Catriona writes: I go to a pub quiz once a month on a Monday night. There are three real prizes - money-off vouchers for the pub we’re sitting in – and the fourth-place prize is swag donated by the contestants. In a town where John Lescroart, Eileen Rendahl, Andy Jones (poet) and I all live, write and do the pub quiz, the swag often includes books. But it’s the other stuff that’s the joy. Bill Clinton and family paper dressing-dolls, mindful cat colouring books, inflatable Einsteins . . . truly the non-book swag has nothing you need, but almost everything else.
So, as a connoisseur of pub-quiz swag, I’m delighted to have Cynthia Kuhn, author of the brilliant Lila Maclean college mysteries, here today to talk about the pressing question of author swag . . . and yes, readers, writers really do agonise over this.
A trip through the swag room of any mystery conference is Freebie Heaven. Many authors have come up with adorable and functional items to give away, like recipe cards or measuring cups for culinary cozies, seed packets and sunblock for gardening-related mysteries, and so on. I very much admire their creativity and ability to imagine thematically connected swag.
For The Semester of Our Discontent, I happily gave away bookmarks and pens. But when The Art of Vanishing launched, I vowed to come up with a new idea—something in the school arena since I write academic mysteries.
During my brainstorming session, I decided to make a list of authentic swag possibilities, items I’d actually encountered in or around a classroom. By the end, it looked like this:
- Chalkboard/whiteboard covered in writing and no eraser in sight
- Fresh wad of gum scraped from sole of shoe, stepped on in hallway
- Indecipherable, abandoned lecture notes
- Guilt-inducing stack of papers that must be carried around everywhere until graded
- Random assortment of broken chalk nubs and nonfunctional dry erase pens
- Coupon forgiving one late submission, already expired
- Clump of paperclips unintentionally discarded from essays during grading frenzy
- Projector that renders all letters into unreadable fuzzy blobs
- Tiny stapler that only works properly on three or fewer sheets of paper
- Book bag filled with incomplete homework assignments.
All of the above were promptly rejected, you’ll be glad to know. So what is on the new and improved list? Bookmarks and pens.
To help me when it comes round – as it will soon enough – to book three: What are some of your favorite swag items you’ve received?
Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches in Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado.
For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.