Expand Your Network with a Pitch Session at #GardenComm2019!

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By Kim Toscano

Wondering if a pitch session is right for you? The answer is yes!

Whether you have a story idea, portfolio to share, or are simply seeking to build professional relationships, pitch sessions offer the perfect venue. Everyone participating in a pitch session is looking to make connections. Editors want to meet writers, photographers, and other talented storytellers. Communicators are seeking new outlets for their work and feedback on projects. Pitch sessions offer a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Pitching Yourself and Your Work

Not every story is the right match for an editor, but pitch sessions are about more than just one story. Editors want to know about you – your areas of expertise, your platform, your past work. And of course they are interested in your ideas. Don’t be surprised if an editor listens to your pitch then asks, “Are you working on anything else?” Be ready to talk about other projects, even those still in the concept stage.

When pitching a children’s story at a creative writing conference, the agent asked me this very question. He was not interested in the story I pitched, but connected with the young adult novel I was working on. He gave me his card and asked me to send the novel to him when completed. And just like that, my list of professional contacts expanded.

Pick an Editor’s Brain

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Pitch sessions also provide an opportunity to ask questions, gain feedback, and seek advice. Not everything you discuss needs to be a finished work. At a recent conference I sat down with an editor during a pitch session to discuss a project I am working on. I let her know up front I wanted to pick her brain and she graciously obliged. In fact, our conversation carried over to lunch the next day. I garnered valuable advice while expanding my professional network.

I’ve come to realize pitch sessions are as much about learning as they were about pitching. When visiting with a garden editor you might gain valuable insights into the direction they are taking their publication, future topics they wish to explore, or types of stories they have difficulty assigning. Tap into an editor’s vast experience and use it to your advantage.

Too Nervous to Pitch?

The first time I signed up to pitch a story at a writing conference I was more than a bit anxious. I practiced my pitch over and over, tweaking and perfecting every word. And when I sat down across from the agent I signed up to meet, I forgot the words I’d carefully prepared. But it didn’t matter, because this wasn’t the agent’s first pitch session.

Hearing pitches is part of any agent or editor’s job, and they are remarkably skilled at setting writers at ease, asking questions that get you talking, and digging into the meat of a story. That is not to say don’t come prepared, just relax a little. Editors and agents are not there to intimidate you. They attend conferences to meet writers, photographers, and other talented storytellers. They want to get to know you.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a pitch session today!

 Sign Up!

Please note that this opportunity is only open to GardenComm’s Annual Conference & Expo attendees, and there is a one pitch-session per-person limit.

Click here to register for #GardenComm2019 today!

First Timer Event at Salt Lake City

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by GardenComm Membership Committee

It’s tough to be a newbie at an event such as the GardenComm annual conference. There are so many long-time members greeting each other and acting so familiar with the other attendees and the process in general. Those attending for the first time might feel left out or uneasy about what’s going on.

The truth is that everyone at these meetings were first-timers themselves at one point. We all remember feeling awkward and isolated. My first meeting was in Philadelphia (in 2000, if I my memory is correct) and I clearly remember walking on all tours and eating dinner by myself.  So it’s not surprising that experienced attendees on the GardenComm Membership Committee want to make this year’s newbies as comfortable and connected as possible.

We’ve tried several methods of welcoming “first timers” at past annual meetings, and this year we’re mixing those experiences in hopes of connecting the newbies with each other as well as introducing them to mentors. Here is our plan for this meeting in Salt Lake, plus a couple suggestions for the new attendees as well as those experienced members who will be mentors to the first timers.

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This year’s first timer event will be broken into segments in order to facilitate many types of connections between attendees.  As people enter those who are mentors will be asked to take chairs in the mentor’s row. The new attendees will be shown to tables where they will join other first-timers. After a brief introduction by the Membership Committee, there will be a 15 to 20 minute period when the newbies will be connecting with each other, while the mentors reconnect with those they haven’t seen for a year.

First-timers will be instructed to go around the table and introduce themselves, exchanging business cards or cell numbers. These connections will be useful for making dinner plans or for future networking. Note that if you prefer not to use business cards your contact information will also be on the conference app. Those around the table at the first-timers event can check off fellow attendees’ names and contact information on the app.

After this initial introduction period attending board members will be introduced and the first timers will be invited to sit on the row of chairs that is opposite where the mentors have been seated. At this point there will be four or five segments when mentors will talk with the first-timer seated opposite…think speed dating without the pressure for meeting the love of your life. When the bell rings the mentors will move one chair to the side and everyone will chat with the new person across from them. It’s a high-energy, loud process, but it’s a way to let newbies introduce themselves to a few mentors one-on-one for a few minutes.

Once this speed schmoozing is finished, we will all proceed to the tradeshow and let the education and more networking begin!

Throughout the conference, there are additional ways that new members can take action to feel more connected.

  • Wear your first timer ribbon if you have one. This will allow those who have signed up to be mentors to recognize you throughout the conference.
  • If you’re a relative newbie but not a first timer, don’t hesitate to approach anyone wearing a mentor ribbon and introduce yourself. Initiate conversations with others as often as possible.
  • Use the app to ask questions, connect with others with similar goals or experiences, or invite people to join you at the bar or for dinner.

Meet the Authors

This piece was written by the GardenComm membership committee; we are actively seeking new committee members with fresh ideas, strong opinions, and the willingness to connect with others. This committee meets by conference call once a month on a Friday at noon Eastern time…we bring our own snacks and occasional plant chat. If you’d like to sit in on a call to see what we’re all about, contact Shelley Cramm shelleycramm@gardenindelight.com or C.L. Fornari  clfornari@yahoo.com.

Confessions of a Region Crasher

split rocker membersby Marie Mims Butler

Hello. My name is Marie, and I am a GardenComm Region Crasher. Social meetings, connect meetings, regional meetings, and national symposiums. I crave the adventure, companionship, and inspiration that meeting with other GardenComm members delivers. In May, Region 2 Director Kathy Jentz lured me out of Region 4 to Maryland with a tantalizing blog post.

Here was a chance to venture behind the gorgeous scenery in gardens and garden centers. The promise of fresh, regional foods shared with fellow garden communicators sealed the deal for me. Road trip!

To ensure a fresh start for the day, I drove up from southeastern Virginia on Thursday. Happy hour “Up on the Roof” of my Bethesda hotel eased the tension of driving through tornado warnings and I-495 traffic. Cool breezes, rosy sunset, and the softest outline of the mountains in the distance. Ahhh…mcrillis

For the first time ever, I hauled myself out of bed for an early morning photo shoot. McCrillis Gardens was worth the wake up. This 5-acre, naturalistic garden is truly a hidden gem in a residential area in Bethesda. Once a private residence of a well-connected plant collector, it is now under the auspices of Brookside Gardens and the Montgomery County park system. The promise of seeing azaleas is not particularly special to a Virginian, but the first picture I took was of an azalea. I’ll admit I’m a “purdy flower” person. At McCrillis, the woody plants (trees and shrubs) had me gasping and “Oh wow”-ing at every turn in a path. My favorite? Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’- the pagoda dogwood. Standing like white lace against the sky, it could be a wedding venue all by itself. Head gardener, Nancy Woods, eagerly led us on a plant-centric tour and even sent us a thank you for visiting. McCrillis is a small garden with a big, green heart.

For those who can properly program a GPS (which lets me out), our next destination was a mere 20 minutes, but another world, away. Glenstone is in the heart of mega rich Potomac, MD. The private residence/art museum is available to visit by reservation, only. According to their website, “Glenstone is a place that seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and landscape into a serene and contemplative environment.” Amen to that! Our own tour member, Susan Harris has expressed the story our Glenstone tour far better than I can on the blog Garden Rant.

In the midst of modern elegance blending seamlessly into the created, natural setting, I found myself puzzling over the giant monkey head that crowned the property. (My take on art can be rather shallow.) I came to learn that Split-rocker is not a giant monkey head, but a split image of a child’s rocking pony and rocking dinosaur. Artist Jeff Koons was expressing the split in his family as he and his wife divorced. Split-rocker towers 37’ and is planted with over 24,000 plugs of annual flowers and grasses! I was stunned to hear it had been on display in NY City and Versailles. So much for my big monkey head assessment. For those who would like more visual insights into Glenstone, YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, CBS, and others have videos online. Best of all, make a reservation and experience the art that is Glenstone in person.

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Our next destination, another accurately programmed GPS 20 minutes away, was the fabulous new neighborhood rising from an old shopping mall site, Pike & Rose. Offices, retail spaces and living spaces are combined with a tremendous sense of environmental responsibility. Green roofs are mandatory! Our group was treated to a rare tour of Up Top Acres’ 17,000 square foot farm on the sixth floor of the Pallas building. Rare, because climbing a very steep ladder was required to reach the garden. Gardener Sara Servin enthusiastically described the challenges and rewards of growing vegetable in urban settings. For instance, staking tomatoes is a problem on a rooftop, so they are grown inground at their Navy Yard location. Litter is another rooftop issue.  Most recently, old CDs have been found all over the garden. ???.  Oh the story those could tell…

With so much focus on growing fresh produce, our lunch from Sweetgreen was deliciously appropriate. We gathered our preselected salads served in compostable bowls and found seats in a shady spot in one of many gathering spaces designed into the Pike & Rose community.

It’s amazing what can be achieved when conscience, design, and investment blend in harmony.

schwartz peony garden

Leaving the urban for the rural, we headed to Seneca Creek State Park to see the last of the blooms in the Schwartz Peony Garden. In 1915, fascination became an obsession for real estate broker Edward Schwartz. His collection led to founding a nursery specializing in peonies. When Edward P. Schwartz’s property was sold after his death, a fraction of his collection wound up in Seneca Creek Park. A sampling of his varieties has been arranged in neat, volunteer-tended, rows. The rest have gone feral in the adjoining field. It’s almost surreal to see peonies popping up at random in a field of grasses and weeds. What a magnificent sight Mr. Schwartz’s original plantings must have been. As we prepared to leave, treats awaited us in the parking area. Raffle prizes were awarded, and the generous gifts of elephant ears and agapanthus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs were handed out. Thank you, generous donors!susanna farms

On to Susanna Farm Nursery in Boyds, MD where fantasies of Japanese maples and conifers come to life. Attendees took advantage of the opportunity to shop for themselves or their clients, observe the specimen forms of plants they already have, add to their photo libraries, and recharge their cell phones. I saw several stunning Japanese maples from Susanna Farms when I visited Brookside Gardens the following day. Definitive right plant in the right place.

Lilypons

As temperatures soared, Lilypons Water Gardens offered refreshing views andchampagne punch. Whenever I think of water gardening, Lilypons is my first resource for aquatic plants and water garden supplies. Now I will remember them as mays seafood.jpegthoughtful hosts in a beautifully tranquil setting as well. 

To conclude our whirlwind day, the remaining, hungry souls gathered at locally owned May’s Restaurant in Frederick, MD. Cold beverages, witty conversation, and fresh seafood were enjoyed by all. (Well, almost all. Louise had meatloaf.) To those who were driving home that night, safe travels were wished while more shopping and sightseeing tips were passed along to those, like me, who were staying overnight before heading out.

GardenComm offers me irresistible travel opportunities that I often pair with visits to friends, family, and even more gardens. I like to expand the experience! Perhaps it’s time you joined me in Region Crashing. We can form our own support group, Region Crashers Anonymous, and encourage each other to jump those boundaries and boldly go where few GardenComm members have gone before. Are you with me?

Meet the AuthorMarieMims

Marie Mims Butler is a GardenComm Region 4 Director, speaker, and gardening enthusiast. Residing in Cheaspeake, VA, Marie is ready to travel at the jingle of a keyring. Want to share tales? Contact marie.butler@cox.net.

Collecting Obsessions in Potomac, MD

headBy Kathy Jentz

Plant lovers don’t know how to say “No.” Let’s face it, we are a greedy lot and our passion can quickly grow into a life-long mission of acquiring one of every kind of a favorite flower or shrub.  On the upcoming Region 2 Meeting on the last Friday of May (5/24), we will be touring through gardens that were created by several obsessive gardeners and collectors.

We start off the day at McCrillis Gardens  for an early morning photo shoot. This little-known public garden is a hidden gem in a prosperous suburban neighborhood.  Williamgazebo McCrillis made the garden and it is best known for the collection of azaleas, but it also has many rare ornamental trees and shade-loving perennials. He was assistant to Harold Ickes, the secretary of the interior from 1933 to 1946. McCrillis became friends with the chief horticulturist for the National Park Service, who helped him acquire trees and plants globally.

Next, we visit Glenstone, which houses the collection of post-World War II art of Emily and Mitch Rales in a sustainable landscape.  We’ll also get to experience their newly opened Environmental Center is a multi-use maintenance and education facility that offers experiential learning. Here you can learn about our efforts in composting, organic landscape flower management, waste reduction, materials recycling and water conservation—and how to take these practices home with you.

For lunch, we go to the Pike & Rose development and a rooftop farm, Up Top Acres. We’ll learn about the transformation of a suburban sprawl to an urban oasis.

The Seneca Park Shwartz Peony Garden  is thanks to Edward P. Schwartz, a wealthy realtor, who put together a massive personal collection of peonies from dealers in Holland, France, England, and Germany as well as the United States. The field on display is only a portion of that original collections, but is still impressive.

Susanna Farm Nursery is offering our attendees a susanna20% discount: off any purchase, but it is Brant Baker’s obsession with dwarf conifers and Japanese maples that make this a “do not miss” stop. The “farm” looks more like an arboretum with its large specimen collection in a spectacular landscape setting.

Join us at the end of the day for an old-fashioned champagne punch cocktail at LilyPons Water Gardens, the perfect cap-off to a truly filling day. You can explore this 100+-year-old family business that was founded by G. Leicester Thomas, Sr., who turned his goldfish and water lily hobby collections into a thriving business.

Finally, those of us who want to avoid the worst of the evening rush hour can join us for Dutch-treat dinner at May’s Seafood, known for classic Maryland crabcakes.

I urge you to sign up TODAY as there are only 30 spots available and they will fill fast!

Meet the Author

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Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener Magazine and a long-time DC-area gardening enthusiast.  To book her for a garden talk, find her at Great Garden Speakers.  She also edits the IWGS Water Garden Journal and is a columnist and guest blogger for several other publications. Her latest foray is as the social media voice for horticultural brands. She can be reached at KathyJentz@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Facebook Livens Up Communication

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By Peggy Riccio

This blog post originally appeared as an article in the March-April 2018 issue of On the QT, GardenComm’s newsletter. “GWA” has been changed to “GardenComm” to reflect our new change.

Many GardenComm members use Facebook to promote their products and communicate gardening messages. With almost two billion monthly users, Facebook can be an effective platform for building a garden communicator’s business.

About a year ago, Facebook launched Facebook Live (FBL), enabling users to broadcast and interact with viewers. Viewers can comment during the event and the user or broadcaster can reply in real time. Once posted, the video can be re-purposed for other communications such as a link in an e-mail newsletter.

Facebook Live can be spontaneous, inexpensive and yield a high level of viewers and engagement, resulting in an increased number of followers (or customers). Using FBL garners more viewers because Facebook prioritizes live posts and high engagement activity.

According to Facebook’s website, “Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when these videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live. On average, people spend more than three times more time watching a FBL video compared to a video that is no longer live and to comment more than ten times more on a FBL video than on a regular video.”

GARDENCOMM MEMBERS USE FACEBOOK LIVE

Eleven GardenComm members responded to a callout for people to talk about their use of FBL as a promotional tool to increase their reach and build their following.

Most learned to use FBL through trial and error but all agreed that it was simple to learn. All the respondents recommended FBL, provided that you are comfortable in front of a camera and there is high quality content. Interestingly, the live feature adds an attractive human dimension.

IMPRESSIVE RESULTS

“My business coach told me about how much the Facebook algorithm prioritizes Facebook Live videos over pre-recorded videos or written content,” said Katie Elzer-Peters. “I decided to try it and was amazed with the number of eyeballs on my video, which translated to new leads for my business.”

A few were intrigued after hearing about or seeing others use FBL. “I saw a lecture about using Facebook Live as a promotional tool at the GardenComm conference in Atlanta, and I decided to give it a go,” Jessica Walliser said. “My first video was about growing sesame seeds from the garden at the Atlanta History Center the very next day. It was watched almost 2,000 times and shared by over a dozen people. I couldn’t believe it!”

Kim Roman conducted weekly book giveaways for the Square Foot Gardening Foundation culminating in short FBL posts. “Since using videos and FBL, our reach has definitely increased—from about 400 for a regular post to at least 1,400 for a FBL event,” Kim said.

“Using Facebook Live captures the moderator’s excitement, surroundings and real time experiences,” Teri Speight said.

“It is imperfectly, but uniquely, a great way to invite people to follow you, and then they also will read your written words,” Jen McGuinness said. “I recommend using Facebook Live because it helps showcase your personality and provides a human element to those who are only familiar with your writing or photography.

HOW TO USE FACEBOOK LIVE

  • You only need your computer or mobile phone. Although it is best to use Wi-Fi, you should have at least a 4G connection.
  • To start, look where you would normally post on Facebook for a red, old-fashioned movie camera with an eye in the middle and the word “Live” next to it.
  • Click on the icon and you will be directed to a screen where you can see what will be seen by your viewers.
  • Select the audience (for example, friends, only me or public).
  • Type a short description of your video.
  • After you tap “Go Live,” you have a three-second countdown. While taping, you will see feedback in the form of comments or symbols representing feelings.
  • You don’t have to respond, but the more engaged you are with your audience the more interesting the experience and the more likely you will have viewers during and after.
  • When you are done, tap “Finish.”

TIPS WHEN USING FACEBOOK LIVE

Equipment

Dee Nash: An external mic is the best way to have good sound. However, with just my iPhone 7, I can make pretty good Facebook Live videos.

Gary Bachman: Landscape view, use a wired lapel mic or Bluetooth. Do not rely on the omni-directional phone mic. Use a tripod with the camera set a little above eye height (my personal preference). Selfie sticks will work but tend to move unintentionally, making it harder to view. If you want to build your audience, be consistent. Keep it short—five to seven minutes.

Timing

Jessica Walliser: Keep it short—three to four minutes. Find something interesting to show people. Teach them something; a quick tidbit they can use in their own garden. Hold the camera steady and vertically. If you mess up, don’t stop and say “I messed up, let me try that again.” Just keep going.

Kim Roman: Announce ahead of time that you’re going to do a Facebook Live event; give the date and time, including the time zone. When you start your session, say something interesting but “fluffy” and give people a chance to gather—keep this under a minute.

Katie Dubow: Plan at least two to three minutes of content, because the longer you are on, the more people will see your video.

Consistency

Erin Schanen: Even if you don’t have a large audience for the “live” video, it will still get a lot of views when you post it to your page. Go back and answer questions you might have missed and post links (affiliate, if possible) to the products and plants you talked about. I use the same wireless lavaliere mic I use for videos, but a wired lavaliere will help too.

Chris Link: Make sure whatever content you are posting is well thought out and worth people’s time to consume it.

Katie Elzer-Peters: Write notes for what you want to cover ahead of time. Commit to a regular schedule. Include a call to action: Like your Facebook page, buy your book, subscribe to your email list. Summarize at the end of the video. Use a tripod.

Jenny Peterson: To practice, set up your Facebook post as if you were doing a live video, but change your privacy setting to “Only Me.” Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Make sure your Wi-Fi connection is strong. Interact with your audience, even if nobody is commenting.

Jen McGuinness: To prevent the phone’s battery from being drained, plug the phone into a portable battery in your pocket. To prevent a shaky transmission, use a mount for your phone.

Meet the Author

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Horticulturist and writer Peggy Riccio publishes PegPlant.com, which features local gardening news, resources, and plants for those who garden in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

Clip art from Sitejerk.com

Sure-Fire Ways to Write a Great Headline

By Kathy Jentz

This blog post gives me the chance to tell my favorite joke:

Have you heard about the new corduroy pillows?

They are making headlines across the nation!

Have you ever finished an article and then been stumped as to how to title it? Whether you are writing a headline for a new blog post or your company newsletter, the basic principles of good headline writing will help you capture and pull in readers.

Headline writing skills only get better with practice and it always helps to brainstorm with colleagues or friends to try a few different ones to get your creative juices flowing. Next time you post to Facebook or write a Tweet, think about shaping it as a headline and I bet you see increased engagement and response for your efforts.

Please join me on Thursday for my GardenComm webinar (nonmembers welcome too!). I’ll share 7 easy methods for writing great headlines, we’ll do some writing exercises, and work on a few photo captions as well. Register at – https://gardencomm.org/GardenComm-Events-Webinars.

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Meet the Author

Kathy Jentz is the Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, the publication for Mid-Atlantic home gardeners.  She blogs at https://washingtongardener.blogspot.com/.

“Cultivating Columbus” Regional Meeting on July 12 Highlights a Horticulture Hotbed

Lucks' English gardenby Teresa Woodard

Join us in Columbus, Ohio, on July 12 for a  GardenComm regional meeting and tour of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm (3)this horticulture hotbed of Ohio. Then take advantage of the opportunity to attend the Cultivate 2019 Show, July 13-15 (requires separate registration).

The regional meeting’s tour will begin at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm where slow flower movement pioneers Gretel and Steve Adams will share the story behind their successful urban flower farm that has become a national model for specialty cut flower growers.

Next, we’ll tour the private English style estate garden of Cherie Lucks who has led many city and statewide beautification efforts in Columbus.

OSU Trial Gardens (3)For lunch, we’ll meet at the education pavilion beside the new nature-engaging children’s garden at Franklin Park Conservatory. After lunch, we’ll tour the children’s garden then head to Stump Plants flagship store for some houseplant shopping. This highly curated plant store chain now has four locations in Columbus, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

In the afternoon, we will visit Chadwick Arboretum at The Ohio State University to tour the learning gardens with the Steven Still Perennial Garden designed by Adrian Bloom, the university’s trial gardens, an award-winning horticulture therapy garden, and a Groovy Plants Ranch (3)green roof.

We will finish up the day with an appetizer reception at Groovy Plants Ranch, a nursery and retail store in an old school house.  Our hosts Jared and Liz Hughes have an amazing collection of succulents and unusual plants. Plus, Jared will have plenty of his newly introduced Canary Wings Begonia.

For more information and registration, click here!

(A note from GardenComm blog coodinator, Carol Michel. When I saw the schedule for this event, I signed up right away. Teresa has organized a great one-day event! I feel certain it will be a full-house and a lot of fun.  I look forward to seeing many  people in Columbus.  If you can’t make it to Ohio in July, check out other regional meetings in Connecticut on June 6 and Minnesota on July 26-27.)

Meet the Author

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Teresa is a garden writer and field editor based in Columbus, Ohio. You’ll find her work in Country Gardens, Better Homes & Gardens, Midwest Living Magazine, Ohio Magazine and Columbus Monthly. She also serves on the board at Highland Youth Garden in Columbus and as a judge with America in Bloom. She blogs with two other garden writers at www.heartland-gardening.com.