Friday’s a Dumb Day to Blog.

I love this plant. It looks like a space plant. I do not know what it is. I took this picture at the residency in Wilkes Barre.

It’s not like anybody’s hanging out on the internet to kill time at work.  They’re all doing all the stuff they didn’t do while they were hanging out online earlier in the week.

Also, Friday’s becoming my catch-up day.

Also, I recently read an article about not-Friday being a bomb-ass day to post stuff on Facebook and Twitter.

So I’m thinking about making my blog schedule Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and changing my posts from uploading very early in the morning (usually between 6-7:30 EST) to later in the afternoon (3:00 EST).

I’m also going to be out of town the next two weeks, so my posting schedule might get wonky anyhow.  I’m going to try to share cool pictures and happenings, but I also begin grad classes, participate in a Major Family Wedding, and engage in the usual poverty-battling activities.

I’m not complaining.  I choose to live like this.  It’s the best way to be a reasonable mom for now.  There will be plenty of time for capitalist ambition.

But if you live in the tri-county area, you should consider taking my Writing Workshops at Penn College in the Workforce Development and Continuing Education program.  They are unbelievably inexpensive, and they will be loads of fun, plus open, welcoming, liberal, and kind.

What Do You Do with a BA in English?

From Flickr User MrsDKrebs

If you’re me, you spend a lot of time writing, and then go to graduate school, but don’t finish it, and then wait a few years and try again.

I’m so pumped for all of you to see tomorrow’s post.  I think you’re really going to like it.  It is about Child and it is funny.  It is funny because kids are funny, and sometimes they are funny in adult ways but they don’t know why.  It is a thing that makes being a mother a total joy.

But next week, I’ll be at the residency.  I have not posted ahead because I am hoping to make the time to write my reflections on the residency while I am there.  But just in case they keep me too busy writing (which I hope they do), I’m letting all of you know that I might not be on my regular schedule next week.

All will normalize on Monday the 25th.

I know I’m going to have billions of things to share when I get back.

 

Webinar on Blogging a Book: Where Do We Rest in Free Content Land?

From Flickr User nowviskie

I listened to a free webinar from Writer’s Digest on How to Blog a Book, which is a book by Nina Amir that came out recently.

The webinar was one week ago today.

Here’s the link to the book.  It came out from Writer’s Digest publishing.

Nina said that we have to blog every day (or on an unrelenting schedule).

She said not to give your content away so quickly, that posts should be 250-500 words, and that you need to lead up to the book for at least 6 months.

She posted images of Julie & Julia, Stuff White People Like, 101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress, etc.  These were blogs that became popular and that landed their authors book deals.  She told us that we could do it the other way, too.  That we could actually write our book on a blog.  She said that doing it the other way is called “booking a blog.”  I think she made that up.

She said that 81% of Americans claim to have a book in their heads that they want to write, and that only 2% of people actually do.

She suggested that the medium of blogging could help us to develop the book and the discipline to write at the same time.  She suggested that the reason it works to write a book on your blog is that it’s efficient: you’ll be building your platform while writing your book.  She also said that she heard an editor at some big-name publishing house say that blogs are a great test market for the sale-ability of a book.

She was careful to point out that nonfiction works better on blogs.

And she was sure to remind us that we have to give people a reason to buy the printed version of our book that we’ve (presumably) blogged and sold to a publisher.  That we should leave out chapters of special features or information.  She said that people will buy the book because it’s difficult to read a blog as if it’s a book.

But here’s the thing.  We all know that the ratio of blogs to blog-to-book deals is staggeringly tiny.  Amir suggested that there might be 72 book deals from blogs each year.

How many blogs are there?  I couldn’t even hazard a guess.  Certainly hundreds of thousands.

And how many people are there who believe that they are swell writers, but who are actually quite terrible?

So still, even with the advice, a great idea, and competitive writing chops, it seems that odds are still exceedingly slim, and that people out blogging books are going to add to the excess of free content, thereby making it more difficult still for writers to get paid for writing. And it is already incredibly difficult, even for excellent writers.

And now I find that what I hoped would be illuminating was actually annoying and disillusioning.  And a webinar, which is totally dorky.

And it also made me hate Writer’s Digest a little bit.  I’ve had a minor suspicion that they’re really just a factory for content that’s designed to extract money from a bunch of desperate writer hopefuls.  HOWEVER, I do find their publication to be incredibly helpful, and Writer’s Market is amazing, and I tend to get overly cynical whenever I’m disappointed.  So next week, let’s hope the cynicism wanes.

Till then, what do ya’ll think?  Anybody with plans to blog a book? Anybody tried?

Slow Down the Train! Notes on My Personal Relationship with Blogging.

From Flickr User ErinKphoto

When I first started blogging in Earnest, was it only half a year ago?  Sheesh…  What happened to the first half of 2012?

But that’s how I roll:

If I’m excited and passionate, it’s total immersion with very little space for perspective until I’m a few weeks in.  So with this blog, I was building and researching it at the same time.  That’s a model that works great in book writing, but not so much with business, I’m finding.

And those of you who know me personally know that I get excited and passionate about a lot of things, easily in fact.  I’m not really cool with just, you know, living the life of a mom, doing the bare minimum to get by.  I always need to be thinking about or studying something or working toward my next Big Goal.

So this blog is that: it’s a next Big Thing kind of goal, a “Holy shit, I can be successful at doing something I love and look at these tools to use to get more successful.  Life is awesome!” sort of thing.

And I get so many ideas.  I get more ideas than I can write.  Sometimes, I try to pile them all together into a single post (that’s when you get weird, but sort of popular, ones like the one about New Girl).

And sometimes, rarely, I don’t really want to write.  Usually, that’s if something else is going on, and I need to chill out.

And I do.  Reluctantly.  I’ve got a ticker running in my head at all times of the 80 million things that need to happen.  And I get in kind of a hurry about stuff–I start to worry that time is running out, and if I don’t do all the laundry in the house, write 1700-2400 words, pitch 8 articles, submit 2 stories, and spend some time with my child & fella in the next hour, that I will have failed at life.

But all this aside, there are some things that need to happen in the next month or so, when things get really hairy at the start of grad school, and one of the things I’m doing to prepare my life for it is to slow down on blogging.  I will to continue to write with energy, but instead of posting what I’m thinking about today, I will schedule it for another day.  I’ve been practicing, and I think I can get comfortable with thinking about tomorrow’s audience instead of today’s.

This pace will give me a week and two thirds worth of material from every week on my present schedule.  It will allow me to get ahead, will give me more time for working on other writing, give me some space to watch and participate in Twitter to greater effect, maybe, and getting some projects I’d like to finish before the end of the year in hand, and it will keep me from going insane over the next three years while I’ll be relentlessly busy with life, my writing & editing business, and school.

So here’s the new blogging schedule:  the posts will go up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings starting Monday.  That’s May 21, 2012.  There may be occasional Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday posts, but these will be the exception instead of the rule.

And thanks for hanging out, subscribing, and for being dang cool.  I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the blog.  I suspect it’ll be better written and polished.

And keep your eye out.  You’ll see some commerce type changes over there in the right menu bar pretty soon.  And I’m also thinking of toying with the color scheme.  Thoughts?

More Versatile Blogging –or– Great Blogs You Should Read + 7 Facts About Me

Gerry Wilson subscribed to my blog and then like two days later, she gave me this award.  I’m always honored when somebody starts getting an email every time I post.  I post five days a week, and typically my posts are like 1000-1500 words, so that’s kind of a commitment.  It’s also a signal to me to trudge forth.  So thank you, Gerry Wilson, for following and reading my blog, for giving me a reason to blog.  And also, thank you for this award.

What I’m supposed to do next is to list seven random things about myself.

Then I’m supposed to nominate seven other bloggers.

I will try to pick seven different bloggers than last time I received this award (Holy Birds!).

1.  I have two favorite colors, red and green.  It bums me out that these two colors signify my least favorite holiday of the year, because I would really like to wear them together more often.  I wear red glasses, earrings, and shoes as often as possible.  I like green sweaters in particular.

2.  I own a pair of Pajama Jeans.  They were a holiday gift, and they are the best thing I have ever received.  I wear them as often as they are clean.  They are especially nice when I’m crampy and on rainy days.  Today is both.

3.  My undergraduate claim to fame is embarrassing.  It was in Fiction Writing Workshop 3 or 4, so the serious writing people were mostly there.  We read a ZZ Packer story, I don’t remember which one, and I said something like, “At first I thought this was going to be just another one of those bleeding cunt stories…” It was when I was first learning the ways of the feminist Jedi that involve using strong language about sexuality and womanhood in order to take away those words’ power, to stop people from misappropriating words for our parts and processes for abusive purposes. Outside of the context of the Vagina Monologues rehearsals I was attending, the whole thing was a touch hyperbolic. My professor and mentor still, still, seven (or eight or nine?) years later, quotes me on that.  And he reminds me every time I see him that I said it.

4.  I did not know a thing about my ethnic heritage until I moved to New England at age 20 and people kept being unsatisfied when I answered “American” to the question, “What are you?”  I’m mostly German with a touch of Swiss, French, and Scottish.  But I was born in the US.

5.  I know this is irrational, but I am immediately mistrustful of any man who shares the first name of my daughter’s biological father.  This can be troublesome because it’s a fairly common first name.  I knew a spate of men with that first name when I was in college.  I was in love with half of them and abhorred the other half. I’ve never been lukewarm on a single one. No, I’m not going to tell you what the first name is.  I’m working through it.

6.  My very first email address was i.like.taffy@juno.com.  That was in like 1992?  Don’t try to email it, nothing will happen.  I tried logging in years later only to be denied access.  I don’t even know if juno.com still exists.

7.   I found 3 silver hairs at the top of my head since I got my hair cut very short.  I am thrilled.  The late grandmother I’m most like had beautiful, 100% white hair by the time she was fifty.  My hair is very dark brown, and I am looking forward to being able to put streaks of purple in my white, white hair as an old bird.

I offer the following with a caveat:  I know I should be reading more blogs.  But if you read the productivity post, you know I’m pretty strict with myself in terms of reading for leisure, especially right now as I prepare for grad school + do all my regular stuff.

Beth Bates is a writerly woman, a generous spirit, and a great twitter follow: @bethbates.

Marco North’s blog, “Impressions of an Expat” is moving, beautifully written, and actually, if you must know, makes me a touch jealous.  Also a great twitter follow: @marco_north

I promise this is my only duplicate from my last list, but my friend Jamie just got her 100th follower.  That’s an excuse to bestow upon her the label “versatile.”  But more than that, she’s smart on books and a wonderful person. On twitter, she’s @EditorJamieC

Cathy Day’s blog is great.  Her posting schedule is less insane than mine, but her posts are always thoughtful and interesting from the perspective of being a writer and a teacher of writing.  You can follow her on twitter @daycathy.

Laura Kurk is a YA Novelist, and she cares about grammar.  I haven’t read a ton of her blog yet, and she does not appear to post very often, but her posts are eclectic, and you can follow her on twitter @LauraKurk

Darellyn Saloom writes about her farm.  She’s also co-author of the memoir of a woman boxer.  Two huge points in my book: co-authorship & farm life.  Neither are easy, both require character and chops and inner resolve.  She’s followable as @ficwriter.

And the last I’ll offer is not a blog, rather a feature.  It’s On the Ether by Porter Anderson.  It’s a Thursday post at Jane Friedman’s blog, and let me tell you, these are intense.  Incredible, will leave you reeling, will definitely teach you and make you more aware: a better literary and world citizen.  But Anderson himself suggests proceeding with caution: do NOT try to read the whole thing in one sitting (I did, twice, and couldn’t do anything with my brain the rest of the day, no lie).  He’s on twitter, too, as @Porter_Anderson

The moral of my selections:  If you want to be a writer and part of the world of books, publishing, and thinking and writing about books, publishing, and words, YOU NEED TO JOIN TWITTER AND PAY ATTENTION.  

So, nominees,  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to thank me for nominating you, write seven strange/unfamiliar/quirky/random things about yourself, choose seven other bloggers, and then let them know however you choose: facebook, twitter, commenting on their blogs, etc.   Also, please include the image above.  It’s there by a URL, so clicking it should take you to http://www.versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com.  Also, I will not be upset with you if you do not (or cannot) do this.

Baggott on Blogging, Asking a Question We Don’t Ask Enough.

This is called Language of the Birds Mural, and the image is from Flickr user jay-galvin

I read a lot about blogging.  There is a lot of advice about it.  Some people say that monetizing your blog is something you can only do if you’re as insanely popular as, for example, Shaq.  (Is Shaq still popular?  I think you know what I mean: household name, superstar status).  Some people say that bloggers who don’t monetize are wasting opportunities, but that you can’t monetize with Adsense or other ad space, so you need to monetize yourself.  I’ve written about that here.  Still others say that blogging is essential for authors–like me, and like people more successful than I am–to blog to “build a platform.”  Which somebody else says is more like being a literary citizen.  (I like that).

People build pipe dreams on blogs.  Bored housewives blog.  Authors blog.  People who are selling something or themselves blog.  People blog to give advice, to build their businesses, for personal fulfillment.

I have been thinking about my own blog a lot lately.  I took a week off so that I could spend some time thinking through some posts, and get a few in the hopper.

And I’ve been really annoyed lately by artists who work for free.  When we work for free, we steal money from ourselves and other artists.

But I work for free all the time, on my blog.  Sort of.  My blog is an investment in my future, it does not bring me money yet.  I’m aiming for 1,000 true fans over the next three years (but certainly by my 35th birthday, my 32nd is right around the corner).

And I do get paid from it.  Here’s what my blog pays me: 1.  Writing practice, 2. blogging discipline/skill set/Wordpress Savvy, 3. great connections with swell people in the writing/book/publishing world, 4. clout and authority in the same world, in which I’m hoping to be entangled professionally for the rest of my life.

Baggott recently asked some important questions

Julianna Baggott is an author I admire particularly because of her refusal to eschew commercial fiction as worthless even though she is also part of the academic literary community, and her ability to have feet in both commercial and literary worlds; and because she writes commercial fiction as it should be written: with respect for the craft, with commitment to language, and with love for her readers.  She also writes under the names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode.

She has a blog.  I read it sometimes.

She recently posted a piece entitled, “The Death of Blogging and… Blogging”  In the beginning of the post, she said she read an article about how blogging may be dying.  She admitted that it might make her happy if that is true, and she asked some other important questions, too.  Go on, then.  Click & read the whole post.

The question she asked that filled me with the most glee is this:

 I’m worried more broadly about free content in the Information Age and — amid the incredible inundation of things to read — how do writers of books convince the public that some words still need to be paid for? Have I contributed to a cultural message that words are cheap, if not free?

The truth is that good words aren’t cheap.  They are very costly, whether or not the writer is ever paid.  Good writers spend a ton of time writing: writing well can be an incredibly inefficient process.  Trouble is, we writers are more desperate to be read than we are to be paid.  After all, getting a job as a food server is easy enough.  So is getting a job for the state or at a gas station.  There are zillions of ways to get money that have nothing to do with writing.

Conversely, (unless you’re Julianna Baggott), getting articles placed in magazines, newspapers, literary journals–getting manuscripts in front of agents and editors is excruciatingly difficult.  I got a rejection kind of recently, and no matter how many I get, no matter how many times it says essentially the same thing–which is basically, “You know this is a subjective thing, kid.  Stick to your guns.”–it stings.  It sucks.  It envelopes me in self doubt and makes me want to zing back to the editor what a tasteless toad she is to not want my brilliant essays, stories, articles, or ideas.

Of course, I can’t, and I don’t, I ultimately don’t take it personally, and I will try again.  Right after I shake the self doubt.  That part of it does get easier.  At first, I’d lose a day to wallowing.  Now, gimmie four minutes.

Baggott also observed the following:

It’s hard to talk about making money as a writer in our culture, in general. Why?

1. You’re in a career where the most common adjective used to describe your job title is “starving”; Poe died in a gutter. Real artists shouldn’t expect to make money, right? (The Poe reference is an important one — as Poe was a writer who certainly wrote for money to support others.)

2. Many people believe they can write books — unlike, say, perform brain surgery — and so writers aren’t doing anything particularly remarkable.

3. Many people want to write and writers should be thankful to simply get published at all. Who do we think we are, anyway?

Yeah!  Especially that third one. Sometimes the sense is very much, “How dare you care if I screw up your work, how dare you care that we’ve paid you practically nothing for it! You’re lucky we’re taking your work at all!  Hell, you should pay us!”

Most of the magazines and papers I’ve worked with have been lovely, really.  And their editors are skilled, dedicated people who see the injustice, but are powerless, or are doing the best they can.

And I would add to number two that not only do many people believe they can write books, many people who have no business at all writing books do, and get paid–probably not handsomely, but paid–to do it!  I direct your attention to exhibit A: The Boddice Ripper.  I recently edited one that would’ve been particularly shredded in any college-level writing workshop.

So is the problem giving the work away for free, or is the problem that we don’t value good writing culturally because a) not enough people can tell when some writing is better than others and b) we live in the Information Age, as Baggot points out, and so much writing is free on the internet, why would anybody pay anything for any writing at all?

Regardless, writing is a profession.  It takes a long, long time to get good at it, and being a good writer is much rarer than the present cultural mood would indicate.  Baggott references the 10,000 hour rule whenever she talks to and about writer hopefuls.  And she’s right.  It’s not a craft that’s come by easily.  And there are loads of good writers who never make a dime.

So what do you think about free content?  Is it helpful or harmful?  And if it’s harmful, what can we do about it?

Extremely Temporary Blog Pause

This is from Cea on Flickr, and I just love it. I think I will use this image in every blog post from now until forever.

Dear loyal, faithful friends, family, and strangers who read this blog,

All the blogging experts agree that I should tell you when I’m not going to be posting, or if I’m going to be posting extra.

As I develop my ideas about this blog and my ideas about what I should write about in it, I find that I’m spending too much time re-reading the posts and making tiny grammar/style tweaks throughout the day.  If I can give myself a little more time between writing and posting, I’ll spend significantly less time doing this.

I am working to be more efficient.

So this week, I’ve got a big load anyhow–not that that ever stops me blogging–and I’m going to spend it doing some catching up.  So I’ll be back, bright n’ early on Monday May 7th.

While I’m gone, look into my classes at Penn College.

Check out some of the older posts over to the right.  The most recent 10 are archived there, or you can use the search bar, or if you’re worried you’ll forget to come back Monday, you should subscribe via email or via RSS.

Thanks a million for reading.

And if you’ve got ideas or suggestions for blogging topics–stuff you’d like more or less of–use the contact form, or just shoot me an email at AprilLineWriting [at] gmail [dot] com.  I accept and offer guest posts, please take a moment to read my policy.

If you can’t bear the thought of life without me for a whole week, follow me on Twitter, or check me out on Facebook.  Most of what I post there is public.  Or if you’re only after the posts, but you don’t want to subscribe or tweet, my Facebook Fan page is available for liking to your right.

Love,

April