The Path to Publication, part 4: Putting it out there

image(Number 1 of 3 posts in response to attending the Creative Nonfiction writing conference in Pittsburgh, PA, May 23-25, 2014)

Well, here I am in a hotel room in Pittsburgh trying to process all the information I received today at the Creative Nonfiction Conference. After a 9-hour drive yesterday and 5 hours of informational input today, my brain was ready for a nap!

Questions arose, but being the introvert I am, I needed time to think through it all. During a break two editors/presenters were standing right next to me and I couldn’t even think of what it was I needed to know. Duh.

But, after some processing time (and some scrummy Indian curry), I can share my main take-aways from today (some of which is surmised and not necessarily exactly what was said), and again, I will only discuss traditional publishing (but I will say that the info I heard today has confirmed my intuition that I should go the traditional route):

1. Submit to literary journals and magazines (print and online) to:
a) practice your craft
b) gain readership and develop a writing resume
c) develop relationships with editors (especially those of small presses who will, in general, work closely with you and offer encouragement, guidance, and “membership” in a community of writers.

Note: Essays/short stories can be published first and still possibly be included in a full-length work at a later date. Inclusion in an anthology is also an option.

2. “Creative Nonfiction is where it’s at!” — Lee Gutkind. BUT the subject of the nonfiction is most important.
What is it ABOUT? It can’t be just about you. No matter the brilliance of the writing, if the subject isn’t going to appeal/resonate with an audience (or editor/agent first), it will not get published.

3. Having an agent or not depends on your goals
It is imperative to have an agent if trying for a big press (and always have them negotiate the finances), not necessary if choosing a small/independent press. (But maoke sure you interview the editor to determine that the relationship and amount of promotion they will do will work for you.)

5. Develop your platform and brand through:
a) your own blog or submitting to other blogging sites (Huffpost, etc.)
b) Twitter — tweet other (good) writers’ work, there is a reciprocity that occurs online
c) online writing communities, and other outlets such as Goodreads, Buzzfeed, Medium, etc.
Editors notice this visibility.

But — and I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before — above all: YOUR PASSION IS YOUR BRAND AND PLATFORM!

Obligatory New Year Post

At the end of the year it is the law of the land that you look back on what you have accomplished (or not) and then look forward and make unattainable goals for the new year.

I was going to say that I don’t like to follow rules and refuse to do this. But the sad truth is I’m actually the worst kind of conformist – to my own rules. Therefore, I decree, I shalt ponder the year…

As this is primarily intended as a writing blog, I will focus on that.

What I accomplished in 2008:
1. Completed a two year long Children’s Literature course.
2. Began writing this blog (and got a small number of readers).
3. Accepted to Journal Instructor Certification course.
4. Submitted two articles and two queries.
5. Had one article accepted.
6. “Hired” as a journal instructor.
7. Hired as a grantwriter (and do-everything-elser) by a non-profit.
8. (and this is the biggest achievement in my mind): Began thinking of and believing in myself as a Writer (yes, that’s with a capital W).

What I hope to accomplish in 2009:
1. Make a writing schedule for myself that I stick to as if it were a work obligation (“no, I’m sorry I can’t bake 24 dozen cupcakes for this afternoon, because, well, I don’t bake, and I have to work.”)
2. Write this blog at least once a week, preferably twice.
3. Continue “The Tale of Two Couples.” (The telling of this story became hard for me, something I wasn’t expecting. I have yet to figure out why… still too close to the heart??)
4. Take the time to read more blogs.
5. Write in my journal daily.
6. Read more of the magazines to which I would like to submit.
7. Write, write, write, submit, submit, submit…

Anyone want to be the “Ethel” to my “Lucy” (i.e. be my buddy and nag me to keep to my goals)? (I credit The Momstown’s Guide to Getting it All for this idea, and I think it especially appropriate to me as I have the right name.)

OK, obligatory reflection and goal-setting done. Now I have to wish you all the obligatory good wishes and success for the coming year.

May there be:
A world-wide effort towards peace (starting with me and you)
Food for hungry stomachs
Hope for trembling hearts
Joy in tear-filled eyes
Fewer natural disasters and no human-made ones
Less hate and much, much more love.

And I send many good vibes to our new president…


Swimming in Blog Love

I want to thank Green Mountain Country Mama for another blog award. I’m feeling so damn special I can hardly stand myself.
When I was nominated for the “I Love Your Blog” award I promised I would nominate some more blogs as I went along. Well, I still haven’t read enough blogs to make an informed decision, so, I have only one for today.
Jessica from The McMahon Family Circus writes of her life as a new mom of two boys. She cracks me up! Her humor in writing is as good as it is in real life. You may take your bow now, Jess (and go grab your award down there).

Doing my Blog Love Duty

As a nominee for the “I Love Your Blog” award it was asked that I in turn nominate some of my favorite blogs. Seven to be exact. Unfortunately, I don’t even read seven blogs. I have visited many, commented on a few, and kept visiting about four. Not because the others weren’t good – I just don’t have the time. My eyeballs are twitching enough as it is just from writing this blog, reading emails, and paying online bills. I don’t even visit the forums like I used to. So I will nominate two blogs today and as I go along I will add some more.

And the winners are:

Mocha Momma: I find her open and honest, funny, and intelligent (and coffee makes me very happy).

GreenMountainCountryMama: Other than the fact that I owe her one as the person who introduced me to this blogging world, she cracks me up (and invites us to pool parties in the summer, so I have to stay on her good side).

Congrats! Go forth and put that graphic over there on your blog and nominate your own seven favorite blogs.

Returning the Blog Love

I will explain that lover-ly graphic up there ——————^
and do my reciprocal duty when I haven’t got a grant to write.

But for now I want to thank Noble Savage for giving me for such a prestigious nod. Visit her blog… she is a writing mother living in my home country. She has a strong sense of humor and some even stronger opinions (for which I admire her for expressing – I haven’t disagreed with her yet!).

Thank you, NS!

Oh, and P.S. The Tale will continue… there is so much more to tell.

How to get readers for your blog

I don’t actually have an answer to that.

But I’m wondering… is anyone reading this blog? Do I sit here each morning dedicatedly babbling to myself? It’s OK really, I love to write and having this excuse is lovely.

I have been researching tips on how you get you, dear reader, to come spend some time with me each day. I do think I have something worthy to say – well, some of the time. This article by Darren Rowse is where I found a great list of techniques to draw readers in. See the title of this post? See what I did there? Very sneaky. To the point and something someone might actually search for in google (as I did). Ooo, I feel so manipulative.

The reality is, I can spend time researching and acting on these promotion techniques but the only results I get is a completely wasted morning, a headache, and a pile of laundry still waiting to be attended to. How many times can I attempt to post something in the HTML before I throw the computer across the room?

Think positively…

So, dear reader(s), if you’re just joining us, please scroll down… I’m testing the system right now and I believe you will find some interesting reading just a post or two away. And if you find something you like, please let me know so I will know I’m not just talking to myself over in this lonely corner of cyberspace.

Thank you and happy reading.

What the *** is a SEO and why am I supposed to Digg it?

Is anyone other than me completely, utterly, ready-to-throw-in-the-towel-y overwhelmed by the gad-b-zillion bytes of information you have to pile through on this brain-sucking evil called the internet? (That was a little harsh, it’s not completely evil.)

A few days ago I just an aspiring writer gathering the courage to give the nice human mailman a 9×11 manilla envelope containing a letter to Ms. Editor, humbly begging her to accepting my idea for an article. Today my head is exploding with terms like social bookmarking, keywords, SEO, CP, affliate links… lawd help me! I’m just a writer!

In order to make it on the web, apparently you have to self-promote., where I have some things published, gives you a handy-dandy link to all the 12,032 social bookmarking sites out there in order to do this. One little question… WHAT THE HELL IS SOCIAL BOOKMARKING?? Call me dense, call me a dweeb, call me whatever you choose… but I’m too old for this. You really mean to tell me I’m supposed to register my private information at all these sites so that people can “shout” at me or “digg” my stuff (or just spam me to death)?

I don’t want to write articles that are highly searchable (well, I do, but I have a feeling no one in the near future will be Googling “Vermont mom writing addict clueless online”). I don’t want to be writing “to the keyword” – I want to write what’s in my heart.

I’ll keep “Digg”ing a little deeper into this new (to me) universe and maybe one day I won’t be such a dodo about it all. But for now I’ll keep burdening my neighborhood United States Postal Service employee with those manilla envelopes (the ones containing SASE; the only acronym I truly understand at this point), and I’ll rely on my yahoo address book and the family and friends who will read my stuff because I’ll disown them if they don’t.

Put the blog down and step away from the computer

I should have known. I know what I’m like.

This blog, the blog I insisted was not for me, has me and won’t let go. Each time I walk past my desk it calls out to me. I check 50 times a day to see if anyone has happened upon (out of the 2, 010,030 possible google hits) my silly dawdlings. Or I mess with the layout, the colors, or the wording of my profile. And I plan to polish up my rusty photoshop skills to make an artistic banner for myself. And photos? Oh, the possibilities.

I don’t have time for this! I am in danger of neglecting my other responsibilities. I have two incredibly – to put it nicely – active children whose wills do not match each others’ ways, one hard-working-comes-home-starving husband, and an old house that is in perpetual danger of crumbling into the sea of strewn toys and piled high laundry baskets.

And what about the very reason I began this blog – my writing? OK, yes, I’m getting valuable daily practice, but no publishing gonna be happening just because I have a pretty blog page.

No, I must organise, prioritize, departmentalize. If I’m going to be charged with neglect it would be better to have an under-nourished and under-dressed blog than children fighting over whose dust bunny collection is largest.

Then again, my blog doesn’t back talk, produces no dirty laundry, and goes to bed the moment I ask it. Hmmm

A blog by any other name…

I have commitment issues.

My Blog-to-be needed, nay, demanded, a name. Not any old name either. It had to big, bright, worthy of it – worthy of me. I couldn’t have my dear Blog going around with a small, pitiful name. My very individuality, personality, career… life hung on this one name.

Blog waited patiently while I looked at various words and phrases, played with puns, and pondered on the meaning of this relationship between Blog and me.

Finally, I choose. Commitment made. Phew!

But then what do I find out? The name’s exchangeable! My Blog can reject the name – my name – and I’d have to start the search over for a new – better – one. I’d made a decision and now… oh, the turmoil.

I’m questioning myself again: Did I choose the right name? Is it bright enough? Will it catch other people’s eye? What does it say about me?

But for now, I am sticking to my guns and making my dear one keep this name. I’ve committed to this Blog, so it can wear the name I gave it.

Until I find a new one.

In the beginning there was the word… “blog”

A few months ago I was chatting with a fellow mom who asked me what I do (she obviously meant other than carting my children around to preschool and dance class and swimming lessons as well as keeping them supplied with nutritious fodder and clean-ish clothes.)

“I’m an aspiring writer,” I replied sheepishly.

“Oh, do you blog?”

Nooo, I don’t blog!” said I. (I didn’t say that, but I did think it. Being the traditionalist that I am, writing online just doesn’t seem real, any more than reading a book on a kindle – or whatever it’s called – or listening to music through teeny weeny headphones seems real.)

What I actually said was, “No, I’m more of a paper and pen kinda gal, ya know. I’m not really into the computer that much.”

“Oh, you should. I just got asked to write an article for someone because they read my blog.”

And my world tipped just a bit.

Fast forward to this week. I have finished my first non-fiction article and I am almost ready to send it off with a query letter. To garner some support in my new endeavor I started chatting with some other writer-moms online. To my utter amazement I discovered they all write online either for publication sites and/or their own blogs. AND THEY GET PAID FOR IT.

World tips completely over and I’m falling head first into cyberspace.

I have been calling myself an aspiring writer for many years now but I was intimidated by the world of dash-your-dreams editors and query letters. But now (dammit) I have no excuse. Just write a little article, get it accepted at one of about a trillion publication sites, and wait for someone to send you a check for, oh, about $2. Who cares, you’re published!

And this blog? I’m still loyal to time spent curled up in a chair with journal and fountain pen writing words for no eyes but mine. But if this blog really can help my writing career by forcing me to write everyday – to hone my craft – and maybe, just maybe, catch some editor’s eye, then ok, I guess I’ll give it a try.

But I do still plan to write for those real publications one day.