30 Mar

DIY MFA Twitter Chats (and Some Twitter Tips)

Posted in DIY MFA, Twitter

Hi everyone!  Hope you’re all getting excited for DIY MFA starting this weekend.  Today, I just wanted to write a quick post to announce the schedule for DIY MFA Twitter Chats.

Starting in April, we’ll be chatting on Sundays from 5pm – 6pm EDT.  Each week I’ll have a topic and we can discuss, or we can talk about DIY MFA in general.  It’ll also be a time to debrief after the Saturday Writing Sprints and a great way to connect with other writers.

DIY MFA chats will use the hashtag #diymfa.


For those who are new to twitter chats, here are a few twitter tips that have helped me navigate the world of twitter chats:

Use TweetChat: tweetchat.com allows you to enter a hashtag and then it opens that hashtag in a new window, sort of like a chat window.  It’s got some great features like it bolds tweets with your @username on it and your own tweets so if there are multiple threads in the chat, it’s easier to follow.  It also automatically adds the chat hashtag to your tweets.

Remember, Twitter Chats are not Chat Rooms:  In a generic chat room, everyone who sees your posts is also involved in the chat, but this is not true for twitter chats.  The trick to tweeting effectively during a chat is to make your tweets specific to the chat but also broad and detailed enough so that if someone sees it out of context it could still make sense.  Of course, it’s impossible to do this with all your tweets, but you should try to avoid strings of tweets that look like this:

@person1: OMG! Awesome!
@person1: @person2  Totally agree.
@person1: @person3  Yeah, me too.

This is where using Retweets can help give your tweets context.  Like this:

@person1: OMG! Awesome! RT @person2 Just finished my novel!
@person1: Totally agree.  RT @person2 Writing a novel is hard.
@person1: Yeah, me too.  RT @person3  I wish I had finished my novel already. Taking too long.

Don’t be shy.  Jump in.  Tweeps are nice peeps.  Don’t let a chat full of people who know each other make you nervous.  Just say hello and jump into the conversation.

Forgot to add this when I first posted but will add it now:

Anyone else have other advice for twitter chat newbies?  Also anyone who’s done a twitter chat: can you tell us which ones you’d recommend?

(I’ll share my #chat picks in the comments.)


10 Feb

Dear Facebook: It’s not Me, It’s You…

Posted in Social Media, Twitter

Dear Facebook,

I’m sorry, but this thing we have just isn’t working out.  I know you’re trying to bring people together, but really you’re nothing more than a college alumni magazine on crack and I just can’t deal with all your TMI anymore.  No, I don’t need to know how many hairballs your cat spat-up today.  No, I don’t care what you had for breakfast.  And no, I really don’t need to see photos of the four orphan goldfish you rescued from a third-world country.  You need to learn some boundaries, Facebook.  Seriously.

Your obsession with reciprocation irks me.  I can only be friends with someone if they friend me back.  But what if I want to follow the goings-on of someone so supremely awesome that I don’t care if they want to friend me back?  Sometimes, like any good fan-girl, all I want is to bask in the glow, and there’s nothing wrong with that except that you won’t let me.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of dear Great-Aunt Sally, who friended me yesterday, bless her heart.  I knew our days together were numbered, Facebook, the minute all my relatives over retirement age decided to jump on your little bandwagon.  I do not need to be poked by Grandpa Harold.  (Did I mention that this “poking” feature seriously freaks me out?  You couldn’t think of a better word than “poke” could you, Facebook?)

Still, I must admit that we did have our good times, though can’t think of any at the moment.  Don’t worry, Facebook.  I’m not leaving you entirely; I’ll still use you when it’s convenient, but ditch you as soon as you start acting stupid.  I hope that’s alright.

See, it all comes down to this: I’ve found someone new.  It’s name is Twitter.  And it seriously rocks.

BTW–here’s one of those little heartbreak icons just for you.  Enjoy.


27 Jan

Two Words about Social Media: Don’t Panic

Posted in Blog, Conferences, Social Media, Twitter, Web

One of the sessions I was super-excited for at the Writer’s Digest Conference was the Social Media panel.  After all, over the last year or so, I’ve become almost addicted to fairly comfortable with connecting to readers and writers through blogging or twitter or other webby things.

I’ve been to plenty of conferences with panels on social media and I find they always run into the same glitch.  The speakers are super-talented and the audience wants to hear what they have to say.  The trouble is, the panelists and audience are speaking in different languages.

I didn’t do an empirical study, but here are a few things I observed during the session:

  • Very few young whipper-snappers in the audience, tweeting the panel from their iPhones.  (OK, I guess I’m a whipper-snapper but I didn’t tweet from my phone because I’m morally opposed to phones that do more than work like phones.)
  • Hardly any people clicking on their laptops (fewer than what I noticed at other panels, in fact).  A lot of people taking notes by hand.
  • When the moderator asked how many people in the audience had a twitter account, only a few people raised their hands.
  • When the moderator asked how many used social media to interact with industry professionals who would be at this conference, no one raised their hands.  (I almost raised my hand, but then I was embarrassed because no one else did.  Remember, I’m shy.)
  • Based on a lot of the questions that came up in Q&A, most of the people at the session were just starting to get their feet wet in the world of social media.
  • As the discussion and Q&A progressed, I noticed more and more writers around me looking like they were about to have a nervous breakdown.

Despite these obstacles,  I was blown away by the awesome I observed from both the audience and speakers at the session.  This session had everything to be an incredible opportunity.  Writers hungry for information were present and motivated to connect with some of the leading industry professionals in the field of social media.  Both sides of the equation were there, but it seemed like there was one crucial piece missing in the middle.  What it needed was some way to bridge the gap.

How do we solve this problem?  Personally I’m a believer in baby steps.  When people get overwhelmed with too much information, they end up shutting down altogether.  The idea is to help them take one tiny step outside their comfort zones.  Once they’ve grown comfortable with that, they take another step.  And so on.

This is where you come in.  Think back to when you were new at all this social media stuff.  For some of you, it could have been last week; for others, it was back in 1989.  The point is, somehow or other, you learned to get comfortable with it and to make it work for you.  All sans meltdown.

I want to know: If you had one piece of advice or one small step you’d recommend to a newbie, what would it be?

Here’s mine:

From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


07 Sep

Writers on the Interwebs

Posted in Blog, Community, DIY MFA, Social Media, Twitter


I’ve been stalling for a few days, trying to figure out what to say for this post.  See, I wanted to talk about online communities, how to find one that fits your style and how to make the most of them, but I kept running into an impasse.  The internet is a BIG place and there are so many options that it seemed any selection of online communities I mentioned would be horribly minuscule and wouldn’t come close to representing all that the internet can offer.

The second part of the post (how to make the most of online communities) was also giving me trouble because who am I to tell you all how to make the most of your blogging/tweeting/web-surfing?  I’m basically a newbie at it myself.  I mean, I’ve only had this blog for six months and I joined twitter even more recently.


This is why, instead of giving advice in this post, I’ve decided to tell you all a little about my own journey, what I’ve found that works for me and resources that have helped me along the way.

I started blogging back in 2007 with two blogs: one for knitting and one for writing.  Both were terrible, or at the very least, seriously unfocused.  I had no idea how blogging “worked” and what the “rules” were (mostly because I spent all my time writing and very little time reading other blogs).  I just wrote about whatever came to mind on that day and since my mind was often empty, I didn’t post very often.  I mean, for crying out loud, I had more pictures of my cats on those blogs than I had of stuff relevant to my actual posts.

So I put those blogs out of their misery.

Then in grad school, I decided to give the blog thing another go with swimagainstthegrain.blogspot.com  It still exists… I left it up, because some of the posts are not terrible.  Early one Sunday morning, I started doodling in my notebook and before I knew it, I had drawn this little guy.

I kept doodling and by the time my hubby woke up, I had pages and pages of iggi scattered across the office floor and I had transferred the image to the computer.  It was at that moment that I realized iggi was my “brand” and I needed to adapt my blog accordingly.  So I rebooted my blog, moving from the old url to this one and iggi and I have been a team ever since.

Along the way, I’ve found a series of really useful resources that have helped me figure out the big scary world of the internets.

  • inkygirl’s Writer’s Guide to Twitter taught me everything I know about tweeting, twitter chats and twitter etiquette.  She also has a list of twitter chats relating to writing.
  • Adventure in Children’s Publishing does a recap every week of Best Articles for Writers every Friday.  It’s organized according to category so it’s easy to find topics you’re looking for.
  • Jody Hedlund’s blog is chock-full of useful posts about writing, blogging and social networking.  Here are just a few of the goodies you’ll find on her blog: Learning How to Use Social Media Effectively and How Important is Blogging for Unpublished Writers?
  • Elana Johnson just wrote a great post on Monday about building a blog audience: Blogging Trifecta Explosion!
  • And no list of online resources would be complete without the fabulous group of writers that brought us WriteOnCon!  Though I was in Ireland during the conference, I have browsed through some of the recaps and I’m continually amazed at all the wealth of information that’s there.
  • Don’t forget also to look up professional writer organizations.  I found this list of Writers Associations that looks to be pretty good.  At the very least, it can serve as a jumping off point.

For those who are new at following blogs, one great tip I got from my friend and fellow blogger, Ghenet, was to signup for Google Reader.  If you have a gmail account then you essentially already have it, you just have to set it up.  As you subscribe to blogs using RSS feeds, the blogs will appear in your reader, allowing you to browse all the new posts of the day in one screen.  Kind of like a newspaper.

Long-term Goals: if you don’t already have Google Reader (or something like it), set it up and start connecting with different blogs.  If you’ve been resisting Twitter, consider setting up an account, even if all you do at first is follow tweets.

Today’s Task: Since we’re talking about community, today we’re doing a group project!  Please share in the comments which online communities or resources you visit and tell us why you find them especially useful.  If we all pitch in together and give one or two unique answers, we can collectively put together a comprehensive list of online communities and resources.  Later in the month, I’ll go back through the comments, add some more links and put together a user-friendly Resources list to post at the end of DIY MFA.


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