Years ago, my husband Rich, my guide dog Hunter and I went on a bit of a lark. Friends of ours from the Folk Lore Society of Northeast Pennsylvania, who go by the name of the Young Geezers, were performing at a nature center about sixty miles away. I got to do a guest set, and it was all very pleasant. Years later, it led to a bit of a revelation about self-promotion.
The Duck House
No need for a dove house; they prefer a corner in our shelter.
Having an insatiable fascination with birds, we explored the many bird houses available for sale in the nature center’s store. Ultimately, we purchased a duck house. It is huge and was specifically designed for wood ducks.
We have a pond with frogs, toads, fish and turtles. Occasionally, mallards and wood ducks stop by for a swim, but none ever stays. According to what we learned, they like a house on a pole near the water. We had the water and the pole. And now, we thought, we had just the house.
Vowing to put it up the following spring, Rich stored it in the barn. Later that fall, he noticed something peculiar. An enterprising squirrel had packed it with black walnuts. It made a rather nice storage unit.
Come spring, we hung it on the pole and waited. Again ducks came to the pond. Three wood ducks stayed for several days, but eventually moved on. Then , starlings took up residence. The house was much too deep for the starlings who had to find far more straw than they would have needed in any of our other bird houses.
Owls & Squirrels
The following spring, the duck house, having been dutifully cleaned out by my husband, was returned to the pole. A screech owl moved in for a while. We love owls and were excited about the prospect of help with controlling the mice. For some reason, however, the owl left. Perhaps, he didn’t like his picture being taken?
“No, you go first,” says one of the baby squirrels.
Then one day in late spring, Rich came home all excited having just seen several very un-bird-like paws and noses sticking out of the duck house. He took this picture, though we never confirmed whether they were red or gray squirrels.
The house is empty again, and Heaven knows if we’ll ever get an actual duck, but it will be cleaned and returned to the pole after whatever comes our way.
A Street Performer’s History with Publicity
I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a publicity nut. It started as the unobtainable dream of a shy, legally blind songwriter, poet and short story author. The real stuff came along when my hometown paper, the Easton Express, did a piece about me receiving a guide dog from the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, NY. That was followed up by coverage of my first presentation to the Easton Lions Club.
I did my own publicity for my music career — my work as a street performer in Philadelphia’s Suburban Station and Penn’s Landing. That led to doing school assemblies, presentations for local churches and libraries and an occasional gig at local folk clubs. Over the years, I self-produced three albums of original songs, and managed a bunch of local TV and radio appearances including Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air” and Gene Shay’s Sunday night folk music program.
Kitty says, “Always heard it’s nice to snuggle up with a good book.” Photo by Rich Hill.
When my novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill came out, I had already been doing PR for various divisions and affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). I had been writing “print-worthy” press releases since my days as a street singer, was writing regularly for online magazines and had established a presence on social media.
Publicity Brings Unanticipated Joys
Over the years, many nice things have happened to me as a result of my little publicity-generating machine. After moving to the Endless Mountains, another article in the Easton Express prompted my first childhood friend to get in touch. The woman (a twelve-year-old at the time) who talked me into doing my first school assembly back in the ’80s, recently found me through Facebook, and another friend from my Philadelphia days touched bases near the same time.
While in the Philadelphia area, I did a joint school assembly for a high school that housed the St. Lucy’s Day School for Blind Children. One of the students, now a teacher herself, got in touch with me decades later and actually remembered the words to “No Stone Left Unturned,” the song I sang to the whole school that day.
Self-Promotion: the Lesson from the Duck House
In PR, we do our best to create the right platform to support the products and services we are trying to promote. Ever mindful of the clientele we wish to attract, we develop and fine-tune our community and online presence, and work tirelessly to create the perfect image of ourselves or our company. Sometimes, we get the clientele we were hoping for, and sometimes we get something else entirely. That’s not always a bad thing.