of sherbet, to the horizons in green and hazel, to the depths of the brown earth and trails of bumpy roots. By understanding their connections, I could see our connections to the outside world in one continuous pattern.

We depend on the Natural World. We rely on the sun rising every morning, and the moon to show us the way at night. For the stars to inspire us to dream, for the pace of creatures to slow us down. For the clean air to give us that one more deep breath to cleanse and clear our bodies and souls. It is finding our places to be. It is home.

Over time, these universal themes became clearer in my writing. Soon I discovered the missing link.

And so I come back to my brand. A logo. A simple image of a tree, from the tops of its limbs to the bottom of its roots, our connections intertwine as we work our way to find our places in the world. It’s now here, on this site, along with new text on my home page to bring my book, my writing, and my presence together.

Though it is not Tony the Tiger, or Ronald McDonald, it is me, the logo, my brand, a strong identifier of me and of my message.

My publisher was right. My next significant update will be in two years. When my first work of fiction, The Wisdom of the Willow will be published, finally!

Yes, you, too, may also have a brand. And you even don’t have to be an author.

What are you passionate about? What do you stand for? What’s your message?