Whew…podcasts done

Okay…this isn’t a picture of me but it captures how I’m feeling right now perfectly. I am so (soooooo) relieved to have my podcasts finished!  I definitely do not have a radio-host in my dying to come out.  Not in this lifetime.   Two seconds into the first podcast you’ll hear the lisp that comes out when I’m nervous (and is still there at 4:51 and rears its ugly head again in the second podcast – sigh).   My husband finds my nervous lisp endearing.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you do too. 🙂

When I initially scripted my first podcast, I found that it went well over the 3-5 minute mark.  Since the second part (spoiler alert!) was a visualization exercise, it made sense to do them as two distinct podcasts.  Bonus for me…I got them both over with!

If you’re interested in doing further reading, here are the two articles I read that inspired the podcasts:

So here they are.  The audio files won’t work in WordPress but if you click on the picture (or on the link in the show notes), it will take you to Podomatic where you can listen to your heart’s content:

First of two Peaceful Mind podcasts for wannabe writers. The theme of these two podcasts is an exploration into the right brain and left brain, as it pertains to writing.  In this first podcast, we’ll briefly look at some concepts around right brain and left brain. There won’t be a lot of science. The focus is more on how it relates to writing.

In this second podcast, you will be led on a visualization exercise. An exercise that will take you from left to right, right to left and taps into the power within you to flow freely between both, honoring the gifts that each side has to offer you, as a writer.

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Posted in Podcasts | 18 Comments

Writers + Podcasts =

As much as I am not looking forward to doing an actual podcast (and I mean…really, really not looking forward to it), I am having a lot of fun looking for podcasts.  There are so many of them out there!  I tried to hone in on podcasts that related to writing (although I will admit I got sidetracked and listened to a meditation podcast along the way).   In my search, I found two articles that related to podcasts and writing, which later led me to the two podcasts I decided to follow.

6 Must-Listen Podcasts for Novelists, Screenwriters & Storytellers:  The author gives a brief synopsis of what he considers to be the best creative writing-related podcasts.  My absolute (absolute!) favorite was Writing Excuses.  Now before I get into how much I loved it, here is the synopsis:

Writing Excuses is a fiction writing podcast run by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, The Wheel of Time, and The Stormlight Archive), Dan Wells (I Am Not a Serial Killer), and Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary). They live and die by their tagline: Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart. This podcast is popular and garners over 10,000 downloads per episode. Every Monday, they come out with a new episode that covers a specific topic related to creative writing, whether it’s about literary techniques, idea farms, plotting, or the publishing industry.  On top of that, they’re just plain fun and funny. Definitely one of the best writing podcasts out there – period.

This was the find of the century!  I could have kept listening and listening.  Okay…calm down.  Breathe.  The three I listened to were:

  1. When Good Characters Go Bad – they talk about how you take a character that a reader initially loves and how to turn them into someone fallen, evil, horrible, nasty.
  2. Microcasting – they answer various questions that have been tweeted to them.
  3. Discovering Your Voice – okay…this is the one that had me.  I wrote so many notes as I was listening: that when you write to impress the reader, you lose your authenticity and your heart…that many new authors muddle through trying to find their voice and over-work it….voice is natural…freedom to stop worrying about how to do it, just write about what you’re excited about…get out of your own way…giving yourself freedom to write whatever you want rather than forcing yourself into a mode….

Stop.  Breathe. It was a gold mind, and absolute gold mind.  15 minute snippets, packed full of free-flowing insights, ideas, tips, humour…perfect for the wannabee writer, like me.  I can’t wait to go back and listen to more (but first, I have to finish this post).

Okay.  The second podcast I found didn’t excite me as much as the one above, but the website I found it on did.  The website is called WOW-Women On Writing.  They had an amazing number of articles on writing (my printer almost blew a fuse).  One article was called  The Digital Affair: Podcasting Marries Printed and Spoken Words.   An example within the article illustrates how author Jodi Picoult uses podcasting.  I love her books but wasn’t even aware she had a website with podcasts…and she’s been podcasting for 5 years (boy, am I behind the times in the social media world).  I listened to three of Picoult’s podcasts:

  1. Don’t I know You – she talks about her experience as an author
  2. A Letter to My Son – she reads a piece of her work
  3. The Story Behind House Rules – her personal experience with autism (her adopted cousin), which inspired the writing of the book

The feel of these podcasts were very different from Writing Excuses.  Jodi Picoult’s podcasts are obviously very scripted – you definitely feel as though you are being read to.  Although I like the free-flowing banter of Writing Excuses better,  I can still see how Picoult draws in “ten thousand listeners each month”.  Her podcasts not only bring a voice to her writing, it makes her, well…real.   And by becoming real, you see the author behind the book and connect with her in a whole different way.  Which, from a marketing perspective…is a good thing.

So…let’s wrap this up (so I can go back to listing to another episode of Writing Excuses).  The author of The Digital Affair sums it up nicely:

“Writers should view podcasting as another form of expression that showcases the writing process and the author’s insights, in addition to creating an open dialogue with the audience.  When writers declare their intentions and build a relationship with readers and listeners through podcasts, it’s a literary match made in heaven”

So there you go.  Writers + podcasts = literary match made in heaven.

Posted in Podcasts | 7 Comments

Will I use Facebook and LinkedIn?

If you read my last post (Linking…out) you might be surprised with this next statement: I might (just might) use LinkedIn to meet my professional and business goals.  Yikes…before you think I’m a complete traitor to my last post, the “might” is only with a few caveats in place:

  1. I’ll need to feel solid within my career, ready to network
  2. I’ll need to do some more research on how to protect myself from identity theft
  3. I’ll have to sign up using my real name so I can actually do some networking (lol).

Why the change of heart?  It came when I was trying to wrap my head around how to do the LinkedIn assignment “Connect and interact with at least 3 other people in your professional area.”   I watched the connections other classmates were making (when using their real names)  and I was impressed with the groups they found.  It made me realize that part of my “yuck” feeling about LinkedIn was that I was not feeling confident reaching out to other writers…because I don’t consider myself a writer…yet.  When I do cross that threshold into writer-dom, LinkedIn could be a valuable resource…maybe.  So, in the meantime, I did a test run by reaching out to five of my classmates who have identified themselves as writers (even if they only loosely mentioned it in their inital class intro…they got an email from me – poor souls).  It might only be a small step…but at least it was a step.

And what about Facebook?  Well…that one, I’m not so sure of.  Yes, this is influenced by the fact that I just spent the last half hour taking screen shots of each of my Facebook pages to be able to prove that I did all the module activities (I have!)..in case my account is trashed by Facebook authorities (they’re still watching me – had to type in one of those swirly anti-spam words to unlock my “temporarily locked account”).   Yes, I will continue to use my personal Facebook account to share pictures (tame pictures!) and stay in touch with family and friends (my definition of “friends”, not Facebook’s).  But will I use it professionally?  Maybe.  If I become an established writer, I may set up a Facebook Page to make my presence known and connect with other writing Facebook groups.  And if I do set one up?  Three more caveats (have I told you my favorite number is 3?):

  1. I’ll make darn sure that I follow Kabani’s advice and back up my Facebook page through something like Socialsafe.  Half hour doing screen shots is enough of a lesson to know that I don’t want to give Facebook control over whether my Facebook page lives or dies.
  2. I’ll continue to think twice about any information I put on Facebook, including who/what I “Like”, always aware that “Big Brother” is watching (and using) any information I decide to share.
  3. I’ll never (ever) “hyper-target” anyone or use any ill-gotten profile information to target unsuspecting Facebook-ees.  Even if they’ve freely given away too much information about themselves, I won’t use it to market myself.  Never, ever (ever!)

So, the answer to the blog title “Will I use Facebook and LinkedIn?” is an unequivocal, resounding…maybe.

How’s that for planting my butt firmly on the middle of the fence! 🙂

Posted in Facebook, LinkedIn | 5 Comments

Linking…out

As of November 2012, LinkedIn announced they had 187 million members.  As of now, I’m one of them.  But will I be for much longer?  I can’t say for sure.  If you’ve checked out my profile on LinkedIn you might have noticed that it’s…well…rather bare.  No job history.  Not much of anything besides my name (my fictitious one) and my education.  Why?  For two basic reasons:

I‘m in career transition.  I’ve taken a year off to explore writing.  So what is the point of LinkedIn for someone like me?  Wikipedia describes it as a “social networking website for people in professional occupations.”  I’m neither in a professional occupation nor am I in a position to network…so it’s not the place for me right now.

Okay.  Let’s fast forward and assume that I’m now a professional writer who does want to network.  Would I opt back in to LinkedIn?  That brings me to point number 2 (and here you thought I had forgotten).

I’m not quite sure I want to share detailed information about my job history via social media.  Call me paranoid but it doesn’t feel safe enough…and the rewards don’t seem big enough to take the risk:

Millions of LinkedIn passwords hacked.  Boston Business Journal.  Wednesday June 6, 2012.  – Nearly 6.5 million encrypted passwords have been compromised, reportedly belonging to user accounts on LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD). If the reports are true, hackers are likely looking for personal information to aid in identity theft…..

Linkedin linking you to identity theft.  Monday March 19, 2012.  East Providence, R.I. (WPRI) – LinkedIn is meant to be used as a professional networking tool, but a new report reveals it’s putting its users at greater risk for identity theft than some other social networking sites….

Linked Out. January 19, 2012 – I was in a meeting recently, and a fellow HR Professional who is in a talent management role told me she was “LinkedOut”….I asked her what she meant by being “LinkedOut”. She indicated that she wanted nothing to do with the burden of helping people she did not know with finding employment at her company. When I told her that the original golden rule of LinkedIn was to directly connect only with people you know, she said, “Well guess what, no one does that any more. Moreover, it got to the point where dozens of people a day that I did not know were asking me to connect with them, and then whenever I did, their first request was for me to help them find a job. It was a complete waste of my time. I had enough, and I’m out.”

Yes, I’ve read Kabani’s chapter on LinkedIn and I do see the benefits…in theory.  I’m just not sure I want to go there.   So for now, I’m linking out.

Posted in LinkedIn | 5 Comments

Facebook groups for writers

First off, I wouldn’t consider myself a writer…yet.  Will I be the next best-selling author?  Or the next super-blogger? Not sure at this point if I have the talent or the know-how.  But what I do know, is that every wannabe writer will only get better with feedback…and lots of it.

That’s where social media can come into play.

We already know how blogging can be a great avenue for a new writer to get in some solid practice time, but what about Facebook?  What role can Facebook play?  I explored the answer to this question by looking for writers’ groups on Facebook.

Writing – This is an open group on Facebook with 3,794 members.  The group calls out to “all fellow artists of the writing kind” and is self-described as “a place to share anything and everything about writing.  It’s a place to sit and inspire one another and help each other as writers”. 

The site is very active.  When I logged on, there had been 18 posts within the last 24 hours from 12 different people.  The posts ranged from links to help with writing to announcements about blog posts.  A page called “Files” is set up for members to share their writing, as well as a page for past and upcoming writing events (unfortunately, no upcoming events were listed).  The About page has mini profiles of each member (picture, when they joined and where they work – although the latter is not filled out by everyone), which allows for further networking.

Is it a good example of social marking?  Yes and no.  No, because it’s not directly tied back to a company or business.  Yes, because it’s marketing…well…writing.  It’s a very active site that seems to provide a good opportunity for writers to network with each other, share links, learn from each other and share examples of writing.

LitPow Writer’s Network – This is another open group on Facebook with 586 members but is very different from the last.  This is a definite marketing site, as it ties back to the website of the consulting firm Literary Powerhouse.  But it’s not over-the-top marketing heavy since they do add value for their members by providing a forum to connect with their target audience of  authors, agents, editors, publishers, publicists and lawyers.  The site is  very active – 8 posts within 24 hours.   The posts range from LPH announcing signings of new clients, books that have been published, members posting questions, links to articles about publishing and writing and even a 100-word Halloween writing contest for members.

Is it a good example of social marketing?  Yes, I’d say based on the level of activity by members posts, the LPH team has done a great job of setting up a Facebook group that attracts and converts viewers to members and keeps them coming back.   And, I would hazard to guess, that a few have also been transformed into clients of LPH.

So, now…the big question.  Which of the two types of groups would you join?  I know my answer…what’s yours?

Posted in Facebook | Leave a comment

Initial thoughts on Facebook

Am I alone…or is anyone else out there feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of Facebook?  Or feeling wary, especially after reading Kabani’s chapter:

      • “…lawyers can look up your Facebook profile and use it to judge whether you should be on a jury”
      • “Companies can screen job applicants based on their internet photos and postings (that’s everything from Facebook and Twitter to Flickr and blogs)”
      • “…Facebook ads allow you to “hypertarget” based on demographic information and key word information found in profiles….For example, an Italian restaurant in Cleveland can choose to advertise only to men and women ages twenty-five to forty who list “Italian food” as an interest.  A Dallas florist can choose to advertise only to women within a twenty-five-mile radius of Dallas who list themselves as “engaged”.

And here I thought I was being overly paranoid when I set up my Facebook account last year with just the bare-bones of information in my profile – no interests, no likes, no job information ( I did put in marital status to prevent “pick up” friend requests – got one any ways – lol).  And lets not even get into how long I spent setting up all the privacy levels on my account!  It was secured like Fort Knox – so much so that my nephew had to call me to say: “Can you please change your settings so I can actually comment on your posts!”

Okay…so Facebook is Big Brother.  I guess that shouldn’t stop me from participating.  It just means that I will continue to be extremely cautious about how I use it.  I will continue to think carefully before I ever click on the “like” button, knowing that this information is shooting back to Big Brother.  I will continue to think before I post anything on Facebook – If I’ve made a mistake in my security levels and a potential employer saw this post or picture, would I be okay with it?  And on my personal Facebook account, I will continue to only “friend” people who are my definition of friends, not Facebook’s definition.

And if I do decide that Facebook might help market me as a writer one day?  Then I will definitely follow in Kabani’s footsteps and set up a separate Facebook account for “work” and will continue to keep my personal Facebook for friends (real friends) and family.  My “work” Facebook will be strategic in how it is set up and will define “friends” in the more tradtional Facebook way – as contacts.

So…how does a wannabe writer use Facebook to her advantage?  Stay tuned for my soon-to-be-released next post.  🙂

Posted in Facebook | 1 Comment

And the next blog step is…

Okay…maybe I won’t be a professional booger (lol) but I do know that I plan to pursue blogging in some capacity.  As a wannabe writer, what better place to practice and, at the same time, connect with a real reading audience?  Ah…but how do you get the audience?  Yes, that question still needs to be answered.  There are myriads of writers out there with blogs.  What will distinguish mine?  What will entice those roaming the blogosphere to visit my site and then…more importantly…decide that it’s worth coming back to? Or that it’s impacted them enough to leave a comment, start a dialogue?

By doing a quick google search I’ve come up with the beginnings of a list of sites that I hope will help me (and you) begin to find the answers:

So much to read.  So much out there.  Will all this reading and research paralyze me from actually writing?  Will “knowing” too much stilt how I write?  Maybe, maybe not.  I think its important to understand the environment you’re trying to write in, enough to know where you fit.  Not changing who you are in order to fit – but finding the place within the huge world of social media where you feel at home.  Do I expect to find this place right away?  Nope.  But through trial and error, starts and stops, reaching out and listening…I will find my place within the world of blogging.

And when I find this place…my promise to myself is that my feet will remain planted on this side of reality.  I will honor the connections that can be made in the social media world but will keep myself grounded in the real world, with real people.  I will ensure that what I post and tweet will be words that I can take pride in, words that have depth, have value and contribute something to the well-being of others.  My writing will come from within me and will be true to me.

So…with a peaceful mind and an open heart, I will begin down this path and go wherever this leg of the journey takes me.  Professional booger (smile) who reaches many or small blogger who reaches the one person that needs it.  Either way, works for me.

Posted in How to Blog | 15 Comments

Bad news…good news…leads to this post

Bad News. If you read my Wonderful World of Widgets post and the subsequent comment made by a kind-hearted “real-world blogger” (whose been at this a wee-bit longer than the 5 days we have – lol)….you’ll know that I didn’t quite get it right.   As I was plodding along trying to wrap my head around Widgets, not once did I come across anything that said there were two different WordPress platforms.  Whew…good thing @Heidi_Caswell clarified it because I was starting to explore how Plug-ins worked …and as it turns out…they only work on self-hosted blogs using WordPress.org software (which is not what we’re using – sigh).

Good News (at least for me).  My misstep gave me an idea for this blog entry: a quick overview of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org and my initial thoughts around which one I might end up using when I decide to pursue blogging further (which I’m pretty sure I will).

So…once I knew what to look for, I easily found a document on WordPress.com that explained the differences between the two plus provided a list of the pros and cons for each.

Which one you chose, depends a great deal on how you answer these two questions:

1.  What do you plan to do with your blog? 

If you want a basic blog that is free, easy to set up and you don’t want to run advertisements or take advantage of plug-ins (which are not permitted on .com), than WordPress.com makes sense (it’s the one we’re using).   But if you want to be able to upload custom themes, upload plugins and don’t mind paying for a web-host, then using the WordPress.org software and self-hosting might be the better option.

One very popular feature of WordPress (.org) is its rich plugin architecture which allows users and developers to extend its abilities beyond the features that are part of the base install; WordPress(.org) has a database of over 18,000 plugins[11] with purposes ranging from SEO to adding widgets.  – Wikipedia

Both allow you to integrate PayPal into your site (WordPress.com / WordPress.ca).  As well, both can accommodate selling eBooks, but only WordPress.ca allows you to add a shopping cart or integrate a custom store.  With the basic WordPress.com, you’ll either need to sell via PayPal (manually) or use a “middleman” like Gumroad.

2.  How tech-savy you are?

If you don’t know how to do all the customizing or don’t want to be bothered taking care of all the technical maintenance work – setup, upgrades, spam, backups, security, etc., (or paying someone to do it for you), then WordPress.com may make more sense.  But if you have the technical abilities and want the flexibility to take complete control, to change code, run advertisements, edit the database, upload a whole range of plug-ins….and on and on…then self-hosting (WordPress.org) might be what you choose.

So as newbie bloggers, how do we even begin to decide something like this?  My answer: Now that I know that the two even exist (smile), I plan to pay  careful attention to the whether the blog I’m admiring is a .com or .org.  If all my wishes and dreams can be met in a .com and I don’t have to challenge myself technically….then .com it is.  But if I really want to do more than what the .com allows, I know that there is more than enough information on the internet that will help me develop the technical skills needed to take advantage of the larger world of WordPress.org.  Stay tuned….

Posted in How to Blog | 27 Comments

Blogging, tweeting and…marketing?

First off…I have to confess that when I picked up the textbook for  class, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, my initial thought was “I’m not intersted in marketing – I want to know what the big deal is about Twitter and Blogs!”  But then, I started reading the book and the lightbulb went off in my head: they’re all intertwined.  If you involve yourself in social media, in some respect you are marketing yourself.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s about getting yourself out there.  And what better way to learn how to enter the world of social media then from someone who is fully absorbed in it, like the author Shama Kabani.

When I read the chapter on Websites and Blogging (2), I was already quite open to both, so Shama didn’t have to do too much to sell me on either.  Like a sponge, I absorbed all the practical information in the chapter and then was able to see how it all came together by going online and checking out her blog.  That’s one of the bonuses of this book: with the author being a professional immersed in the social media world (and apparantly quite successfully), the reader can easily go online and check out her blog and twitter pages to get real life examples of how it works.

So far, so good…then I had to read chapter 6, Twitter: The Grand Bazaar of Social Networking Sites.   Walls went up.  Judgements flared.  What would possess somone to want to read tweets about all the mundane things people are doing?  But again, after only a few pages the lightbulb went off again.  When you look at how Twitter can be used from a marketing perspective, where the tweets are purposeful and have value….then Twitter does make sense.  The depth of what you can get from Twitter (if you allow yourself to go beyond the superficial) was highligthed so well by the article she included from Tom Morris (“Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom”):

Twitter is not mainly about telling the world, or your 47 followers, what you had for lunch…It’s about building a new form of community. It’s about learning. It’s about support, inspiration and daily motivation. And it’s also about fun. But the most important aspect of Twitter may be that, if you do things right, you begin to surround yourself with an incredible group of people eager to share their best questions and insights about life. They’re all looking for new wisdom and hope. Twisdom is the result.  There’s collaborative thinking on Twitter at a level and a form I’ve never seen before…One comment will spark another, and before long, people of different ages and walks of life from around the world are engaged with me and each other in an extended conversation of brief bursts that add up to new realizations for everyone involved.

After reading Morris’ inspiring take on Twitter and then reading through all of Shama’s tips on how to make your tweets worth tweeting, I suddenly found myself getting excited about the world of Twitter.  If I found people who followed the same philosophy of ensuring that their tweets were of value, then maybe I too could surround myself with an incredible group of people eager to share their best questions and insights about life.

So was this a good textbook for this class?  If it could get someone like me to decide to take the first step into Twitterdom, then the answer is…. a resounding YES.

Posted in How to Blog | 4 Comments

The wonderful world of widgets

As I delve deeper into this strange new world of blogging, I find more and more things I’d like to be able to do…but don’t know how to do.  I keep asking myself How did they get an e-book, newsletter and all those great pictures on their blog?

One of the answers I’ve found is:  Widgets

So here is my attempt at diving in to the wonderful world of widgets.

I found the following links to learn more about text widgets:

The Image Widget seemed far more straightforward than the Text Widget (but maybe my brain decided to stop working after visiting so may sites 🙂 ).  I found two sites that helped me figure out how to add an image to my sidebar using the Image Widget:

So…what was the result of all of this?  A) an awareness of how much more reading and practicing I need to do to even begin to take full advantage of the Text Widget and B) a basic example that you’ll find at the top of my sidebar (My Personal Mantra), that used both the Image Widget and Text Widget.

Posted in How to Blog | 7 Comments