Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Finding your tribe by Vanessa Harbour

The pace of life can be so fast these days. Many writers have several jobs on top of writing. When we are writing we know that by its very nature is solitary. You can spend hours on your own:



Staring at blank screens/pieces of paper.

Doing research – best procrastination ever – often even now that can be online so you might not see anyone.
Yes that it is my favourite Lamy pen
awaiting inspiration and given to me by a great friend/member of my tribe

Between these moments of being caught up amid the pressure of all the jobs and the writing on your own there is a risk that you might not keep in contact with your ‘tribe’. 

I use the term ‘tribe’ loosely but mean in the sense of community who share the same ‘language’, a close-knit group who get what you are trying to do and understand the problems you might be facing.  You are probably a member of several ‘tribes. They maybe are interlinked. Everyone’s tribe could and should be different. I know in my own family ‘tribe’ if I start talking about writing they get that glazed look of someone who is listening politely but really doesn’t care. They ask me polite questions but don’t get the process and wonder why things happen the way they do in publishing. It is difficult sometimes to explain. The tribe I am talking about here are fellow writers, editors, publishers and agents. People that you come across during your journey. 

Image result for social media logos
Due to my disability and work commitments, it often means I can’t get to some of the amazing events and book launches that happen. I watch from a distance.  Relying on social media for an insight into what is going on there while offering support and congratulations. There are some people who are quick to knock social media and it does have its moments, but I have made some wonderful friends through there and keep contact with many. Social media moves fast and there are all sorts of political and ethical issues connected with some as well. I am not entering into those debates in this piece. For me, I use Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook, for the moment. When you have something to celebrate there is nothing like the social media hug you receive. People are so supportive.  I will add a caveat don’t be afraid to step back from social media at times. There are times it can be overwhelming. I regularly take a break.

Do also check out the hashtags on Twitter that @AnnalieseAvery sets up, she always has exciting things planned and is brilliant at bringing people into the tribe. I also love podcasts (@damian_barr is another one to follow - great podcasts and book info). They are wonderful things to talk about on Twitter if you are nervous about getting involved.

Image result for Literary Salon Damian Barr
In the last couple of weeks though I have been reminded of how important it is to actually physically see the people in your tribe. I know I said it is not always easy for me, which makes it really special when I do.

Inline imageThe Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) had their UK conference recently. If anything should be called a ‘big hug’ that should be. Such a supportive and enthusiastic environment. It is always full of joy. I was there to help out with my one of my close tribes: The Golden Egg Academy. Seeing them was always going to be a good start as a lot of our work is done via skype. I also got to catch up with agent friends, former students and Eggs. Writer friends were there in abundance. I saw Candy Gourlay, who I have known for a long time, mainly on social media and only occasionally IRL. Candy grabbed me and took me into the keynote in the afternoon. It was a wonderful talk by Mini Grey. Candy and I though took 15 brief minutes just to sit and catch up. It is amazing what you can cover in that time. Our children, the world and our writing. Talking to her took a great weight off my shoulders. It was a chance to be reminded of other people’s journeys. It is not always as simple as you remember.

Later in the week, I found myself in a beautiful, if wet, Sheffield, once again surrounded by awesome authors at the Sheffield Children’s Book Award. In particular, it was brilliant to meet the author Andy Sheperd IRL as we have so much in common. We spent the day catching up whenever we could. Touching base and understanding we come from the same place. We laughed so much.  

Inline image

I confess for a moment when I sat in the auditorium of The Crucible Theatre, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of school children who have read your book I felt pretty emotional. It was another great reminder of what an awesome tribe your readers can be.  I also remembered exactly why I write. For everyone in that place. Readers, librarians and teachers are fabulous. They are a great tribe to be part of too, so enthusiastic.

Both occasions were a great reminder that sometimes you just need to stop and talk with your tribe. Importantly as previously mentioned I know it is not always about the good stuff. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you are having a tough time. Your tribe will have your back. It often helps just being able to talk about things.

If in doubt, find your tribes. I know I am lucky with all mine.

Dr Vanessa Harbour

Friday, 8 January 2016

#YATakeover...starting tonight!

Anyone with an interest in Young Adult fiction, there is a treat in store for you today and tomorrow -  and all you need to take part is an internet connection.
#YATakeover is a book festival celebrating YA, held entirely on Twitter.

Organised by five brilliant bloggers -  take a bow, Chris, Georgina, Sarah, Laura and Megan - it involves authors, librarians, booksellers, journalists, readers and bloggers, with an international line up and an ambitious programme of events.

Today's first panel kicks off at 7pm, with a chat about the best YA reads of 2015 (a fiver to anyone who gives my book a namecheck).

Thereafter there's a non-stop flow of talks and debates including Art in YA, YA Prizes,  Libraries in the Digital Age and Suicide and Depression in YA. Tomorrow's programme includes every YA genre going, plus all kinds of crossovers and mash-ups. The whole thing promises to be a fabulous showcase for the breadth and depth of YA fiction today.

I'm lucky enough to have been invited to be on a panel about love in YA, alongside Cat Clarke, CJ Skuse and Laura Jarrett,. Between us there is NOTHING we don't know about love. So polish your questions, and look for us on Twitter tomorrow from 2.10pm until 2.55pm .

 Other authors taking part include Frances Hardinge, who this week won the children's category of the Costa Book Awards, Eve Ainsworth, Liz Kessler, Lisa Williamson, Taran Matheru, Alice Oseman, Abbie Rushton, MG Harris, Holly Smale, Sarah Mussi, Becky Albertalli, Non Pratt, Sally Green, Jennifer Niven, Louise O'Neill, Marcus Sedgwick and  Lauren Kate. The full line up is here.

Alexia Casale, YAShot organiser
#YATakeover is yet another example of the YA community taking the intitiative in creating events, although the first online book festival I attended was organised right here on ABBA.

 Last year we saw well-attended gatherings at Waterstones in Birmingham and Nottingham for the #UKYAExtravaganza, and a #UKMGExtravaganza as well. Authors Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery were the masterminds who made that happen. And another author, Alexia Casale worked with librarians in Hillingdon to make #YAShot happen, a crazy, busy, bustling day of bookish events and much socialising in October.
Authors line up at the Nottingham UKYAX
Before that was YALC fringe party in July 2015 and 2014, an author-led initiative to include more writers in the excitement that is YALC, and raise money for charity as well. There was a fringe party last year as well, and it would be great to grow the fringe events and perhaps have them recognised by the organisers of YALC, in the spirit of inclusion and fun.
But today and tomorrow, the place to be is Twitter. The hashtag is #YATakeover, and the whole of Twitter is welcome! 
Book bloggers at the YALC Fringe party 2014.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Calling creativity to the fore - demanding its presence.- Linda Strachan

I was once, many years ago,  invited to visit a design studio. I was keen to speak to the people there who spent their
days drawing and creating images as a job.  I thought how wonderful that must be, to be doing something so creative all day, every day.

I have always had an interest in painting and drawing but it has never been more than a casual hobby that occasionally made its way onto our walls.

But I have never been able to draw to order, it was always more of an impulse and like this charcoal drawing.

I had taken the photo of a beautiful bronze coloured baby Zebra when on holiday and I was looking forward to painting it and using such vivid colours.

At least that had been my original idea but one evening, when I didn't have easy access to my  paints I started drawing it in charcoal, which turned out not too badly - but there in was the problem.  I was sure that if I tried again it would not turn out as well.  So I never did try to paint it after all.

There are things here that resonate with writing and my life now.
I made a comment  to one of the illustrators at the studio, that I am now quite embarrassed to recall.  I said that I could not just sit down and draw, I needed to feel in the mood.
His reply was embarrassing,but it stuck with me. He said...

"Yes I come in here and I have to be in the mood 9-5 every day!"

He was right.  When your job is being creative you do not have the luxury to wait for the muse  to suddenly appear, not least of all because that does not pay the bills!  I was approaching it as an amateur and he was a professional.

Now writing is my job and I know that it could be very easy to sit about and wait for inspiration to strike and lose days, weeks and even months of potential writing time.

There are definitely times when life just gets in the way of being creative and you have no physical or emotional energy to spare  and you need a complete break for a short time.  If there is great stress or difficulty in your life for a while it can be next to impossible to be creative, to let the mind flow wherever it wants.

Everyone is different but one thing that often emerges in all the discussions about writing is procrastination. Doing everything else but getting the words written. We all suffer from it now and then.   But soon with the encouragement of other writers, even if it is just a few words each day, just a little peer pressure can help.

Recently the  amazingly prolific writer Barry Hutchison suggested that other writers might like to join him in trying to make sure we all wrote all through the month of July. Summer can be a difficult time with holidays, children and family ties making even more of a call on a writer's time.  So he suggested  a twitter hastag #writethroughjuly and every day those who wanted to join in would announce their word count for the day.
There were just a few of us bit it worked so well that we decided to continue with #writethroughaugust,  By this point I had managed to add almost 47,000 new words to my WIP (work in progress) and had clocked in every day for two months even if it was only a few hundred words.  In September a few were either finished books and starting new ones, or due for some
time editing so #WriteThroughSept is now half way though, with editing and plotting as well as word count  reports.

We are all pushing ourselves to get something written each and every day and somehow we are finding that the creative spark is there when we go looking for it.

Even if I am sure that what I am writing is absolute  rubbish, that fear must be pushed to the back of my mind while I get the words written and push the story forwards.
The fun bit for me is in the editing, when there is a rough diamond waiting to be found when the dross is cut away.

Yes, that chap was right. I've written lots of books since that day  many years ago, and  I now turn up every day and creativity is there hiding in the background waiting for me to pull it into the sunshine and make it glow.

What makes you call on your creativity?


Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook - 
Writing For Children.

Linda is currently Chair of the SOAiS - Society of Authors in Scotland 
(Please note, any views and opinions here are her own.)

Linda's latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me . 
She is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby.

blog:  Bookwords 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Invisible boundaries and social media - C.J. Busby

A few weeks ago, a young American first-time author, Kathleen Hale, unleashed a bit of a social media storm by publishing a piece in The Guardian about the increasingly vexed online relationship between authors and bloggers. The article (here) which ran in the Saturday magazine, detailed how she became obsessed by one of her online critics, a blogger called Blythe Harris. When Hale engaged with Blythe's criticism's of her book (despite the many, many warnings she received that authors should not answer back to bad reviews), Blythe and many of her fellow bloggers apparently turned on her and Hale found herself labelled a BBA - a badly behaved author. For Hale (and I should emphasise that we only get Hale's perspective on what happened here), Blythe was wilfully malicious, ruining the reception of her book, and using her clique of friends and fellow bloggers to trash Hale's reputation. In return, Hale details her own increasing obsession with Blythe - an obsession which rapidly moved from what she termed 'light stalking' (gathering any and every detail she could from Blythe's online presence) to what by any standards is just plain stalking - using subterfuge to gain access to Blythe's real-life identity, workplace address and home address.

It's a sorry tale, and I'm not going to rehash the Hale case here, but it did make me think about the business of social media, writers, bloggers and boundaries. Authors, as Hale notes, are encouraged to get online and have a social media presence, but their natural audience, book bloggers and fans, seem quite often to resent authors turning up on their turf and, as they see it, throwing their weight around. A while ago, as a bit of a newbie author, I brushed up against a similar controversy when I noticed an online discussion on a book blogger's site about one of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series.

I'm a bit of a fan of this series, and was interested to see that the author had stopped by and commented, explaining where some of the features the blogger was discussing had come from in the writing process. It was (I thought) a perfectly polite contribution, and not in the least critical of her analysis, simply adding a bit of background information. But it caused an immediate storm, in which I was very slightly caught up, having added a comment of my own about the strange ways the writing process worked. For some of the following commentators, writers were simply not welcome on a book blogging site - they were guilty of abusing the power they had as authors to dominate a space that was not for them. Book blogs and fan sites should be considered a space for fans and book lovers to freely express themselves and not somewhere authors should feel free to gatecrash.

It was all resolved fairly amicably - Ben Aaronovitch backed down with a bit of grumbling, and I apologised profusely for being new to all this and not understanding the rules of the game. But the Hale article did bring this experience back to me.

What both examples make clear, I think, is that engaging in discussion with other people on social media is now the easiest thing in the world to do, but that it's also potentially perilous - what seems to be a simple opening gambit in a conversation can quickly become a reason for several people you've never met to decide they hate you. And thinking about why this is, made me realise that it's partly about the lack of social clues we have online.

Picture this: an author walks into a cafe, orders a coffee, and then realises that at the table next to him are six women, clearly friends, all discussing why they don't really like his new book. He would have to be completely mad or utterly self-obsessed to lean across and say, "Excuse me, ladies, that point you've just made is very interesting, but as the author, I'd have to say you've misunderstood my intention...." More likely, he'd hide behind a newspaper, or slink out. It's not his place to push into a group which is clearly bounded by longstanding interactions and mutual exchange of opinions. On the web, though, it's hard to see those boundaries, easier to think this is a discussion open to anyone who happens to wander past.

We've probably all had the experience of adding comments on a forum discussion, only to have what we've said utterly ignored as the next commentator simply replies to the one before you, and the next one carries on as if you never said anything. It feels like a snub (it is a snub) - but if this were real life, the group discussing this burning issue would be that bunch of students who always occupy the table in the corner of the canteen, looking daggers at anyone who even thinks about sitting next to them - and we wouldn't be in the least surprised if they ignored our comment. (We'd almost certainly never make it in the first place.)

Would you interrupt the conversation?

As social animals, we have built up over generations the ability to detect the smallest social clues about other people and groups around us. The kinds of interaction we engage in with other people are largely determined by our previous interactions with them, their status as friends or family or work colleagues. Even with total strangers we can use visible clues like dress, body language, expression, context, to judge what is or isn't appropriate. All these help us to 'see' the boundaries that we would be transgressing and the trouble we could be causing if we were to be, for example, inappropriately intimate or aggressive or opinionated.

The trouble with social media is these clues are just not there. We've only had access to this multitude of potential conversations with strangers  for a very short time, and people appear on it as little more than speech. Speech which is devoid of accents, of voice, of clues about who this person is. It's like wandering in a dark fog, listening to many voices all talking at random - but the people behind the voices are invisible. So we have to make guesses about what kinds of people they are, and whether we are gatecrashing through an invisible boundary, or striking up a conversation with someone genuinely interested in talking to us.

Those speaking to each other on a forum, a blog, on Goodreads, can appear as simply a bunch of individuals interested in the same topic, a bunch of reasonable, open individuals who would welcome a newcomer to their midst. Sometimes that is exactly what they are. But sometimes, the invisible boundaries are as fierce as barbed wire, and we cross them at our peril.

The way invisible boundaries are so difficult to negotiate sometimes makes me want to give up on all forms of online interaction. Like Liz Kessler, who posted recently about social media on ABBA (here), I have considered just ditching all of it in favour of interactions in real life only. But, in the end, I don't, because so far I've managed to negotiate those boundaries more or less unscathed, and in the process I've 'met' some really brilliant people (some of whom I've gone on to really meet).

The fact is, most people on social media ARE open, engaged, reasonable and friendly, and, if you transgress an invisible boundary, they are usually polite enough to just inform you gently that you're in the wrong place. But I do think it's important to be aware that just because those boundaries are invisible, doesn't mean they are not there - and when you find a clear notice that says "Authors (or whoever) are Not Welcome Beyond this Point", it probably pays to respect it.

C.J. Busby writes funny, fast-paced fantasy for children aged 7-12. Her latest books, Dragon Amber, is published by Templar.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

To Tweet Or Not - Damian Harvey

As if it isn't enough trying to get as much writing done as I feel I should (and I rarely feel I've done enough by the end of the day) I also feel the need to review books, blog, do my own website (this week I've been creating some simple animated pictures to make it look more interesting - like this one of L.S. Lowry) and of course, I Twitter. I know lots of other writers do all these things too and I'm sure that they have no problems in doing so, and doing it well. 

The problem is that all of these things take time out of the writing day, and again I rarely feel as though I'm even doing these extra things as well as I should... It's a guilt thing.

Of all of these additional little things, surely Twitter is the easiest and least time consuming - after all, it only takes a moment to send a little Tweet doesn't it. Or so you'd think.

Love it or loathe it, online social networking of one kind or another is here to stay and I feel it's important to keep my hand in as a way of promoting myself and what I'm doing. I've restricted myself to only using Twitter as I find it does just about everything that I want. I have a Twitter feed on the home page of my website which allows me to say a quick hello to schools I'm visiting. This always goes down well when it's projected onto a screen in the school hall or in the classroom for everyone to see (making it that bit more personal) though sadly some schools automatically block social networking sites so all that appears is an empty space on the home page - so I've wondered if it's worthwhile after all.

I also tweet about what I'm doing - though as we all know, Tweeting that you're sitting at home writing everyday can become a little boring - as can the earth shattering news that you're making another cup of coffee. To make it a little more interesting I do try and tweet about other things - what I'm doing and where I'm going etc... including pictures from time to time where relevant and when there's a signal on my phone. I know I could make better use of Twitter though - again if only I had the time. Just as I start to think it's not worth the effort, something happens to change my mind. Recently I've been invited into schools as a result of interest generated by Tweets from and to other schools, I've also had contact from publishers. So I've decided, yes... it is worth the effort (for now) and of  course it only takes a moment to do.

As a result of this, I've recently decided that I should be a little more proactive on Twitter. I've made an effort to follow relevant people - seeking out schools, teachers, libraries, librarians, publishers, authors illustrators, bookshops and other book related people and organisations. If any of these follow me then I follow back - after all, what's the point of it all if you are only tweeting to a handful of people. Although I'm keen to build my followers I have no intention of playing the game of following hundreds of random people, then unfollowing as soon as they follow back (as I've noticed some do). I want to try and keep it relevant. I've also taken the time to unfollow those people that, after a period of time, don't follow me (again, what's the point unless you are genuinely interested in them or they are relevant to what you are doing). is a great help in this.

I've been slowly going through the list of people I follow and creating little lists to make it easier for me to find them - this task is still ongoing. I know need to actively retweet relevant tweets from people, favouriting  here and there and commenting etc. The problem is, it all takes time doesn't it... and what started out as a quick and simple tweet easily becomes time consuming. It's easy to start obsessing over numbers and why so and so has suddenly stopped following you.

Today has been a good day - I've written quite a lot, I've done a new web page showing new book covers (History Heroes), I've written this (waffling) post, I've Tweeted a bit and I don't feel guilty...
Tomorrow I'll be visiting a school (so no writing) and I'll tweet about it too if there's a phone signal.

Damian Harvey
Twitter @damianjharvey

Saturday, 11 January 2014

140 Characters in Search of a Platform - Cathy Butler

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
(as updated for the age of the Facebook meme)

I've been blogging for almost eight years now - which is beginning to feel like quite a long time.

I write here once a month, of course, but for day-to-day purposes I use Livejournal, a blogging platform I like because (unlike Facebook, and still less like Twitter) the entries have some degree of permanence. Conversations can be easily located long after the event; and occasionally I’ll get a reply to an entry I made years earlier, which a reader has stumbled upon by chance or because it happens to deal with some subject they’re researching.

I realise that this impression of solidity is deceptive. These days, Livejournal is based in Russia (where I hear it is so popular that that "LJ" has become the generic word for blogging, much as “to google” is the generic verb of search engine use). Unfortunately, because a good many Russian LJers are somewhat critical of their government, LJ tends to come under cyberattack round about election time and in periods of Russian political crisis. One day, I expect to wake up and find that the entire site has been disappeared.

Musing on these matters a few months ago, I wrote a little poem on the relative ephemerality of blogging platforms, and in this week of storms and coastal erosion it seems worth quoting.

“If the East Anglian Coast did Social Media”

Twitter - the bleating of the gulls
Facebook - a stone tossed out to sea
LJ - a sandcastle on the beach
Hardbacks - the old seawall.

That still seems about right, and it points those of us who think about posterity to the place where we should be putting in our main efforts. Even seawalls may be breached, however, as the librarians of Alexandria could have told you; the fact that you’ve written something on papyrus is no guarantee of its survival. In the end only entropy wins, and entropy doesn’t even care.

Ephemerality is only half the story, though. I have other reasons for my ambivalent relationship with social media and with modern technology generally. It isn't that I’m technophobic. If I haven’t bought a smart phone or joined Twitter, it’s not because I fear or despise them. Back in the 1980s I even did an MSC in computing; and Twitter seems just my kind of thing, the ideal platform for my particular brand of smartassery, with its central place for punnage and throwaway wordplay. It’s not even that I find such things trivial. On the contrary, I see puns as fissures in the surface of language, allowing us to peer down into the molten core of things.

No, the reason I have refrained from these things is far less high-minded: it’s simple fear of addiction. I am one of those who have just enough willpower not to buy something, but not enough to ration the use of it once it is in the house. This is equally true of Roquefort, whisky and the internet. It is for this reason alone that I continue to write in longhand rather than straight onto a computer. Paper notebooks don’t have wifi (yet).

I used to be able to escape wifi and its myriad distractions by taking my laptop to a café, but then all the cafes began getting wifi too. I suppose they thought I’d be pleased, but actually I cursed them for their consideration. One of the last holdouts was the café in IKEA, about fifteen minutes’ walk from my house – a café that also had the benefit of free coffee on weekdays. When my children were small, I'd take them to the ball pool there for an hour's free supervised entertainment while I worked and drank IKEA's free coffee, then collect them with a couple of pages of fresh-minted writing in my pocket. Everyone was happy except, presumably, IKEA, who got nothing out of it at all. (On the other hand, my walls are now lined with BILLY bookcases, so it came right for them in the end.) Last time I was there, however, the fatal words “Free Wifi Now Available” were blazoned on the café wall, and I realized that I would never be able to visit with technology again.

The good news is that I’ve discovered a café that’s unlikely to get wifi anytime soon. It’s not quite as convenient, but I can see myself getting quite a lot of work done. I just hope I don't forget to take a pen.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Chocolate is the meaning of life by Miriam Halahmy

#miriamhalahmy  Thanks for the follow. Look forward to reading your tweets. Mind tend to feature chocolate for obvious reasons...
#Tim_Bowler  Don’t think just because I write I can’t do chocolate as well. Big mistake. Often the two go together. Till one drops out.
#miriamhalahmy  Chocolate is the meaning of life. (I’m sure there is a blogpost in there somewhere...)
#Tim_Bowler  If there isn’t you need to go away and write it. People will be sitting by camp fires watching the skies for the sign of it.
#miriamhalahmy  Now there’s a challenge. Will put it on my to-do list.
Later Tweet
#miriamhalahmy  It’s Monday morning and I’ve only mentioned chocolate once. Does that warrant a certificate or is this an un-measurable achievement?

So here is the blogpost Tim ( and of course anyone else who logs on). It is almost frightening how many people actually agree with the title of this blogpost. When I started to tweet, a few years ago, like most people I really didn’t have a clue what to tweet about. But I found that it helped to develop a persona online and of course ( especially to those who know me well) the consumption, discussion, drooling over and consideration of chocolate came so naturally to me. Without chocolate would I rise in the morning? Be honest, would you? 
If chocolate is the meaning of life, write on ( and read on and think on and dream on).
We writers, sitting in our lonely ( and frankly now that September has struck) our jolly freezing rooms, something has to appear to cheer us on and if not chocolate, then what?

So if you agree, whole or even half-heartedly – or if you have a comment which will enhance our experience and deepen our understanding of the meaning of life then choose one of the following :-
1.      Leave a comment
2.      Don’t leave a comment
3.      Take up Tim’s escape route and sit by your camp fire watching the sky for a sign. (It will probably come wrapped in purple foil paper.)
Good luck and happy chocolate.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Twister Not Just A Kids Game - Lynne Garner

For the last few years I've been teaching creative writing to adults. In one of the sessions we discuss point of view and as part of that session I set a task. This task is to take a fairytale or nursery rhyme and attempt to tell it using the flash fiction form known as a  Twister. If you've never heard of the term basically it's a story or part of a story told in 140 characters or less. It originated on the social media site Twitter.
You may be able to guess what's coming next. Yep, I'm throwing down the gauntlet and hoping some of you want to give writing a twister or two a go. Don't forget to use first point of view. What follows is my attempt at The Three Billy Goats Gruff from the point of view of the troll:

Woken this morning by small goat trying to cross bridge without paying toll. What is the world coming to?

Discovered second goat trying to sneak across bridge without paying toll. Just cannot believe how rude goats can be.

This morning a third goat attempted to cross bridge without paying toll. How do they expect me to stay in business?

For sale: one bridge in good state of repair, high daily foot fall and permission to charge toll. #businessforsale  

My students have written some fab versions of well known stories. So it's with fingers crossed some of the ABBA readers/followers give it a go and are willing to share. 

Lynne Garner

A little blatant self promotion:
I have three short distance learning courses commencing on the 6th July via Women On Writing:

Monday, 8 April 2013

Jane Austen on YouTube by Keren David

Last week felt a little empty. No sense of anticipation at 4.55pm on Monday and Thursday. No twitter feeds to check and recheck. No twitter chats with fellow author Zoe Marriott about the nuance, the romance, the drama of our latest fix.
Darcy and Lizzie play Darcy and Lizzie ...
If you felt similarly afflicted you’ll know what I’m talking about. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries ended last week, a project that made me think anew about the future of books, television, story-telling in general.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, updated to the present day, re-located to California and told through social media. Lizzie has a video blog, posting twice a week for a year, so does her sister Lydia. Her other sister Jane posts on Pinterest, Lookbook and Tumblr. Almost every character  is on Twitter, even Kitty Bennet, who is a cat (a clever move, Kitty in the book does little except cough and stare).

 Later in the series there are videos from Georgiana Darcy (renamed Gigi) and most of the main characters make appearances in Lizzie’s vlogs, or are  played by other characters in scripted ‘costume dramas.’  In one of my favourite episodes Lizzie forces Darcy to act as himself.

Some people I know couldn’t get past the first few videos, and indeed didn't really get it at all (‘Some ghastly American woman  murdering Jane Austen,’  as one of my friends put it.) I resisted trying it out for a long time. But then I watched one video. And another. And then I watched 80 in one day, completely transfixed by the sheer cleverness, the inventiveness, the new insights and the performances – especially that of Mary-Kate Wiles as Lydia. And for the last ten weeks of the series I was hooked. A new video was posted and life stopped for the few minutes it took to watch. 

Hank Green (brother of the YA author John Green) and Bernie Su, creators of the LBD Diaries are planning a spin off, in which GG Darcy goes to Sanditon. They're raising funds to bring out the LBD dvd and talking about adapting other classics. 

Some UK authors create twitter accounts for their characters, some write blogs in their names. Some make film trailers for their books, others  sell film, television or theatre rights and may be lucky enough to see their work performed. In the meantime there’s a boom in UK vloggers, building up big audiences for their films on YouTube. As the mother of two teenagers I can confirm that YouTube is big right now, with kids seeking out vloggers to follow.
When will we see a British LBD? If they can take on Austen, why can’t we nab The Great Gatsby? Or how about  adapting out own books for YouTube?  I've seen the future and I think that Jane Austen would approve. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Twitter Fiction Festival - Lucy Coats

Twitter Fiction Festival?  To some of you, this may seem like a contradiction in terms. How is it possible to tell a story in 140 characters? Yes, that's CHARACTERS not words.... Seems like a tall order, doesn't it?

Many writers I've spoken to wonder about the value of Twitter. I'm not going to go into all the ins and outs or hows and whys here - Nicola Morgan has already covered all the bases in her excellent TweetRight guide - but I had a Twitter experience recently which encapsulates why I think this is a good place for authors to hang out.

It all started with a tweet at the beginning of October. Just one. It ended last week with me filling a slot on Radio 4's World at One and global coverage of my part in the festival in newspapers from The Guardian to the LA Times. So, how did it happen?

That one tweet alerted me that the newly-created Twitter Fiction Festival were looking for entries.

"I'll have a go," I thought. After all, what had I got to lose? So I sent off my little pitch - 100 Greek myths in 100 tweets - and promptly forgot about it until I got an email saying that the Twitter people were interested in hearing more.  At that point I had to think somewhat more carefully.  I wrote a longer pitch, panicking slightly now that I seemed to be in the running. Then, on 19th November, I heard that I had been picked from thousands of entries worldwide to be part of the official Twitter Fiction Festival showcase.

What did that mean exactly?  Well, first and foremost it meant I had to deliver the writing part! I'd decided to present those 100 myths as tabloid headlines - the nature of the Greek gods with their adulterous/incestuous natures and propensity for shenanigans are a Sun headline writer's dream - so I put my head down and started condensing the essence of the stories into 140 characters.  It was an intellectual challenge to tackle this totally new way of writing.  I wanted to present the ancient myths I've studied and written about for years in a totally fresh and original way, which would reach out to a new audience - and from some of the very nice coverage in blogs and reviews since, I hope I've succeeded. I also had fun doing it.

Secondly, it meant that the behemoth which is Twitter was giving me a huge global platform to stand on, and actively promoting me, as an author, along with my 28 fellow twitfic writers. The power of that as a publicity tool cannot be underestimated, and I've been fascinated to see how many publishing industry 'movers and shakers' are now following and chatting to me on Twitter as a direct result.

"But what about book sales?" I hear you mutter. I did look on Amazon over the weekend, and there was a  big spike in my rankings (top 5000) for Atticus the Storyteller's 100 Greek Myths - the book I based the tweet idea on - which has now tailed off.  It's possible that's people buying for Christmas, but I don't think it was coincidental.

So, what have I got out of it? Quite simply, free worldwide coverage I could never have got otherwise in a million years.  Whether that has any continuing knock-on effect on book sales remains to be seen, but many thousands more people have read my writing than before and I'm continuing to add hundreds of new followers who are interested in books to my Twitter account, so from that point of view it was a success. And all from me noticing and engaging with one random bookish tweet link.  That, lovely readers, is why it's worth authors being on Twitter.

You can read all of Lucy's #twitterfiction festival myths (plus brief explanations) HERE

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

How I Fell in Love With Twitter - Liz Kessler

It wasn’t love at first sight. Noooo. Not by a long way.

My first experience of Twitter was actually on Facebook. I noticed that various friends had started writing very strange status updates. They would say, for example, something about how well Chapter Six was going that day, or how they were struggling with a character or a scene. And then for some inexplicable reason, the status update would have #amwriting at the end of it. I would wonder a) why they kept on telling us they were writing; b) why they needed to do so anyway, when it was obvious from the previous sentence; and c) why these people – and I’m talking about folk of the likes of Mary Hoffman in terms of their spelling calibre – kept on writing ‘am’ and ‘writing’ as one word. 

Time passed, and about a year ago, my publicist at Orion suggested I go on Twitter. I had massive resistance to this – not just because of the hashtags and the joined up words thing, although that was part of it. With everything I was already doing online, it just felt like a step too far for me at that time. Eventually, she wore me down and I agreed to give it a go.

At first, the whole thing was utterly bewildering. How on earth was I expected to get people to follow me? And what did it mean if I followed them? How was I meant to keep track of anything when it all moved so fast? How did I get to be part of anyone’s conversations? And most of all, what on earth were they all talking about anyway?

I spent a few weeks gradually going through the lists of people who followed writer friends and choosing the ones who I thought sounded interesting. I’d follow twenty at a time, and, bit by bit, some of them followed me back. Slowly slowly, I built up a list of followers and followees. Even more slowly, I began to understand (a bit of) what was going on. I learned what those hashtags were all about. I understood how they bring people together; I even learned how to use them to tell a joke.

But it was still, for the most part, a bewildering place to spend time, and I still hadn’t fully forgiven my publicist for making me be there. How was this place ever going to do anything useful for me if the only people who ever saw anything I wrote were those who happened to look at their twitter feed within five minutes of me posting anything? How could I ever promote any of my books when I knew that I cringed inside every time I read other people’s tweets that were clearly trying to market their books? And how was I ever to feel good about my own books ever again when I was bombarded on an hourly (at least) basis with tweets from others announcing their latest five-star review, their latest book award nomination and their latest twelve-city book tour?

I began to think about how to tell Twitter (and my publicist) that I wanted us to break up. It wasn’t Twitter; it was me. It just wasn’t right for me.

And then something wondrous happened. I read an article that was doing the rounds. The article, on the aptly named ‘Red Pen of Doom’ blog, stated that Twitter did not help to sell books.

You can read the article here, if you want to…

The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books

I certainly didn’t agree with every word of it, but when I read it, something amazing happened. I felt liberated; I felt freed of this need to try to attract thousands of followers and direct them all to Amazon (or, even better, to their local bookshop) to buy my books. BECAUSE THEY WERE NEVER GOING TO, ANYWAY!

Yes, of course, you could see this as depressing, and many did. But for some reason, I really didn’t. If Twitter was never going to be all that much use as a vehicle to sell my books, the pressure to feel I had to try evaporated.

I put off the break-up conversation.

But over the next few months, the mini reprise began to lose its effect. If Twitter was never going to sell books, then what was I doing there? Did I really need to tell the world I had drunk another cup of tea/written another thousand words/stubbed my toe? And hadn’t those people STILL filling up my twitter feed with news of their latest five-star review/book award/film deal not read that article?

I began to think it was over, after all.

And then, gradually, I made myself somehow stop noticing all the tweets from people aggressively telling the world how wonderful they and their books were. I even ‘unfollowed’ a few of the main offenders. And boy, that’s a liberating thing to do, too. Instead, I focussed on the ones that made me laugh, or who interacted with others by and large in a lighthearted way. I stopped thinking I had to amaze people with erudite facts and startling revelations. Instead, I began to act as if I was at a party. One of those publishing parties in London where, after a couple of hours of having someone regularly filling up your glass with something bubbly, you no longer have that much awareness of how (un)interesting you’re being, because you’re too busy just having a laugh with people.

This was the best revelation of all. Twitter was a publishing party! It was a writers’ retreat. It was all of those happy get-together-with-others-in-the-writing-world events – and I was automatically invited, without even having to leave my house or get out of my pyjamas!!!!

Sure, I have occasionally got into conversation with someone at one of those events who has a niece of the right age for my mermaid books and has bought a copy after meeting me; yes I’ve chatted to bloggers who have asked me to do a guest post on their blog over a glass of wine at someone else’s book launch. And absolutely, I’ve met bookshop owners who have invited me to do an event as we’ve stood next to each other listening to a speech about the world of publishing today. But that’s not why I go to these things. I go for the laughs, for the chat, for the sharing of common ground. OK, yes, and for the champagne. If anything 'sales' related comes out of it, that’s a bonus.

Once I’d made this link, something really changed for me. I began to see Twitter as a kind of staffroom where I could pop in to chat with colleagues in between writing. Sharing the agonies as well as the ecstasies of my working day with others who were doing the same. Having a laugh with people on the same wavelength. Finally coming to love the hashtag and its many uses. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve done all these things on Twitter:
  • Get into conversation with a new writer and help her to make contact with an agent for her first novel.
  • Wriggle my way into a conversation with some YA writer friends and get invited to a wonderful book launch for an incredible new debut. 
  • Arrange a cuppa with a writer buddy who introduced me to a local writer I’d never met, whose first book comes out next year, on a similar subject to my latest book. 
  • Send and receive weather reports via Youtube song clips with a writer friend. 
  • Share enthusiasm over Homeland and despair over The Voice
  • Be invited to a beach picnic with friends. 
  • Receive about thirty replies in the space of ten minutes to a question I posed when I was having a tricky problem over a character’s name. (And which they solved, by the way.) 
Every single one of these things involved making at least one person smile. Many of them did much more. And yes, somewhere along the way, perhaps a few of them will have played a part in leading to a book sale, either of mine or someone else’s books. The great thing is – that kind of isn’t the point.

The point is, I can sit in my study in my pyjamas, working on my latest book, and go to a party at the same time!!!!!

And really, people, could anyone ask for a better job than that?

Join the party! Follow Liz on Twitter
Hang out with Liz on Facebook
Check out Liz's Website

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Do you see yourself here? - by Nicola Morgan

First, an admission: this post is really an excuse to use these pictures, because I paid for a licence to use them for some recent talks, and the licence includes website use. And I like them :)

(FYI, this evening I'm using them at a before-dinner talk to "senior women in publishing" and one of the things I'm going to suggest is that publishers sometimes ask too much of writers when they expect us to spend so much time blogging and tweeting. So, let's hope they don't throw bread at me when I say that.)

Anyway, these pictures represent different people's attitude to or behaviour on social networking sites such as Twitter. So, writers, which one are you? And readers, do you recognise yourself here, too?

Are you (or were you at first) reluctant, negative, grumpy? Dragged kicking and screaming to the party?

Plain terrified and absolutely no way were you going to get involved?

Or did you throw yourself into it with all sorts of hysterical OMGs and LOLs and <<<>>>> and far too many SQUUEEEEES and general exclamation-marky behaviour? 

Or regard it as a totally splendiferous way of promoting yourself, a platform to announce all your good news, sell gazillions of books by forcing them at the rest of us and generally punch the air at your own supreme awesomeness?

Were you eager puppy, keen to learn, wanting to be led to all the delicious smells but needing a bit of protection as you did it?

And now, having tried it (and possibly having had a bit of help from Tweet Right - The Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter), do you feel like superwoman (or man), ready to conquer the world, boldly, positively, and yet with a healthy dose of charm and common sense?

There's possibly a little bit of several of those characters in many of us. And I'd argue that success and happiness while using social networking media come from getting the right balance between them all. Though I'd rather leave awesome-guy out of it.

I do apologise that my recent ABBA posts, and my own blog posts, have been so predominantly about this platform stuff and not about writing, but I've been asked to talk about it so many times that it's been taking over my mind. But this is now (after tonight's talk) going to STOP! I am writing. I really am. I promise. I have had some absolutely lovely bits of writing-related news this year and they have put me right back on track.

I am a writer, not a tweeter.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Nicola Morgan is an author - oh yes, really - of quite a lot of actual books, not just tweets and blogposts, though she's done a lot of that, too, in her wicked past. She regrets to admit that she wrote and published a little book called Tweet Right - the Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter, which people are welcome to buy, for only £2.25 on a certain site and similar elsewhere. She promises never to write such a corrupting and insidious book ever again.