Boston-Area Mystery Writers’ Conference – Nov 2014

If you’re a mystery writer or reader, there’s a wonderful (I may be biased) small conference held each November in the Boston area.

2014 marks the 13th Annual New England Crime Bake Conference.

CrimeBake banner


We (I’m part of the conference committee) have a wonderful GOH (guest of honor) this year. Well, we always have a great GOH — Meg Gardiner, Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, and Sue Grafton, to name a few.

This year’s GOH is Craig Johnson. If you’re a fan of the Walt Longmire mystery series or the Longmire A&E TV series (3rd season starts June 2!), the name is familiar.

I met Craig last year at a local independent book store. It was the most unique book event I’ve ever been to. The author lives in tiny town in Wyoming (population 25) and he was here, in NH, in his cowboy boots and hat. He brought a few six packs of beer to share with drinking-age audience members – I had ice water – and had a 2+ hour conversation with us. We could have been sitting in his living room for how comfortable the evening felt.

This year’s Crime Bake conference is going to be loads of fun with him around. The banquet is featuring line dancing (with lessons) as well as cowboy poetry (from participants on the spot). But that’s not all the fun!

Several agents and editors will be around all weekend to listen to pitches (from cozies to thrillers to noirs) and share their expertise.

We’re going to have professionals set up a crime scene and participants get to make their own deductions and determinations — and find out how right we are on Sunday morning.

There are several panels and seminars covering everything from writing cozies to selecting the best publishing option to talking about detectives from Sherlock Holmes to television’s Richard Castle. Check out the full conference schedule. There’s something for everyone who loves the mystery genre.

I personally love this conference because it’s small (250 people) and everyone I meet there (whether unpublished writer or multipublished novelist) is friendly, encouraging, and loves talking about all things mystery. It’s a guilty pleasure to hang out with other writers, but there’s something extra special about hanging out with mystery writers.

I invite ya’ll to come on along with us (at least 3 NHWN bloggers will be there) and “Saddle Up for Murder” on November 7, 8, and 9. The conference’s Facebook Page will keep you updated on activities and if you’re on Twitter, we’re slinging words using #crimebake.

Boy howdy, this is going to be a fun time!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. In her other life, she writes and reads mysteries and is a fan of the New England Crime Bake conference. Her cowboy hat and boots are ready to go. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

A Wicked Lifeboat

I learned a new term this past weekend: Author Lifeboats. Though the term is new, the concept isn’t. I have two lifeboats, and this blog group is one. My other blog, Wicked Cozy Authors, is another, and a great example of the concept in action.

Left to right: Sherry Harris, Jessie Crockett, Edith Maxwell, Barb Ross, Liz Mugavero, moi. Photograph by Meg Manion

Left to right: Sherry Harris, Jessie Crockett, Edith Maxwell, Barb Ross, Liz Mugavero, moi. Photograph by Meg Manion

The Wickeds (as we refer to ourselves) have a few things in common. We all write cozies. We are all Sisters in Crime. We are all friends, though didn’t all know each other as well before we started our blog last year. We all have the same agent. Four have contracts with Kensington, two of us are at Berkley Prime Crime, which means we all have traditional publishing routes we are exploring. Our blog has a lot of group posts.

Last week we celebrated one year on the blog. That year has seen, in public, the launch of four of the series, the date for the fifth, and my contract. Second books started their roll outs with Liz Mugavero’s A Biscuit, A Casket last month, Barb Ross’s Boiled Over yesterday, Edith Maxwell’s ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part at the end of the month, and Jessie Crockett’s Maple Mayhem on July 1. We RT, share, and shout out each other’s good news. And we’ve got a team of readers who comment regularly, and help us spread the word.

In private? We’ve celebrated good news and supported each other through personal challenges. And selfishly? I have learned SO MUCH about deadlines, pacing, word counts, story arcs, the importance of editing, timing, and friendship, from these women. Being friends isn’t necessary to being in an author lifeboat, but it makes it a lot more fun.

There are other author lifeboats in the mystery world: the Jungle Reds, the Cozy Chicks, Mystery Lovers Kitchen, and others. I suspect that the term was created by the romance writers world, which is a fabulous model for support and craft building. Please add other lifeboat blogs to the comments.

This blog is a lifeboat as well. Though we don’t write in the same genre, we regularly correspond, show support, and have occasional Google hangouts. On Saturday, July 26, this blog will be represented  on a panel with Deborah, Wendy, and Lisa at Bookstock in Vermont. I am going to try and be in the audience.

Lifeboats work. I was at Malice Domestic last weekend, and on an elevator where a woman I’d never met asked me if I was a Wicked Cozy. Bookmark at the ready, I thanked her for reading the blog and let her know that we were all at the conference. And she was excited by the news. How cool is that?

But as importantly, the journey is easier, and more fun, with others. So writer friends, get in a lifeboat.


J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories, Julie Hennrikus is the ED of StageSource and teaches arts management, and Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series.

If Networking Scares You, Put on the Matchmaker’s Cap

Do you cringe when someone suggests that you get out and ‘network’ with other writers, business owners, or creative types?

Networking can be intimidating, I know. As an introvert who excels at listening, networking can give me butterflies if I think it’s all about me and my business and needing to say the right thing to the right person.

I’ve found a trick that helps with the anxiety. I put on a matchmaker’s cap. I go to an event with the intent to focus on others instead of myself.

Here’s what it entails: focusing on learning about a person and his/her needs and then seeing if I can connect that person with the ‘right match’ by the end of the evening.

If you do this, people will learn about you and your experience. And if can connect two individuals with specific needs to the person they are looking for, they’ll remember you — and what you do. And when they hear about a writing need, you’ll be a referral they can give.

Networking takes time, here are some other matchmaker-like tips that may work:

  • If you don’t have much writing experience yet, become a source for referrals; be open to recommending a more experienced writer if your experience doesn’t fit a stated need — if that referral gets hired, ask to shadow the process as a way to learn and gain experience.
  • Provide useful information through your blog, website, or other social media outlets. You don’t have to know everything. If you find an article or interview another writer, share that with your audience — you’ll get known as a person with resources and/or a person who knows how to find information.
  • Find a writer to emulate to build your confidence and experience. You’re probably already subscribing to newsletters or RSS feeds and following some successful freelance writers — what is it about those people that attracts you to them? How do they keep your attention week after week? Start emulating them with your own content and build your own following.
  • Attend events that attract the types of businesses you want to work with. As you get to know someone, you’ll learn more about a particular company and be able to learn the correct contact name or department.
  • Graphic designers can be a great resource for freelance writers — as not all designers are writers and not all writers are visual. Finding a designer who works with companies you’d like to write for can pay dividends for both of you.

Consider this: if you were looking to hire a writer, would you contact folks you already know, or start cold calling random writers? You’d call people you know.

In all my years as a freelancer, the majority of job opportunities have come from relationships I’ve developed with people.

What do you think? Does networking seem a little less scary now?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Debra Dixon’s Book-In-A-Day Workshop

Debra Dixon is coming! Debra Dixon is coming!

Debra Dixon is a popular writer, speaker and publisher and she’s bringing her “Book-In-A Day” Workshop to Nashua, New Hampshire on May 10, 2014. Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict is required reading for anyone who is hoping to have their book published.

Debra Dixon Book-In-A Day May 10, 2014

I read Goal, Motivation and Conflict at the recommendation of several fellow writers. I started with a borrowed copy but the book was packed with such great information I had to restrain myself from using a highlighter. I knew I had to purchase my own copy. I wrote a review for L2W W2L.

The Book-In-A Day Workshop uses the 12 step Hero’s Journey to help you plan the character driven plots that make readers and publisher’s stand up at take notice. You’ll leave the workshop with an outline that will advance your book idea from concept to finished plan. You will:


Understand Hero and Villain motivation in crafting a tension-filled story.
  • Understand the difference between internal and external motivation, and why it is important to goal-setting and plot.
  • Understand the difference between hero long- and short-term goal setting.
  • Chart your Hero’s emotional journey in counterpoint to his physical journey.
  • Put the Hero’s goals in direct emotional conflict with the villain and the Emotional Obstacle.
  • Let your book unfold in stages, maintaining tension and increasing suspense, until the very end.

The workshop is sponsored by the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America, but is open to writer’s of all genre’s. It will be held at the Radisson in Nashua from 9am to 4pm. The cost is $80 and includes a lunch buffet.

Stay overnight at the Radisson Friday night, and meet fellow authors that evening from 8-11 pm in the lounge. For more information and to sign up, please visit
 I hope to see you there!

Will you be attending? What books have you read on writing have drastically altered how you write?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is a member of the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writers of America and is currently at work on her first novel.

Saturday Edition – What We’re Reading and Writing

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which I  share some of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain for a peek behind-the-scenes.

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

Happy writing! Happy reading! 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Morning. (Yawn). How are you on this fine Saturday? I have to be honest. I’m a little sleepy. I usually like to write these weekend edition posts on Friday afternoon, but this week’s best laid plans fell all to pieces when my daughter’s sniffle landed her on the couch for two days. At the end of the day yesterday I had two options for getting this post done: forgo an evening of relaxation with my beau, a couple Boboli pizzas, and a bottle of chardonnay, or rise and shine extra early this morning. I chose the rise-n-shine option, so … here I am.

And, I have to thank you.

You see, you guys are awesome accountability partners. I love to read and I love to write, but sometimes it’s hard to make time for these things in the midst of my already busy life. Wanting to make sure I have things to share with you on Saturday morning motivates me to eke out an extra bit of reading time reading. It helps keep me on track with my blogging outside this blog and even my column writing. The fact that you are interested enough to show up each week makes me want to show up each week. In short, you inspire me to be here.

So, thank you for helping me up my game. I really appreciate it.

Now, on to the goods for this week:

What I’m Writing:

brick wall

Background Image: Wikimedia Commons

Over on my marketing blog I wrote a piece called Tell Me Why I Should Care. I took a different approach to my writing style on this one. To be perfectly honest, I was a little stumped for a topic. When you write about the same topic each week for – ahem – years, it can start to become difficult to find a fresh new angle. Sometimes you hit a wall. You get a little burnt out. Last week was one of those weeks.

I just didn’t feel like I could tackle a long-form post, and I didn’t feel terribly inspired. But, as all professional writers know, it’s not about waiting for inspiration. It’s about getting the job done by the deadline. So, I puttered around my house a bit and mulled over what was blocking me. I realized that I was having one of those downer moments that come from writing your heart out on a blog, but never seeing the results you hope for. It’s like getting all dressed up for a party, and then no one even knows you’re there.

My blog is an important part of my marketing business. It’s wonderful resource for prospects and clients alike, and I’ve had quite a few posts that have performed decently in terms of shares and comments. But, more often than not, my little blog posts get swallowed up in the echo chamber of the great social media blog promotion machine. It breaks my heart a little, because I really do care about my work and about helping people.

That’s when I landed on the idea for my post – tell me why I should care. The post is a bit of a reminder to myself and also, I hope, a thought-provoking inspiration to others who are trying to make their mark in the online space, or anywhere else for that matter. The piece is short (only 225 words), and written in the form of one side of a conversation. No exposition. No explanation. Just one half of an imagined dialog. It was fun to write, and – I hope – makes my point in a creative and memorable way.

What I’m Reading:

Affiliate Link

This week I indulged my inner child (and my inner writer who wants to write for children) and enjoyed two fabulous and classic novels by masters of the genre. The first was Eva Ibbotson’s Island of the Aunts (affiliate link). I picked this up hoping my daughter might enjoy it (and I could lure her away from the Hunger Games trilogy). Ibbotson was an Austrian-born British novelist. She passed away in 2010, leaving a rich legacy of children’s and young adult books. I had read reviews in which she was called the “Rowling before there was a Rowling,” and – since my daughter loved the Harry Potter books – I thought I might persuade her to try Ibbotson’s stories.

Though I wasn’t able to compete with Katniss, I was intrigued enough to read Island of the Aunts myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had that slightly old-fashioned feel that often seems part and parcel of British children’s stories. I can imagine the narrator as an older man or woman with a crisp accent, a wry sense of humor, and a knack for delivering back-handed compliments. The story is part adventure and part eco-tale and includes a wild cast of characters who are both startling and charming.

What hooked me was the first line, “Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done.” What a fabulous way to start a story, right?

Affiliate Link

The second book I picked up was Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter (affiliate link). I had vague memories of reading Moomin books when I was a kid. The illustrations were immediately familiar to me (in fact, I saw a couple that I remember copying into my sketch book), but the stories had long wandered out of my head to make room for other things that, upon reflection, have perhaps turned out to be less worthy.

Jansson, like one of my other favorite authors, James Thurber, does not write “down” to children. Both authors were also artists and, in particular, cartoonists, who had a wonderful way with language and didn’t skimp on their use of it when writing to the younger set. There are bits of humor and wisdom in their books that I’m still discovering at age forty-four, and I expect I will continue to discover new gems long into my golden years.

The Moomin books are set in a land that is at once unspeakably strange, peopled as it is with all manner of oddly named and shaped creatures – Little Creeps, Gaffsies, Grokes, and Fillyjonks – but it is also a place where I feel completely at home. It gives me a sort of, as Douglas Adams liked to say, an “oh, well, that’s alright then,” kind of feeling. I’m looking forward to going back to visit soon via some of the other Moomin books.

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 plot twist

And that’s all for this week. 

Thanks again, truly, for being here. Always so nice to share part of my writing journey (and my weekend!) with you. Happy reading & writing. Go create something! :) 

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.

My business writing year in review

Earlier this month, the NHWN bloggers met via Google Hangout. Lee has a nice summary of the evening here. One topic was to share our achievements for 2013 and share some 2014 goals.

The new year brings new opportunities and I’m excited with how 2013 has ended, and inspired for 2014.

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Here’s a high-level look at my writing year, my 7th as an independent writer and editor. Some achievements include:

  • Financially, I blew my own mind by achieving 6 figures — my highest annual income ever. ‘Freelancing’ doesn’t have to equate to living on a tight budget (although my frugality is still well in place). Many happy dances and loud “Woo Hoo” shouts have echoed through the walls here, especially this month as the goal was realized!
  • 3 prior clients came back for more projects. I love building lasting relationships!
  • I wrote about small business ownership for American Express at their request. 
  • I published 4 NH-related travel articles in  a regional monthly magazine I loved. (It closed its doors in August, even though it was successful.)
  • I blogged here on NHWN weekly for most of the year.
  • I converted my website over to WordPress.
  • I have a business logo designed.
  • I joined a business mastermind group.
Make 2014 awesome!

Make 2014 awesome!

2014 business writing and editing wildly inspiring goals include:

  • Double my 2013 income
  • Gain 12 new long-term clients
  • Publish 12 writing-related and 12 small business ownership related e-books
  • Use business blog for writing and small biz ownership posts
  • Integrate my own photos into blog posts, especially with inspirational sayings on them
  • Publish NH and New England travel articles again

I’ve joined a business mastermind group and am now a co-organizer for a NH-focused networking group that plans monthly events. This year I also joined a local Chamber of Commerce and made connections with a networking group focused on New England. These groups will help me meet people (obviously), but also to build relationships and learn more about myself so I can continue to grow and improve overall.

Although my business has international clients, I have a strong desire to work with regional businesses where I can meet face-to-face. Technology is great and telecommuting is fantastic, but I feel there’s more to a client relationship when we can meet in person whenever possible.

I also write and publish fiction and poetry and those accomplishments and goals are separate from my business. Definitely ‘upping my game’ in that area, too!

If you need some help setting writing goals, this article may help: 15 New Year Writing Resolutions to Adopt in 2014 by David K. William of The Web Writer Spotlight.

What is one major goal you have regarding writing in 2014?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa 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. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Hangin’ with NHWN

This post is late, but I have a good excuse. No, really! I was up late late last night. LAME you say? Pssh, I was up late on a Google Hangout with the writers of NHWN.

As I’m sure you can tell from our writing, we are nothing if not a diverse group. We are mothers, empty nesters (sort of), we are married, we are single, we are passionate for our respective causes and all of us are overcommitted. This means it’s hard nay, impossible for us to get together face to face. Some of us have never met in person. Last night we were still one down due to illness but, we had a great time.

Once we kicked the tires on Google Hangouts (for the record Diane looks FABULOUS in scuba goggles) we got down to the business of discussing the blog. We were thrilled to discover that we have over 20,000 followers of this blog. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to visit our humble part of the Internet. We talked about some minor tweaks to the blog format.

A screen grab of the NHWN writers on Google Hangouts

Here we are exploring the “features” of Google Hangouts.

We also took some time to share what we are up to individually.

  • Deborah is juggling her regular writing commitments, working on her novel and going to yoga to maintain contact with the outside world.
  • Diane is working on her life coaching business and gently pushing herself in her fiction work while fielding numerous questions from a four year old.
  • Julie is keeping secrets, juggling all of her day jobs and volunteer commitments, oh and writing regularly for two blogs!
  • Jamie is soldiering on in the world of marcomm and stretching her wings in short fiction.
  • Lee picked up gigs writing quarterly essays for The Concord Monitor, and a client who needs help with content development for her web site.
  • Susan, is desperately trying to get rid of the contractors in her house while caring for her dad, writing 2 regular columns and teaching a memoir class.
  • Wendy has hit it big time in the sphere of chicken journalism! She is also the Executive Director of a New Hampshire publication for people with disabilities and a library trustee in her town.

Sadly, Lisa wasn’t feeling well so we missed out on updates from her. Look for more detailed updates from all of us over the next few weeks. We laughed and sipped, our beverage of choice (anything from Jack Daniels to wine, tea or water, I’ll leave it to you to figure out who had what) and we will most definitely Hangout again.

We are all truly grateful for the opportunity to work together and we sincerely appreciate you our readers. Thank you for taking the time to stop by regularly, read our posts and share your thoughts. This blog has been going strong for more than three years. We have almost 900 posts and close to 13,800 comments. We look forward to continuing to explore the art and craft of writing with you.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

Advice for a young writer

I was recently contacted by the mom of a very young writer (mid-teen) who asked for advice on how to get her very prolific daughter (has completed NanoWrimo 3 times already) connected (and hopefully published) in the writing world.

I put heads together with my friend Gina Rosati (my weekly kidnapper) and we came up with this response and I thought was information good enough for *any* beginning writer.


Thank you for contacting me, I’m always happy to help another writer and how lucky you are to have a writer in the house!

First, you need to understand that I am a journalist/blogger and not a novelist (although I am working on a book but it’s a memoir) so novel writing is not my area of expertise. However, I do have a few suggestions:

Have your daughter talk to her librarian (both school and public) and take the initiative to set up a teen writers group (from which she will get tons of real world feedback. Kids are brutally honest, and if she’s writing YA, they will give her useful feedback.) FYI, the Merrimack Library has a strong writers and NANO group.

IMG_20131113_090043106Have her read Story Engineering (Larry Brooks) and Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) because she might not be trained about proper story structure (which is KEY.) I keep both books by my desk and I refer to them often.

Let her know that writers are like butterflies … the struggle to get published – of attending writing conferences (like SCBWI), of meeting writers who have similar interests, of searching online for useful information (which leads to discovering information she didn’t realize would be useful) and of achieving a goal on her own, rather than have someone hand her a golden key, is all crucial to a successful career. She should be networking (online and in-face) as much as possible.

Querying for an agent – that’s something that takes hard work, luck, and a little bit of magic. I currently have 2 agents interested in my book (after a loooong time of trying.) You need to be able to present your book idea clearly and concisely. You have to have an angle (it could be the age of your daughter), a hell-of-a-hook, and you have to show that your book is marketable. It’s not easy, (if it were everyone would be published) and I’ve seen courses and workshops on this topic alone. This one will have to come from her, she needs to do her research, and be able to succinctly explain what her book is about. She also needs to follow an agent’s preferred format. Find the agent that fits, follow her guidelines to create a query and then send it with your fingers crossed.

Shortcuts = Easy Come, Easy Go. If she’s in this for the long haul, she’ll take her time and develop her skills. There are very few teen writers who have experienced the life lessons needed to produce deep, meaningful literature but with practice comes perfection.

For the above reason, she might want to connect with a Literary Coach (you’d have to pay) who could help and advise her with getting her work to the point where it could be professionally published.

Continue being your daughter’s greatest fan. That, more than anything, will give her the courage and strength to continue as a writer.

Many thanks to Gina for her input on this.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). ( She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Saturday Edition: What we’re writing and reading

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! 


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.

Scary Social Media – Writers’ Top 4 Fears (and How to Get Past Them)

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.


  • 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:


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.


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