Jacquée Thomas is an authoress, poetess, lyricist and columnist. Miss Thomas’s background includes extensive Western European travel, knowledge of the Spanish language and involvement in Chicago’s Rockabilly scene. She was a computer instructor at Wright College and a freelance writer for the “Chicago Sun-Times” and “New City” magazine before she became columnist for “Letter from Chicago.”
She established Detour Productions as an outlet for her published works, events, and videos.
When I think of Jacquee T. and Detour Productions, I think Romance. You mastered the branding process long before writers were talking about it. How did you go about deciding on the image you wanted to project, and what steps do you take to ensure that image remains clear?
I hadn’t set out with intention to “brand” myself; I set out to build a writing career. I needed to express my passions and perspectives – through creative and expository writing. Eventually, I realized I lived life as passionately as I wrote about it.
For example my writing helped me realize how much I loved being a woman, and how much that was a part of my identity – so that, I referred to myself as an authoress instead of an author, an actress, not an actor. And, true to form, when writing poetry I was a poetess.
Over the years, I realized and asserted my feminine side, which happened to be most of me. And the fellas had no worries, because I averred that a gal could not love being a woman without loving the fellas. Out of this attitude, I believe, resonated a voice that appeals to both women and men.
In knowing myself, and allowing myself, I’d honed a voice that resounded across mediums – newspaper, books, theater and radio – and I realized that my overall message was romance.
I’d already established my image with my readership. Now I needed to guard it as I appealed to wider audiences. How would I introduce myself to them?
The biggest draw, and the biggest deterrent, was the word “romance.” Everyone had their interpretation. Folks who heard “romance” might think of steamy formula novels, or of fluffy-puffy analogies, or they might think this was something for couples only.
While here I was, knowing that romance could be earthy, gritty, profound, heavy, airy, or soaring, and that it’s a part of our nature. How could I, ‘Jacquee T.,’ communicate romance?
I founded the company Detour Productions publishing and entertainment, to represent me and my products. The company message is “Slow Down” to taste life. The Detour web site, products and events, inspire to do so.
Please tell us about your book, Growing Up (the pain, the joy, the discoveries).
This is the first book printed under Detour Productions. It’s designed as a keepsake.
Growing Up is an 7″x7″ book, with a cloth hardcover and a silk screen title and spine. It has a beautiful dust jacket, and a red ribbon bookmark. It’s perfect to display on the coffee table or nightstand.
Inside is a collection of poems, quotes and essays I wrote throughout various stages of my life. The moods range from somberness to a sense of humor.
I call it “accessible poetry.” Usually when folks hear “poetry,” they anticipate needing to concentrate and de-code the meanings. With Growing Up, I’ve found that people draw their own meanings from my poetry. Both men and women respond passionately.
The retail price is $20. This is a great price for a book of this unique design and quality.
It makes an elegant gift, and adds a little romance to those who receive it.
You regularly hold events that promote your book of poetry, evoke romance, and serve as fund raisers for worthy charities. Would you share with us some of your more unique events?
Detour events promote that “romance is accessible.” The venues are carefully selected; they provide a romantic backdrop.
Two milestone events were the Detour Productions launching party, and the “unveiling” party for Growing Up (the pain, the joy, the discoveries). Both included live music, and a “romantic raffle” to benefit a select charity.
In the Detour launching party, I sang the company namesake song, “Detour Romance.” Among the “Romantic Raffle” prizes were an Odyssey dinner cruise, “Chicago Chocolate Tours” tickets, a bottle of premium champagne, and an overnight suite in Chicago’s Amalfi hotel. Proceeds benefitted Alliance for the Great Lakes
At the “Growing Up” poetry book launching party, I signed copies of the newly “unveiled” books, and read some of the poetry. The Chicago WineStyles on Belmont hosted a tasting of “wines from romantic countries.” The event was titled “Roses for Mozart,” in fond memory of my cat Mozart who had recently passed on. Organic roses were part of the decor. Among “Romantic Raffle” prizes were a Winestyles-Belmont private wine tasting, dinner for two at the famous Pump Room, and tickets for Noble Horse Theatre, Proceeds benefitted Treehouse Humane Society, a cage-less shelter for cats.
Another event was a “Pink Champagne and Poetry” book signing and celebration at the historical Chicago Drake Hotel. This was celebrated in conjunction with the Swing band, The Flat Cats. They performed the song “Pink Champagne” in honor of the occasion. I took the mic regularly during the night, spoke about romance, and read poems from Growing Up. Per the Drake, all “Pink Champagne” purchases benefitted The Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation.
Those are some of the larger events hosted under Detour, and there are more like them in the works. They will be posted on the Detour web site once the dates and details are set.
How would an author or authoress go about setting up an event in conjunction with fund raising and then publicizing that event?
If you plan to host an event, plan to work hard. You’ll need to utilize both sides of your brain to make it successful. Set it up to make money, but of course, yet also to cause a buzz about who you are and what message you offer.
Firstly, be creative in choosing a theme to your event, a select venue, and a select charity. These will help you come up with the event title.
For example, if your book is “My Ski Adventures: the Good, the Bad, and the Human Snowball,” consider a snow theme. If it’s summertime, perhaps title the event “Snowy in July: author John Smith’s ‘Ski Adventures’ will give you chills!” Select an establishment with an outdoor terrace. Bring in a snow cone vendor. What else? Popsicles®, Slushies, and for those who want a potable – ice wine.
If it’s winter, select an establishment that has a fireplace and that serves hot drinks – some of them spiked. Potential event title: “Snow Lodge at Ike’s Tavern: author John Smith tells the ‘don’ts’ of skiing.”
In selecting a charity, perhaps one that protects Polar Bears, to go with the snow theme. Or perhaps you have a personal reason for benefitting a different charity.
Secondly, now that you have a focused title and theme, approach the people who can support this event, and whom you can support per the event publicity.
For example, if you approach Ike’s Tavern about donating his fireplace room, explain why his establishment fits perfectly with the theme. Offer to find a date and time that works for both of you. If Ike passes, try Irma’s Fireside Lounge, and so on.
Be prepared to send them in writing a description of the event, the benefitting charity, how you intend to publicize the event and to publicize the supporting establishment, how you expect them to publicize the event. Also, exactly what proceeds will benefit the select charity. A percentage of book sales? A raffle drawing? Sometimes folks like Ike and Irma opt to offer a percentage of bar sales to the charity. If so, be sure to publicize their added altruism – and to announce it during the event.
More details: Provided the drinks, appetizers they provide, what’s complimentary and what’s ‘available?’ Is there a cover price for the event? If so, how would you divide it with Ike or Irma?
Make sure everything is understood and agreed verbally, iterated via e-mail, and if need be, per signed agreement. This with the select venue manager, with the charity, and anyone else contributing to the event.
Thirdly, publicize! The moment you confirmed the event date, title, and location, post a “Save the Date!” on your web site and social media profiles, and send a note to your e-mail list. Offer updates and reminders, in moderation. Once details are confirmed, submit press releases to print and radio sources. Print announcements to distribute to friends, and to people you meet at networking events.
Check with the event venue folks, and the benefitting charity folks, on how they’re publicizing – before you sign them on, and as the event draws near. Offer to deliver fliers, or to send text they could use in blast e-mails or on their web sites.
In all publicity, you need the grabber title, and to assure all is clear to potential guests. For example:
You’re invited to
‘Snow Lodge at Ike’s Tavern’
book signing and benefit for Protect Polar Bears
5 East Elm Road, Paw Paw Michigan
7 p.m. November 1, 2010
John Smith, author of My Ski Adventures: the Good, the Bad, and the Human Snowball
tells the ‘don’ts’ of skiing.
That’s an informative grabber. It also gives Ike’s Tavern and Protect Polar Bears reason to make the same announcement, or to use the announcements you send them.
For the ensuing info, provide more reasons folks would want to attend, the cover price, if any, etc.
As a poetess and authoress, how do you determine which format is best for what you want to say?
An inspiration comes to me, and I write it down. A poem comes as a poem, a song as a song. With the song, I must find a recording device to sing into to make it complete, and that’s usually via calling my own voice mail before I find a musician to transcribe the tune.
Sometimes a character’s action comes to mind, and I write it down, or their dialog with another, and I write it down. When this happens, it’s an excerpt, that may fit into a poem book. Yet later I may get another action or monolog, and realize it’s connected with something I wrote before, and I put those notes together; as notes accumulate I realize this is a short story … (or) this is a novelette …. (or) this is a novel!
Sometimes the dialog is so dominating, I write the inspiration as a screenplay or play. The initial format I put it in remains the medium in telling the story.
Sometimes my thoughts are purely expository. They are released on my Internet outlets.
If I were to offer advice on inspiration, I’d say, allow it raw, don’t force it in any form, record it and make room for it. Do that, and the idea will manifest in its own form.
It was from your website that I discovered the recipe for perfect mashed potatoes! I’ve also read movie and wine recommendations, learned how to take care of my Shamrock plant, and through the “A Romantic in Chicago” link, vicariously enjoyed my favorite city. Where do you look for the content on your site?
Thank you. You’re referring to my Vignettes weblog, on the Detour site, and the new web site under Detour Productions, A Romantic’s Perspective.
Vignettes is a “tip of the fingers” outlet, as I may have an inspiration and be informal about sharing it. A la “Perfect Mashed Potatoes.” It’s not a recipe, it’s a depiction of my experiences that led to a Eureka! that potato lovers would appreciate – especially as they prepare to sit down for a holiday feast.
A Romantic’s Perspective (.com) has a section titled, “The Wine Corner,” where suggestions on wines and wine places are featured. The web site also has “The Green Romantic” section that covers earthy and sustainable subjects. This web site offers features by the month.
March 2010 featured Ireland, and included “wines to go with Irish fare” under “The Wine Corner,” and “Shamrocks, the Wild Irish Clover” under “The Green Romantic.”
As a former columnist for “Letter from Chicago,” it behooved me to include my knowledge about Chicago as a separate entity under A Romantic’s Perspective – “A Romantic in Chicago.” It’s a sub-site under A Romantic’s Perspective (.com), and has the same categories: “The Wine Corner,” The Green Romantic,” with Chicago-based features.
Where do I look for content? I cannot keep up with my ideas. A Romantic’s Perspective was designed to tame them – under categories like “The Wine Corner,” etc. At the same time, those categories spawned new angles.
For example, I anticipated that the March A Romantic’s Perspective to include a splash of Irish among the categories – until I attended a “Flavors of Ireland” event that I thought would merely enhance the “splash.” I left the event with more article ideas than I had categories, and ended up covering all Romantic’s categories with an Irish flair, plus adding a special “Claddagh Ring” page.
These all- Irish subjects knocked out previous features I’d planned. Not only because they were conjoining in the “St. Patrick’s” gaiety, but also because my contacts were prompt to provide requested photos, and to answer questions in rich detail.
All my contacts, I realized, were Irish, with the exception of an Irish American, a few generations removed, who hosted Ireland trips and spoke of them like poetry. It behooved me to let go my previous plans to fill the Romantic’s categories, and to take on the wild Irish subjects.
The previous plans were shelved for later months.
This process keeps me on my toes and excited. At the same time, as a professional writer, I respond to sources who are timely in responding to my information and photo requests.
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
If you have a conviction for a writing career, start putting out your writing. Assure your grammar skills are intact, but of course. Yet the most important thing is giving of yourself. Spill into your writing, be it first person or third person; write from your core, not your surface. Readers will sense the difference and respond accordingly, whether or not you hear from them.
And, dress well. Dress as if you respect yourself, and your writing, and the people you meet.