Sunday, December 18, 2011

Networking by any Name

When I was publishing a women’s magazine in the 1990s, networking was the buzzword. Today it is social media networking. The concepts are not that different. I see positives in both methods of connecting with like-minded individuals. Information/knowledge is power. In the 90s I strove to empower women of all ages by bringing them information and spreading the word on whatever it was that they did.

Close Relationships vs Immediacy and Greater Numbers

I think the face-to-face networking of the 90s created a powerful medium for both inbound and outbound marketing that had a deeper depth than social media marketing. Numerous connections made every minute on social media networks give one a sense of marketing growth that might not always be realistic. Upon examination, many, I find, are just superficial. The real positive for social media networking is in its immediacy and the ability to reach out to many individuals at the same time and at greater distances.


Often as I traveled back and forth across the state, it amazed me to meet women and/or groups of women struggling with a project and had no idea that other women somewhere else in the state were having the same struggle or had already completed a similar project. They were missing a link.
Much of what I did during that time focused on connecting women with information and giving them a medium to share their diverse ideas. Social media networking would have made those efforts easier. A combination of the personal face-to-face meetings (there are many meetups everywhere) and social media networking is what I believe will benefit everyone reaching out to others.

Practicing Relationship Marketing

In the business networking of the 90’s individuals exchanged business cards and followed up with a phone call or email, whereas with social media networking they are exchanging links. The results are the same; making connections. In both instances, networkers were practicing relationship marketing. The biggest difference, in my estimation, is the amount of information we put out about ourselves today. That wasn’t the case in the 90’s. Of course, we still have a choice of how much and what details on our lives we put into the public domain.

Complete those Profiles

A key component of social media is completing your profile on each medium (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, others) that you have joined. It is very important that you give some thoughts to this profile before you do it. You don’t have the advantage of a face-to-face impression, consequently, you have to make your words paint a picture of who you are. As you complete it, consider what you would say if you were talking directly to a new acquaintance. It is easy to forget to be personal when all you’re doing is typing into a profile form on a computer.

Here’s a great exercise. As you answer each question of a profile, pretend you are talking to a person. Making it a conversation will help you develop your profile so it will have the personal feel of face-to-face marketing.  Please comment and let me know how you do.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Preparation for the Best Personal Profile

While writing queries and book proposals, remember the agents and publishers also want to know about you. It’s not just about the book. What are your credentials? What makes you the right person to write this book? Especially with nonfiction books, such as I am writing, it’s important to show agents and publishers you are an expert. Leave no question that you aren’t the best person to write your book.

Adding to your Authority

If you aren’t confident about your credentials, add to your authority before you query or submit a proposal. Get letters of recommendation from the top people in your field of research. Don’t be afraid to request a letter from people you don’t know very well. This is an opportunity to talk about your book to people in your area of interest. They will want to help you. Check your affiliations with all the significant organizations in your field. If you find you are lacking in belonging to the right groups, join now.

Hitting the Lecture Tour

Another method is to plan a lecture tour in your field of expertise. First, do your research. Are there any local meetings of organizations pertinent to your subject area? This is usually not as hard as people think it is. For instance, I saw a call for papers from the Assn. for the Study of CT History and immediately wrote a proposal, which was accepted. This action not only will give me more credibility but will also spread the word about my book.

The Speaking Engagements Are out there – Go Get Them

Don’t make it into a monumental project. Take a few notes from a part of your upcoming book that has a universal appeal that will resonate with different groups. Then work up a 20-minute talk. Next, it is just a matter of calling or emailing the different organizations and asking if they need a speaker in the near future. I suggest that you prepare the talk before you start contacting organizations for the following two reasons:
·         They might just need someone immediately. This has happened to me.
·         If you have prepared your talk, you will be more comfortable giving them an idea of the substance of your talk.

With a couple of talks behind you (be sure to ask for a letter of appreciation for each talk), your confidence level will be high enough for you to write a great description of your qualifications to be part of your proposal.

Good Marketing

Even if you’re already confident in your credentials, speaking about your book whenever an opportunity arises and to whoever will give you a microphone is good marketing. Remember the six degrees of separation. You never know who knows someone who might be very interested in your book.
Today it’s a new scene. The agents and publishers want to know that you are capable of marketing your own book. The old days of the publishers doing all the marketing, and setting up your speaking engagements, are gone. Let’s revel in the freedom to operate in our own way.

Please share in comments how you have added to your authority.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Historians Share Research on Connecticut History

I recently presented a paper at the annual meeting conference of the Assn. for the Study of Connecticut History, held at Manchester Community College. Fortunately, my presentation was the first after the keynote address so I could relax the rest of the day and enjoy all the other presentations.

Women in Connecticut

The theme of the conference was “Women in Connecticut,” which fit so well with my book “Tracing the Invisible Women Who Helped Birth Connecticut.” The three concurrent sessions each had three presenters. There was great variety in the subject matter of the sessions. The negative, if one feels it necessary to find a negative, was that it was hard to choose what sessions to attend. A number of times sessions I wanted to attend were opposite each other so I had to choose.

Although the majority of the speakers were from academia or museum staffs, I was gratified to meet other independent historians that are passionately working on projects similar to mine. As the day progressed, my mind was assimilating some of the ideas and words I was hearing for use in my book. Once again, I see the importance of being around like-minded individuals who can understand how you are feeling.

Two of my favorite presentations were right in the same session with me.

1)      Patricia Oat from the Hill-Stead Museum gave a very enlightened talk about the challenges of being a loyalist during the Revolutionary War, entitled “Behind the Kings Lines: The Experience of a Loyalist’s Daughter in the American Revolution.”

2)      Kevin Finefrock’s “The ‘Peculiar Haughtiness’ of ‘the Very Agreeable and Accomplished’ Susannah Wyllys Strong: The Politics of Gender and Social Status in Early Connecticut’” was a revelation on the class system and politics of the time.

Two talks I would have loved to attend but couldn’t fit into my schedule were:

1)      “The Hidden Ones: Southern New England Women Reconsidered,” by Joann Zeisner from the Stanley-Whitman House. I was presenting at the same time or this would have been one of my choices.

2)      Christopher Collier from the University of Connecticut gave a presentation on “Sarah Banks and the ‘Married Virgins’ Property Act of 1877. Even though it is outside my research period, I would have chosen this one if I could have because of its intriguing title.

The only drawback of the conference for me was that there was almost nothing on the seventeenth century, which is my area of research. This is a continuing problem for me. It is very difficult to research the seventeenth century because so few primary sources are available and few people are researching it.

Conferences, especially for writers, are always great for revving up the enthusiasm and getting the creative juices flowing

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ruminations on a Beach Walk

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. I am full of gratitude as I walk the beach on this beautiful morn. The thoughts of the lying, corruption and greed that is so disturbingly inherent in today’s society have deserted me. Thank God. In the bring sunshine, all around me are millions of seashells, some still clinging to the bright green seaweed that the ocean just ejected. It is a sobering thought that each one of these little seashells had a life and thus has a story.

Writing Ideas Flow When We Change our Venue

Almost immediately writing ideas began to flow. Thoughts of times in the past when writing was hard remind me that a change of venue, for me the best is the ocean, woke my muse. I came to a rock jetty and decided I’d risk painful knees and walk out to the end. If you’ve never walked a jetty, you might not know how carefully you have to choose each boulder you are going to make your next step on before you step. Sometimes there isn’t an easy way to proceed and you have to scramble down one boulder and back up another one before you can go on to the next boulder.

Is it really Writer’s Block or Something Else?

Isn’t this a lot like writing? Sometimes the words flow and then there are the times when stymied on how to get to the next word you’re stopped in your tracks. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think sometimes writers become lazy and don’t want to do the work of finding the right next word so they procrastinate and soon find themselves out of a good writing habit. The only thing to do is write your way back.

I suggest changing your venue. Of course, not everyone has an ocean nearby to run away to, hence my gratitude. Other places will wake up your muse. For me it is always water. If you cannot get to the ocean for that rhythmic tidal flow of water, look for the nearest lake. Some writers might find the mountains inspiring.

Walk yourself into a Story

Walking is also a great way to set aside the mundane events of life and bring the creative thoughts forward. Walking is not only good exercise, but there is something about the rhythm of putting one foot after another that also reaches our creative depths. It is good to bring along a small pad and a pencil to record those thoughts as they come.

As I walk the beach, I’m watching a flock of sandpipers running back and forth with the flow of the tide, digging out and eating the little crabs. Immediately I wonder is it possible that we humans look like these little sandpipers to some creatures who might be watching us from outer space? AHA there might be a story in that thought.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aging is Walking up Hills

I love to walk. I think it comes from my childhood when I had to walk miles to school. My kids hate to hear that one! I did live way down a long winding wooded lane in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. I still remember the excitement of watching for what I might see around the next bend. Sometimes it was a deer or bunny or a new wildflower in bloom. Twice it was a bear. My love of ‘all that is nature’ grew out of these experiences.

Always Look for What’s Next

One of my walking routes now takes me up a long hill with many notches. Each time I reach a crest. I stop, rest and consider quitting but I always want to see what is just over the next peak of the hill. I’m never disappointed. Each pinnacle shows me something more – a wildflower in bloom I hadn’t seen before, a deserted dilapidated house (I feel they all have a story waiting to be written), or a beautiful scenic view. Even when I walk the same route many days in a row, I still see things I haven’t seen before.

Then I reach the very top and there to delight me is a meadow full of wildflowers and singing birds flitting from bush to bush. I rest a bit and turn to go back but hear the drumming of a woodpecker a little ways ahead. Just a little further, I tell myself, and on I go.

Understanding the Journey

I see my walk through life as being very similar. As I age through each ridge of the hill (really feels more like a mountain) of life, new challenges and experiences present themselves. I gather them up and take a deliberate and conscious effort to understand my journey. Each new walk has something to offer me to feed my spirit if only I take the time to pay attention.

It’s Up to You

Each decade offers new opportunities and forks in the road and I know that as I reach another one, I have a decision to make. I can either wring my hands and bemoan how old I am and get out the rocking chair or I can thank God for bringing me this far and put on my walking shoes and set out for the next crest with enthusiasm.

Since I’m a very practical person and I have more walking shoes than slippers, the choice is easy for me. As the Nancy Sinatra’s song tell us, “These boots are made for walking.” I intend to continue to embrace life and walk (or crawl if I have to) to see what’s over the next bluff until I come to the final zenith. There are too many books to read and write to stop now.

Plus, I have forbidden myself to die before my book, Tracing the Invisible Women, is published.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November – Finish a Book Month

I’ve been working on my book “Tracing the Invisible Women” for a long time now and know I need a way to rejuvenate my commitment. I have participated in NANOWRIMO (for those who don’t know, this is a program for writing a novel in a month) a couple of times for short periods, but it didn’t work for me. I am primarily a narrative nonfiction writer. Short stories are a possibility I have explored in past years, but this year in the middle of a nonfiction book, I just didn’t think NANO was going to work for me.

The Challenge for Nonfiction Writers

Lo and behold one morning I saw a post (somewhere – I am definitely on social media overload) by Nina Amir about her blog, “Challenge to Write and Publish Nonfiction All Year Long.” Immediately drawn to the section on the her website entitled “Write Nonfiction in November,” where Nina explains that WNN is a blog and a challenge not a contest, I thought, this is what I need.

Information to Get Me There

Nina has suggestions on her blog (http://awesm/5XYoE) about planning the month ahead of time, which I am doing now. Preparation is extremely important. I’m busy tying up loose ends and other projects so I can concentrate on just finishing the book. It is amazing how differently I am looking at the month of November, not normally a month that I like. To me, November is a harbinger of winter, the season I hate. Now I’m excited that November is coming.

All Goals Need a Plan

I have torn the November page from my calendar to map out my daily goals. What delights me about this program is that a month is so little time; I won't be able to let up. The 30-day deadline is something I can manage. There have been times in the past, especially when I was publishing a magazine, when a project deadline required an all-nighter. I’m hoping that I’m being realistic with my daily plans so none of those are necessary. All-nighters (for any purpose) are for when you’re young. I see this program as 30 deadlines and I have never missed a deadline in my writing career.

How Not to Let the Pressure Become Stress

My number one method to avoid the burnout of writing intensely under time pressure on a large project such as a book is exercise. For the month of November, I’m treating myself to a membership in the fitness center down the street. An hour on the treadmill will rev up the creative juices and start the day off with a jolt.

To me this is akin to a marathon. When I reach the finish line on Nov. 30, I will be celebrating the completion of my book, “Tracing the Invisible Women.”