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SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Interview With Carolyn Howard-Johnson

by Carol Smallwood

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books for writers including USA Book News’ winner, The Frugal Book Promoter. An instructor for UCLA Extension’s Writers Program for nearly a decade, among her awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature, and Women Who Make Life Happen given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist.

Carol Smallwood (CS): What was your first writing job?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson (CHJ): My real first job was at The Salt Lake Tribune as a staff writer and later a columnist when I was only eighteen. That was when we still used teletypes and they set the plates for a newspaper by pouring hot lead into forms! Journalism has never been more exciting than it was then!

CS: What useful experience did you acquire at Good Housekeeping Magazine?

CHJ: I learned that I liked the speed and fluster of real journalism better than the slow, careful, detail-oriented stuff of magazines. We usually worked on an issue three months in advance, so nothing was really current. Of course, the world wasn’t as speedy then, either.

CS: You also studied outside the United States. What universities were they?

CHJ: I believe travel is invaluable for a writer. I studied at Cambridge University in the UK, Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Charles University in Prague. The latter claims to be the oldest in Europe.

CS: Where did you get your marketing skills you share so well with writers? I purchased one of your books that was filled with tips.

CHJ: I think everything I’ve done contributed to those skills. My jobs with magazines and newspapers helped me see what authors and publicists do wrong when they send queries for publicity. My retail stores helped me see how an author might best pitch a signing or workshop to them. Marketing is always more successful when we come at it with the needs of the bookstore or media in mind. Tying ideas to current events is also important. And, of course, having to market my own books helped me see how important marketing is for writers and the best (and most frugal! Ha!) way to market books.

CS: What book won you the Next Generation Indie Best Book Award?

CHJ: That was the winningest book in my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, The Frugal Editor.

CS: Have you seen changes in writing opportunities for women?

CHJ: Some of your readers may remember the Virginia Slims cigarette motto, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” Not really. We are better off in some ways, but we let many of our successes fade or slip away. So now we must forge ahead, fight if we must. And make up for what we have lost in the last couple decades.

CS: How has extensive travel helped your career?

CHJ: Travel has been a major catalyst for my return to writing poetry.

CS: What award did you win for promoting tolerance with your writing?

CHJ: A couple community awards and one from the California State Legislature, but I think most of the strides my writing career has taken have been influenced by the tolerance themes in my work—everything from gender to race to religious liberties including the freedom to choose no religion.

CS: What do you cover in The New Book Review?

CHJ: At one time I did a lot of reviewing as a way to give back to the writing community. It became fraught with ethical considerations (which is why I wrote How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically) and time became an issue, too. So, I hope this free blog for authors, readers, publicists, and reviewers to share their favorite books gives back to the publishing industry—in a different way. I don’t discriminate by the genre, the press a book is printed on—or the looks of the cover!

CS: What advice would you give struggling writers?

CHJ: Persist. No matter how much you do, it may seem like a struggle anyway. So, learning to enjoy the process (the struggle) is paramount to sticking with it. I have loved getting acquainted with you. Poets have a special place in my little marketing heart! Promoting poetry is hard, but it can be done.

—Published previously in The Bookends Review (14 March 2018); appears here with permission.


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Carol Smallwood’s

books published in 2017 include: In Hubble’s Shadow (Shanti Arts); Prisms, Particles, and Refractions (Finishing Line Press); Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction (Shanti Arts); and two edited librarianship anthologies.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury