Friday, May 14, 2010

I Just Joined Twitter; I am Going to Hell

On Facebook today, my friend, the novelist Mary Sojourner wrote, "There's an old story about how you can put a frog in water, start to heat it. The frog will adapt and adapt till it can't anymore and dies. I suspect we are all frogs."

She was writing about indie bookstores and e-books and all the chaotic upending changes going on at break-neck speed in the current publishing climate. She and I have talked at length about the world we're writing in, asking the question, "What happens when no one values the stories anymore?" What happens to those of us who only need pen and paper and a readership, but understand that the world we are living in requires we do and be more. E-books will be interactive! Outtakes? Bad drafts? False starts? Characters who didn't make the cut? Where do we draw the line? A new generation of young writers first learned to read and write on a computer. It's a different world, and no one knows who will emerge on top in this new world order.

My friend and I have spoken about the power of Facebook. As an author, you ignore it at your peril. People find you there. They ask you questions, and yes, they buy your books. You are not a multi-millionaire. You are not the Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling of the publishing world. You do not get your phone calls returned, even from the smallest of writing conferences. You must find your own way through the brush to your readers. The field is very crowded and noisy. Do you join in the din and try to shout louder? Or do you remain silent and believe in the "If I write it they will come" mantra. You do know better than that. They won't. But you also know that if everyone is shouting, no one is hearing.

I am lucky. I have two books coming out this summer. My novel, Ghost Swamp Blues, comes out on June 1. The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your True Voice comes out on August 10. I have spoken to the publicists. We have lists -- they will do X, I will do Y. Where do I have friends where I might stay on tours? (If there were tours.) What conferences would I like to participate in? Am I willing to Skype with book groups? (Yes) Will I build a Facebook page for each book? (Yes). Will I blog regularly and continue to build my platform? (Yes) Will I launch a YouTube station with videos on the writing exercises and other writerly topics? (Yes) Will I offer to guest blog? (Yes) Will I send books to book-review bloggers? Will I give books away on my own site? Give my time away? Coach people with their own writing for free? Will I do all this for the possibility -- only the possibility -- of my books reaching an audience? And will I do all this while I maintain my full-time job (because much of the costs of book publicity come from my own pocket, "Sorry, Laraine, we just don't have the money ... ") which involves teaching writing to 100 students each semester, and by the way, Laraine, what's your next book? Will you send us your next proposal? What are you working on now?

Since I posted final grades on Tuesday, I have done the following:
- reviewed and edited press releases for both books
- followed up with the publicists
- developed lists of newspapers, book groups, and reviewers
- scripted four YouTube videos to shoot this month
- began writing a database of newsletters so I can stay in contact with readers
- organized lists of people who are preordering books from me
- rewrote the copy for my website re-design, which will launch on June 1 as well
- added content to my Facebook pages for the two books
- contacted several venues where I would like to present a workshop or reading
- followed up with Pearson/Longman on a creative writing textbook proposal we began working on this year
- joined Twitter   @laraineherring

Prior to posting grades, I have done the following:
- created a teaching schedule for the next academic year that is primarily on-line so I can re-organize and reclaim some of my time and energy
- spoke to my supervisor and received approval to begin the application process for a sabbatical for 2012

What have I not done?

Real Writing.

To My Students: If you want this life (and make no mistake, I do want this life), be ready to work it. If you have to have a day job, then you have to have a day job. You will then have three full-time jobs -- the writing one, the marketing one, and the one with the check attached to it. You will have to find your own way into the pot of boiling water, your own method of adapting. No one can adapt for you. No one can tell you which way is the right way. You have to jump in, and then you have to know when to jump out.

All I ever wanted to do in this life is write stories. This is the time in which I am writing them. I can't change the time I'm living in. I can only continue to know that I must push back to keep the space I need for the Real Writing. I must continue to say no. Continue to set boundaries. Continue to do what I am here to do. I was born knowing my answer to the cliched deathbed question -- I will not wish I had spent more time grading papers. I will not wish I had spent more time outside. I will not wish I had had children or a dog or a church. I will only wish I had read more, had written more, because that is who I am. I have always known that, and I have always felt profoundly grateful for that.

So in this world, this time, this place -- I am a writer. And to do that, I have to do other things. I was given the talent and the tools. The assembly is left up to me. So, dare I say, tweet me, follow me on FB, check out the new website when it's launched, read my book, read the books of others, write to the authors (we're kind of lonely out here), share books, share stories, and write them down because the creation of such gifts are sacred, and even if the delivery method is rooted in zeros and ones, the story is still the reason for the method. Without the stories, we are empty.


Belle Starr said...

fuckin' A. I thank earth and god/dess that you are on the planet. m

rebeccajlove said...

Thank you, Laraine. I needed to hear the line about not wishing I had graded more papers. I'm printing out this blog post; it's a keeper.