Thursday, January 05, 2012

Book Marketing Makeover: Creating a Viral Story

Guest post by Kayleen Reusser

In 1989 a 10-minute incident with a stranger helped me through a miserable day during the Christmas season. The encounter wouldn't leave me. “If I’m still thinking about this incident,” I thought, “maybe it would impact someone else.”

I crafted an essay about the experience the next year at the beginning of my writing career. I wrote the story, titled “A Lesson in Forgiveness,” at 500 words, including details about the weather, the reasons for my bad mood and how I felt transformed following our interaction.

The subject of forgiveness was popular with religious magazines and editors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Newspaper editors seeking holiday stories loved it. I even turned the incident into a skit that was purchased for a church program book.

Since its initial publication, “A Lesson in Forgiveness” has been reprinted more than 30 times and I believe it will continue to be evergreen because of its timeless message.

A Lesson in Forgiveness

It was snowing as I finished unbuckling my baby from her car seat. A toot from behind reminded me that I was holding up traffic on the one-way street.

I didn’t care. My six-month-old had to get an immunization shot, which meant she would be up all night with a fever. My head ached like I was coming down with the flu and my husband’s job didn’t look steady for the holidays. I wasn’t in a good mood.

The truck tooted its horn again. When I finally had my little one in my arms and covered from the cold air, I looked up and felt my heart sink. I had inadvertently parked in a delivery zone. A look at the name printed on the truck confirmed that I was parked in its delivery zone.

Angry at myself for not noticing the sign sooner, I put my baby back into the car and looked down the street. The nearest empty place was more than a block away. Gritting my teeth, I was tempted to go home and reschedule my baby’s vaccination for a day when things were going better, but I didn’t.

After managing to park in a tight spot, I again got ready to get out of my car. Glancing up, I saw someone waiting for me outside. I knew it was the truck driver.  Bracing myself for a verbal attack, I slowly emerged from the car.

“Sorry about that back there.” A strong note of apology rang in the man’s voice. I looked at him suspiciously. He was actually grinning at me!

“I saw you had a baby,” he continued, “but there wasn’t any other place big enough for me to park in.”

I managed to stammer my own apology, though I was completely taken aback by his friendly manner. Like Scrooge, I wondered if this was a setup.

“I’d like to give you this.” The stranger held out a coffee mug with his company’s name on the side. He didn’t wait for my reply, but shouted “Merry Christmas” and sprinted away, as fast as he dared on the slick pavement.

I stared after him, the coffee mug still in my hand. As the snow continued to fall steadily around me, a warm feeling spread throughout my body and I smiled for the first time all day.

At home that coffee mug serves as a constant reminder to me of the way that driver showed unexpected kindness and forgiveness to me that day. As I drink from it each day, it also reminds me of the way God forgives each of us when we least deserve it.

Using the coffee mug each morning as I begin my day inspires me to work on showing that same kindness and forgiveness to everyone I will meet -- clerks, cashiers, complete strangers -- not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.

Kayleen Reusser

About the Author

Kayleen Reusser has written nine children’s books, including biographies on Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, three books on the Greek gods, and Recipe and Craft Guide to Indonesia, all from Mitchell Lane Publishing.

She has written articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Indianapolis Monthly, Boy Scouting, The Lookout, Focus on the Family,  Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, and Bluffton News-Banner. She is a weekly columnist for the Ossian Sun Riser and co-founder of a writing group.

She currently works in a public middle school library where she finds inspiration for ideas among the students and books. Check her out at
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