Author: Deb Stall Nelson

Tinker's Dam

Tinkers Dam Fix-it Shop: My First Ad

Deb NelsonFLASHBACK November of 1975, a young girl of 21, hard-earned Bachelor of Science Degree in Advertising and Resume in hand. That was me, I had just landed “a job” with The Austin Sun working on straight commission.

“Straight commission. 20% of sales, but not on ad layout fees,” Glen Riley, the Sun’s first ad sales manager barked.

Marty McKenzie, whom I had worked with at The University of Texas Advertising Department, had referred me to the position, although she can’t remember doing so.

I was pretty broke. I mean, weren’t we all? I had just put myself thought college, worked through it all and paid for it all myself, and I did not even have a car. Glen Riley, bless his heart, he hired me anyway. What’s to lose, right? It was a straight commission paid position; and he wasn’t giving me any established accounts.

Well, no matter…I had a bike and I was fearless, or so it would appear. I went to work immediately. It was crazy, selling ads on a bike–the weather hot, sticky, and I was all dressed up for business, (in those days we dressed for business) and found myself a little sweaty and somewhat disheveled. But I did it. I did it because I believed in The Austin Sun and what we were doing and saying.

I will never ever forget my first ad sale. I can remember filling out the ad contract like it was yesterday, hoping and praying he would sign before he changed his mind! How did I find my first ad victim? I was riding my bike around in circles in Austin, trying to get up the courage to ask someone to buy an ad in an alternative news magazine. Then I saw it…A friendly place, a big white house at 3400 Kerbey Lane with a sign, yes, a business sign! TINKERS DAM FIX IT SHOP. That was the beginning of my ad sales career at the Sun.

The rest is history. I earned enough money from selling ads to buy a car! It was my first car, a Blue Plymouth Valiant. Over time I cultivated relationships with clients who also believed in the Austin Sun, such as Lone Star Beer, Thundercloud Subs, Whole Earth Provision Company, The Whole Foods Store, Wheatsville Food Coop, Oat Willies, Armadillo World Headquarters (when Ramsey was there…).

As the Austin Sun’s Third Ad Sales Manager, I was able to organize YEARLY contracts for double page spreads (for the 6th Street Scene and 6th Street Restaurants) with featured menu in the center and business card ad sized ads circling around the featured restaurant menu.

Each issue, we had a double page spread pre-sold, and pre-designed. With the yearly advertising contracts we were earning an stable income base, but by then it was, “too little, too late,” and the Sun was sold to Jay Stokes and Bill Barton. I have been an independent creative entrepreneur ever since.

Since then, besides raising a daughter, I have founded many small businesses including:

The AdStuff Company – For the past 23 years (

Brand Me Green – specializing in digital catalogs and “go green marketing” (

Author Your Dreams Publishing Company – Four published books

The Dating Passport – A patent pending Dating ID (

Vacation Rental Guru – eBooks and Information for vacation rental property owners  (

Vacation Suites Global – vacation rental property (

Abundance Day (

And others. I sincerely value and appreciate the training I received at the Austin Sun, including the “implied vow of poverty” and invaluable lesson of learning how “to do whatever it takes.”

If it hadn’t been for that unique “self-training” opportunity proffered at The Austin Sun, I would not be the joyful creative-entrepreneurial-writer that I am today! And there’s an Austin Sun Legacy in my daughter.  She took my creative entrepreneurial lifestyle to a whole new level…she never had a job…strictly free lance. Now she is a successful Fashion and Beauty Photographer out of NYC; and is being flown to London this weekend for a commissioned shoot for a prominent England Magazine.

Her work has appeared in magazines all over the world, including Harper’s Bazaar Mexico, Vanity Fair Italia,  Display in Spain, Magazine cover in China, Australia, Nylon Magazine (US); In Style Germany and We (US) and coming up, Elle (Russia) to name just a few. Should you be interested in Artistic Edgey Photography of the 2000’s check out her work at Very Unique. She learned the lesson from me that I learned from the Austin Sun, “to do whatever it takes.”

Yes. Absolutely, those were some wild and crazy years; with moments we all should like to forget–like the nude staff parties at Manor Villa; imbibing purple mushrooms in Bastrop; and oops, I can’t (conveniently) remember those other embarrassing indiscretions!

Yet, if I am to properly express sincere overflowing thankfulness for the lessons learned, character developed, creativity sparked, and the journey taken; I must also acknowledge those immature moments!

Right now, I collectively thank EVERY PERSON in service in any way, (including the advertisers) to the Austin Sun with imparting those intangible, yet life-giving gifts, talents, and strengths that are part of who I have become.

And I sincerely appreciate and thank Bill Hood and his humble heart for the impetus he has given to this rich moment of reflection! Thank you one and all!

Deborah Nelson
Ad Sales, Advertising Manager Austin Sun, 1975

Editor’s Note

Etymology of Tinker’s Dam – Merriam-Webster finds tinker’s damn in print since 1839 and suggests that it derives from tinkers’ reputation for swearing. The spelling tinker’s dam is attested since 1858, and there is a disagreement over whether the term originated from tinkers’ swearing or instead from their use of small, single-use dams to hold solder. The latter explanation has been offered since 1877; on the other hand, the phrase tinker’s curse is attested since 1824 and the phrase worth a tinker’s cuss is attested since 1854, for which reason Etymonline considers the “dam” derivation an “ingeniously elaborate but baseless” invention of later writers.

Deb Stall-Nelson

Deb Stall-Nelson
Deb Stall-Nelson

DREAMING AND WRITING. What do they have in common? That would be Author Deborah Stall-Nelson—who has united her two greatest talents in her recent book. Ms. Nelson’s uncanny ability to direct her dreams to completion compelled her to author this unique 3-part self-development learning series—the first of its kind!

Speaking of dreams, the author’s first big dream, at the age of 14, was to become a newspaper editor and writer. She fulfilled that dream early on, within her first year of junior high school.

In love with publishing, Nelson found time between studies and work, to write for her college newspaper. Her next notable dream was to completely fund her college education. Still dreaming and writing, her dream came true when she graduated in the Mid-seventies, debt free, with a Bachelor’s Degree from UT at Austin. Soon thereafter, she joined The Austin Sun, working in advertising development for the weekly entertainment and cultural magazine.

But college was just the beginning. Her voracious appetite for reading, writing, and learning, drove Nelson in the next 25 years to read hundreds of books, attend seminars and workshops, and to relentlessly pursue post-graduate study in the areas of leadership, self-development, self-help, and self-employment.

In the Eighties, Nelson emerged from a divorce in the role of sole functioning parent. This challenge created one thing for Nelson, a new dream—to raise her daughter as a happy, healthy, successful person, rather than as a statistic of a broken home. Her determination for her daughter’s future (and with her new PC) propelled her to a new era and a new dream—to start one of the first home-based businesses. This dream realized, gave her the freedom to function as a full-time, on-purpose parent.

Eventually the business enabled Nelson to fund the 100K of her daughter’s education at an exclusive private art college—The Brooks Institute of Photography, her daughter’s “ impossible dream” college!

With the new millennium, the author began to coach clients to successful self-employment in their area of passion, including her daughter, who after graduating college, decided to pass up the job market. As a testimony to Nelson’s self-employment coaching, Daughter Jamie Nelson, 25, has emerged as a successful fashion photographer out of NYC—a young, rising star, clearly adept at living her dreams!

The author’s journalism, printing, and book publishing background positioned her to become published over the last 40 years. In recent years, Nelson has covered The Academy Awards and The Grammy’s for Hollywood Today—yet another dream come true. Sharing her passions, she has also published articles in the area of self-employment, self-help, time empowerment, relationships, advertising, and promotional marketing on the Internet; and meantime, won an important award for an essay written in her industry.

Continuing to dream and to write, and now devoted to women in business; the author was recognized in the Nineties by Working Women’s Magazine for entrepreneurial excellence; and recently selected as a national finalist for Ms. Corporate America 2008—a long held childhood dream now realized. Nelson has also founded The Dating Passport, Vacation Suites Global, and The University of Self-Employment.

In her new book, with the synthesis of 25 years of study, reading, and life experience, Nelson masterfully merges two recurring themes—her love of writing, and her ability to set dreams in motion.

What is her next dream? It’s to teach millions of readers to purposefully make their dreams come true!

Deb currently lives in Cardiff By The Sea, California when she isn’t visiting her daughter in New York City.

Who Knew?

Concert at Manor Downs
Concert at Manor Downs

Who knew I would ever see any of those people again? Part of me had hoped I wouldn’t. Embarrassing memories are better left alone!

My most embarrassing memories…they were from my twenties in the seventies. I lived right smack in the middle of a culture ushered in by counter-culture leaders of the sixties. One of these fearless leaders had personally known John Lennon; another had been friends in high school with Janis Joplin. It goes on and on like that, but that’s all I can remember now.

We smoked pot, went to orgies, demonstrated against the Vietnam war, advocated and fought for civil rights, burned our bras, dropped acid, imbibed psilocybin mushrooms, hosted parties at clothing optional Manor Villa, experienced amazing music at large muddy outdoor concerts “Woodstock style,” enjoyed backstage passes anywhere in Austin. Some of those things I did,; some of those things my partners in crime did; I won’t say which!

Recalling more, now, it wasn’t all just fun and games, protesting and drugging. We worked hard for our idealistic vision. Our work was at the Austin Sun–we wrote about it, promoted it, loved it, and lived it.

What had jolted these long since faded memories?

Fast-forward to 2007, Santa Barbara CA. The Night Bird. For three months, just out my open window a bird was chirping, incessantly, ceaselessly, nightly. I can sleep through anything; so I ignored it. For a while.

My subconscious mind didn’t ignore it, though, and eventually spoke to me about the message of the unceasingly chirping bird…A night bird…Jeffery Nightbyrd.

Who is Jeffery Nightbyrd? He was our editor/publisher/leader at the Austin Sun. I hadn’t given the Austin Sun much thought since I left it.

At the same time my suppressed memories were coming back to life, my sister unexpectedly encountered Bill Hood, a former Art Director for the Austin Sun at an event in Austin. My sister being a connoisseur of memories, brought up the idea of an Austin Sun reunion; and I was surprisingly open to it.

Looking back now, the Austin Sun was a happening, an amazing happening. With the perspective of 35 years past, although fraught with embarrassing, immature moments–nonetheless, these were some my life’s most exciting, creative, magical, formative years.

Warming up to these forgotten years, I kept in touch with Bill Hood via e-mail, and reconnected with Sam Yeates and others. We all felt the creative chemistry flowing yet still, and it was like a day hadn’t passed! When Bill came out to Long Beach for business, he drove up to Santa Barbara to visit me in January 2009.

Together we concluded that the magical creative energy of Austin Sun era was still alive! It had influenced our lives in many ways, and it deserved recognition.

The Austin Sun Reunion was born in Santa Barbara, CA, January 2009.

The Austin Sun Rises AGAIN!

Deborah Stall-Nelson
February 2009
Advertising Sales Manager, The Austin Sun
Program Director, Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic
Gordo’s Pool Hall Program Director

And now, the Communications Goddess of The Austin Sun Reunion!