AWP Day 3

As you read this, I’ll be making my way to O’Hare to head back to the Shenandoah Valley. I loved being in Chicago. It’s been a long time since work took me there for a two-week period, but I’d forgotten how much I love city skylines. Yesterday, we had low clouds and snow flurries, and it was cool to see the tops of skyscrapers disappear into the clouds. Lake Michigan was gray and chilly looking, but as much as I love my mountain view at home, Chicago is a beautiful city to gawk at.

I loved being around so many other writers–overhearing the bar conversations was a high point of my day. Writers talk about their characters as if they were real people, and I was glad to see that wasn’t eccentric. They talk about craft and rejections and where is the idea for their next book going to come from–all the things that I can relate to, and that’s comforting. But, let’s see how Day 3 went for me.

BTW, if you get to Chicago, go to Kitty O’Shea’s, an Irish pub in the Hilton on Michigan Ave. Great pub food, great beer, great Irish history decor. I had lunch there every day and wish I could transport it to the Valley.

“Connecting with Readers via Your Website and Social Media” appeared, on paper, to be a promising seminar for first thing Saturday morning. I’m not as self-conscious about technology or social media as many of my contemporaries. I was too much of a Trekkie for that. I built a computer in the early 1980’s and was on-line with CompuServe (remember that) at about the same time. Still, social media was something I initially regarded as being for “the young folks.” (Amazing how we reach the point where we sound like our grandmothers, isn’t it?)

I started using Facebook for the typical reason a white female over 50 does—to keep up with her grandchildren. Then, I moved to where they live, but I stayed with Facebook because I found that writers had Facebook pages, and I could pretend to be friends with them. I consider myself still a dabbler in both Facebook and Twitter, though I’m learning how to use each to better benefit for my writing life. I’ve blogged for a couple of years now, and I rather like “following” on Twitter some of my literary icons—Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and so forth.

Since I’d like to be more than a dabbler in social media, I went to this seminar eager to pick up useful tips. And I did—from the last panelist. When a seminar on how to use social media starts with a panelist who tells you she turned down the offer twice before accepting, that she has a YouTube channel which she doesn’t update, that she doesn’t Tweet and doesn’t update her Facebook page, and has a website that she generally ignores until a book comes out, you begin to think it might be a waste of time. I’m leaving off the names of the panelists for a reason.

Indeed, several of the first few panelists confessed their fear of, distaste for, and dread of websites and social media. One said very little on the topic but used the opportunity to do a reading of a self-indulgent essay about seeing the wild ponies from Chincoteague—then alluding to the fact his walk along the poop-laden beach was in Maryland. (It’s Virginia.) His social media connection was that a Facebook follower had mentioned his work had taken on a depressing tone and that make him examine his work. Really? That was it?

The final panelist, whose time had been shortened by the others’ going over time and not understanding how to use the laptop provided to display websites on a screen, was the only one to give practical tips and suggestions:

  • Use only the social media you’re comfortable with; don’t try to do it all
  • What social media you do us should be a facet of your personality; just remember nothing you say is private
  • Use Facebook and Twitter as your water cooler if you work from home; they help to keep you from being insular
  • Recognize you might discouraged by posts and Tweets from other writers about their success; don’t be bitter or jealous but be fulsome with your congratulations–you never know the connection you might make
  • The more you give–compliments, praise, congratulations–the more you get from social media
  • Since it’s so easy to create a website, do it now! Even if you haven’t sold a book yet, do book reviews of others’ work, link to writing websites or writing contests or even other writers’ sites
  • If you love an author’s work, use social media to connect and tell him or her so
  • If you’re not comfortable with social media, make certain you approach publishers who will help you, not reject you because you don’t have a platform

Next year, he should do the whole panel, and that would improve its practicality. My first, small disappointment of the conference.

I’m avoiding the Book Fair today because I’ve no room left in the single suitcase I brought. As it is, United is likely to charge me an overweight fee for it in addition to its usual $25 rip-off, I mean, baggage fee.

Because a computer problem at my hotel kept me from printing out my boarding passes and the subsequent 20 minutes on the phone with United Airlines, all the afternoon sessions I wanted to attend were SRO, or sitting room only as well. I didn’t want to subject myself to that indignity, so another quiet afternoon writing, followed by packing to go home. Is it time for that already? I just got here. I’m having too much fun, and now I have to go home? As far as I’m concerned this could go on a few more days—or someone needs to invent that time machine so I can go back and attend all the seminars I wanted to attend in the same time block.

Yep, I’ll be in Boston next year for AWP13.

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