What Would Be Your Celebrity Brand?

If you were to have your picture on a magazine cover, what would the headlines say?

Designing my fake magazine cover was the assignment recently for a platform-building workshop I’m taking (“Platform” is writer jargon for how to make yourself a household name). I thought it would be fun, but it was mostly frustrating, not only because of the technical challenges—no, that’s not the size I wanted the photo to be! Wait, where did my headlines go?—but because I couldn’t boil myself down to one or even two topics.

Writer or not, I invite you to try it. Definite yourself in one meaty sentence? XXX is the one who ___________________________.

As a reporter, I liked to write about everything. I loved the variety. I still write about many different topics. See my website. But in the book world, folks want to pin you to one thing. I’m the childless writer. I’m the Portuguese writer. I’m the writer who helps other writers. I’m the poet, the memoirist, the novelist, the essayist, the blogger. I’m the dog mom. I’m the musician.

Trying to cover all these different areas might explain why I fall asleep in front of the TV when I finally give up trying to work. But how do I make one platform that will hold everything? If my feet are on 10 different pieces of wood—wait, I don’t have 10 feet. If I’m rowing in 10 different directions, I’ll never get anywhere. But every direction is just as important to me. Can I just call myself “diversified” or do I need to find a central, defining stream that will carry me to glory? You know what they say about putting all your eggs in one basket.

Maybe I’m like a star radiating out in all directions. I’m the hot burning center. That sounds too egotistical. But what is the central thread that I can share with the reading world? What is my brand?

Writer. Troubador. Communicator. How about . . . truth-teller?

How about the representative for . . . 70-year-old, childless, widowed, Portuguese-Basque-Spanish-Mexican-German American, Catholic, left-handed, arthritic, nearsighted, hearing-impaired, pastry-addicted San Francisco Bay Area natives living on the Oregon coast, writer-musician-dog moms?

That doesn’t fit on a magazine cover. I’m not even sure it would fit in a Twitter tweet.

The photo here is not great quality because I took a picture of it on my computer screen. I tried two different websites and both let me design a whole cover, then asked me sign up for a membership before I could keep it as my own. I don’t plan to make a career of designing magazine covers, especially ones with my face plastered all over it. Who does that?

Well, Oprah Winfrey has an actual magazine with her name and face on the cover. It recently ended its print version, but it’s still publishing online. Nobody pins Oprah to one subject, do they? Her brand is “Oprah!”

Then we have Martha Stewart, whose name is synonymous with a lot of things. Cooking, stationery, sheets and towels, jail . . .

Imagine if we all published magazines with our names on them, and they were lined up on a shelf at the grocery store. Sue, Oprah, George, Mike, Pete, Martha, Angelina . . .

We are each the hot shining star of our own universe, but readers are likely to skip to the next shelf for the latest recipes, celebrity news, or sports updates. News you can use, as we used to say back at the Milpitas Post in the 1970s when I was just a reporter and newlywed who sang in a choir. It was easy to define who I was then, back in the days when platforms were made out of wood.

May I’m just a “well-rounded person.”

A little too well-rounded, my doctor might say.

If you were to design your own magazine cover, what would be on it? What photo would represent you the way you want people to see you? What would the headlines say? Try it, using one of the websites below or an app on your phone or tablet. If you find a no-strings program, let me know.

Share if you can. It’s fun and much easier than Wordle (where my score was 100 percent until Sunday’s word shorted out my brain (It was “tacit”).

https://www.canva.com/create/magazine-covers/

https://www.yourcover.com/cover-editor

If you have Apple products, try this: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/cover-me-your-fake-popular-magazine-cover-maker/id842425115

https://techpp.com/2009/03/08/15-websites-create-fake-magazine-covers-own-photo/

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Annie and I went back to the vet last week. She got her last three stitches removed. The wound is doing so well she should be cone-free by Friday. BUT, she tore her cornea slightly poking her face into the bushes and now we’re on a regime of eye drops that she truly hates. That will heal, too. She is rapidly approaching 100 “reactions” on Facebook to the picture I posted last week on her 14th birthday. She’s 98 years old in dog years.

Annie deserves her own magazine cover.

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Really? An Award for Me? Not Really

Caller ID showed a number from Bend, Oregon. I don’t know anyone who lives in Bend. But I was doing a puzzle instead of working, so I answered.

I could barely hear the woman over the background noise. She called me Sue and said something about an award. An award? Hallelujah. I’ve already received 11 rejections this year. About time someone recognized my genius.

I told her I was having trouble hearing her. Could she shut off the noise? “I wish,” she said. But she adjusted her microphone and got louder. Her name was Carol. She sounded friendly, with a heavy New York accent.

She was calling from Marquis Who’s Who. They were giving me an “Albert Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award” for my work. Carol asked dozens of questions, verifying my accomplishments, my book titles, and my work all the way back to the Milpitas Post in the 1970s. I told her about my husband dying, and she sympathized.

She said she was gathering information so their biographers could write up my story. It would appear on their website and in their books. That sounded nice, but I had to ask. Is there a cost for any of this? She hadn’t mentioned money or bank accounts, but I was beginning to wonder.

She hesitated, talked around it. I asked again. She admitted that there were fees for all of it, $200 for this, $400 for that. Even the certificate wasn’t free. But of course I would want to share this great news with my family and friends. Of course it would put my name right at the top of the online search engines.

Hold on, hold on, I said, interrupting her. I’m not paying a cent for this thing I didn’t ask for. Saying she would email me information because I would surely change my mind, she said goodbye.

Grrr.

I want awards for my work. I want them bad, but not bogus ones.

It was just one of many fake offers I have gotten these days. People call to offer me free vacations, solutions to my financial problems, and better health insurance. One woman keeps calling to offer me a low-cost brace to help with my chronic pain. What pain in what part of my body, I want to ask. And of course, there are those lovely spam emails that offer me millions of dollars.

The thing is, despite Carol fooling me for a while, I can usually tell the difference between real offers and phony ones. Most of the time I don’t answer the phone if I don’t recognize the number. But not everyone can tell phony from real. My father, age 96, takes every call seriously. He can’t understand why the robo-callers don’t respond when he asks questions. When he gets one of those calls about credit cards, he makes himself crazy checking his records and calling his banks to make sure there isn’t a problem. If a caller says, “This is in response to your inquiry,” he thinks he might have made such an inquiry even though he hasn’t.

Once, after getting one of those “your grandson is in trouble in Mexico” calls, he went to the bank to transfer money. Luckily, the people there stopped him. I’m sure he’s not the only one who falls for this stuff.

The callers, both live and computerized, count on fooling some of the people. That’s how they make their money.

I feel for Carol. Clearly she was working in a call center. That’s why it was so noisy in the background. She sounded like an older woman, a nice person. Get out of this scum job, I wanted to tell her, but maybe she saw no other choice.

I wish there were no scam calls, no robo-calls. I wish it was as easy as the callers say to get out of debt, obtain good health insurance, win free vacations, and receive awards. I wish we didn’t always have to be on guard.

Experts say the simple act of answering the phone will show that someone is attached to your number and cause the scammers to keep calling. They also warn that they can take your words out of context to make it look as if you agreed to something. If you do answer, don’t say yes, okay, all right, or sure. It’s sad that we have to be suspicious, but if you don’t know the number, let the phone ring. If the call is legit, they’ll leave a message. If I call, my name will show up on the screen and I won’t ask you to buy anything.

Marquis Who’s Who is real. The printed directories go back to the 1800s, but now you have to pay to even look at the online listings. If anyone wants to look me up and shoot me a copy of my listing, I would love to see it, but I am not giving them my money.

Clearly I’m not the only fool who would love to receive a lifetime achievement award. Check out these posts about the award I allegedly won.

Are you plagued with scam calls, too? Have you or your loved ones ever fallen for one? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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