Category Archives: Annie Lanzillotto’s thoughts



Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 1.39.27 AM


Several authors have asked me to teach them how I promoted my book L IS FOR LION. Here’s a quick list for you!

Your book needs a party. Invite everyone you want to thank. Everyone who’s helped you along the way to this special day. Have books for sale, and have someone else handle the cash. I made paper roses out of manuscript pages. They were gorgeous, fun, keepsakes, gifts for the guests. At one point in the party everyone read some phrases out loud from their rose. It was fun to see who got what part of the book. I asked friends to help make this party happen. One friend donated the room. Another brought a case of prosecco. Another hosted a ritual, played DJ, etc… The publisher said “yes” when I asked for some money for food. I went to the best Italian deli and got broccoli-rabe, mozzarella, sopressata, olives… a feast.. I got blue glass champagne glasses for a buck a piece on-line at Dollar-Tree. Plan the party a couple of weeks after the publication date, to make sure you get the books on time, and all is set. Confer with the publisher about a safe date, so the books definitely will be in hand.

Make sure your web designer understands SEO (Search Engine Optimization. So that when someone googles your subject area, your book has a chance of popping up at or near the top of the list. When you google Bronx Italian Books, my book pops up number 1) Keep your website on-point. If you’re a renaissance woman, keep the website focused about the book, at least for the first year or so….

Make a 3 minute video trailer of you talking about your book. Post to YouTube. Eblast the link. You can do this yourself. Keep it simple, focused, fun. There’s plenty of book trailers on YouTube to watch for examples. I had a friend hold my iPhone and I sat on a mailbox and talked. I edited in iMovie. You can watch it here. Have fun doing this!


15 months out:
Schedule book readings. Give the first dates to priority spots — people will show up to support you and your book. Some venues book their schedules 12 months out, so you want to make sure you get on their calendar. Some venues offer an honorarium for authors, others don’t. The places to approach are: bookstores, college profs who can invite you for a campus talk and reading, centers that deal with your subject area, libraries, spots that are special to your book. If you want to book other cities or countries, you gotta figure it out: travel, lodging, book shipping, venues, etc… I did not have a “tour manager” – I did what I could figure out and afford. And I’m still doing it…

Talk with your publisher’s PR person and ask what exactly they’ll do, and what you need to do. Ask if they recommend you hire your own PR person, (for print, radio, social media, or all three…) Ask if they can donate books for you to mail to print reviewers and radio hosts, or if they’ll do it for you…

12 months out:
1. Make a spreadsheet of your contact list for book promo. Ask other authors to share contacts of reviewers, radio hosts, professors in your subject matter. Decide if you want to pay for a Kirkus review. It’s over $400.

2. Contact book promoters to see if you want to hire one. I raised funds on kickstarter and hired a PR person who deals with radio shows. I bought a landline phone, a headset, and they prepared a list of potential interview questions from the book and sent to their contacts in radio and web-radio. This was a lot of fun and got the word out. These curated conversations were phenomenal. Having an outside pro do this work was great since I was too close to the material in the book at the time… Now a year out, I have much more distance and can pitch better. If you want to do this guerrilla style, look at authors’ publicity pages on their websites, and see who they interviewed with… Listen to the programs. Send a press release and letter to who you like. Here’s my page: And there is lots of links to my interviews on my Wikipedia page

6 months out — Send galleys go to prime reviewers and radio hosts. (Terry Gross “Fresh Air” etc…) (Ask your publisher if they will print you some galleys for this purpose.)

1. Postcards & Business cards
A year after my book came out, I am still giving out postcards and business cards everywhere I go. When I teach I give them to all the students. When I’m in a bookstore, I leave a stack, or post two (one front – one back) to the bulletin board. Order enough, and keep the copy on it timeless. On the front, the book cover. On the back, your website, a blurb about the book, etc… A USB code if you wish to connect to your website via scan. (My fave printshop is a Mom and Pop shop in Hoboken. You can order over the phone or email… Full House Printing. 201 798-7073 /

2. Press Release
Collaborate with your publisher to write a press release. You can use your jacket copy.

3. READER ACTION CARDS Give your friends, networks and audience a list of ways to get on board. Here’s a long list. Pick your top ten and make a hand-out for audiences.
23 Ways You Can Help This Book Have its Life in the World

1. ORDER now at: (publishers website or or
2. ORDER through your local bookstore, public library, campus library.
3. VISIT (author website) read excerpts, view photos, video trailer.
4. “LIKE” on “LIKE” and “SHARE” on Facebook
5. WRITE a brief “customer review” on Also post your review to,,,, and other literary social media lists. Reviewing helps readers find the book, and boosts in search engine algorithms.
6. CLICK on, “request this book to be available in kindle, nook and e-book”
7. BUY a copy to donate to your local (list relevant social agencies… for me it was: Gilda’s Club, LGBTQ Center library, school library, domestic violence shelter, cancer center waiting room)
8. E-MAIL blast your friends about the book.
9. WRITE a note about the book on FB, LINKED-IN, GOOGLE +, Twitter, INSTAGRAM, etc.
10. LINK my website address on your FB page, website, twitter, blog…
11. BLOG about the issues raised in the book. Start a blog.
12. TALK to your local librarian and recommend the book for their “one book one city” program.
13. RECOMMEND for your Book Club, or a friend’s book club. Start a book club.
14. RECEIVE a tax donation by donating to my book tour and audiobook taping sessions. (provide 501C3 fiscal umbrella info….)
15. RECOMMEND the book to someone who can review it for a newspaper, blog, magazine.
16. TEACH the book in your class; or tell a professor in: (name relevant curriculum categories, for me: Queer Studies, Working Class Studies, Narrative Medicine, Literature, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, American History, Immigrant Studies, Italian American Studies, Memoir Studies, Health Advocacy, Medical Anthropology, Urban Studies, Performance Studies.)
17. FORWARD this email to anyone you think might be interested in the book. If you know any newspaper editors, reporters, magazine editors, radio producers, TV show hosts or producers, columnists, bloggers, send them a copy of the book, or direct them to my website.
18. ASK me to mail you a stack of full-color postcards for you to place at your local theater, bookstore, campus center, coffee shop, library.
19. INVITE me to come read in your town at your local book store, library, classroom, or a home gathering.
20. Recommend your company buy this book in bulk for company fundraiser gift-bag.
21. HELP ME SELL THE RIGHTS If you have a connection to an actor, producer, director, who might be interested in making the movie, give them the book & my contact info.
22. COME to a reading. All my events are listed at: (website) click EVENTS
23. Buy a couple of books and donate as a prize for your local public radio station for fundraising drive.


1. Make a Mailchimp or Constant Contact email blast list. Send Book Tour updates.
2. Make a FaceBook page for your book.
3. Have friends boost or trash the book on Tumblr. Whatever starts a buzzzz…

1. tablecloth to sell books on. (I made mine out of the last manuscript, filled with pen corrections.) You know, you show up for a reading, and there’s a folding table. Bring a cloth that looks good with the book.
2. Retractable Banner. This was the best thing I bought. It slings over the shoulder and pops open like 7 feet tall, easy as an umbrella. So, for conferences and book talks, I made a beautiful presentation of the book cover. Order from Full House Printing. 201 798-7073 /

Okay, that’s it for right now. I’ll do ADVANCED BOOK PROMO later…


ICEWOMAN (press here for video)

What do you love? Here are things I love and how I turned these loves into solo performances…
I love throwing Spaldeens at a chalked X on a brick wall.  This is what I grew up doing. — So, my first solo show was built around that core image/action of chalking an X on the wall of the theater and throwing not one but a succession of fifty Spaldeens over and over at the X over the course of the 30 minutes.  The show was called “Confessions of a Bronx Tomboy: My Throwing Arm This Useless Expertise” and premiered at Under One Roof Theater, and Manhattan Class Company Performance Mix in NYC. Directed by Victoria MacElwayne, with Live Sound Action by Eliza Ladd.

I love street cries from pushcart peddlers.  I love fish peddlers, and the wailing cries in Arabic and Napolitan. I love walking through the Bronx and listening inside myself to the imagined memory I have of the days when all the street peddlers were calling, hawking, squawking.  —- I became the pushcart peddler.  I wrote my own pushcart peddler cries. The melodies came to me by my process of phrasewalking.  I interviewed elders in The Mount Carmel Senior Center about cries they remembered from their youth.  I found some old wooden wheels and had my friend build me a pushcart.  I wheeled it around the Bronx, barefoot, and cried my pushcart chants up at the windows.  I named my character “Chimaroot” which is a dialect slang for fingers like ginger root, something my grandmother used to say. I brought these pushcart cries on stage in many shows and even a radio interview. One show was called “Rule 23” named after NYC mayor’s little known policy to outlaw hawking and squawking in the city streets. “Rule 23” played at Roulette, NYC for the UMAMI Festival of Food and Performance.  Street Cries From Around the World  (click here to listen to radio interview of Annie Lanzillotto by radio host Jean Feraca. Annie brings special guest Jacque Dupree)

I love big blocks of ice that are crystalline and weigh 300 pounds.  I love the way the ice cracks, the way the crack moves through the ice when I stab it with a pick.  I love the way light throbs through the ice.  I love that I can spin ice and spin the light through the ice onto the audience.  I love my naked skin on the ice, the way the ice melts and my skin freezes.  I love the history of the men ancestors in my family who all carried ice around the Bronx to the people’s iceboxes.  I love that I know the history of the Hudson River, that the river used to freeze up and be cut into chunks for people’s iceboxes.  — I prayed at the graves of my ancestors. I went to all the graves of all the icemen in my family.  I visited ice-houses.  I bought ice tools. I hunted for the most crystalline pristine clean ice.  I experimented with lights and with spinning the ice.  I brought the ice on stage and figured out what to do when it melted.  I learned how to carry ice.  I pushed my body to the limit with lifting and breaking ice.  I created the character ICEWOMAN.  To date, I think of this as my signature role, signature prop.  I am so connected to block ice.

I love sitting on the blue corner mailbox and hanging out.  I love banging the heels of my feet against the mailbox. I love that the mailbox was the site of New York City storytelling.  That’s where we hung out as kids.  I love the echo of my voice between two giant mailboxes when they are side by side.  —-  I chose the corner of Prince and Elizabeth Street where there’s a great mailbox, for me to sit on and regale my audience with stories, and then “host” the mailbox by having audience and passers-by get up there and tell their New York stories.  The first half of the solo show was in a theater, in Dixon Place, and act two was on the corner at the mailbox, on the mailbox.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE?  Gimme three things.  And write about it like I did here.  Gimme three paragraphs…

Get Annie Lanzillotto’s work here:

  • “L is for Lion: An Italian Bronx Butch Freedom Memoir” SUNY PRESS, Feb 2013,

    “L Is For Lion” is the achingly true story of a Bronx tomboy whose 1960s girlhood was marked by her WWII veteran father’s lullabies laced with dissociative visions of trench warfare.  At four years old, Annie Lanzillotto hid silver teaspoons behind the heatpipes to tap calls for help when the fighting broke out between her parents.  At eighteen, on the edge of freedom, her studies at Brown University were halted by the growth of a massive tumor inside her chest.  Lanzillotto walked out of Sloan-Kettering just as A.I.D.S. was named, and made a wild truth-seeking ride out of survival, going into the fray of gay clubs and cross-dressing on the streets of Egypt.  This poignant and authentic story could only happen in New York, with this quintessential New Yorker as narrator and guide, with poetic insights from underneath the dining room table, to the stoop, sidewalk, street and out into the world of Italian American characters and their stories about war, immigration, gay sub-culture, cancer, mental illness, gender dynamics, drug addiction, domestic violence, the childhood wonder of Spaldeens, crescendoing in a reluctant return home to the timeless wisdom of her peasant grandmother Rosa Petruzzelli who shows her the sweetest essence of soul.


An album of Lanzillotto’s solo poetry with a bonus track of her “Mr. Butterfly” song live at Small’s Jazz, featuring Rose Imperato on sax, Lori Goldston on cello, and Sylvie Degiez on keys.

Lanzillotto’s songs folk rock and blues, featuring music direction and arrangements by Adeel Salman, with Lori Goldston on cello, Rose Imperato on sax, Erik Van Batavia on drums, and Adeel Salman on guitar and bass. Recorded at The Loft, Bronxville, New York.  Featuring Lanzillotto’s songs  “Red Sky” “Blue Pill” “Shelter” “WithOut Papers” “Bustopen” “Latte” “Down The Line” “Anything But Love” “Git on Me”

A live concert of Lanzillotto’s stories and songs featuring cello by Lori Goldston and a guest spot of pocket trumpet by Pasquale Cangiano.  Recorded as a live set in Saint Ann and The Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn, New York.  Recorded by Clean and Humble Studios. Featuring Lanzillotto’s story/songs “Carry My Coffee” “Mr. Butterfly” “This Moon” “Command My Soul” “Ballad for Joe Zito” “Girls Girls, Where Did You Work Last Night?”

Assignment: SCRIPT or SCORE


Assignment: SCRIPT or SCORE

Write both a script and a score for a short solo-performance.  The distinction I’m making is that a script in this case looks like a monologue on the page. You can add your ideas for stage action or direction if you want.

A score is a sequence of images, action, sound, text.

Here’s the score for my 3 minute solo:
Zebra Diva

1. Zebra Diva enters stage naked in full body zebra paint dragging a wheelchair that she is handcuffed to.

2. Music starts: Annie’s track “Blue Pill”

3. Zebra Diva smashes wheel chair against upstage wall.

4. Zebra Diva whirls wheel chair overhead rodeo style.

5. Music fades as Zebra Diva sits in chair.   


Here’s a section from a score from my solo show “How To Wake Up a Marine In a Foxhole” that premiered at The Kitchen, in NYC, “Solo Voices” series in 1998.

Spin the block ice in white side light so that light flashes into audience.

Hugs the ice until it is still.

Take ice-pick from holster and stab the ice.

Pick up a large chunk of ice, hold it overhead and recite:

“You remember my father? You remember his name?”





When I was in college, I climbed a pyramid at Giza.  At the top of the pyramid, scratched onto the stone were names and initials from over the course of the eras.  I remember seeing graffiti carved by Napoleon’s soldiers.  Through all time motifs and messages repeated: “I was here”, praise songs, and stories. This stuck with me my whole life. 

Years later I began to write on oversize paper and I began to write on stage.  I wanted to bring the act of writing out of the shadows of being a private act, and into the public sphere.  So I rolled oversize rolls of paper across the stage.  I got down on the floor and crawled around, and wrote as fast as I can.  Then I got up, full of graphite, and performed recitations of the fresh text.  Often the text started out by reflecting the moment, and then the writing always went deep, wherever it had to go. 

I taught annual workshops at Sarah Lawrence College in the Theater Outreach Program.  One of my mentors, Shirley Kaplan, said to me, “Annie find out why we scratch cave walls. What’s that impulse?”


Assignment: GENUINE RISK


Assignment: Answer these questions:

  1. What’s a GENUINE RISK for you, on stage?
  2. What’s a GENUINE RISK for you, in life?
  3. What GENUINE RISK have you witnessed other artists do onstage?

GENUINE RISK is the name of my favorite Kentucky Derby winner.  She died August 18th, 2008, and a few weeks later I came to Louisville and became aware of her.  I taught solo performance at The Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprentice Program.  Outside the theater is a statue to Genuine Risk.  I’d walk to work and pet the statue.  I went to Churchill Downs to see the horses run early mornings. I watched videos of the old derbies.  I watched Genuine Risk’s run.  Genuine Risk won the Kentucky Derby in 1980, one of the few fillies to do so, ever.  She was grand, a chestnut mare with a bold white stripe down the center of her nose.  A racing stripe.  One day in class, I was trying to make a point about what was really important about stage work.  I asked the Apprentices if they knew the name of the horse whose statue was right downstairs.  No one knew.  So they all ran out of class and raced to the statue and came back with the answer: Genuine Risk.  Her name became our call to action.  The core of our work: to identify what would be a genuine risk for each of us as artists, to name it, and take it.  Year after year I’ve kept instilling this message to the actors: Take a Genuine Risk.  One year I received a photo from three Apprentices, Katie, Zoe, and Chris, who tattooed on their feet a note I had handwritten them that read: GENUINE RISK