Tag Archives: We Are Not Alone

City Slickers and Social Media

Hello and welcome to the World of Writers in what will now be referred to as the Wild Wild West of Publishing.  Let me introduce to you our panelists who will cover the vast opinions circling social media today:

Patrick McGilligan, Film biographer and Social Media Nay Sayer. If you'd like to know what he thinks about something, please just email.

Josie Brown, Fiction Women's Lit Author and Social Media Champion. Click the image to link to her blog, facebook, or twitter account.

Judy Molland, Non-fiction Writer, Parenting and Social Media Advocate. For answers about teaching, parenting, writing and social media, Judy is your lady, and it comes with a genuine British accent!

Jim DeRogatis, Music Critic and Rock N'Roll Know-It-All, If you want the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God, Jim's your man. User of social media, pays someone else to do it, but it's definitely NOT his agent!

Wrapping up Saturday at the Writers Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, was a panel on Social Media.  Like old time wanted posters, these four pioneers of authorship sat in the front of the room, sharing their opinions and travels through the Wild Wild West that is today’s publishing process.  Patrick was kindly allowed to speak first, fully knowing the rest of the discussion would come back to charge him like the bull he was.  Patrick, luckily, is a man with a specific area of expertise.  He is a film biographer.  His agent and his publishing house let him submit a list of ideas to write about, they circle one, he does it.  Patrick sees no need for the extra work that goes into maintaining a website, blogging, facebook and twitter, and to him it’s all just that, WORK.  I should tell you that Patrick was pretty honest about not desiring to have it all either.  He makes a decent living for himself and he’s comfortable with that.  He doesn’t actively promote the sales of his books because in his mind it only accounts for about 10% more anyway.  Are you thoroughly depressed or angered yet?

For those of you that are, Josie’s got your back!  Full of biting quips and interjections, she personally forges the way for writers of today to get involved with their audience by allowing the audience to get to know them.  She blogs about things that inspire her and will hopefully inspire her readers.  She tweets, she uses facebook.  If you saw Josie riding through the rough terrain of the open range, her horse would have her newest book branded into its butt (assuming it didn’t harm the horse to do so, she strikes me as an animal lover).  The words ‘author’ and ‘platform’ are common terms in her vocabulary.

Judy is a teacher through and through.  Her opinion may lean strongly to one side more than the other, but she still wants you to play nice with the other kids.  Her experience led her to be in the middle of social media without fully realizing it.  She began in journalism, she was writing articles for parenting magazines, and then blogging, and now it’s just what she does.  The use of social media allowed her to work on her passion, the site www.care2.com, an activist site that helps people find ways to get involved, donate, and stay educated about causes.

Finally, you get to Jim.  Patiently smirking throughout all the banter of this rodeo, he’ll tell you, Yes, you need to be involved with social media, but don’t ask him how to do any of it.  He voices his opinion on his radio show, Sound Opinions, with Greg Kot.  He says writers do need to market themselves because most agents, including his, aren’t going to do it for you.  He has no idea what his agent actually does, and yet he earns 15% of the sales.  I actually got to chat with Jim for awhile before the day started one morning and he was very affable, happy to sign the book of his I’d purchased, and chatted with me about authors to check out and his band, Vortis, a delightful three piece band of “agitainment.”  Jim may not know the ins and out of html code (which for some of us is comforting, raises hand), but he knows the people to get him there and makes himself very available to the public.  (He told me to email him!)

This post may not have answered all your questions about social media, but it shows there’s a broad spectrum of opinions about it, hence the Wild Wild West of Publishing…and Platforms…and Print on Demand…and oh hell, gang, grab a pair of chaps and a lasso, we’re going writing!  I’ll be your host, Jess Witkins (picture Jack Palance with red hair), Perseverance Expert and Social Media Pony Show Captain.  Come along, subscribe.

For more in depth information on using social media check out the Social Media Expert, Kristen Lamb and her book We Are Not Alone.

What questions do you have about social media?  How are you using it or not using it?  What do you wish it was doing that isn’t yet?

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The Writers’ Bandwagon, RSVP Regrets Only

It’s time for the ultimate mash-up, in the truest sense of the word.  I’ve met so many wonderful writers and bloggers on my Happiness Project journey and I wanted to show my vast love and appreciation for each of you.  They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so in the following post, might I recommend how we can each collaborate together to create a superpower of literary merit.  Let the mash-ups begin!

Example of a literary mash-up.

This whole blogging/writing quest I’m on began with the simple click to a Freshly Pressed blog by Kristen Lamb.  Kristen blogs about social media, author platforms, writing tips, procrastination pixies, and twitter.  Her best selling book, We Are Not Alone, is essentially her years of hard work and love of writing all combined to help make YOU a better writer, and maybe a PUBLISHED writer!  I do not claim to have the writing chops that Kristen does, so my mash-up suggestion to her is that she re-publish her book and call it We Are Not Alone:  Kristen’s Watching; she could add in hundreds, probably thousands of quotes and comments by her readers on how they’re progressing in their writing and editing endeavors only to feel her experienced eyes drawing flies on their pages and pulling that lever on their office chair to make them bump way down and have to start over.  Sounds like a great boot camp right?  And then when you complete her book and your own writing piece, she will appear before you in a sparkly pink dress and tell you that you’ve earned the right to now call your blog Fairy Rainbow Glitter Dreams if you really want to.

Margaret Reyes Dempsey is another published author I know.  Her book, The Benefector, is already quite a suspenseful read, but I know she too has toyed with the idea of a re-write/re-publish version in which The Benefactor is actually a champion wrestler.  Since I’m convinced that Madge (my nickname for her) and I are roommates in a parallel world, I too needed a wrestling name.  I decided on Pain Austen (instead of “Jane” Austen, get it?)  I would like to go on the record as saying The Benefactor vs. Pain Austen would be a gripping read.  Chapter after chapter of roommate wrestlers arguing over the proper way to brew tea, the exact amount of days one may go before changing into clean pajamas, and how much meat (or meat product in theory) is too much for a toddler going on twenty-something?

Writing from Portland, Oregon, my friend Mark details life as a freelance writer.  Always keeping me up to date on Portland quirks and never failing to bring a laugh, I think we have a lot in common.  My suggestion for a mash-up would be Tales from the Pacific Midwest:  From Farmland to Freelance.  It’s the story of two struggling writers who have to overcome regional obstacles like cheese factories at every off road stop and hippy bicyclists demanding strangers to recycle.  Upon completion of the book, you get a mail in rebate for one Voodoo Donut and one glass of milk from a happy Wisconsin cow!

Shhh!  Be quiet, we’re about to intrude on my pal, Hack, from over at The Hack Novelist.  He’s editing.  He needs to focus.  My simple mash-up would be The Happiness Hack Novel Project where two writers ignore everyone and drink their usual coffees (Eh-hem, Hack will have a regular black coffee with dash of cinnamon/world peace in it, and I’d like a green tea latte).  Page after page of fantastic, caffeinated ideas will emit themselves in this book, which may never get finished, but when we die, we’ll have a whole folder of material you can read at our funerals, and subsequent memorials, scholarship fund banquets, and inaugural addresses because we’re kind of a big deal, duh!

My final mash-up for today would be to work with Charles from Mostly Bright Ideas.  I’m incessantly envious over his ability to tell stories.  I would want a job as his assistant or a mini byline in one of his books:  Jess Witkins, Extraordinary Reader.  We could potentially co-author a book called Double Stuff Oreos for the Author’s Soul, in which we each chronicle the sometimes absurd, sometimes genuine moments of our family histories.  He could write about the time he begged to help his dad hose off the driveway and ended up spraying water all over his father, and I could write about the time my dad left me for dead in a snowbank.  Happy times, you know?  Good ol’ published nostalgia!

So that concludes this week’s Writer Wannabe Mash-up!  Send all query letters to Jess Witkins, 1111 Daydreamer Drive, Wishful Thinking, WI. I’ll have to limit my projects to five a week, but sit tight, there’s more to come!

Who are the authors/bloggers you are inspired by?  I’m sure I’ve missed many and I always love a new read!  Happy writing!

Oh Captain, My Captain

Robin Williams as Professor Keating, or "Oh Captain, My Captain"

Have you ever seen the movie The Dead Poet’s Society?  I love that film.  Growing up feeling estranged from my small town upbringing and a writing future that looked bleak and penniless, it meant the world to me to have a few teachers throughout the years that encouraged passion for writing and creativity.  In the film Robin Williams plays an english teacher who introduces his students, impressionable young men with a thirst for freedom and newness, to the Dead Poet’s Society.  The society is a secret group that meets to read poetry about everything raw in life.

With a helpful nudge from fellow blogger, CM Stewart, I was given a quick review of what my blog says about me as a platform, or writer’s profile.  “Close to Home” she said, and urged me to expound on my About page and explain why I panicked the moment college graduation started ticking down.  Here goes.

I wanted to be a writer since I was three.  My first story, entitled “Ho-Ho and the Missing Key” was a story about a bear named Ho-Ho who loses a key.  It ended with him finding the key, in case you were curious.  My parents were always supportive of my writing endeavors and praised me as their gifted youngest child.  Now and again, as I got older, my father would be pouring his morning glass of orange juice and fill his cup with flax seed, stare up at me and ask, “What are you going to do for money?”  Sitting on the counter top staring out the same kitchen windows I had for years, swinging my sock feet over the cupboard door my mother repeatedly told me not to do as it would break the hinges, but it never did, I shrugged.  I’ll figure it all out. You all know what I thought.  I’ll be so brilliant the agents will clamor at my door and beg to publish my work.  I’m going to be the next Adrienne Rich of poetry, the next Sloane Crosley of satire, the next best thing to hit Hollywood!

My middle and high school years included some amazing literature teachers who read my scribbles and said “bravo!”  In fact, I got the greatest written recommendation letter for a college scholarship I’ve ever read from one those teachers.  She described me as having an arsenal of strength.  Who wouldn’t be flattered?  This teacher had also stood up for me and spoken to the principal about my senior exit interview.  My interviewer was a retired Doctor Hartwick.  He was a tall, midwest bellied man who always wore a tie.  He had combed wavy gray hair and typically read Bible passages at the Catholic church I grew up in.  Going through my portfolio, he skimmed right over all my extra writing samples, my forensics awards, my extracurricular activity participation and told me I didn’t have enough math examples.  And that writing was fine for free time, but what was my fallback plan?  When I told my teacher about how I was grilled about making a better realistic choice for my college plan, she went straight to the principal, “You don’t tell a top 20 honor student that her dream is unrealistic!”  Dr. Hartwick was never asked to help with senior exit interviews again.

In college, I found similar professors who encouraged my out of the box project delivery.  Instead of papers, I often wrote and performed spoken word pieces.  I became involved with performance pedagogy groups and worked on a few literary journals.  Hell, I was a student slave in the English department copy room, making copies of all the professors’ class assignments and reading!

My senior year I joined the company I currently manage for.  It’s a higher end retail department store, and I began in customer service.  Happy in my new job, I was drawn to their service manager position, which focused on answering the customer issues on the floor.  I spoke with the store manager several times that I’d be interested in doing it.  I hadn’t made any plans after graduation, stalling at the time unsure of how life would affect the relationship I was in and suddenly unsure of what I wanted to do with my life anyway.  A month before graduation and I seriously considered not going through with it and changing my major to business management!  Chaos broke loose.  I was interviewing with Americorp, I had bookmarked the peacecorp site on my computer, and talked to my boss again saying please please please.  Obviously, you know where I ended up.  I was given a full time sales position to learn the floor before moving a few months later into the service lead, and few months later into the sales manager position I currently am in.

I go back and forth remembering my decision making process after graduation.  I am currently in a well paying job that is allowing me to pay off my student loans much faster than my siblings were able.  And I hadn’t wanted to go to grad school right away anyway.  My panic about what field to study made adding more loan payments on while being unsure of the course seem like a bad idea.  So, I decided I’ll work a few years and then decide what and where I really want to be.

The problem, which now brings you all up to speed, was that two going on three years have passed and I miss writing.  I wasn’t doing it anymore.  And this blog, which I started to document my return to words, has been difficult to maintain regularly, but feels like the best thing going on in my life right now.  So, here I am, talking about things “close to home,” sharing stories, memoirs, and support for anyone making a teensy weensy change or a monumental move in their life.  If your ambitions are in writing like myself, I highly recommend you check out Kristen Lamb and her book We Are Not Alone.  She is just one of the many wise men I am meeting on my happiness project.

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