The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘writers

It’s holiday time and time to start thinking about the writers in your life (including yourself!).

My amazing writing group meets once a month. At our meeting this morning, one of the members surprised us with gifts. We don’t usually get each other gifts around the holidays, so it felt very special.

We all received different kinds of bookmarks. A perfect gift for a writer! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really appreciated high quality bookmarks.

One woman in the group who loves horses received this one. It’s leather and is like mini-stirrups. Very cool!

A newer member in the group received this magnetic bookmark shaped like a cassette tape.

I and several others, in the group, received this beautiful butterfly bookmark. Each one had different strands of colored beads that seemed to fit our personalities. So lovely! We also noted that it could also be used as a hair ornament!

Her generosity prompted me to search around the web for a roundup of fun writing gifts that might make your holiday lists.

You’ll find everything here from awesome bookends, literary games, writer inspired jewelry, computer software to desk foot hammocks (which I had never before heard of until now).

Take a peek and you just might find the perfect gift for yourself, or a beloved writer in your life.

http://www.10minutenovelists.com/7-gift-ideas-for-writers/

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/11/22/more-gift-ideas-for-writers/

http://giftideasforwriters.com/50-creative-gifts-for-writers-megalist/

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This week, I met a very special writer and activist—Gloria Steinem! On Wednesday, I was on a panel honoring 45 years of Ms. Magazine! I serve on the Ms. Scholars Board, a group that helps feminist scholars translate their ideas for a popular audience. I discovered Ms. in college through my mentor, and loved it. Ms. still represents the best in feminist journalism and has often been the first to break stories about sexual violence, the wage gap, and the feminization of poverty that changed the national discourse. I had the privilege to write a featured article for their 40th anniversary.

Gloria Steinem is a journalist, activist and co-founder of Ms. I’ve always wanted to meet her. I admire her wit, persistence, humor, insight, style and sheer brilliance. I was on the panel with her and watched her work then and after and can say she walks her talk. She’s 83, kind, forthright and unstoppable. And, she wears amazing leather pants! Later at a reception, I told her how much I admired her book Revolution from Within: A Book of Self Esteem.

It was a vulnerable book that dared to talk about the importance of feminist self-care and the importance of inner work while on the path of political activism. Despite its bestselling status, it was universally panned by critics at the time in the 90s-they just didn’t get the importance of wrestling with the inner dimensions of internalized ‘isms’ nor ruminating on the mind/body split. Ideas that are now front and center in social justice circles as well as in health circles given what we know about how trauma effects the body in complex ways.

She has never stopped being a journalist and never stopped writing her truth which I find inspiring.

She is a living treasure and I am so glad that President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for a lifetime of human rights work.

It’s so powerful to meet a writer that you have long admired.

Recently the amazing publicist who works for my publisher, Book Smugglers, asked me to consider using a new social media platform—Instagram. She was putting together a cool campaign on Instagram to promote myself and the other authors with novellas by BSP. Instagram is a social media platform where you can share photos and videos. You can create geotags and hashtags. Instagram is visually driven. The Pew Research Center’s study, conducted a few years ago, notes that it tends to draw in a millennial audience.

And, I should note that the publicist wasn’t adamant that I start using Instagram—she was willing to post my content that I sent her. I’m pretty open to using social media, but I was reticent to add yet one more item on my already densely packed list of social media activities. Still, when your publicist asks you to consider something that they feel will be helpful with developing “organic reach” for your book, it’s wise and courteous to say yes.

In the end, I did join Instagram and it I’m glad I did. But, in doing so, it made me think more about a writer’s relationship to social media and how that relationship evolves over one’s career. It made me reflect on the choices I was making (or not making) related to social media. I thought I would share these musings with you in the hopes that it will spark your own reflections. Some of you may feel really comfortable with social media, and some may feel like it’s a drag and time suck. I find that for many writers (especially newer ones), social media is something they do begrudgingly and it often inspires feelings of guilt, dread and anxiety.

Reflecting on my choices, I can say that I’ve (unconsciously) followed four simple principles:

1) Find out what social media platforms you like and use them.

2) Use social media to serve your audience/community/tribe.

3) Grow your social media (and time learning about social media), in proportion to your goals.

4) Model your social media etiquette after other writers and creatives that you respect and enjoy following.

Facebook

The first social media platform I started using was Facebook. I read Clay Sharkey’s book Here Comes Everybody which was chock-full of reasons why Facebook was an important tool to develop and enhance social relationships and “get things done”. This changed my thinking about the value of Facebook.

Pros:

Facebook is my favorite social media platform.

There is an ease to Facebook. It’s very simple to use, so my technophobic concerns were immediately quieted.

I found that I had a natural voice and ease in expressing myself in Facebook. I love inspiring people and connecting with them, so Facebook seemed the perfect medium. A big plus of Facebook is that my insights can be shorter than a standard blog post.

For many years, I didn’t have an Author Facebook page, but used my personal page to do ‘writing sprints’ and offer up writing and creative encouragement.

I am always amazed at who finds and likes my posts. It’s a good cross section of creative writer friends and academic friends (who are supportive and/or interested in developing their writing).

I now use my personal page less for discussions of writing and have relied more heavily on my Author Facebook page. I set up an Author Facebook page a few years ago when I started developing more webinars and online trainings.

There are lots of writers that have used Facebook very creatively to keep their community engaged. Facebook is an invaluable place to cultivate your community and ideally, once you have some publications–your super fans. Many writers have closed groups where they offer super fans, first crack at content, and other goodies. Other writers use their Author Page to update folks about upcoming publications and/or events and even solicit beta readers. If you teach writing workshops, you can create closed groups and offer specific resources to participants.

Cons:

Facebook is always changing its algorithms so having an Author Page doesn’t mean that the people you want to see your work will. It used to be that everyone saw every post and that’s not true anymore. I don’t usually “boost” posts which involves paying Facebook so that they will show your post to many more people (inside and outside your network).

Upkeep:

I post at least once a week, often twice a week. I like culling and sharing interesting tidbits of news, advice and inspiration related to creativity from around the web. I often post different kinds of resources there than what I share on the blog. Although Facebook’s algorithms are always changing, the way the platform looks and feels has been relatively stable, another feature I also appreciate.

BTW: Come play with me on my Author Facebook Page here (or click the link on the sidebar to the right)

Twitter

Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-characters (until recently) messages called “tweets”. Some writers use it for community building and getting to know other authors. Others use it to promote their work. I joined Twitter in 2012 and it took me some time to figure out its value and how to manage my time using it.

In 2015 I attended the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s writing residency which was amazing. I took a great workshop called “Twitter for Authors” that was so empowering and helped me to think differently about Twitter. Mary Johnson shared a power packed handout about Twitter. She made the case that women’s voices were often underrepresented on Twitter and that many female authors were trying to change that. We explored how Roxanne Gay and other prominent writers use Twitter. Mary also noted that many writers used Twitter as a tool for self-promotion and that was OK, as long as we weren’t only using it for that end. Like all social media platforms, one’s goal should be to serve the community by providing great content, not just “look at me, I have a book” updates.

This workshop exposed me to a bevy of women writers active on Twitter and gave me some concrete tools in how to connect to the writing community. It’s taken me some time but I’ve grown my community to on Twitter –it now feels like a community, not just a random bunch of strangers I haphazardly followed when I first joined. I’ve also become a fan of tools like Hootsuite to help automate my tweets.

Pros:

There is a quick responsiveness to Twitter which can feel great. It is easy to populate Twitter with information for your community—use Hootsuite to automate. But, you don’t want to automate too much because part of the fun is actually interacting with folks on Twitter in real time. It’s a great medium for getting to know other writers. Another perk is that readers have connected with me on Twitter. Some have tweeted me their reviews of my work. It’s awesome to connect with readers! This rarely happens for me through either Facebook or even my blog.

Cons and Upkeep:

If you aren’t consistent and tweet often, you can fall off of people’s radars. You also have to practice impulse control. You can’t take things back on Twitter. It is very tempting to tweet something without really thinking about the consequences. Don’t!

You should always bring your best self in all social media correspondence. There is Twitter etiquette that should be learned.

BTW: Come play with me on Twitter

Pinterest

Pinterest is a social media site. You create boards and load pictures or anything that already exists somewhere on the web. I have a couple of different boards including one about Pugs, Writing Projects, Petite Fashion, etc.

I got on Pinterest because my curiosity was peaked, especially after I heard author Joanna Penn discuss it in her fantastic podcast called ‘The Creative Penn’ (sorry I don’t remember which one, but you can see her work on social media below).

She used Pinterest as a way to create a placeholder for images of current writing projects and made boards that documented her novel writing process. I loved that idea! With Pinterest, you can signal to others about your passions, interests, hobbies, etc.

Pros and Upkeep:

Pinterest is very easy to use. You begin by naming and creating a board and ‘pinning’ items to it. You can pin when you feel like it—daily, weekly or monthly. Pinterest also suggest items for you to pin, a feature that keeps your imagination stimulated.

How might Pinterest help you as a writer?

Let’s say you are a fantasy author and you write about dragons. You create a board that collects lots of images of cool dragons.  If someone loves dragons and they are on Pinterest, they will search for dragons. There’s a good chance that they may find your board, pin some of your images and “follow” your board.  They may check out other boards that you have (maybe related to fantasy or not). Over time, they may decide to read one of your dragon themed books. Like Instagram, the idea is that this platform helps attract people based on specific interests and that can lead to interest in what you actually produce. It is thought to help with organic reach—reaching people beyond your networks.

Cons:

Pinterest can be very distracting! I have to be intentional when I go on Pinterest or I go down some beautiful rabbit holes!

BTW: Come play with me on Pinterest

Instagram

This is the new kid on the block for me. I have just started using Instagram. Even before my publicist asked me to join Instagram, I had heard some buzz about how authors were using it. Authors were posting images that related to their story ideas. I heard a good tip (I think from Joanna Penn), that to get started on Instagram, post one thing once a week or even once a month and before you know it, you’ll have lots of images. And, you’ll have followers without trying too hard. I am finding this observation to be true. I also think that I am in a place in my career that having a presence on Instagram is worthwhile.

Pros:

It’s pretty easy to use. You can literally upload any picture and tag it. It doesn’t have to be related to anything specifically about your work. It could be, ‘I just saw this beautiful flower and I wanted to share it with my community.’ I find it fun to upload photos from recent book events.

Cons:

It’s a bit harder to use on my laptop. Like Pinterest, I have to be focused when I go on Instagram. There’s so much interesting visual material, it’s easy to get lost.

Upkeep:

So far none.

BTW: come and play with me on Instagram

At every stage of your writing career, social media can support your goals. It is worth taking the time to reflect on and identify how social media can amplify your writing interests. What’s important to you? Connecting with potential readers? Pitching to editors? Connecting with local writers?

Social media continues to evolve and change and so will our use of it.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to do anything related to social media that you don’t want to (unless your publisher wants you to). Overall, you have a lot of choice about the kind of social media you want to use, how often and for what purpose.

Additional resources:

Jane Friedman’s excellent overview ‘Social Media for Authors: The Toughest Topic to Advise On’ (thanks to Erika Dreifus for posting)

Joanna Penn’s ‘7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand’ and search The Creative Penn for additional social media posts

 

Hi creatives,

I just got back from teaching at the incredible North Carolina Writers’ Network fall conference. It was a blast. I also enjoyed supporting the conference’s first ever NaNoWriMo launch. I’ll have updates about all this and more very shortly. In the mean time, I wanted to share some upcoming local events that I’m proud to be a part of.

***

Are you a fan of the science fiction writer Octavia Butler? Want to talk about Octavia Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel Parable of the Sower? Do you want to learn more about Afrofuturism?

Come join me on Wednesday (tonight!), Nov 8 @7pm at Flyleaf Books! I will have the distinct honor of hosting a conversation about Octavia Butler and Parable of the Sower with my special guest and colleague, Dr. Lilly Nguyen! We will explore the themes in Parable of the Sower and how they engage us on critical questions of humanity’s future, race, gender and transformation. We’ll discuss how Butler’s work has propelled our own, and how it can relate to, inform, and inspire other lives.

It’s OK if you are new to Octavia Butler, read Parable a long time ago, are reading it now, or just want to come and listen!
This is part of a free event series celebrating the US premiere of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower at Carolina Performing Arts, an opera created, written, and composed by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Check out more here!

****

I’m super excited to be reading from Reenu-You this Saturday at the wonderful Ngozi Design Collective at 11am at 321 West Main Street, Durham. I will be joined by speculative fiction author Nicole Kurtz. We will read from our recent publications and discuss how African American female creators are reshaping the landscape of all things sci-fi, fantasy and horror in books, TV and film. Door prizes and refreshments! I’d love to see you there!

Hi folks,

Binge On Books is running a wonderful feature–Sounds like Halloween. They are primarily a book reviewing site. They have asked various writers to read a 5-10 minute selection from their published work. They have posted an audio recording of me reading from my dark fiction/sci-fi novella, Reenu-You. It’s a particularly pivotal and creepy scene.

It was super fun to choose a selection from the book and record it.

I didn’t know anything about them until my publisher pitched me to them. I’ve discovered some really wonderful writers by listening throughout the month. You might, too!

http://bingeonbooks.com/sounds-like-halloween-day-25-with-michele-tracy-berger/

 

Hi folks,

You’ve written your best work and honed it to perfection. Now what? Do you know what venue to submit to? How do you find great venues? How do you write a query letter? How do you beat the odds of rejection?

If you struggle with these questions—consider taking my upcoming workshop: Charting Your Path to Publication: Tips, Techniques, and Lessons for Writers!

I am teaching ‘Charting Your Path’ as a Saturday morning workshop at the upcoming North Carolina Writers’ Network fall conference, Nov 3-5, in Wrightsville Beach!

 

I created this workshop because I know firsthand how challenging it is to take consistent steps to submit one’s work for publication. I also know the joys and frustrations in establishing a publication record that makes one proud. In my coaching work, I often hear from clients about their frustration, lack of preparation and deep confusion about how to create an authentic, sustainable path to publication.

In my workshop, you’ll learn how to select appropriate target publications, track submissions, compose cover letters and find great resources.

In January, I taught a longer version of this workshop through Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program (through Continuing Education). It was deeply fulfilling to share resources and insights I’ve gleaned from my personal experience and my coaching work. And, I keep getting updates from many of the participants, both about their publishing successes and their new enthusiasm in consistently submitting their work in an organized way.

If you haven’t attended the NCWN Fall conference, consider going. It’s a friendly, supportive and well-run conference that attracts topnotch teachers and a diverse group of writers. And, although quite popular, it is a manageable size conference.

Here’s the description for my workshop:

Charting Your Path” is designed for writers at all levels. Attendees will focus most of their time on how and where to submit short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. They’ll examine a variety of venues including literary journals, magazines, newspapers, anthologies as well as how to submit to agents and publishing houses. They will also discuss the role of author mindset as vital to publishing success. There is no one path to publication, but one can follow and replicate the strategies of accomplished writers. Each participant will leave with an action plan with concrete steps toward publication (or, if already published with a plan about how to become more widely so).

Pre-registration is open until Oct 27th. I would love to see you there!

I couldn’t wait to read this book as I am hooked on following the adventures of the brave, smart and complex women that populate Samantha Bryant’s novels. Be prepared for a fast read in this third installment in ‘The Change’ series. Everything pops in this well-plotted novel that continues the adventures of four menopausal women changed forever by the scientist, Cindy Liu. The characters from the first two novels who choose to use their superpowers for the collective good include Linda/Leonel (a woman who was changed into a super strong man), Jessica (a woman who can fly), and Patricia (a woman whose skin can make spikes and armor). In Face the Change, these superheroes feel the consequences of their choices as their work with ‘The Department’ (an organization that deals with supernatural occurrences), deepens in complexity and scope. This has particularly acute ramifications for Leonel and his husband, David. In order to help community relations, the Department’s charismatic director encourages Leonel and Jessica to take on public personas through their new work in the ‘Unusual Cases Unit’. They even get costumes and stage names. This turn of events allows the reader to explore with Leonel and Jessica what it really feels like to be a superhero. Patricia also begins working for the Department. Can a woman used to calling the shots become a team player? Patricia plays with this question throughout Face the Change. Bryant continues the excellent characterization that defines the series and in this book, we spend extended time following Leonel and Patricia.

 

Helen is one of the four women who used Dr. Cindy Liu’s products, but who didn’t turn into a superhero. She’s still the villain and she’s nastier and more dangerous than ever! We primarily see her actions and the havoc that she creates through her daughter Mary, introduced in the second book. The stakes are raised dramatically for the smart and compassionate Mary, who has to deal with an increasingly unstable mother set on seeking revenge against Cindy Liu and the other women. Mary has to make some difficult choices during the course of the novel. Her fear and challenges are believable, as is the slow reveal about her own unusual talents.

As the book opens, Cindy Liu is on the run after narrowly saving herself and her father from being arrested. Cindy’s special formula has regressed her to the age of thirteen (her actual age is sixty-seven). Being thirteen isn’t fun for anyone, but especially not for a super talented scientist. Cindy doesn’t take it well.  The frustration she faces as she makes decisions about her ailing (and unethical father) while dealing with moods, zits and raging hormones (often directed at a hot bodyguard hired by her father’s friend) makes for a very fun read. None of the characters in this novel are one-dimensional and Bryant continues to make us sympathize with, if not always like, Cindy.

A second compelling subplot emerges in this novel, too.  A group of patients that underwent an experimental neurological treatment, at a local hospital, awoke with exceptionally strong powers including mind control and telekinesis. Six of these patients band together and begin to create criminal mayhem.  Sally Ann, Leonel, Jessica and other members of the UCU must work together to stop these criminals.

Bryant delivers strong action scenes throughout the book. There are also unexpected romantic developments in this story that are quite satisfying. There are great twists, turns and reversals throughout. This series keeps me on the edge of my seat. Although much is resolved at the end of Face The Change, the clues that are peppered throughout book about the world-wide strange happenings makes me hopeful that Bryant has plans to keep the UCU busy for many more books to come.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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