It’s all about relationships. That’s what I shared with the group at the Love a Happy Ending Summer audience in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, UK on June 16th. It’s also why I traveled well over four thousand miles with my husband, a trip that included two flights, two lengthy train rides, a pick up from Linn Halton’s star of a husband, Lawrence, and then a harrowing experience with a double roundabout in a rented Vauxhall, which left a family of five shell-shocked on the side of a road that was clearly not intended to be a road.
After nearly a year of interacting with my Love a Happy Ending family, daily, talking with them more than I do my own family, I had a strong urge to meet our team of writers and associate readers, most of whom reside in the UK. When I mentioned it to my husband, Aaron, he reminded me that we had not had the chance to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary the previous year and that it would be a great chance to get away. Isn’t he something? He also pointed out that it would be a chance to have a once in a lifetime experience.
Figure 1-With Author, Richard Holmes
I’d been to the UK several times before, on business. During those trips, I was usually stressed and very homesick. Reflecting on the UK generally brought back memories of those times, as dreary and depressing as they were. This time was a 180 degree change from my past visits.
From the moment the Love a Happy Ending team started to enter the Sir William Romney school cafeteria, I began to hear cries of “Stephanie Keyes!”. Hug after hug came my way and it seemed as though we’d all been friends forever, just waiting for this chance to meet in person. There was no awkwardness, no hesitation, just a large-scale family reunion.
Figure 2-With Janice Horton, Chris Longmuir, Mandy Baggot, Louise Graham and daughter Jess
For the event, I was fortunate enough to be asked to give a brief lecture on Creating Your Brand. Having worked on project implementations and marketing projects professionally, this was a great opportunity for me to combine my professional experience with my hard-won knowledge as a writer and share it with the group.
Figure 3- Presenting
During the session, I focused on identifying the characteristics that you most want to communicate about yourself to your audience. Then we discussed how to get the word out about the identified brand via the Internet, Social Media, and other Avenues. The audience was wonderfully interactive and even laughed at my jokes. Something I’ve been trying to get folks in the states to do here for years!
Figure 4- With Author, Sue Fortin and Reviewer Louis Graham
For a full details on my discussion in Tetbury, stay tuned to my website, www.stephaniekeyes.com in July and August for more information.
A highlight for me, was getting to meet Linn B. Halton, who has been such a mentor to me as I myself navigated the concept of self-publishing and also Kit Domino, the original editor of the first edition of The Star Child. Interacting with people over the Internet certainly cannot be compared to meeting them in person.
Figure 5-With editor Kit Domino
For, while I may, on occasion, write a compelling tweet or blog post, neither will be committed to the memories of my Love a Happy Ending UK colleagues. However, each of them will probably remember for many a year to come that I traveled from the states to shake their hand. I know that I will remember their warmth and kindness for the rest of my life. For as my dear Aaron mentioned, it was a once in a lifetime experience and it is all about relationships. It’s about people and we’re all the same no matter where we go.
Figure 6 – The LAHE Team in the UK