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Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which we share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Can it really be November? It must be – there are NaNoWriMo vibes all around, and the Christmas paraphernalia is already showing up in the stores. (Ack!)

But despite premature holiday displays, there’s a lot to love about this time of year. With Halloween behind us, it’s time to look ahead to the season of reconnecting with family and friends. This is the time of year when the stories of our past come home to roost. There will be family gatherings in old, familiar places where memories lie thick and deep. There will be reunions with old friends at local pubs and high school football games. As leaves and temperatures drop, we will fill up the chilly corners with the warmth of days gone by and a writer’s tendency to wander down memory’s halls wondering, “What if…?”

This is one of my favorite times for reading. Better than a summer’s day on the beach, I love a blustery, gray day with the staccato tapping of crisp leaves falling against the skylight. I love curling up on the couch with a blanket, a mug of tea, and – if I’m lucky – a couple of cats … sinking deep into a good book and not worrying about the world outside getting darker and colder as we head towards Winter Solstice. Stories are such a comfort in this season of chill and snow and early darkness.

Here’s to cozy reading time for everyone this weekend. Enjoy!

What I’m Writing:

know like trustI managed to publish a post on my marketing blog this week. In The truth about Know – Like – Trust I get tactical about this oft-quoted approach to building a loyal (and profitable) audience. Though I did not write this piece specifically with authors in mind, the ideas I wrote about are very applicable to any writer trying to build an online following.

I’m working (in my head for now, but eventually on paper) on a follow-up post about how I “rank” online content based on Know-Like-Trust. Having paid specific attention to how I choose which content is important to me (on Twitter and Facebook, in Feedly, or on Instagram, for instance), I realize that my relationship with or perception of the content’s author has the most influence on whether I consider the post or picture (or whatever) important. More than a post title, more than a first impression of an image, more than any other factor, the author’s identity and my experience with him or her is how I make snap judgments about content.

Establishing a relationship with your audience is critical to any artist’s success. This is what will set you apart and earn you loyalty and enthusiastic support.

What I’m Reading:

Sadly, this was a week with very little non-work reading in it.

I had a couple of off-site meetings (some business, some pleasure), and was hustling dawn to dusk for the rest of the time. I didn’t even get to catch up with the fabulous essays over at Full Grown People. (Maybe now that the weekend is here I’ll finally be able to find a few moments to sit and savor the latest batch of work there.)

I did listen to a few more episodes of the fabulous SciFi/Fantasy writers’ podcast, Writing Excuses. Although the four hosts are all genre writers, much of what I’ve learned by listening to their short and snappy podcasts (“Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”) can be applied to any kind of writing. Worth a listen.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin rice fool

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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scary social jackolanternThe writer sits at her computer, fingers poised over the keyboard. Her whole body speaks of hesitation, uncertainty … FEAR. The blue-white light of the screen accentuates the creases in her anxiously wrinkled brow and gives her skin a ghostly pallor. She types a few words and stops. Backspace, backspace, backspace. She tries again. No, not right – highlight, delete. Shoulders hunched, she remains in place – just staring … stuck.

This writer isn’t battling writer’s block. Writer’s block was a walk in the park compared to this. This writer is trying to figure out social media.

You know you should be there. You’ve heard all about the importance of the writer’s platform. You “get it,” but you just don’t know how to get it. Each time you work up the courage to open a browser tab onto Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn, you suddenly freeze up.

You shared a lot of great comments on my recent post, Why Social Media Is a Good Idea for Writers. As I read through your observations and questions again, a few common themes emerged. I know we’re a small focus group; but I also think that the issues and concerns you raised are pretty universal for writers trying to get a handle on social media:
 
Fear #1: The learning curve is too steep. It’ll take too long to get things set up, and I’ll probably screw up royally and my career will go down the drain because of some stupid Facebook faux pas or Twitter trip-up.

The bad news: If you’re totally new to social media, there is a bit of a learning curve. The good news: It’s not as steep as you think. The awesome news: There is no “right way” to do social media.

You never learned to program your VCR and you only know how to use your smartphone because your kids showed you how. I get it. I don’t consider myself a luddite, but I’m no tech whiz either. I am, however, reasonably proficient on most of the popular social networks.

You can be, too. No, really. You can do this.

Here’s the thing. The people who design social networks are usually trying to make them as idiot-proof as possible. I’m totally not calling you an idiot; I’m just saying that these people are not trying to make social media hard. They want you to participate, so they are going to make it as easy as possible.

The key to getting past your fear of diving in is two fold:

Focus your efforts

If you’re completely new to social media, I’d suggest that you check out a number of different networks and then pick ONE to PLAY with. I say “ONE” because I don’t want you to be overwhelmed. I say “PLAY” because that’s how I want you to approach social media. Though you will eventually want to have a strategy and a process, at first you just want to explore and experiment. Hang out and see what other people are doing. Lurk. Maybe engage in a few conversations. Share something. Don’t feel pressured, just do what writers do best: observe.

Take baby steps

When you feel ready (and you’ll know when you’re ready), take a few baby steps towards a more in-depth and consistent kind of engagement. Don’t feel like you have to flood your profile or feed or whatever with tons of content right away. Pace yourself. Let your presence grow organically.

Remember:

  • You don’t need to be everywhere.
  • You don’t need to do everything.
  • There are no hard and fast rules.
  • You aren’t going to get a ticket or a black mark on your permanent record.
  • Finding your social media groove might not happen overnight, but it won’t take forever either. Start with fifteen minutes a day and just see how things go.

 
 
Fear #2: I will tumble down the social media rabbit hole and never write anything again except for status updates and blog posts.

On the other hand, you might be worried that once you start spending time on social media, you will become completely addicted and spend the rest of your life scrolling through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, reposting LOL cat memes, and pinning pretty pictures on Pinterest. You will sacrifice all your writing time to the demon gods of social media and never publish your novel/poetry/short story/whatever.

You’re right. It could happen.

But … probably not.

There’s no question that social media can become addictive. I’ve read about numerous studies that demonstrate the addictive nature of social media. In some cases, clicking around on Facebook or Google+ has been found to be more addictive than alcohol or tobacco. However, the chances of you logging onto Facebook and never coming out again are pretty slim.

Social media can be a (major) time suck, but only if you let it. Avoiding the black hole of social sites requires two things:

Systems

When it comes to the relative chaos of social media, systems are your friend. I could write a whole other post on this topic alone, but just to give you an example, here is the system I use to process 100 – 200 blog posts each day:

Content curation (sharing other people’s content) is a big part of my social media strategy. I read a lot of blog posts. I typically scan 100+ posts each day and read about 30 – 40 in full. I don’t have time during my workday to read and share posts, so I batch process:

  • I use Feedly to aggregate all the blog feeds into one place.
  • I find corners of otherwise unused time to scan through Feedly on my iPhone. (Usually this happens at night while I’m waiting for my daughter to fall asleep after bedtime stories. I also hit Feedly during random “down” times like waiting in line at school pick-up or at the bank.)
  • I use the integrated BufferApp to schedule tweets of posts that will be useful to my audience. BufferApp creates the tweet including the post title and a shortened URL, and then all I have to do is add my two cents and hit “Buffer” to schedule the tweet.

Another quick example of a system is how I use Twitter “lists” to filter my Twitter stream so I can focus on only the tweets that are most relevant to me. I have almost 4,000 followers on Twitter. It’s insane to think that I could have any useful or meaningful conversations by just randomly scanning through such a huge stream of tweets. Talk about a needle in a haystack! Luckily, Twitter has a “lists” feature that allows me to assign the people I’m most interested in to topical lists. For instance, I have a list for my “real world” friends, a list for writers, a list for marketing folks I admire, a list for artists, a list for clients, etc. I use Hootsuite to display my lists in a multi-column format that lets me easily scan all the tweets that are important to me.

There are hundreds of mini systems you can use and dozens of smart tools that help you streamline and automate social media activities. In fact, I’m investigating a few new tools that offer a more comprehensive suite of features, and as soon as I’ve road-tested it I’ll be sure to share.

Restraint

This one’s pretty simple: Stick to your systems. Don’t make excuses to “just check one thing.” Don’t allow yourself to be lured by the siren call of “the funniest video ever.” Stay focused. Make your social media time productive, not frivolous.
 
 
Fear #3: My ego will take over and I will become obsessed with comparing myself to others and constantly checking my stats, leading to deep feelings of inadequacy and depression which will eventually leave me sobbing quietly under my desk.

The land of social media can be a treacherous one. Though words like “authenticity” and “transparency” are thrown around like beads at Mardi Gras, let’s face it: most people show only the good bits. It can be challenging to keep a firm grip on reality when comparing your life (which you know to be imperfect) to the shiny, sparkly, social media life projected by others.

The cure for this fear is simple: step back for a reality check.

The truth is that things aren’t always what they seem on social media. You need to be able to keep your perspective. For example, a friend of mine was feeling low because she was comparing herself to a high profile blogger/podcaster. This “big fish’s” content featured high profile people and consistently had astronomical retweets, likes, and +1’s. My friend was suffering from that sinking I’ll-never-get-there feeling until I told her that this seemingly uber-successful person wasn’t making a living and had moved home.

Don’t be fooled by the illusions.

More importantly, don’t get caught in the comparison trap in the first place. You don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.  Social media should not be an arms race. The numbers – subscribers, followers, friends, etc. – are only part of the picture. Instead of worrying about whether you’re measuring up to some fabricated standard, spend your time having real conversations and making real connections with people.
 
 
Fear #4: I’m just not comfortable with putting myself out there. My personal life is personal and I want it to stay that way. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t want to be “that guy” – constantly shilling my book until I’ve alienated all my friends and die cold and alone in the gutter clutching my WiFi-enabled device.

You find selfies disturbing. You have absolutely no desire to post pictures of your cat, your pedicure, or your dinner. You do not feel a need to confess your deepest fears or desires. You just want to share your  stories.

You’re on social to promote your writing, but you don’t want to feel like a broken record. Feeling like you have to always be talking “my book this” and “my book that” leaves you wanting to shout, “Damn it, Jim. I’m a writer, not a marketer!”

The cure for both these issues is simple: It’s not about you.

It’s about your work. It’s about your ideas. It’s about the things that inspire you. It’s about the people who inspire you. It’s about other people’s stories and the way they intersect with your stories. It’s about the craft and journey of writing. It’s about how people identify with your work

Also, remember: Social media is meant to be social. It’s meant to be a conversation, meaning a give and take. In a real world conversation, you aren’t expected to carry everything yourself, right? Social media is no different. Ask questions. Invite dialog. Encourage debate. Have some fun.

So, to sum things up:

  • Worried about the learning curve? Don’t be. This isn’t as hard as you think.
  • Worried about screwing up? Don’t. There is no one right way.
  • Worried about getting sucked into the social media vortex? Set up systems and stick to them.
  • Worried about succumbing to constant comparison and status chasing? Skip that. It doesn’t matter.
  • Worried about over-exposing yourself? That’s a non-issue because it’s not about you.
  • Worried about becoming a sleazy salesperson? Focus on the give and take of the conversation, not the sales pitch.

Social media has huge opportunities for writers. Bust past your fears and get out there. It’ll be worth it on many levels.
 
 
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: Mike Thomas

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I spend a lot of time behind my keyboard, but in real life, I’m a people person. I love to socialize and meet new people. I used to be an event planner, so I intrinsically understand the value of connecting people face to face. Still, it’s been a while since I’ve been to a conference. I’ve got an itch to meet people.

I know several NHWN writers are looking forward to the New England Crime Bake November 8th & 9th. I’m looking forward to 2014 because there are two conferences coming up for romance writers, the NECRWA Conference and a New Hampshire event that hasn’t been publicly announced yet (I’ll share the details as soon as I can). I’ve also been searching for some professional development events to expand my business as well. I thought I’d share what I found. Right on the heels of Jamie’s post  Social Media and Marketing for Writers: A Crucial First Step, I present to you an incomplete list of conferences on Social Media.

Blogher Pro October 22 & 23, Redwood City, CA. From the website.

BlogHer PRO is a multi-track conference for professionally-minded bloggers looking to take their business, marketing, and technical skills to the next level. Improve your knowledge and hone your skills on everything from personal brand to personal finance to personal privacy.

Time is short, but it’s not too late to register.

The Vermont Web Marketing Summit November 14, 2013 – Burlington, VT From the website

The Vermont Web Marketing Summit is a leading digital marketing conference, held in Burlington, VT, every Fall.

The conference serves as a platform for online marketers and digital marketing experts to keep up to date with the latest trends, benchmark their current digital activities & share challenges and successes with their peers.

Started in 2010 with only 80 attendees, it drew more than 250 attendees from all over New England and beyond in 2012!

A-Ha Social Business Summit November 15, 2013 – Manchester, NH and Online. From the web site

The “A-Ha!” Social Business Summit is a full-throttle experience designed to help you discover, align, and EVOLVE your social media, marketing, and success mojo and paradigms. Join us in person at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH, or online via Digital Pass from anywhere in the world. This award-winning conference, now in its fifth year, is Friday 11/15 from 9am-4pm.

I know we have readers from all over the world, so if none of these venues work for you, take a look at Social Media Breakfast. SMB was started in Boston in 2007 and has spread around the U.S. and the world. Gatherings are typically hyperlocal and inexpensive. For more information and locations visit their web site.

How about you? What events have you attended or will you be attending in the foreseeable future? Please share in the comments.  Who knows we might just meet in person!

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently a freelance marketing communications writer and at work on her first romantic fiction novel. 

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There’s an event coming up in a couple of weeks that is mixing two of my passions — (dark and mysterious) fiction and New Hampshire.

Dick Hatin

Dick Hatin

An author friend of mine, Richard Hatin is celebrating the launch of his second novel by speaking and doing a book signing.

Dick is a fellow Granite State Ambassador (GSA) who volunteers his time to share his passion of NH with visitors to our wonderful state.

At this event, on October 30, from 6:30-8PM, Dick will be talking about his writing and his volunteerism.

About his novels:

EVIL AGREEMENT
Evil Agreement begins in Sutton, Vermont, in 1843, when a coven was formed comprising devil worshipers recruited by Satan s servant, the purely evil Moloch. When one coven member breaks rank, she and her family are slaughtered by coven members out of revenge. One infant child survives the massacre, however, and is hunted relentlessly by the coven, but without success. Now the descendants of that first coven are closing in on Aaron Bailey, the last descendant of that surviving infant. The Evil Agreement, the Malum Pactum, may at last be fulfilled!

The hunt is on as the coven seeks to capture Aaron to complete the coven and fulfill their ancestors hideous bargain with the devil. Meanwhile, Aaron must learn about his hidden past, forge new alliances, and, with aid from an unlikely source, perhaps have a chance to destroy the coven – and even live to tell about it!

DEADLY WHISPERS
“A dark and evil legend was born in the northeastern corner of Vermont hundred of years ago. An unspeakable act was perpetrated by a hunting party of Indians.  Later, their Chief and the tribe’s Medicine Man placed an eternal curse upon them for their crime.  Now doomed, to live only in the darkness beneath the earth, their anger and hatred of all humans, grows with each passing year. Then, in 1962, a group of young boys exploring a small cave, come face to face with this devolved and hideously evil creature, and a battle for their very lives begins.  Together, they may stand a chance, but divided, they will all surely all die.  If only…….”

The event is open to the public and is at Carlyle Place – Courville Communities, 40 Route 101, Bedford, NH.

I’ll be there, as will other local writers. It can be a great time to connect in person.

Agenda for the evening:

6:30 pm – Networking and Welcome

7:00 pm – Presentation

7:45 pm – 8:00 pm – Book signing | Personal Visits | Facility Tour

I know there will be treats, too! Since it’s Halloween, well, who knows how many ghosts might make a brief appearance, but I’m sure they will all be friendly spirits…right?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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real life social mediaThe Internet is a gift and a curse.

Social media in particular can be a writer’s best friend, or her doom.

I am old enough to remember working in an office where I had to share a clunky desktop PC that only displayed pixilated green type on a black screen and was not connected to anything other than the electrical outlet. I remember a world before ubiquitous email, incessant social media updates, and text messages that follow you everywhere.

Though I sometimes recall those less technologically bound times wistfully, as a self-employed writer of the twenty-first century, I know that I could not do my job without the Internet. No way. No how. I work with almost all of my clients on an almost 100% remote basis – conducting all our business via email, Skype, conference calls, and cloud-based document and project management services. I do my research on the Internet – finding sources, tracking down facts, and checking details. My days are made up of writing blocks punctuated by frequent digital communication.

I think most of my professionally writing colleagues would agree on the value of the Internet.

Where opinions start to differ (sometimes violently) is on the subject of social media.

Facebook, Twitter, goodreads, LinkedIn, blogging, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ not to mention dozens of writing-focused groups, forums, and communities – social media is a vast territory. All those platforms, all those third-party tools, all the people and updates and alerts and notifications. It’s enough to drive you mad or leave you paralyzed in fear, gently rocking under your desk.

Many writers eschew social media as frivolous. They consider it to be little more than a new-fangled procrastination tool, a digital escape hatch that sucks the unwary into a rabbit hole of wasted hours. These people contend that a writer should spend her time working on her craft and building up her body of work, not wasting words on status updates about her cat.

While I understand their position and can vouch for the addictive nature of social media (especially for people like me with slight OCD tendencies), I still believe that social media is a valuable (almost indespensible) tool for today’s writer.

In my “day job,” I am a freelance professional writer and business owner. I write blogs, columns, articles, case studies, branding frameworks, website copy, ebooks, manifestos, and all kinds of other materials. I have been doing this work for six years, and I attribute approximately ninety percent of my business to social media.

That’s right. If I trace each of my client relationships back to its origin, ninety percent of the time the seed for each relationship will be found in some kind of social media interaction.

Think about that.

I have invested (and continue to invest) a lot of time and energy in social media, but I believe it has paid off in spades.  It has helped me make the connections and nurture the relationships that sustain my business. There is a method to my social media “madness” (it’s definitely not all LOL cat photos and snarky quotes), but there is also a very personal and creative element to it.

I’ll share about that in a future post, but for now I’d love to know your thoughts:

How do you feel about social media? Do you engage? How? Where? If you don’t engage, why not? What are your biggest questions about social media for writers?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: I wish I knew – this was floating around Facebook and seemed the perfect thing to complement this post.

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Perhaps you’re thinking about working for yourself. If that’s the case, you won’t be surprised to know there are a few things to think about.

Here are some topics to consider:

  • Commute — Only having to walk to your desk/office can be a great money and time saver. (I love not having to deal with ‘rush hour’ any more.)
  • Flexibility — You’re able to set your own schedule to work when you’re most productive (for me it’s late morning, so I do ‘tasks’ when my brain doesn’t need to be fully engaged and I can schedule errands when traffic is light); you get to wear what you want (some days it’s just easier to go from bed to desk without a shower).
  • Distractions — No matter where you work, there are distractions, but working for yourself gives you the power to control them a lot easier than if you’re in an office surrounded by coworkers.
  • Relationships — Working for yourself isn’t conducive to building face-to-face relationships without some effort. Skype and web conference tools can be great for “meeting” in person without leaving your home, but be aware that you may not build as strong connections as working in an office. (Finding a great cafe or meeting space for local clients to meet with you is quite beneficial).
  • Stress — Working for yourself gives you a lot more control over stress. If something gets to be too much, you can talk a walk (or a run) or a break and come back refreshed without having to ask permission or have someone ‘cover’ for you.
  • Finances — Of course you can save money by not commuting, but if you have a home-based business, you can write off the office space on your taxes (at a minimum).
  • Work/life balance — When you’re in control of your own schedule, you’re able to balance work and life commitments a bit easier – or at least that’s the theory – sometimes family and friends will think since you work from home you have a lot of ‘free time’ so you have to set parameters.
  • Accountability — Working for someone else gives you accountability to that person. Working for yourself requires self-discipline, and not everyone can handle all the freedom. (I personally love it, and find deadlines with payments tied to them to be quite motivating.)

This is just a quick list to get you started. More categories and questions come up the further you pursue self-employment.

How about you? Are you self-employed? If you aren’t yet, do you think you can handle it?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes from the comfort of her home. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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Next week I’ll be celebrating 9 years of being matched with a wonderful young woman through Big Brothers Big Sisters. We met 2 days after her 9th birthday, and she turns 18 on Oct 2. It’s amazing how the years have flown.

Although our ‘official’ relationship ends, our personal one certainly won’t. She’s now a senior in high school and has aspirations of college and working with young children – perhaps even opening a day care center someday.

As we talked about our 9-year journey yesterday, she pointed out things she’s doing today because I shared the experiences with her, lent an ear when she needed it, or encouraged her to try something new.

Volunteering can influence any part of life, including building our businesses. Here are four benefits I thought about:

  • Discovering new relationships. When we volunteer, we meet new people by default, and we uncover new friendships and relationships as we stay involved with an organization.
  • Expanding our experiences. We can learn from every new experience, right? Even if we do something we already know how to do, if we’re doing it with different people, the experience might show us a new way to do that thing, and even broaden our knowledge unexpectedly. It’s great to be open-minded.
  • Giving our reputations a positive nudge. For the self-employed, everything we do can impact our business reputation. Volunteering in the community is a great way (I think) to show folks we want to share ourselves and get to know them personally. Perhaps those relationships turn into business or referrals in the future, but we each need to have time outside of our businesses to enjoy life.
  • Sharing our knowledge and paying it forward. I’ve always been a firm believer in sharing what I know. Giving back is one way to position ourselves in a good light. When we spend time and effort to benefit others, people see our empathetic side. Readily sharing what we know is a positive action that tends to stick with people. We can become the ‘go to’ person when a question comes up, and that goes a long way in building relationships.

Donating money to a non-profit organization to get your name out there as a sponsor and supporter is also a way to go, but I think donating your time and knowledge is what will keep you in business for the long term.

What benefits do you see in respect to volunteering in your community?

I didn’t fully appreciate all the benefits to volunteering as a Big when I started — I hadn’t thought about what I would get back in the process — but I know I’m a better person for the experience and this young lady has taught me as much as I have taught her. It’s an incredible gift that keeps on giving.

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys New England’s crisp fall mornings and warm sunny days. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: If you could attend any writers’ conference, retreat, or workshop, which one would it be and why. OR, if you could design one just for you – the perfect conference/retreat/workshop that doesn’t yet exist except in your head – what would it be like … and why?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Such a great question! Hands down my favorite writers’ conference is New England Crime Bake held each November in Boston. Ooh la la, do I love this small con that offers a little bit of everything for readers and writers of any type of mystery. I don’t know another local con where I can mix, mingle, and chat with big name authors and agents – and put faces to the names of the folks I chat with on writers’ loops.

As for creating my own retreat – perfection would be a cozy house on a beach. I think 8 or so fellow writers would be a great number; we’d each have our own sleeping space and plenty of options for where to spend hours writing. Then a large gathering area to eat and talk about our writing. I could be any time of year – definitely have a fireplace in the winter, though! Walking along the beach is the most rejuvenating activity I’ve found, and I enjoy it year-round (although I don’t do it nearly as often as I want to!).

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I love the New England Crime Bake too, and have gone to it every year but the first. It is exhausting, but inspiring. And I do like that it is small. I am going to Bouchercon for the first time this weekend, and will report back. It is a HUGE mystery/crime fiction conference, geared more for fans than for writers (from what I understand). Adding the Writers Police Academy to my must do list–hear great things!

I am part of another group blog, the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. This year I was invited to join their retreat (which they did last year as well) at a house in Old Orchard Beach. It was just terrific. (I blogged about it here.) Not only did we write, we had great conversations about careers, about what we brought to our group endeavor, and an impromptu Scrivener class.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: So far, the only conference I’ve been to is the fabulous Muse Conference hosted annually by Boston’s Grub Street. I have attended twice and both times walked away exhausted (as Julie said), but also inspired and informed. Although the conference has grown tremendously since it began, it still has a very grass roots feel that makes me feel more at home than I imagine I would be at, say, a big New York conference.

I asked this question because I received an alert about next spring’s Iceland Writer’s Retreat. I have no intentions of running away to Iceland for five days, but the idea of it was so romantic that I couldn’t help daydreaming.

My perfect writing retreat would be a guilt free one. Like most of my fellow writers here at Live to Write – Write to Live, I have many responsibilities beyond my writing. What I would love more than anything is a retreat that didn’t leave me feeling selfish for taking time away from my daughter, my beau, my work, or my cats. (Yes, I feel guilty when I have to leave my cats.) If I could find a way to steal a couple of days all to myself without worrying about anyone or anything, that would be bliss.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I, too, think New England Crime Bake is an awesome conference. It’s fun, informative, and everyone there–authors, agents, and publishers–are all very down-to-earth.

I did go, once, to an amazing writing workshop (that felt like a retreat). I plan to go again one day. It’s The Self as the Source of the Story Writer’s Workshop that Christina Baldwin does every year out on Whidbey Island, in Washington. Many years ago, when I first started writing again after many years of just longing to do it, I met Christina at a medical conference and saw her flyer about this workshop. It happened to be on a week when my husband and I were both off and my stepchildren were away on an exciting vacation with their mom. I asked my husband (who is not a writer) if he would consider going with me. He said he would, then sent in a writing sample as all the participants had to do. He participated fully in the retreat, which was so wonderful. But the best part about the retreat was that the pace of life we lived that week was so much slower than our normal daily lives. We met twice a day for two hours to hear lectures about different writing topics, and we had plenty of time to write, run, and relax. There were 16 people in the group and we all ate lunch and dinner together. We also spent 36 hours together in silence, which was a powerful experience. On the last day we read out loud to each other. During the day of silence words just poured out of me. I still am amazed at how wonderful that whole week was. Sigh. One day I’ll go again.

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I’ve written about LinkedIn for Journalists and LinkedIn for Writers here, among others, and today  I’m going to show you a few ways to use LinkedIn to build professional connections that can lead to more work.

LinkedIn Groups are great resources created about specific topics or themes, or based on industries and professions. Groups can help you stay current with news, trends, and what’s up and coming. They are a fantastic way for making connections. You can even develop yourself into an expert through asking and answering questions posed by LinkedIn members.

Here are some ways to find the groups that are right for you:

  1. Determine a goal. It’s tempting to jump into any group that catches your eye, but to build your business, pick a single focus, such as connecting with potential clients, establishing your authority through your credentials, increasing your knowledge in your field of choice, and so on.
  2. Use search. LinkedIn continues to update functionality throughout the site and Search is amazing. There’s no harm in starting out with a broad topic such as “writing” and then becoming more specific as you go.
  3. Use current contacts for leads. Some people have visibility on their profile pages to the groups they’ve joined. If you have a contact with a similar business or interests, joining the same groups can increase your chances of making the connections you’re striving to make.LinkedIn_GroupListing
  4. Look through group listings to see how many members each group has to date and to read a brief description to see if any might be what you’re looking for. (image, click on it to enlarge)
  5. Join some groups. Closed groups require moderator approval. You can join Open Groups with the click of a button. Once in a group, view the members (there is a Members tab). If you see names you recognize, that’s a great start to building your connections that will build your business.
  6. Review the discussions and the activity in the group. Assess the potential of being a member of a group by reading discussion threads.
  7. Participate where you can. If there’s a current discussion that you have genuine feedback for, don’t be shy. If someone asks a question and you can answer it, do so. It’s a way to start positioning yourself as an expert. Once you start commenting, adding your own discussions, helping others out, you’ll start getting noticed.
  8. Stick around so people can keep the conversations going with you. Don’t join a group, pose a question, and never return!
  9. When you’re ready and you feel there’s a niche, you could start your own group.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for finding others who

  • do similar work
  • have similar interests
  • could become clients
  • could be great to partner with
  • can become part of your staff
  • could lead you to new work
  • would love to meet for coffee or lunch and share experiences

Have you started using LinkedIn Groups to build your writing business? 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who continues to find new opportunities through LinkedIn. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

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I’ve been involved as a chat moderator with a fabulous online place called The Writer’s Chatroom (TWC) for the past 5+ years and I wanted to tell you more about it. It’s usually mentioned in my bio, but we have a fabulous line up of guests through September and it’s a good time to share.

Most Sunday evenings we have a ‘celebrity’ chat from 7-9PM. And I say ‘most’ because once a quarter we take a Sunday for a live critique chat, and occasionally we have a live prompt chat, and every now and then we have an open chat.

Celebrity chats are akin to bookstore events – you know, where you go to a bookstore to see an author and ask him or her questions. TWC Sunday night chats are moderated and chatters get in a queue to ask questions of the author, publisher, editor, freelance writer, short story writer, publicist, whatever-type-of-writing-professional we have in the hot seat —  from the comfort of their own homes.

Last night, I moderated mystery writer Hy Conrad – most known for being one of the original writers for the TV show Monk, and now for writing the novel series based on the same character. But he has other works too, including a fun book he co-wrote with Jeff Johnson called Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know.

We have international chatters who sign in each Sunday to meet new authors as well as chatters covering all the US time zones. It’s always a good time, and there’s usually a giveaway from the guest at half-time.

Every Wednesday evening is an Open Chat from 8-10 PM EST. There is usually a topic of conversation for the first hour and then free conversation for the second hour. What’s more fun for a writer than to talk shop with other writers, right?

The chatroom also has a discussion board forum for connecting with other writers when the chatroom is closed. There are conversations you can participate in and if you’re looking, for example, to find a critique partner, this is the place to go.

generic_101BestSitesThe Writer’s Chatroom has been listed in Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers 5 times. Our reach continually expands, and we get multipublished authors, as well as NYT best sellers, too. Here’s a list of our past guests. I bet you’ll recognize a name or two.

Here’s a look at our July line up. You can see the full schedule here.

The Chatroom is a fun place for writers of all genres and of all levels along their writing journey. On Sunday nights, I’m there under my pseudonym Lisa Haselton, just so you know.

If you stop in, make sure to say ‘hi’ and tell me you read this blog. I’d love to show you around and introduce you to people.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer, editor, journalist, and chocolate lover. She loves working with words and helps businesses with theirs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

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