Category Archives: writing

The Author and The Media Age

Social media has become a part of the language we speak. Facebook incites argument, Instagram provokes envy, and Twitter is used for foreign policy. Because of this, social media is one of the best marketing tools available for artists today. Likes, shares, and retweets bring artists in obscurity to prominence through a series of successful social media campaigns.

For a writer, the best social media platform is Twitter. Confined to 140 characters (though the site is thinking about introducing a new 280 limit), the social networking site is ideal for those who deal in words. However, some prominent published writers seem to scorn all forms of social media, either to prevent themselves from becoming distracted from their work or because they believe the medium to be a frivolous time waster.

I, however, believe that a well-managed Twitter account can increase an author’s readership, help market their new work, and connect them to a network outside of the literary world. Today, I am going to explore the Twitter accounts of three reputable (and remarkable) female writers: Nayyirah Waheed, J.K. Rowling, and Jennifer Egan. I will analyze what their accounts do well, their limitations, and how they allow these women to reach new audiences.

Nayyirah Waheed

I am in many ways limiting Waheed’s social media influence by analyzing her Twitter profile because it was her Instagram that expanded her audience and allowed her poetry to garner attention. She takes pictures of poems from her collections (my favorite is salt.) and posts them, captioning the collection and title of the poem.

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Her tweets are similar. What I find most effective about Waheed’s Twitter is that everything she tweets is a poem. Her poetry consists of fragmented sentences that explore issues of race, love, and gender.

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Because her poetry is so sparse, Waheed is able to fit an entire poem in 180 characters. She’s created a distinct form of tweeting that allows her readers to see new work daily. It also extends her readership more quickly since other users can browse her profile and get instant access to her poetry. If a tweet resonates with a follower, they can like or retweet it, and the poem will show up on their timeline. Then, one of their followers can see the poem, and if they like it, they may follow Waheed or even buy one of her collections.

Some limitations to Waheed’s Twitter include her use of pictures, retweets, and her promotion of other poets. While this is normally a great way to utilize social media, Waheed’s tweets are in such a specific format that her profile as a whole loses some potency when she breaks from tweeting poetry. Ideally, her account would consistently stick to her “poem as tweets” format.

However, this has not stopped her from garnering nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter and over 350,000 followers on Instagram. Waheed’s use of social media has had a tangible effect on her career. She self-published her first collection, salt. By posting her poems on social media, Waheed gained positive attention from various followers. Because of this rise in popularity, Waheed’s collection started to be taken seriously by critics who had at first blown off her poetry for its non-traditional form. Her work is now studied in high schools across the country.

J.K. Rowling

Rowling holds nothing back on her Twitter. She uses it for marketing new work (especially by retweeting promotions from Robert Galbraith, her pseudonym’s account), for connecting with her fans, and for confronting political issues, both in the US and the UK. Since joining the site in 2009, Rowling has tweeted almost 9,000 times, gained over 12 million followers, and averages around 1,000 retweets for her unlinked tweets.

Rowling’s tweeting is partly a product of her prominence in the world as a celebrity. She has used her platform to speak out against Brexit and Donald Trump, and she frequently calls out British journalists on Twitter. Also, because she is a celebrity and doesn’t have to worry about gaining or losing followers, she can tweet whatever she likes, for example:

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And she will receive a receive a generally positive response from her followers (like me!):

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One limitation of Rowling’s account is that, because she tweets such politically charged material, she’s bound to lose followers and receive flack from other users on Twitter. What makes Rowling a master of the medium, however, is her ability to respond to those comments with concise, biting turns of phrases:

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Rowling has plunged head first into the social media world and has used Twitter to cultivate a specific voice outside of her creative work. People who may not be interested in reading her fiction still follow her because of her engagement on the social media site. Through her tweets, Rowling has made herself a prominent voice in today’s volatile political climate.

Jennifer Egan

Egan is an acclaimed writer and an elite presence in the literary world, and her twitter reflects that. Egan uses her twitter account exclusively for marketing purposes. She was active in 2014 when she was the editor for the anthology Best American Short Stories (and, during this time, retweeted Joyce Carol Oates’ thoughts on the collection). She then stopped tweeting. Her account ceased its three-year period of dormancy to market her new book Manhattan Beach, which comes out October 3rd.

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While this strategy will not garner you the most followers (Egan has just over 12,000 followers and averages at or under 100 likes per post), it is a great marketing strategy. If I was a curious reader wanting to see what projects Egan had coming out, it would be super easy for me to find that information on her sparse account. Additionally, because her account isn’t inundated with a constant stream of tweets (both personal and professional), she would be an account someone who likes an uncluttered feed would be more likely to follow.

Egan’s account is not geared toward gaining new readership. There’s nothing on her account that would make someone who has never read her work follow her. However, because she does have a Twitter, she can be tagged when she’s nominated for prestigious honors, like making the National Book Award Long List. This can direct readers who are not familiar with her work toward her profile.

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There are a number of different ways for a writer to manage their social media accounts, and these are just three examples. Whether you choose to manage your account like Waheed, Rowling, or Egan, know that your Twitter can have a positive effect on your professional work when you utilize the medium creatively and effectively.

Madeline Sneed, Intern

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Filed under Social Media, writing

How to Stay Creative in Political Turmoil

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Image Taken From: http://bit.ly/2rJ7C0x

The aftermath of the most recent US Presidential Election seems to have changed everything, especially social media. For people working in creative fields, this new environment has at the very least been upsetting, but at the worst has been a mental health crisis that makes it almost impossible to accomplish anything. As someone who follows a lot of authors on Twitter, I’ve seen this topic come up repeatedly. How can you keep writing fiction when it seems like the real-life problems and villains are so much more threatening? How can you be creative when it seems like there’s a new headline talking about the end of the world every day? Here’s my list of suggestions to keep yourself creative and productive even in the midst of so much political turmoil.

Disconnect:

Are you feeling like you just can’t handle having access to social media or the internet while working lately?  The first step you can take is investing in an internet blocking service. Over the years, several different software programs have been developed to completely restrict or partially block the internet access of your phone or computer, allowing you to get work done. One of the most popular programs is Freedom, which works on iPhone, iPad, Macs, and Windows computers. You can add websites and apps to a running list and block them for up to 8 hours at a time. Once a block is set you can continue adding distractions to it, but you can’t end the block until time runs out. With pricing starting at $2.42/ month, Freedom provides an excellent escape from the latest CNN headline or Twitter explosion for a few hours. There are also other programs such as RescueTime which doesn’t restrict your internet usage, but sends you a printout at the end of the day stating exactly how much time you’ve spent on each website you’ve visited. If you think you can handle having internet access while you work and only need a little bit of time management shaming to keep you in check, RescueTime might be right for you.

Get Inspiration:

Make sure you have an idea or a work in progress that is interesting enough to keep that inspiration ball rolling no matter how insane the headlines. Even if you are struggling to find your next big idea, answering small writing prompts can really get your brain flowing. Books like 642 Things to Write About, or its sequel, 712 More Things to Write About, both from the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, are filled with short prompts. Even answering a small question about yourself or allowing your brain to wander down the path of “What If?” can be the start of an entire new project!

Another key to getting inspiration is keeping something to write with on you at all times. Whether it’s saving little snippets on your phone or carrying pen and paper around, you never know when inspiration might strike! There’s nothing worse than feeling that adrenaline rush of a new idea, only to have it slip away before you can jot down some notes. It’s important to be ready for inspiration to come at any time.

Self-Care:

Self-care is all the more vital during uncertain times. Taking a break can be necessary to recharge and get your creative juices flowing again. But what exactly counts as self-care? Anything that makes you feel relaxed and recharged! Maybe it’s putting on headphones and going for a walk. Maybe it’s putting your face in a pillow and screaming out your frustrations. Maybe it’s hitting the gym, going for a run, or curling up with your favorite book and a cup of tea. Do something that lets you escape and brings your focus and energy back to center.

Often, we get so wrapped up in our daily tasks that we forget that it’s okay to take a break. The toxic policies being developed in the U.S. Government right now are hard to deal with and so is all of the violence occurring around the globe. No matter how involved you are in the social movements, or how directly affected you are by current political issues, everyone is entitled to a self-care or mental-health break. Once you take a step back and recharge you will be able to launch back into writing, activism, or any other responsibilities with renewed vigor and see better results.

Remember Why You Create:

Writers are vital to our society. We document history, scientific achievements, and the latest news. We create fantastical worlds and tell the stories of ourselves and others. In times like these, it can be easy to feel that creativity and writing pale in comparison to so many other things. In these low moments, remind yourself why you create and why you write. Readers, especially teenagers and young adults, rely on writers to help them understand the world around them. When asked by the LA Times in an interview about writing for young readers after the election, Meredith Russo, author of If I Was Your Girl, said, “They still need me. They still need us. So as tempting as it is to hunker down and go into survival mode, we have to remember that we have a responsibility to young people to preserve their sense of stability and hope.”I write because, someday, I want to tell a story that will change someone’s life the same way so many of my favorite books have changed mine.

In a time filled with so much hatred, we need more personal stories. We need to continue working to provide a platform across all genres for writers from different backgrounds and social groups. As long as writers produce positive representations of minority groups, there will be people reading them and learning to understand. So, despite how difficult these past few months have been and how difficult the next several are going to continue to be, keep writing. Stay informed on what is happening around us, but don’t let it keep you from being creative. It really could make all the difference in the world.

-Megan, Intern

 

Sources Consulted:

Authors on the 2016 Presidential Election

13 YA Authors on Writing in the Age of Trump

Postelection, Overwhelmed Facebook Users Unfriend, Cut Back

6 Apps that Block Online Distractions So You Can Get Work Done

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Filed under Megan Raible, politics, Writer's Block, writing