Monday, March 31, 2014

Social Media: The Great Time Suck, or is it?

Social Media. The more sites you’re on the more you get noticed. Period. This is the experts’ argument for building your author’s platform with various networking sites.

I’ve built my platform. I have a Facebook account (that I rarely use). I have more than one twitter account (that I rarely read). I have more than one email account (each containing far too many unread messages for this overwhelmed ADD, OCD, Type A personality to handle). And just last year I even tried my hand at creating my own website (on which I’ve not posted anything beyond a simple hello). Joining the thousands of grown ups out there who first cut their 21st century social media teeth on Facebook, I now also have a LinkedIn account (that I don’t even know how to navigate properly if I’m honest). Still I’ve not published even one manuscript. Why not? Still I’m not a household name. Why is that?

While I may have all the right tools in place for building my platform, I’m not using them properly. 

To make it in writing today one needs to be out there, in the thick of social media. Build your platform the experts say. Get people wanting to buy your book even before it’s published. Create a Facebook page, separate from your personal one (no prospective publisher really wants to see a post from your Great-Aunt Matilda complaining about the sagging boards on her outhouse). Create a Twitter and even a LinkedIn account. Start a blog. If you are feeling particularly froggy, go build your own website as well. All great and very worthwhile advice, but keep this one thing in mind. Time. 

How much time do you really have to devote to all of these social media networks? Come on now, be honest.

Maintaining a positive social media presence requires a good deal of time. You have to read and respond to all the posts, especially the ones directed to you. You have to create new posts for others to read and become spell bound enough to hang on your every word. But, if you have your finger in too many pots it will eventually become burnt. And that was my hard learned lesson.

You need to pace yourself.

Find the proper balance so you can make your social media platform pervasive and meaningful, but above all memorable. Remember it is more the quality of product that your audience has come to expect that garners you the most recognition, not churning out a tweet every minute of every day. You want people calling you to write an article or guest post for them because you are good not just because they’ve seen your name every single day.

What is the right balance? 

An expert once said to spend no more than 20% of your writing time on social media. But how is that possible unless you are some kind of Speedy Gonzalez reader and poster. The key is to utilize your resources effectively. Some social media outlets have cross posting features available so that if someone follows you on twitter but not your blog you can set up the system to post on twitter and Facebook (even LinkedIn I’m told) when you publish on your blog. Take advantage of these types of features to maximize the time available to spend on your product. 

There are some programs or apps out there that can even help you schedule your tweets, and other such posts. So when you find those two seconds to rub together you can put your all into a post and then schedule it to go out to the masses at a later time. Perhaps even multiple times. 

Social media networking can open plenty of doors of opportunity for you, but like a wild beast it must be tamed. You must not let it get away from you. Make it work in the time span you have to devote to it. Otherwise, rather than building a strong author’s platform you may find the base rotting from underneath you and the structure you had built now tumbling to the ground.

~~Dawn Burr

Dawn Burr is a teacher by profession but a writer by passion. Her sarcastic wit, innocent charm, and insightful reflections will have you bowled over with laughter as she ponders with you the little things in life that make you go hhhmmmm.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Words to Write By?

Writing is the one occupation where you face rejection more often than not.  A beginning writer probably receives a rejection letter more than 95% of the time.  How do you keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard? Here are few gems from folks who have been there:

Novelist Philip Lee Williams: Never let what you have to do keep you from doing what you want to do.

Novelist David L. Robbins*: Never define yourself by your success.  Only define yourself by how you respond to your failures.

YA Novelist Jessica Burkhart: A writer needs positive people in his or her life. Sure, honesty is also necessary, but people who cut you down purposely aren’t conducive to writing success. Choose good people to have in your corner! 

Novelist Vicki Hinze*: If you can quit writing, quit.  There are far easier ways to earn a living.  If you can’t quit, then gird your loins, jump into the fray, and go for your dream--no matter what.

Novelist Terry Kay: I can schedule lots of things, I never force characters, I'm patient with characters and I wait for them to come to me.  

Lin Oliver, Executive Director of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: If you have a problem, write through it.  You can go back and fix it the next day.

Columnist/humorist Cappy Hall Rearick*: It's important to find your voice and the only way to find it is to write, write, write.

Playwright Evan Guilford-Blake: Care about what you write. If you don't, an audience won't either.

Poet Kezia Snipe: Poetry is a free form of expression.  Use it to your advantage.  Play with the words…Move them around...Make it your own.  You'd be surprised what you will come up with.

Novelist Julie L. Cannon*: Keep journals - this is about becoming conscious. Write stuff about sensory imagery in a notebook. Say your windshield wipers sound like "ka-swish, ka-swish, ka-swish." Write it down. It’ll get to be part of your subconscious.

Freelance writer Sheila Hudson*: Do an excellent job, and turn the assignment in early.  That creates an “in” with the editor and he/she will keep you in mind for bigger and better things.

Novelist Misty Massey: Take the advice the editor offers…If the manuscript you’ve written is something you want to sell, it’s smart to listen to the professionals when they make suggestions.

* Has taught at the SWA Writers Workshop.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Workshop Sneak Peek: Dahlynn McKowen, Publishing Syndicate LLC

Joining us for the Nonfiction mini-workshop (June 14-15) of the SWA Writers Workshop, June 13-17, at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simon’s Island, GA, Dahlynn McKowen is the CEO and publisher of Publishing Syndicate LLC. A publishing house based in Northern California, the company is responsible for many books, including the highly successful Not Your Mother’s Book anthology.  In 2012, Dahlynn launched the Not Your Mother’s Book (NYMB) anthology. With six books released thus far, there are another 25 under production, from dieting to dating to menopause. 

Prior to Dahlynn’s publishing foray, she spent 25 years as a freelance travel writer, author, ghostwriter and copyeditor. Since selling her first feature article in 1987, she has sold and published over 2,000 works including business features and travel articles. She has been referred to by Chicken Soup for the Soul founders as one of their most trusted coauthors, having worked from 1999 to 2009 with series creators Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and their staffs. 

Here's a peek at what Dahlynn has planned for us: 

Make Them Laugh!

The focus of this fun workshop will be on using humor in nonfiction anthology writing. Having spent 10 years at Chicken Soup for the Soul, Dahlynn’s new anthology series—Not Your Mother’s Book—does not accept death/dying, sad or sappy stories, only funny, entertaining and edgy stories. Also, she will offer insider tips on submitting to anthologies and talk about current publishing industry concerns (i.e., intellectual property and copyrights, libel, slander)…that is, if she and the group don’t get too wrapped up in the amusing part of the workshop! Each participant will also receive a silly memento. 

How to Get Your Nonfiction Work Published

Dahlynn and her husband Ken will co-lead this session.  With a combined 60 years in the publishing industry, the McKowens have a wealth of writing and publishing knowledge to share. This workshop will be a casual Q&A that will focus on getting your nonfiction work published. 

So are you ready to join us?
Space is limited!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

News from the Twitterverse

I was going to call this article "Do You Tweet?" but I thought, Doesn't everybody?

Not quite.  According to Statistic Brain, 645,750,000 people do with 135,000 joining every day.  That's a lot of people!

But it is not EVERYbody so for the few people, writer-people, who don't live their lives in 140-character spurts, I'm trying out this column to share writing-related news I have found on Twitter.  This, of course, is not everything out there.  I don't follow everybody. And, obviously, I'm no Twitter expert.  Still, I believe this will be helpful to writers.  For instance,

Two Agents Seeking Authors

Connor Goldsmith (‏@dreamoforgonon) posted on March 14:
"I'm actively looking to build my list. You can see my new submission guidelines at"

Writer Unboxed ‏(@WriterUnboxed) posted on Mar 3
"AGENT ALERT: Cate Hart seeks fantasy, steampnk, historical, mystery, magical realism, erotica, LGBT, YA, MG  #WUAgent"  

Note:  This Twitter post links to Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog from Aug. 2012, but apparently she is still actively seeking clients. Meet Chuck at the Southeastern Writers Workshop will be June 13-17, 2014 at Epworth by the Sea on scenic St. Simons Island, Georgia. 

A Call for Submissions

Literary agent John M. Cusick (‏@johnmcusick) posted on March 4
"Submissions are now open for Issue 5 of @ArmchairShotgun! Submit your amazing poetry and fiction today!"

Follow SWA on Twitter: @SWAwriters

~~ Amy Munnell

Amy is the Editor of The Purple Pros, and has been an SWA member since 1990, serving on the Board of Directors from 1993-2007 and again from 2011 to the present.  She has been a freelance writer and editor for 25 years with her work appearing in various publications including the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Saying Goodbye, From the Heart, Points North, ByLine, Athens Magazine and Georgia Magazine. Find Amy on Twitter: @amunnell

Monday, March 17, 2014

Workshop Sneak Peek: Bob Mayer, NYT Best-selling Author

Bob Mayer, the NY Times Bestselling author of factual thrillers, will anchor the Fiction mini-workshop (June 16-17) of the SWA Writers Workshop, June 13-17, at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simon’s Island, GA. He steeps his stories in military, historical and scientific facts, then weaves those facts through fiction creating an exciting ride for the reader. He’s a West Point graduate, former Green Beret, and author of 60 books (the 60th released late last month) that have sold over 4 million copies. He’s been on bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, suspense, action, war, historical fiction and is the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll.

Bob will offer six 1-hour classes, covering the foundations of novel writing: from idea and character to point of view and plotting, as well as some more advanced topics.  Here's sneak peek into two of Bob's classes:

Introduction to Write It Forward: From Writer To Successful Author 

Write It Forward is a holistic approach encompassing goals, intent, environment, personality, change, courage, communication and leadership that gives the writer a road map to become a successful author. Many writers become focused on either the writing or the business end; Write It Forward integrates the two, especially in the rapidly changing world of digital publishing.

Platform, Product & Promotion: Understand Your Unique Position as an Author 

A writer can easily be overwhelmed by all the well-meaning advice given by experts, industry professionals and even other authors.  The reason for this is that every single writer is in a different place and has to figure out their own position and point of view with which to boil down all the information into intelligence (useable information).  If you consider these three variables, with a sliding scale from ‘none’ to ‘the best’, you end up with an infinite variety of authors. This will help you make decisions such as should you traditional publish or self-publish, what areas you should focus your creative and marketing efforts on and much more. 

Is your curiosity piqued? 
Have we grabbed your novel-writing attention? 
Register for the SWA Writers Workshop here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Round of Applause: Member News

Debra Ayers Brown announces that her story "A Change of Tune" will be in Not Your Mother's Book ... On Being a Mom with a release date of April 8.

June Hall McCash will be speaking to a library group in Lagrange, GA, Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m.

Erika Hoffman’s story about how she met her husband, called "Before March Madness", has been accepted by Screamin’ Mamas. This is Erika’s fifth story to be published by this print magazine.

Edward Nagel signed with YesPlays, a play licensing company in Indiana, for the selling and licensing of his play scripts. The first three that will be on line with YesPlays are the full length plays, HOAX, WARD SIX (an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's novel of the same name) and a play adaptation of Albert Camus' existential novel THE STRANGER.   

Patrick Hempfing had moMENts columns published in March issues of About Families, Western New York Family, Fredericksburg Parent and Family, Palmetto Parent, Metroparent, Suburban Parent, Rio Grande Family, and Idaho Family magazines.  His moMENts columns have now been published in 15 states and two Canadian provinces.  

We invite members to share news about their successes and activities so we can all join the celebration!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bright Idea #64: Learning to Dance

Early this year I found an interesting call out in Total Funds for Writers, a valuable resource for writers made possible by C. Hope Clark.  In early January, she mentioned that Dancing with Bear Publishers (DWB) were looking for submissions that would fulfill the following description:

"Have you been married to your childhood, high school, or college sweetheart and are still in love like the day you married?  . . . Then send us those true stories of everlasting love."

Immediately I got in touch with Debbie Ropollo, the submissions editor, and explained that Tim and I had been married 45 years and still loved each other. Heck, most days we even LIKE each other.  She encouraged me to submit my family memoir/essay "My Forever Valentines" in answer to DWB’s special call out for a Valentines’ publication.  I hadn’t heard of DWB publishers but Debbie was so personable and their mission statement was impressive.

A few days after I submitted my article, I received an email from Debbie with an attached contract.  A contract seemed a little unusual for an anthology, but not one to look a gift publishing op in the mouth. I read it, electronically signed it, and returned it.  

Imagine my surprise when Maria McGaha, the owner of DWB, welcomed me into their publishing family.  At the end of her note, she enclosed the link to my Kindle book.  

BOOK! What book?  

Dancing With Bear had turned My Forever Valentines into a Kindle book.  I was surprised, delighted, delirious, thrilled, and absolutely amazed.

When I recovered from shock, I spread the news.  My writing partner Amy could probably hear me shouting from five miles away.  I emailed my family, close friends, acquaintances, and probably strangers.  I posted the link and picture on Twitter along with a blurb about the book’s contents.  I bought Google’s promotion plan for a month.  This holiday piece was time sensitive and I wanted to give it a little push.

I posted an initial announcement on my Facebook page.  My greatest encourager, Tim, reminded me that I needed to do this on several occasions since FB pages fill up quickly and items get missed.  Several friends bought the book and responded with kind comments.  Thanks to Hope Clark’s Shy Writer Reborn, I discovered Amazon Author Central where an author can post pictures, comments, or get a scoop on how things are going with your book. The whole e-book publishing experience was a rush and I learned a lot of valuable information that I plan to use.  Just for people like me, Hope wrote a whole chapter on Amazon Author Central with hints on media marketing, building a writer’s platform.  Excellent advice for budding authors and even late bloomers like me.

The little book on Kindle couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  This season of the year brings rain, dark skies, and thoughts of kicking the habit – the writing habit, that is.  I need a little encouraging kick in the pants however I can get it.   provided the nudge to get on with bigger things.

And as an added plus, I get to build relationships with the staff at Dancing with Bear Publishers, which is never a bad thing.  Their interesting name, by the way, comes from a romantic story written by the owner.  Pull up the web page,  and read it.  I guarantee it will warm your heart’s cockles, whatever they are.  Who knows?  Maybe you too will learn to dance.

~~ Sheila Hudson

Sheila's work appears in Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Patchwork Path, From the Heart, Vols. 1 & 2, plus numerous periodicals including Costumer Magazine. She established Bright Ideas to bring hope and inspiration through the written word.  Sheila has also served as president of Southeastern Writers Association.  Read more about Sheila on her website.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

ReBlogs: Literary Terms Defined: The Uncommon and Common

In honor of "Throwback Thursday," we're featuring a timeless article by Chuck Sambuchino, who is a member of the 2014 SWA Writers Workshop faculty,  June 13-17, at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simon’s Island, GA.

(from Writers In the Storm, Sept 11, 2013)

Working for Writer’s Digest Books, I come across a lot of literary terms — both the common and uncommon.

Because it’s healthy for writers of all levels to be familiar with terms they may come across in articles, conversations and contracts, here are some literary terms defined for your enjoyment.

Boiler plate contract (also known as a “standard contract”) – (n.) This term usually refers to an agreed starting contract between a literary agent and publisher. If Agent X sells a book to Putnam, for example, their next deal with Putnam will likely have the same royalty rates and subright splits as the first deal.

You can read the full article here and meet Chuck at the SWA Writers Workshop (details here)!

Writers In the Storm "are a group of  pro and published genre writers who critique and polish our work for submission. In the process, we’ve discovered the benefits of the unique perspectives and strengths we bring to the table."

Monday, March 3, 2014

EditorialLee Speaking

One of the greatest things about being a part of the annual Southeastern Writers Association workshop is networking and making friends. I've made a lot of friends through SWA, even a few good friends. The distinction between friends and good friends, I'm told, is this: A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move . . . a body.

I am privileged to call Darrell Huckaby one of those body-moving friends I've met along this road. I first met Darrell my first year on the SWA Board of Directors, eight years ago, when I was recruiting a humor instructor. Huck, I'm sure many of you know, is quite the humorist. He's written some really funny books, all of which I've read, plus shown his more serious side in a humorous-nonetheless tale entitled Yea Though I Walk about his battle with prostate cancer. He originally planned to title that book, You Took Out My What? He also does a weekly funny bit on the radio called "What the Huck?"

We've had Darrell back to teach a second time during my time on the board. On a personal level, though, I've become far more entangled with Huck as a friend. Last February, he generously donated his time to entertain at a talent show put on by our United Methodist Men, which raised the most money of any fund-raiser in the history of Collins Memorial United Methodist Church. On May 17, he will return to our church for this year's UMM presentation, which will be our own version of the game show "The American Bible Challenge." Darrell will bring a team competing for a $250 donation to a charity of the winning team's choice. He chose to bring a team rather than emcee (yes, I would have handed over the mic) because he has a charity near and dear to his heart. He will also do a short entertainment/devotional moment during study time in a match in which his team won't be involved.

Darrell and I message back and forth frequently, mostly via Facebook. I helped him get his books e-book-ready for the Amazon Kindle site, and in July, I'm going on one of his tours. Since diagnosed with prostate cancer (which he is fighting very successfully so far), he's been arranging bucket-list tours and inviting those of us he knows to join the tours (on our own nickels, of course, but the prices are very reasonable). This summer I'll mark a few things off my own bucket list when we take his "Honor the Braves" Hall of Fame Tour in July. The trip starts with a Friday flight to New York followed by an afternoon tour of Yankee Stadium and tickets to a game there that night. Saturday we go by bus to Cooperstown, where we'll be free for the day to tour the baseball Hall of Fame as well as watch the parade for the new inductees. On Sunday we have tickets to the induction ceremony, which will include Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine -- all mainstays during my two decades as a Braves' season-ticket holder. We cap the trip by going by bus to Boston for a game at Fenway Park on Monday night before flying back to Atlanta on Tuesday.

Yankee Stadium, Cooperstown's Hall of Fame, and Fenway Park are all on my bucket list as a big-time baseball fan. Getting to watch the HOF inductions of Cox, Maddux and Glavine is just a little icing on the cake.

Now I'm not telling you all this just to let you know I've come into a good, body-moving friendship with one fine Southern gentleman. Because if you come to St. Simons Island this summer for our workshop and stay for our Awards Ceremony, you'll get to meet Darrell and hear him entertain. He'll also be signing books, which will be for sale in the conference bookstore throughout (I'm bringing them), although I'm sure Huck will have a few left to sign if you didn't get your copies before the bookstore closed at mid-day on the final day of the workshop.

He and I are doing this as mutual favors for each other. Even though he volunteered to come -- he always looks for an excuse to visit St. Simons Island -- I will be the one to get the greater reward. This will be my last year as SWA President, and I am leaving the board after this workshop. So this will literally be going out with the biggest of bangs.

I've made a lot of great friends through SWA, too many to name here lest I forget someone, but I guarantee you I will have no problems finding folks to move bodies if I need them. I surely hope if you are reading this and I have yet to meet you that I will have that pleasure in June.

~~ Lee Clevenger

Lee is the current President of SWA, an author and co-founder of ThomasMax Publishing in Atlanta, GA.