5 Ways I’ve Used Minimalism to Improve my Writing

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My Instagram posts

Instagram: Poetry Unfiltered

Every Saturday and Sunday, I publish a “Post-It-sized” poem on Instagram. I used to feel that I had to make each poem “pop” with the use of filters until I realized that such was unnecessary. I could feel the seconds being wasted, trying to come up with just the right filter, so I started screenshotting my poem with my phone via Google Docs and publishing it as is with the hashtag #nofilter. I realized there is a certain beauty in stark white and bold black. Coming up with appropriate hashtags take enough of my time.

Images are (Almost) Everything

Because I blog a minimum of twice weekly, it helps to recycle images, especially with my recurring features: Micropoetry Mondays and Fiction Fridays. For Monday, if my theme is “The Lighter Side” or “Opposites,” I use the same graphic; eventually, I will design my own logo for Micropoetry Monday, so I can ditch the stock photography all together (I’ve already scrubbed my blog of most of it). Because Fiction Fridays are all excerpts from my book or poetry based on it, I use the same graphic. Even when it comes to LinkedIn, rather than using a stock photo, I use my business card in basic black and plain white (without my personal address or telephone number) and an eye-grabbing headline. However, since I’ve discovered the Medium Daily Digest’s publishing platform (https://medium.com/), which is lot more attractive than LinkedIn’s (and not about boring corporate culture), I use an abstract photo—usually a close-up of something loosely related to the quotation I paste over it.  (And my quotes are always original.  There is enough recycled content out there.)

Strunk and White + Stephen King = Needful words

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is one grammar book that changed my writing (and maybe my life). It is what I call a hornbook for all writers. I applied its principles to my writing when I worked for my community college newspaper for several semesters, which helped me with conciseness (though I would still try to sneak in the Oxford comma). In On Writing by Stephen King, King says to “Kill your darlings”; I say you have to kill your characters (meaning the alphabet kind). Writing also helped me chuck 99% of my adverbs; nothing beats “he said” or “she said.” You want those dialogue tags to be invisible. I credit these two books and my experience as a student reporter in helping me get the job as a clarity editor for Grammarly.

Social media < Writing, Editing, Submitting

When I started my blog in October 2013, I thought I had to be as omnipresent as possible when it came to social media, but, after an incredible amount of spam I received on Twitter and people following just to get a follow, I ditched it and Pinterest, too. Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and LinkedIn is enough for me. (Often, what I post in one place gets posted in another). What time I used to spend trying to brand myself on all those social media accounts I could be spending building my vocabulary, submitting to actual publications, etc. I don’t have time to engage with all my followers — I need readers who aren’t writers. After more than three years of posting my Wednesday and Poem-a-Day prompts (in April and November) for Writer’s Digest on their blog and mine, I realized it was time for me to move on, which simplified my writing life even more. I needed content I could write ahead of time, so I could schedule it to publish on my blog at a later date. 

Submissions: Kitchen-Sink Theory Does Not Apply

I used to think I had to flood the market with submissions rather than focus on a handful of publishers. Targeting your publications gives you time to read and study them; submission guidelines alone will not provide intuition into what the editors are looking for. I have since discovered that my work would not be considered literary, so most small presses would not be a good fit; I have a better shot at larger publishers because of their more mainstream content. If I pick up a journal and don’t “get” any of the poems, then it’s the wrong publication for me; if I pick up a magazine and don’t enjoy any of the stories, then it’s not a good fit for my writing. This keeps me from being overwhelmed with reading material.

The Grammar Girl Returns

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Today is the day I start my Baccalaureate program as a Creative Writing major.  I was fortunate to be able to take two months off from work to read, write, and spend time with my family; I even got to catch up with friends.  I got back into the habit of strength training (as weightlifting doesn’t sound very feminine) and took up water aerobics; I’ve also focused on updating all my online presences (including my portfolio), professionalizing them for potential employers as well as uploading my resumes to all the usual suspects (e.g. Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.).  The university I am attending also provided invaluable feedback on my resume and cover letters.  

After refreshing my Upwork account, I was hired as an independent contractor to proofread documents submitted by Grammarly clients.  Even though I work from home, the job has a very Silicon Valley startup feel, which I love.  I am learning so much already; it’s a great gig.  Though there is nothing quite like being able to set your own hours, walk into the next room to go to work, and never answer a telephone, I will always be the type of person who has to have an outside job where I communicate face-to-face.  I’m a people person who also happens to be an introvert.

In addition to my jobs as an office assistant at uni and as a professional writing tutor, my plate will be full, but it will be full of things I enjoy, and that makes all the difference.  

Writerly and Grammarly,
Sarah Richards, Class of 2022

She’d graduated a Titan
before The New Millennium,
watching her training grounds
as a gladiator
in the public school arena
disappear.
Loosely prepared
to become a Pirate,
she laid down
her educational armor,
only to pick it up again
with eyes wide open,
diving head first
into the land of magnolias,
with their spinach green leaves
& mascarpone white petals.
Now, well-prepared
to become an Argonaut,
her armor fortified
with precious mettle,
she dove once more,
under graying canopies
of Spanish moss.
As a Titan,
she had brought home
the bronze medallion;
as a Pirate,
the silver chest;
but as an Argonaut,
she would put upon herself
the Golden Fleece
& battle with her wits
that had no end.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Blogging

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Blogging is a fantastic way to get the word (i.e. your work) out, but it’s easy to be torn between what you should put out there for free & what you should hold dear until it finds a home (because once it’s posted, it’s considered published, & you may never be able to submit it anywhere again). This guide should help: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/04/15-blogging-prompts/

Twitter, for the most part, is a colossal waste of time. With Twitter, there are too many expectations of reciprocity. You should be so productive creating new content, you don’t have time to reciprocate every like or respond to every comment or thank someone for every retweet; you need actual fans—not just those who follow to get a follow back. Thus, you need readers who aren’t also writers.

Goodreads is great for posting book reviews & connecting with other readers. However, not everyone who follows your blog has a Goodreads account, so post your best reviews on your blog. Get as much mileage as you can out of everything you write. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/06/book-review-the-girl-on-the-train/

Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, businessy articles/listicles that are largely forgettable. I rarely write articles specifically for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll either post it on LinkedIn Pulse or share it from my blog. There is no such thing as too much visibility. Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article on LinkedIn, & then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest. Rather, post a short bio, including a link to your blog, so that if people liked what they read, they might want to read something else you wrote. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-own-personal-minimalism-sarah-richards-1/?published=t

Seek out guest posting opportunities. Most of them don’t pay, but it’s extra exposure (which is helpful if your blog doesn’t have many followers). There are opportunities to write about writing, life hacks, & parenting. GetConnect Dad is a sweet site to start with, chock full of awesome content from moms & dads around the world. https://getconnectdad.com/write-with-us/

Instagram forces you to become a better photographer—to produce more original content. It’s bright, clean, & minimal—everything Twitter isn’t. https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/

If you’ve ever had any work published in print or online (other than your personal blog), create an online portfolio. A portfolio showcases not just what you know, but what you can do. https://sarahlearichards.journoportfolio.com/

 

For Writers: Time Wasted vs. Time Invested

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Finding the time to write requires figuring out, over time, what is a good investment of your time and what is not.  Here is what I have found:

  1. Trying to write for a publication or contest because it either pays well or the entry is free when you have no interest in the topic, theme, or publication itself, will take more time than writing two pieces you are passionate about for a publication you read.  For example, there was a national women’s magazine on which the short story topic was, “What is the bravest thing you have ever done?”  When I saw the previous years’ winning entries–serving in Afghanistan and other equally courageous things–I thought, well, I got my wisdom teeth pulled without being put under.  Pass.
  2. Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, “businessy” articles/listicles as passionless as cooking without love, implementing lingo like analytics, logistics, and statistics (okay, sometimes stats can be sexy),  I don’t write articles for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll post it on LinkedIn Pulse.  Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article, and then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest.
  3. Keep virtual clutter to a minimum.  Delete bookmarks you will never use, e-mails you will never read again, etc.
  4. Don’t have more than one account on any social networking site.  I tried to have both an author Twitter account and a fictional character Twitter account.  A lot of time was spent signing in and out, and sometimes, I’d get the two crossed.  I had the character account for a year-and-a-half, and have been repurposing the tweets for my Fiction Fridays series, just as the micropoetry I used to write for Twitter daily ended up becoming my Micropoetry Monday series, so you could say my stint on Twitter helped me become a regular blogger (versus a sporadic one).
  5. Keep track of what you write.  I have a master list of pieces I’ve written (with keywords for easy look-up), and where I have submitted each.  I’ve written so much poetry, I’ve had to divide it up into “anthologies.”  (Submittable is good for keeping track, but not every publication uses it.)
  6. Plan for writing contests a year in advance.  That way you never miss a deadline and you’re always submitting quality work.
  7. Have a submission schedule for the publications you write for on a regular basis. You don’t want to overload a publication with submissions, because they might think you’re just using the “kitchen-sink theory” (throwing everything at them and seeing what they’ll take).  For example, the fifteenth of every month, I submit a poem to a certain publication I adore–one I’ve been published in before.
  8. Twitter is a colossal waste of time, though I still have all my blog posts auto-post, adding the hashtags separately.  There are too many expectations of reciprocity–you need true fans, not just those who follow to get a follow back.  You need readers who aren’t also writers.
  9. Be selective with what television programs you watch.  I only watch a couple a week, and maybe a couple of movies.  Every once in awhile, I’ll binge-watch a television show, but time watching TV is time not writing.  Don’t watch something because you’re bored; write something, for writing is doing.
  10. Read.  You need to read everyday (not just blog posts, even like this one), but the kind of slow reading that draws you in).  I’ve gotten into reading pieces on The Saturday Evening Post’s website.  I’m enjoying what I’m reading, and at the same time, getting a better idea of what they go for.

Doubling up: Maximizing your writing, and more

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So I am getting ready to start summer schoolanother semester of work-study, a class I don’t care about, and Intermediate Algebra, which is very scary indeed.  I made a D in it about 15 years ago, and I allowed my fear of failurethat I wasn’t smart enough to finish collegekeep me from finishing.

Like Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show, who could make a joke out of any word (including “milk bath”), I can write a poem on the spot about any word, but algebra has always been the bane of my educational existence.

Except this time, I am so close, with only a handful of credits left before I can work as a copy writer somewhere in the medical field.

This time, I will have access to free, on-campus and virtual tutors.

This time, I will have a few hours a day at work to focus on this class I will never use again, but will help me get to wherever I am goingthat place called Career Contentment. I don’t know where that is yet, for I am still following the map, but I have a pretty good idea of what I will be doing when I get there.

My time is more limited than ever now, so I’ve decided to cut most of my weekend posting (I’d just had enough of dealing with self-inflicted “homework” first thing in the morning).  The one exception is a single #SundayInspiration Instagram post (see bottom) with what I hope will be considered “thinking outside the candy box” (https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/?hl=en).

I’d forgotten I even had an account until a recent Facebook friend followed me, and I thought, well, I do have one of those phones now, and I can take a shot of virtually the same thing (which will help establish my “theme”).  I’d tried Pinterest, but it’s more for consumers than creators, and I like the cleaner, sleeker look of Instagram.  Pinterest also seems like it’s more for crafters than writers or photographers.  Furthermore, Instagram seems much more personal, more real.  It has a freshness Pinterest does not.

Streamlining your writing process is a form of minimalism, and it can help you focus on the more important aspects of writing (like improving your craft and getting paid).  It’s good to have a social media presence (any publisher expects this if you’re unknown), but the thing that will get you noticed is submitting, submitting, and submitting [quality] work.

Instead, I will be posting two writing “workshops” (basically, writing tips) the first and third Mondays of the month, and two book reviews the second and fourth Mondays (as I will be dropping the Micropoetry Monday segments at the end of the year).  The latter will help me read more (as I’ve been reading poetry this semester, mostly), and the workshops are bits I post on my Facebook author page, so they’re already “baked in.”

This is one way of maximizing your writing.  To come up with brand new content for every social network isn’t worth it, because chances are, your friends, fans, and followers won’t catch your post on every network anyway, so it won’t seem like you’re repeating yourself.

One Instagram post a week is much more doable than six a week on Twitterthat’s too much time taken away from submitting.  LinkedIn is limited, because it’s what I call “businessy-boring.”  I rarely write a post specifically for the network but if something I write works on there as well as my blog, I’ll post the whole piece on there (as people hate being redirected to another site).

LinkedIn is basically Facebook-lite, complete with memes.  All too often, I see “connections” sharing someone else’s quotation.  Have an original thought in your head, for goodness sakes!  It doesn’t do anything for your brand, only the person’s you are quoting.  Though I haven’t been guilty of posting such things, I have been guilty of sharing them.

For me, it’s all about creating content.  The only new blog post I have to create is on Wednesdaysthe Writer’s Digest poetry prompt.  Fridays are taken care of, because the posts are based on my novel, rewritten in verse form (which I’ve decided to make a separate, promotional chapbook out of called Mormons on the Beach).

I plan on spending the writing part of my weekends writing new work, editing existing work, and submitting to publications.  I haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but then when I come home from work and school, my daughter’s just gotten off the bus and I only have about about three hours with her till it’s time for her to go to bed.  I need that time with her as much as she needs my attention.  If I didn’t have her, I’d be spending too much time clacking at my keyboard, my eyes glazed by the glow.

Social media has its place, but it should be used wisely and sparingly.  Though Twitter is the equivalent of a bathroom wall, it isn’t a complete waste of time, as one of my friends hooked up with a local philanthropist through it who self-published her book; I got a guest blogging gig.

As for WordPress, don’t waste time reblogging (people never return the favor), unless you’re reblogging your own guest post.  Don’t waste valuable real estate on your blog with someone else’s work.  Again, this is elevating their brand, not yours.

What’s more, it’s one thing to use stock photos on your blog (I balked for the longest time, but I’m just a fair photographer with a lousy camera), but photography is Instagram’s focus (pun intended).  Strive for authenticity.

The moral of this post:  Write, edit, and submitthat’s the real work.  That social media stuff is a hobby.  A blog is the best of both worldsa hybrid, of sorts.  Someday, I hope it will make me money (either directly or indirectly), but in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun doing it.

2016, A Year in Review (and a few resolutions, too)

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Twenty-sixteen was my best year yet when it came to writing (not so much the number of words, but the number of finished projects, publications, and contest wins).  I’ve decided my minimum is 300 words (Stephen King’s is 2000, but unfortunately, I’m unable to write for a living yet).  If I want to go over that, that’s wonderful, but the overage won’t count towards the next day.  I have to keep myself accountable.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Get more organized.  This will waste less of my precious time.  I have spent part of the last day of the year clearing out my favorites, deleting e-mails, organizing my USB drive, transcribing my notes that are scattered from pillar to post, polishing the drafts in my blog account so I can either “plush or slush” them (this I’ve done over the last week, explaining my prolific posting).
  2. Do more, and by that, I mean trying different things (especially physical ones, liking biking, climbing, etc).
  3. Plan meals so that I never have to wake up needing to cook.  (I hate cooking in the morning; I’d rather have fish for breakfast…and I have.)
  4. Write something using dictionary.com’s “word of the day”.  This will help me remember it far more than simply memorizing it.
  5. Don’t start writing any more books until I’ve finished (and edited) the ones I’ve written.  (This will take all year.)
  6. Keep coupons in the car or purse.  I am just too forgetful.
  7. Don’t respond to outlandish status updates on Facebook or you will be expected to post one.  I’m sorry, but these really piss me off.  Just like the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you’ll share this”, and others of its ilk.
  8. Include, in my daily to-do list, all the activities I want to do with my daughter.  This includes not just reading stories at bedtime, but other books during the daytime.
  9. Make at least one video of my daughter a week.  I’ve slacked on this as it’s harder to edit videos (or take good ones) than it is a photograph.
  10. Wear less black and gray (yes, it’s slimming).
  11. Do different things with my hair (it’s one of our greatest accessories).  I dug out my old crimper (I’m an eighties girl) and got many compliments on my new look; got a snood for Christmas and if you don’t know what that is, look it up.
  12. Work on Christmas gifts all year long (which would include trying a new recipe weekly).

And that’s just the beginning, but it’s a start.

~

One of my proudest moments this year was winning first place (in the same contest I placed in second twice last year) for my story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck”, about what happens when a saucy girl brings pot brownies to a Mormon Church party and spikes the punch.  Let’s just say everyone’s spirits were lifted.  (I will post the link when the online newspaper editor has it up.)

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I was also published in Bella Grace magazine, for which I wrote a narrative poem about the magic of childhood.  The magazine seemed tailored just for me, with its almost “Pollyannish” take on life (Pollyanna being one of my favorite movies).

I also got published in the anthology below.  This site, http://writingcareer.com/, has been a great help to me in finding places to submit.

I wrote for the student newspaper this fall semester, am writing still for a parenting blog (https://getconnectdad.com/?s=sarah+richards&lang=en), and help write and design the newsletter for a local veteran’s organization.

As far as my personal writing goals, I got on a blogging schedule, where I only have to create new content once a week (the Writer’s Digest Wednesday Prompt); for the months of April and November, I successfully produced a poem a day.  My Monday and Friday posts come from what I’ve tweeted out, which I artfully compile.  I’ve started a Facebook page with writing tips and truths (https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/), also of which will someday end up on this blog (waste absolutely nothing you write).  All of these things have helped me become a better, and more confident and prolific writer (and it all counts towards my daily 300).

Though I’ve enjoyed this year immensely, I am never sorry to see it go, because every year just gets better and better:  I learn more, I become more.

Cheers!

Sarah Lea

Self-Help: Auditioning for the Job Before You Apply

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Social media, like anything, when used in the right way, can be a great tool for laying the foundation for a future job, for making connections that might come in handy after earning a degree.  Using a LinkedIn account to post a resume (and keep it updated) and upload papers written for school is a great way to start; posting scholarship essays, sharing interesting articles about subjects that would be taught at a University, and networking with those in the field one has majored in elevates a person’s status and visibility.  Connecting with someone first through LinkedIn is also a great way for introverts to break the ice.

That said, it is important to keep one’s profile professional, so here are 20 tips for getting the most out of an account:

1. Using a professional headshot.  No full-body poses.  People are less likely to add someone as a connection if they cannot see their face.  Same principle applies as to why would a person invite someone into their house if they were wearing a mask?  The headshot is not the place to get artsy (i.e. no black-and-white photographs or pictures with “props”, such as cigarettes or sunglasses).

2. Using their actual name.  No Twitter handles or blog names.

3. Customizing their public profile URL.  It’s the difference between myblog.wordpress.com vs. myblog.com.  Less is more (i.e. like how much more appetizing a food seems when it doesn’t come with a list of all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients.)

4. Including as much information about themselves as possible.  Just as employers don’t like to see gaps in an application, a future employer might find a spare profile a red flag.  However, never post addresses or telephone numbers, for safety reasons.

5. Adding a background photo to personalize their page and make it stand out.  Never use a photo with writing on it, just as one should never wear a T-shirt with a message on it to a job interview.

6. Posting only professional content.  Nonfiction book reviews, articles or links to articles on writing, public speaking, education, business, finance, medicine, design, and any of the STEM fields, are some of the kinds of topics LinkedIn Pulse is looking for.

7. If a blog is set to auto-post to LinkedIn, making sure the article is appropriate for the audience.  Recipes and articles on parenting are generally no-nos, but articles on drafting a resume or tips on dressing for success are typically better received.

8. Being timely with posts.  According to LinkedIn, weekdays during business hours are the best time to post.  (Specifically, Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.)

9. Leaving issues like politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc., off of LinkedIn.  That is what Facebook or Twitter is for.  Discussion of current events are at one’s discretion.

10. Upon receiving an endorsement, returning the favor or sending a thank you note via private message.  Always acknowledge an endorsement.  Follow the rule of reciprocity, but be sincere.  (Don’t endorse just to get an endorsement.  Also, always respond to comments, and seek to read what they have written and comment on theirs, as well.  This is one of the easiest ways to build a connection.

11. Always screening one’s profile before adding as a connection, as it is much more awkward to accept, and then reject, than to never accept at all.

12. If planning on meeting a connection in person, always meeting during the daylight hours in a very public place.

13. If selling make-up or insurance, not pitching the product or service except through one’s feed (a.k.a. “soft-selling”).  Do NOT sell via Private Message, and do NOT cobble together connections simply for the sake of selling them something.

14. Never using profanity anywhere, and, if disagreeing, always doing so tactfully by backing up a comment with a fact or personal experience.  Never get combative, and keep in mind that letting someone have the last word is not an acknowledgement of being wrong.

15. Scrolling past things one doesn’t like.  It’s not worth the argument.  If the person is inappropriate, it is entirely appropriate to quietly remove the bad connection.

16. Focus on skill sets, and not just previous employers.  Skills are portable, companies, not necessarily.  Be sure to add any certifications, publications, or volunteer experience.  The more one know, the more valuable they are to a future employer.

17. As for resume references, leave them “upon request”, because it is discourteous to publish one’s friend or colleague’s phone number on the Internet.

18. Join groups and follow companies of interest.  Everyone are in the business of selling, even if it’s only themselves.  After all, that’s what candidates do at job interviews.

19. Frequency matters.  Hiring managers are 10 times more likely to look at a profile from which something is posted weekly.  Also, 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn is better than 70 minutes in one day.  (Just like every day physical activity is better than one big workout.)

20. Article posters should write what they know.  If too much research is involved, they are probably not the one to write it.  Use links (when applicable), images, and tags in posts—the image brings a post to life (i.e. pulls in some eyeballs), and the tags help people find the post.  Don’t click-bait people with headlines, and don’t post an article that is nothing more than a link to a personal blog.  Just like on the telephone, people do not like being re-directed; doing this comes across as simply someone trying to drive traffic to their site.  Simply post the entire article on LinkedIn, as one would on their blog.  Posters can always add their blog address in a brief bio at the end of the article.  Also, focus more on being interesting rather than trying to “show-off” (i.e. using complicated jargon).  Posts should be no more than 600 words, which is recommended for blogs.  Listicles are also preferred over long paragraphs.  People like their information like they like their cake—bite-sized and easy to digest.

Think of LinkedIn as a formal cocktail party.  Act like a guest who wants to be invited back.  Generally, whatever is acceptable “watercooler talk” is acceptable on LinkedIn.  Though only 13% of Millennials use the social network, 98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers use it to find candidates.  Finding a job, or even getting an interview isn’t just about resumes anymore, but also relationships, and LinkedIn is the web that connects these two worlds.  Use it.  It’s free.

*originally published in The Corsair (the Pensacola State College newspaper), Nov/Dec 2016 edition.

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12 Ways to Build Your Writer’s Platform

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Being a writer is a full-time job (though most of us only work at it part-time because we have paying jobs).  It’s been said that we should spend 80% of the time (normally spent writing) engaging others, and the other 20% creating content.  I confess I am backwards in this, because I never feel like I get enough writing done as it is; it is also quite easy to spend hours online, posting, tweeting, retweeting, commenting, reviewing, etc., and feeling like I get very little response back, besides a “follow” or a “like”.  (Retweets are what I am after.)  And often, I have discovered that one only follows me because they want a follow back, so never follow someone back unless their page interests you.  (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”)

So I was searching for sample “killer” query letters because I’ve had a novel I tailor-wrote for Harlequin romance (never heard back, even though I’ve heard they read every submission).  I believe in the project, so I went to http://agentquery.com/ to pitch it to other publishers.  Though I already had a query letter prepared, I wanted to make sure it was the best it could be; I started doing my research, and found two great posts that helped me with that:

The Complete Guide to Query Letters That Get Manuscript Requests

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

However, I realized that I needed to reevaluate my writer’s platform.  What inspired me to start a blog in the first place was an article I read in “The Writer’s Digest” more than two years ago about this very thing.  Only within the last several months have I stepped it up by joining Twitter, which I think is a must for any writer.  I’ve started promoting myself on there by having every WordPress blog post immediately publish to my Twitter page (in addition to my Facebook account, and once in a blood moon, LinkedIn); I strive to make all my tweets entertaining, rather than just self-promoting, which gets boring (author Amanda Patterson tweets great stuff).  I will never spam people by private messaging them on Twitter, asking for them to download my e-book, etc.–that is what your newsfeed is for, and yes, sometimes things get lost in the virtual shuffle, and so I believe it is perfectly acceptable to retweet such a request no more than twice a week (the minimum number of times we should blog to be considered a serious blogger, according to most).

When I first started Twitter, I was tweeting snippets of poems, usually a screenshot, but didn’t add any hashtags (don’t do that; I add hashtags in the reply box).  I’d also read that every blog post should have an image (we’re such visual people), but I rarely use any stock photography.  I think most of it looks bad, cheap, and unoriginal (and the high-quality kind, like Shutterstock, is pricey).  Try to take your own pictures.  I, personally, do not believe we need images to make a post come to life.  That is what the headline is for.

I got a lot of great ideas on how to promote myself/build my writer’s platform, some of which I’m already using.  I revitalized my LinkedIn account by posting my college essays and publishing some of the scholarship essays I wrote (not the Zombie Apocalypse one, though; LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional site).

So I’m doing the social media blitz, even publishing the novelette (about an apostate Mormon missionary) that inspired my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley” on goodreads.com (see:  https://www.goodreads.com/story/confirm_explicit/405523?chapter=0).

Here are some of the 12 ways of author promotion I found the most useful.

  1. Monetize.  I had never thought of repackaging old blog posts and selling them as an ebook, and I’m not sure why someone would buy something they can get for free, but it’s a thought.  If you’ve published a lot of poetry on your blog, this might be for you.
  2. Create a resource page.  Share your list of resources on social media and with your email list.  I do this on my Websites for Writers page:  https://sarahleastories.wordpress.com/websites-for-writers/
  3. Learn and use appropriate Twitter hashtags.  Here’s a great resource by Caitlin Muir at Author Media: http://www.authormedia.com/44-essential-twitter-hashtags-every-author-should-know/
  4. Set up your YouTube channel.  According to Robert Lee Brewer, the “poet laureate of Writer’s Digest”, poetry is almost always better when read aloud.  My brother wrote a melody to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”, and I could just imagine adding some desolate beach scenes to the audio.
  5. Invest in yourself.  Find courses, books, conferences, and people that can aid in your learning and success.  I am taking a Creative Writing class at the college right now, and will be investing a little money into getting a short story critiqued through Writer’s Digest before self-publishing it on amazon.com.
  6. Pitch a guest post.  I’ve already pitched a motherhood/lifestyle article to the Huffington Post (no pay, but great exposure), and there are a few others I am considering.  The main thing for me is posting at least twice a week on my own blog.  If you do get published on a guest blog, you will want your reader to have something worthwhile to link to.
  7. Create some link love.  People love being mentioned or quoted online.   Take the time to email the author or blog owner and let them know they were mentioned in your article.   They might possibly share a link to your article with their followers.
  8. Be everywhere.  Or at least be wherever your ideal readers are. Consider incorporating one or more of these social media networks into your platform building strategy:  Goodreads, Wattpad, Amazon Author Central, Pinterest, and Google+.
  9. Set up a social media schedule. Schedule time for activity on the social media platforms you are active on.  I have found that just checking my notifications is enough Facebooking for the day (still working on making this an everyday reality); as for Twitter, set up a special list, just for writing, so you don’t miss valuable tweets (like calls for submissions) because someone else you follow loves to tweet (and retweet) a lot.
  10. Start commenting.  If you already have a blog, you know how difficult–and how rewarding–it is to get comments on your posts.  Take the time to add insights, ask questions, or provide feedback on other author blogs.  A reblog is always nice, too.
  11. Create your Facebook Author page.  I don’t believe I am quite ready for this.  I feel I need to wait till I get something published to justify an author page (I could be wrong), and that means getting paid cash for my work, not just getting published.
  12. Setup your professional website.  Having a .blogspot, .WordPress, or .Typepad in your domain name denotes amateur status.  Before the end of the year, this is my goal.  It doesn’t cost very much ($18/yr.), and if I can’t design it so it looks more professional, I will hire someone.  I am quite frugal, so it has been hard for me to come to the point of paying for something I can get for free.

Source:  http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/actions-to-build-writer-platform/

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #324, Theme: Spectacular

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This Spectacular Age

We are the Age of the New Millennium—
the New Age of Identity,
where you can be anything you want to be,
even if you aren’t and can never be.
We are the Age of Information Technology
that flows at the speed of sound,
depending upon the connection.
We are at the Spectacular Age,
for never before has mankind
seen such leaps and bounds.

The spectacular camera
captures images
that would have been lost in the haze of memory.

The spectacular camcorder
captures a shot of a birthday,
a child’s particular laugh,
a political gaffe.
The camera holder is the apostle
who records the story from his or her perspective.

All is recorded for posterity,
for herstory,
for history.

The electric light drowns out the darkness,
keeping us awake,
aware,
so that we can have pizza
in a brightly lit parlor at four a.m.
Candles are now a novelty—
like a flame of the past.

Books can be downloaded,
uploaded,
and never go out of print—
the words of the authors living long
after they have gone.

I can Skype someone across the globe,
and I don’t even have to wait for a plane,
for I’m already there—
the sights and sounds come through loud and clear.

The feel of newsprint between my fingers
has become a fleeting memory.

Like a Luddite, I go to the bookstore
to open a book the old-fashioned way.
I savor the feel of the slick, embossed cover,
admire the gilt-edged pages,
and delight in the crisp black-and-white.

The clatter of flatware at the dinner table
is drowned out by the clicking of buttons—
the furious sounds of texting.
Conversation is a casualty.

The information superhighway is becoming faster,
like a New York minute—
with so many stops along the way.

I log onto Facebook,
where I go to hang out with friends,
where only those I want can become part of my world.

Then I log on to Twitter—
sending and receiving open telegrams
in 140 characters or less.
I am blitzed by information
that would have taken hours to look up before.

LinkedIn is where my qualifications outshine my shyness.

YouTube is where I watch and listen—
where I can learn everything
and nothing at the same time.

But WordPress—
that is where I tell the world my story,
so that to my descendants,
I will not be a mystery.

I look up from my phone
to find you standing right in front of me,
only to see you looking down at yours.
You do not even know I am there.

 

My Trivial (and not so trivial) Pursuits of Summer

Summery

Though I was disappointed that summer classes weren’t available in my degree program, it’s still been a pretty great summer.  I still accomplished a lot, and used some of my time somewhat wisely.  The list below pretty much sums up the season for me (so far):

  1. Binge watched the entire series of “Medium” on Netflix (I’d missed the last season, so I started with it, and worked my way back).  It’s where I got the idea of including a little note in my child’s lunch (as soon as she’s old enough to read them).
  2. Participated in the Writer’s Digest “Poem-a-Day” challenge for the month of April.
  3. Made my first live television appearance on “The Daily Brew” with my friend, Mandy, who also participated in the challenge.
  4. Writing my third Harlequin novel (the first two haven’t been picked up yet) for the “So You Think You Can Write” contest.
  5. Mastered mouse-moving dexterity with my left hand (no more carpal tunnel in my dominant hand).
  6. Became a volunteer article writer for the Gulf Coast Kid’s House.
  7. Enrolled in a creative writing course at the local college.  I could only get into one class this semester (everything was either full, required a pre-req, or it wasn’t offered during the fall term).  I used this delay as an opportunity to take a class that excites me.
  8. Finally accepted that I will never like bananas (unless they’re in a dessert).  Same goes for sweet potatoes and avocados.
  9. Submitted my collection of children’s nursery rhymes, “Golden Stars and Silver Linings” to Wordsong Press.
  10. Learned how to have fun for fun’s sake.  Not everything has to be a learning opportunity for my two-year-old daughter.  Making memories and having fun is a big part of childhood.  I learned from an occupational therapist that a child’s job is to do just that:  Have fun.
  11. Became a quarter-finalist in the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize contest for my collection of medical poetry, “Complexities”.  (Final results are still pending.)  Whether or not I win, I will still have completed a large body of work in a relatively short amount of time.  I am determined that every piece of writing I’ve deemed good will eventually find a home.  Every rejection is an opportunity to make a piece better.