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Social Media

Unplugging. Completely.

First off, let’s get one thing straight: the internet is my favorite thing. Right up there with coffee, wine, and chisel-jawed superheroes. My. Favorite. Thing. I love staying connected with my friends through email and texting, talking with readers and other writers via social media, endlessly scrolling Tumblr for new pictures of Chris Evans, and keeping up on the latest developments in my fangirl communities.

Seriously. Have you seen these new pictures of him??

Seriously. Have you seen these new pictures of him??

So it may come as a surprise that my entry for our Bad Girl series on guilty pleasures is all about unplugging.

The thing is, no matter how great it feels to be connected 24/7, in this day and age, it means being connected 24/7, and every now and then, it just gets exhausting.

I can always tell when the press of it all is starting to get to me. The flurry of instant communication switches from being vital and invigorating to draining, and I hit a point where I feel like I’m missing what’s happening right in front of me. The tweets and Facebook status updates that usually have me excited for my friends and colleagues make it seem like everyone is having an amazing life except me. Every alert about an incoming email sends a shiver of fear up my spine, because it could mean yet another thing I have to add to my unending to-do list. Hell, even the fan reactions to the latest movie trailer have me feeling like I’m behind on my fangirl activities, and that’s when I really know it’s gone too far.

It’s time to turn it all off.

Sometimes, I unplug in little ways. My husband and I will sit down to binge watch some old TV show, and I’ll leave my electronic friends in the other room. I’ll put my phone on airplane mode before going to sleep so I won’t wake in the middle of the night to that alert light blinking, tempting me to see what I’ve missed. I’ll close Tweetdeck until I’ve hit my word count for the day.

Other times, I go whole hog.

Like right now.

You see, I’m writing this post from thirty-thousand feet, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. My husband and I are on our way home after a week-long vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii. We’d been planning it for months, and with everything going on with our careers and our families, we needed the break. Yet still, when the time finally came to leave, I was almost dreading it. I was on deadline and anticipating edits incoming at any minute. I had a workshop to lead at my local RWA chapter meeting in just a few weeks. Captain America 3 was on the cusp of beginning filming. How could I possibly go offline for an entire week???

Easily, as it turned off. And wow, I hadn’t been kidding about needing a break.

Over the course of our stay in Hawaii, we snorkeled with sea turtles and hiked volcanic craters and reconnected with ourselves and each other. I read books instead of articles and blog posts and tweets. I barely checked my email, and I didn’t open Facebook once, and I feel amazing and energized for it.

IMG_0525

Try feeling stressed out here. Just try.

Now, with those beautiful islands an invisible speck long-gone over the horizon, I’m feeling ready to reconnect and to tackle all the big challenges coming up ahead. I’m excited to see what’s been going on while I’ve been gone, and to get back to the characters I left to fend for themselves for a few days, and what’s more, I have a whole host of new sparks of ideas for stories buzzing around in my head.

I felt awfully guilty about unplugging, but it truly was a pleasure to turn it all off for a little while.

So much of one—and so revitalizing of one—that who knows. Next time I feel the exhaustion settling in again, maybe I won’t even have to be guilty about taking some time to unplug.

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A Girlz Guide to Social Media, Vol. 3

There’s always someone. You’re FaceBook friends with him because he’s your third cousin one removed, or you follow her on Twitter because you love her books. But here’s the problem: They’re into politics. Really into politics. And more importantly, you disagree with every single thing they believe in. You don’t want to unfollow/unfriend them because you’d still like to interact with them, but something has got to give before you smash in your computer screen.

What’s a girl to do? Well, outside of taking a deep breath and striving for Zen, not much really. But what you can do is not become like them. Which brings us to the third installment of our Girlz Guide to Social Media series:

How To Have An Opinion About Politics Without Alienating Your Followers
(Or Coming Across As A Giant A**hole)

The thing is, if you’re using social media as a writer, chances are you’re doing it to make connections with fellow writers, interact with agents and editors, and learn about the industry. The focus should be on writing. But you can’t connect with people if you don’t let some of your personality show through, too. Some people recommend staying away from anything even remotely controversial and to not touch politics with a ten-foot pole. Personally, I think it’s artificial to never say anything about politics if that’s part of who you are, but there are ways to do it that aren’t alienating, or, well, you know. Dickish.

Here are some quick tips for sticking your toe into the murky waters of talking politics without damaging your brand:

  1. Moderation. If writing is your focus, then politics isn’t. The end. Keep political status updates and tweets to no more than 10% of your total social media presence. (Yes, I just made that number up, but it seems reasonable, right?) That’s one in ten. More than that, and your focus is slipping.
  2. Facts. Check them. Nothing gets my bile burning faster than someone I disagree with spouting off on a political rant about things that aren’t even true. There are a lot of handy-dandy graphs and figures floating around on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Check the source, because for all you know, some nutter in a tin-foil hat made the graphic with absolutely no factual basis. If you can’t find at least something to back up the numbers, don’t share, reblog or retweet.
  3. Talk about the issues, not the idiots. There’s so much temptation to label the people who disagree with you as stupid, foolish, sheep-like or intent on destroying the country. I have a fair number of friends who are on the other end of the political spectrum from me, and by talking with them (not at them), I’ve learned that they all have the best interests of the country in mind, they just think we should take a different path. They’re not stupid. They’re not evil. We simply disagree.Try making your statement more about, “I believe ______ about _____ issue,” and less about, “ALL PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE _______ SHOULD DIE AND STOP DESTROYING AMERICA!!!”, or, “I CAN’T BELIEVE THOSE F**ING IDIOTS ACTUALLY SUPPORT THAT NEO-NAZI FASCIST [insert politician’s name here]!!!”

    This is not to say that you can’t use snark or wit – just don’t demonize or demean the opposition. Even beyond the fact that some of your potential readership might include people who disagree with you, it’s really the decent thing to do.

I truly believe that by keeping a close eye on the frequency, accuracy and vitriol of your political statements, it’s possible to both express your opinion and keep from alienating your readership.

Now if only my third cousin once-removed would get the memo on this…

(Special thanks to Elizabeth Michels for swapping blog dates with me while she’s out of town, and for letting me chime in on this series. You’re the best, EM!)

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Dar’s News From The Front Lines: It’s… #PitchWars!

*stands to attention* Sgt. Dar reporting for debriefing, SIR!

(…Or would I be a Private First Class? Maybe a Specialist? …I’m not sure if Sergeant is the appropriate ranking for me on this blog. I don’t do nearly enough work and- blog post? What blog post? Oh. Blog post. Right.)

“We’re extremely excited to announce an upcoming event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents.

Here’s the deets…
·        The teams will consist of 1 agented author or industry intern or editor (coaches) and 1 aspiring author.
·        November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They’ll be very specific genres. Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts.
·        December 5: Aspiring writers will submit 3 “applications” to their top choices for coaches to the contest email (brendadrakecontests@gmail.com) during the allotted times (8AM to 8PM EST). That means, participants will send three separate emails to the contest email addressing each with one of their three top choices for coach…”

There’s more! Read full details on Brenda Drake’s blog post.

With the popularity of second-gen talent shows like The Voice and X Factor (feel like I must mention more than one, even though Xtina tops crazy-phace Brit Brit, sorry) it’s easy to see where the inspiration for this awesome event came from and the wild success in its future. Or the wild success I’m hoping it has and helping it out by spreading the word. I know so many talented, hard-working writers (cough cough great minds cough cough) who are still unagented.

While there are many great YA authors involved, the event is open to all ages and all genres. The announcement for what mentors are looking for is happening on November 26th, but they’ve been giving hints on the #pitchwars hashtag. Stalking the hashtag is the best way to get up to date information and meet all the cool peeps involved.

[Warning: Dar’s Soapbox Alert] For those reluctant to get involved with the writer community on Twitter… Need any more convincing than this event? Twitter is an amazing tool for writers, breaking down barriers and new ground in strides. Everyone needs to find what works for them, but I’m a fan of Twitter and its versatility.

Entering also gives you a chance to interact with new writers outside of your usual circle. Writers who know people who know more people who know even more people. In this industry (and this applies outside of publishing as well) networking is crucial to a successful, healthy career.

By saying that, I do not mean using people for all you can get. When I meet someone and develop a relationship with them, when we are like-minded and get along really well, I want to help them and put resources in their hands to help them succeed. This attitude, hopefully, doesn’t end with personal success.

“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’
‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion

Quoting Jane Austen was totally necessary. Totes. [/end Dar’s Soapbox]

For easy stalking, I mean, following on the #PitchWars updates, check out the hashtag or subscribe to my handy Twitter list of all the #PitchWars mentors.

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A Girlz Guide to Social Media, Vol. 2

 

Good bye summer! Hello fall! The change in seasons is certainly a welcome event at my house. Aside from cooler weather, fall fashions and college football, I’m ridiculously excited about my little monkey going back to school! Summer is rough for me as a stay at home mom and a writer, just to be honest for a moment. And recently I’ve fought not to break one of my primary rules in life and in social media:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all—online. Do, however, put it in your manuscript.

I’ll get to that second part in a minute. First, I want to discuss complaining about work, kids, husbands and home life all over the internet. In my last post on this subject, Social Media Vol.1, I compared Twitter, Facebook and the Blog world to a big party. At a party, who would you gravitate toward, the angry lady talking about the aching bunions on her feet or the lady with the easy smile engaged in witty discussion? I would wager you want to have fun. You’re at a party after all. So you choose the cheerful person. Nobody wants to hang out with a Negative Nancy or a Whiney McWhinerson. This is fact. Misery may love company, but company does not love misery. People want to spend time laughing, talking, sharing and having fun with others. So, if you’re bemoaning life everyday on your social media feeds, your friends, likes and followers are soon going to run like roaches when the light is turned on. Now, you may be saying, “But I have bad days!” So do I. We all do. When you have a bad day and you can’t think of a single positive thought to put online, don’t say anything. It’s much better to fall silent for a few days than to vent your aggressions on everyone around you. If you have a positive outlook on life, your circle of influence online will grow without much effort.

Where do you put all that emotion on the bad days? In your manuscript!

Last week I hit my summer breaking point one week shy of school starting. What was my breaking point after months of chaos and 4 year old entertainment? My hair. I know this is shallow and awful, but when you’re worn down to the point your hair is all you have left and you get a bad ‘do? It’s not pretty—literally and figuratively. Somewhere amid my dismay of looking in the mirror and whining to my friends, I had an epiphany. I could either complain on Twitter until everyone stopped following me, or I could pull out a pen and paper and write about it. I sat down to write this blog post that day, but when my pen hit paper I began writing my thoughts in third person. After 4 pages of scrawled notes inspired by my hair, I realized I had just written the big black moment of my current manuscript.

I admit I’m a nonlinear writer; this means I plot my entire story to the extreme then jump around writing what I feel inspired to write that day. I also know few people work this way within their manuscript. So, my advice is this: keep a journal. Only, in that journal write your thoughts, worries and feelings down in third person. This way you can use those bad days to deepen the emotion of your writing.

For example: She trailed her fingers through the lank hair spilling over her shoulder. Brown, it would never be anything more than brown. For a moment—a small moment—it had been more. She had been more. “Lies,” she whispered the word into the still night air.

This is far more productive than ranting online, right? And, you’ll still have friends at the end of your bad day. Do you use your bad days for good fiction? I’d love to hear from you.

xx- E. Michels

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A Girlz Guide to Social Media: Vol. 1

If there’s one thing I know inside and out, it’s proper etiquette for a dinner party or social gathering. And everyone says write what you know, so I thought I would start a little series with that in mind…

 


You may be saying, “Dinner party? What does that have to do with writing?” Let me explain. We’re all expected to be active in social media before getting published, yes? Well, I look at social media as one big party. There are clusters of conversations scattered across a large room, people are laughing, drinking, sharing stories of their lives and in general, catching up. Then, there’s you. You just walked inside. Even while outside you could hear the low rumble of voices as you approached the door. Now that you’re here, what do you do? In other words, you’ve set up your Facebook page, you have a Twitter account, you even have a blog—just like you’re told you should if you want to be an author one day. But, what now?

 

Now, it’s time to mingle! See and be seen! This, however, is where the tricky part begins… What do you say? With all these people here, who do you talk to? And, are there rules? Things you shouldn’t say? These are all questions I’ll answer in this series. Today, I’m going to start with a lesson my mom taught me when I was just a wee little girl with a big mouth:

 

Never gossip in a restaurant. You don’t know who is sitting at the next table.


How does this apply to social media? I’ve read some shocking blogs out there talking about literary agents and publishers. The writing world is very small. How does the writer of that blog know who reads their posts? They don’t. I’ve read really inflammatory remarks about authors and books on twitter. How does that person know I’m not good friends with the author in question?

 

This actually happened to me in person at a cocktail party a few years ago. Without going into specifics, there had been a big news story about someone in Politics. The next day I went to a party…yes, I admit it was a Junior League party and I’m one of “those” girls. Someone was making awful judgments about this person in the news. Did she notice my discomfort? No. What I never told her was the person in the news was my good friend’s father-in-law. It was awkward. And because of her comments, I distanced myself from her. Social media only amplifies this to a greater magnitude. If you make hurtful remarks about someone in the industry—even in jest—you are making an enemy. So, here are a few guidelines to follow that will make it easy:

 

  • Never share what was written in a rejection letter except with your best friend- OFFLINE!
  • Never repeat evil remarks written in your contest entry feedback. Yes, it happens. Yes, it hurts. But, no good can come of sharing it.
  • Never make fun of a book you read recently. It was a stinker. We’ve all read them; just don’t name names on Twitter.
  • You heard the juiciest bit of gossip at your last writer’s group meeting about Publisher X. Whatever you do, don’t repeat this in print—anywhere.

 

Social media can be a blast! I love blogging, tweeting and facebooking! And if you think of it like mingling at a party, you can have a great time too. Come on, let’s go party! I’m @southerntart and I follow back all non-scary writers.

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