Are You Linked In??

chain linksThe social media learning curve is steep! I’m realizing that most people are making less-than-stellar use of it, because each SM channel could be a one-semester course in itself! Here are a few cut-your-time tips for making better use of Linked In:

Improve Your Profile

Add your publications, with purchase links. You can add sample chapters in pdfs. It’s possible to drag sections of the profile around to emphasize your most important points first, in case anyone looks.

Self-employed writers may lack the kind of emphasis on particular job skills that is Linked In’s specialty, but in your profile, you can include various groups you are a part of, or non-profit projects you spearheaded, too. Someone looking for a specifically Catholic writer would be interested to know of your affiliation with a third order, or lay association.

You may not have been looking for a job when you organized a food drive, but that work still says a lot about your heart and your leadership skill. Perhaps you’ll be more interesting as an author to-be-interviewed if your profile gives potential hosts a more well-rounded view of who you are. You can add video (your book trailers, for instance, or clips of you as a speaker) and other kinds of content to the LI profile, making it a more interesting read, even if you aren’t using LI to look for work.

Improve Your Networking

Have you joined groups that are pertinent to your interests? You can search for groups and connect with various Catholic groups, pro-life groups, interest groups, and groups of people in your local area. You can click on the information button (lower case ‘i’ in circle) for more info about any group that interests you.

Join discussions, start discussions or polls, and send occasional messages to individual contacts now and then as authentic reasons come up. I’d hate for you to do any of this manipulatively, in sort of a notch-in-your-belt, acquisitional way. But we really should be looking for opportunities to connect with others who share our faith and interests, right?

I don’t think I’d have enough hanging on all this networking to ever pay for LI-Pro, but it does allow you more access to message other members, if you need that. If you start a group, you may email members free up to once a week. Notice whether any of your contacts has a ring of dots next to their name, which indicates they have chosen to be Open Linked to others, and may be messaged freely. You can use ‘@Name’ now, as on Facebook, to link to anyone you mention in a post, status update, or discussion comment. That’s a fun way to draw the attention of specific people you think may be interested in a discussion or news item, without paying for extra messaging capabilities.

On Linked In, you can create an LI Badge to place in the sidebars of your other sites to shoot people right over to your glorious new LI profile. You can add an LI bookmarklet to your email signature, too.

Improve Your Content

After you beef up your profile with some writing samples, video clips, website links and such, you might want to add Linked In blogging to your list of things to do! It’s a new option, so I mention it, knowing most of us can hardly keep up with our regular blogging. Publish and edit posts from your LI Home Page.

Customize your Pulse by picking and choosing what channels you’re following. The more this LI magazine-style news feed reflects your actual interests, the more natural and easy it will be to share these items with contacts, comment on what others are saying, and get involved in discussion threads. Speaking of discussion threads, I love the way I can leave LI after entering a few discussions, and then keep up with them all via email notifications (if anyone else comments after me).

What kind of content are you sharing, by the way, within your discussion comments and status updates? I get tired of people just reposting their blog posts and selling stuff here, but it’s easy to do. My favorites are shares of links to interesting content, helpful resources, and people who are doing interesting things. My pet peeve is when people use 5 or 12 words to weigh in on a “Tell what you do in exactly 7 words” thread!

For me, LI must be an every-other-week indulgence, but a little time spent there on a regular basis can’t hurt, and might help. I’d like to hear whether you’re into LI, and how that’s working for you. Please comment!

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You Saint, You!

You Saint, You

          In November our Church calls us to remember the remarkable of the Church both recognized (All Saints) and those unrecognized (All Souls). We set up memorial tables, reverence the book of the dead and attend memorial Masses.  All the while taking comfort in the idea that we are doing our duty of remembrance.  We revere the past, but what about the here and now? 

          If someone asks you if you are a saint what would you tell them?  Oh, no, not me, I’m not good enough for that.  Wrong answer!   The Church recognizes two types of saints. Saints with a capital “S” are those we have heard the heroic stories about.  Saints with a lower case “s” are all of us who were/are believers. That makes you and me a saint.  We are all in transition between the little “s” and the big “S”.  That’s what the journey of faith is all about.

As far as the duties of a saint in transition, what are your responsibilities?  We should take no false comfort in the idea that we have prayed for the dead in November.  Rather, its our duty as well as responsibility to be in communication with the Lord and to “do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5)  “ To become a saint means to fulfill completely what we already are, raised to the dignity of God’s adopted children in Christ Jesus….” ( Pope Benedict XVI)

 

 Saint Who?

Holy, weird, creepy,

Which is it that qualifies one for Saint Hood?

All of the above.

None of the Above.

It’s bigger than all that!

Saint……..is a way of thinking

A matter of the heart,

and not that foreign to any of us!

People who weep,

People who yell,

People who laugh,

People who fight for cause,

People who live life and keep their far away vision always new,

No matter what,

………Saint You!

Kathryn Cunningham

 

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Monday’s Writing Tips – The Plot!

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Have you ever noticed that nature loves the number three? There are three dimensions of space: height, width, and depth. There are three main types of matter: gaseous, liquid, and solid. There are three main types of massive objects: planets, stars, and galaxies. There are also three types of natural laws: the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, and the laws of biology.

Decorators tell us that we are delighted and attracted to the pattern of three. They say never to place two objects on a table or mantle. Instead, they instruct us to always use three non-matching objects because it pleases the eye, and soothes the spirit. Why am I telling you this? Because the natural and most pleasing plot has three parts.  It is a formula of storytelling, joke-telling, and speech giving that has existed since the ancient Greeks. No doubt cavemen  told hunting tales that patterned the number three and kept their listeners huddled around the campfire.

As a Catholic, I like to think of the occurrence of the number three in nature as a reflection of the Trinity. Our spirit is comfortable with the Trinity, so we are comfortable with the number three. You can try to change the standard formula of storytelling but it will seem unnatural and clumsy. I recommend that you stick to it. It is a framework that contains your story and keeps it understandable and strong. It does not constrain your creativity, as in oil paintings, it is the frame that compliments it. What are the three parts to a good story, joke, or speech.? Plays are usually also in three acts so why don’t we call the parts of our plot acts. Let’s talk about Act One of your novel this week.

Act One – this is the first part of your story and it  is the part that should hook your reader. Act One introduces your basic story. Is it a romance? Is it a zombie takeover?  Is it an action - packed spy thriller? As a reader I want to know! I want to understand the journey I am about to take. I want to trust the author and know that he or she is taking me to a place that is unique but comfortable. It doesn’t matter what genre it is. The basic framework of the tale is the same. I have picked the genre because it is something that I enjoy, someplace that I have journeyed before. If I want to time-travel through the galaxy, I first traveled to the Science Fiction aisle of my bookstore.  If I dream of young love and the thrill of meeting that special person, I first scanned the selections offered in  the romance section of amazon.

Don’t fool the reader. They will never forgive you. If they think they have settled down in their cozy reading chair to puzzle out a murder mystery and it turns into a  zombie apocalypse, they will be disappointed. It could be the best zombie adventure ever written but it still annoy the reader that you tricked him into buying something they didn’t want. Reading is comfortable. In today’ s world where life is unpredictable By the end of the first few pages your reader should have an idea of where you are taking him. Your audience (and I use the word ‘audience’ purposely) should feel safe after reading your first act. Why do I call your readership an audience. Because, as a writer, your first job is to tell an entertaining tale. You are no different than the story-tellers who roamed the lanes and villages of ancient Europe. Before people could read, these storytellers and bards kept history alive by sharing tales stories of battles and heroes. Imagine what would have happened if they started to tell the village about an exciting battle and then turned the story into political discussion. They would have been run out of town. And yet, I have picked up many a novel that made that switch on me. What happened? I put the book down and never picked it up again. I felt as if I had been conned.

In Act One of your novel the reader should also meet the lead character, and develop an emotional attachment to that character. That doesn’t mean that your character needs to be lovable. He can be a flawed hero or even a messed – up confused criminal. However, if you want your reader to connect.  If you want your reader to continue reading you need to make your character interesting and unique.

This is the part of the novel (the first 1/5) that lays out the conflict. Remember that a novel needs conflict. Your character is shown in his comfort zone. Then something pushes him out of his comfort zone. In this part of the novel, the character makes a choice – Does he return to his comfort zone (no novel) or does he take the challenge?( Now that’s a novel!) Your novel can be action - based or character- based. The conflict can be physical and fast-paced.  It can be spiritually-based and emotional but the conflict needs to be presented in the early part of the novel. It is good to introduce the nemesis in this part also. Set up the conflict with a sympathetic character who is challenged and you have a ‘hooked’ reader. If you can do it in the first few sentences or paragraphs you have your hook.

I looked up the word.  It is interesting to see exactly what the word means. I don’t believe in coincidence.

Two of the definitions offered by Webster-Merriam are:

1plot noun \ˈplät\

1)  a small piece of land in a cemetery.

2) a series of events that form the story in a novel, movie, etc.

The point being, your plot shouldn’t be so obscure and complex that the reader has to dig it up to understand it. And it shouldn’t be so predictable that the reader ends up dead from boredom. Next week we will discuss Act Two of your plot!

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: November 16, 2014

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

 Titus 3:1-7

Remind them to be obedient to the officials in authority; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people but to be peaceable and gentle, and always polite to people of all kinds. There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and dissipations; we lived then in wickedness and malice, hating each other and hateful ourselves. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity were revealed, it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Saviour; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying

NOVEMBER INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
O God, of Whose mercies there is no number, and of Whose goodness the treasure is infinite; we render thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the gifts You have bestowed upon us, evermore beseeching Your clemency, that as You grant the petitions of them that ask You, You will never forsake them, but will prepare for the reward to come. Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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What I’ve Been Reading: The Mostly 5-Star Stuff

Some quick looks at books I’ve enjoyed lately which you may not hear talked about much.

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth CenturyThe Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a superbly written book which gives you excellent insight into what it would have been like to live back in the 1300s, by the simple method of acting as a travel book for your trip through time. I had several stereotypes upset (they did like to bathe and noticed people who smelled bad), was made to think of things which never occurred to me (such as how bad a pothole really can get), and most of all was able to relate to the human beings who lived in those days.

As is often the case, what we find is that human beings are still the same now as then, in our loves, hobbies, fears, and ambitions. Most of all I appreciated the author taking the trouble to remind us that these were real people who felt as we do. He didn’t dwell on it excessively or bring it up often, but when he did it was just what was needed to jolt me out of my modern “superiority.”

The Princess and the Goblin The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book my mother has long tried to get me to read since it was a childhood favorite of hers. Over the years I have heard it was also a favorite of C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, G.K. Chesterton and (possibly) J.R.R. Tolkien. With all that going for it, you’d think I’d have jumped on the bandwagon long ago.

It took me finding this LibriVox recording from one of my favorite narrators who has lamentably few books recorded, Andy Minter. He is simply superb. I get that delicious feeling of being a child snuggled down for a story being read by a favorite uncle as I am listening. It was funny, sweet, exciting, and was very enjoyable indeed.

One Bright Star to Guide ThemOne Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure how Wright did this. This novella picks up the idea of what happens when the children who were once engaged on a grand adventure (a la The Lion and the Wardrobe) reach middle age. The adventure has been sublimated to the necessities of adult life. When the call goes out for their heroic talents how will they respond? What will be the consequences for each of them? And for the rest of the world?

This is a very deep story with much to ponder and it promises rich enjoyment upon rereading. I now want the sequel.

Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern FantasyTales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy by Douglas A. Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an anthology of short stories (specifically fantasy) that J.R.R. Tolkien read and which could have sparked his imagination. It is the sort of book where I don’t feel I have to painstakingly read every story if one isn’t the sort I like. A quick skimming is perfectly adequate to give me the gist.

I’ve been surprised at how many of the stories I have enjoyed and how many have a fresh, modern feel considering how old they are (most from 1919 and earlier).

I also enjoyed the author’s story introductions and the fact that he didn’t try to force the idea that Tolkien read each of these or that each influenced him. It is enough that this is the fantasy atmosphere which was floating around during his formative and reading years before he began writing.

Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science FictionTales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction by Douglas A. Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with this editor’s Tales Before Tolkien, this collection presents not only tales Lewis read but those which would have been in the current story environment when he was growing up. A really wonderful collection and one which I enjoyed thoroughly, all the moreso for the inclusion of short stories by some of Lewis’s fellow Inklings who are lesser known.

I didn’t feel I had to painstakingly read every story if one wasn’t the sort I like. A quick skimming was perfectly adequate to give me the gist. If one approaches it that way then you will probably like it just as much as I did.

H.P. Lovecraft's Favorite Weird Tales: The Roots of Modern HorrorH.P. Lovecraft’s Favorite Weird Tales: The Roots of Modern Horror by Douglas A. Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I come to this book via two influences. The first is that of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast which, when they finished discussing all of Lovecraft’s writing, then proceeded to read the authors and stories mentioned in his influential essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature. Hence, I’ve heard many of these stories discussed even though I haven’t read them.

Secondly, this was a logical progression after reading Douglas A. Anderson’s Tales Before Narnia and Tales Before Tolkien, both of which I greatly enjoyed.

This collection earns an additional star than Anderson’s other anthologies simply because I am enjoying every single story in it. That speaks more to my enjoyment of weird tales than to Anderson’s selection but it is a fact that this is the collection I’ll be buying and rereading in the future.

The Problem of PainThe Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there is a God, then why is there so much suffering and pain in the world?

This is a common problem brought up by atheists and C. S. Lewis says it was a problem for him before he became Christian. Somehow it’s not a question that ever bothered me whether I believed or didn’t. So I welcomed the premise of the book since that’s a question that always stops me in my tracks. I also was happy to see my library had it available on audio.

This is one of those books that pulls no punches. In his trademark style, Lewis applies logic, common sense, and his considerable breadth of knowledge to the question. Whether he convinces any unbelievers or not, I don’t know. But he includes so much that I either agreed with or found to be “mooreeffoc” thinking that I now want to get the print version for leisurely rereading.

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Poetry Sunday – Katie O’Neil assistant ED.

November is a rich month in our Church Calendar.  The Church prepares us for the long stint of dark by reminding us of our lights.  We take in our “communion” with them  like it was food for our long dark journey to the light of the world.  We are reminded that our job is to go forth and not be stingy about using the gifts that are ours.  KC

 

This poem was also famously put to music by England’s famous modern composer Benjamin Britten [1913-1976] as ‘Hymn to St. Cecilia, Op. 27′ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGyB7_2RnS4].  Feast day November 22.  If  you’ve heard Britten take advantage of the above link.

The ending of the piece is very moving, and it’s a great example of ‘more’ accessible classical [and modern classical] music.    KO
‘Anthem for St. Cecilia’s Day”
by W.H. AUDEN (1907-1973)
 
I.
In a garden shady this holy lady 
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm, 
Like a black swan as death came on 
Poured forth her song in perfect calm: 
And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin 
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer, 
And notes tremendous from her great engine 
Thundered out on the Roman air. 
Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited, 
Moved to delight by the melody, 
White as an orchid she rode quite naked 
In an oyster shell on top of the sea; 
At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing 
Came out of their trance into time again, 
And around the wicked in Hell’s abysses 
The huge flame flickered and eased their pain. 
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 
To all musicians, appear and inspire: 
Translated Daughter, come down and startle 
Composing mortals with immortal fire.
II.
I cannot grow; 
I have no shadow 
To run away from,
I only play. 
I cannot err; 
There is no creature 
Whom I belong to, 
Whom I could wrong. 
I am defeat 
When it knows it 
Can now do nothing 
By suffering. 
All you lived through, 
Dancing because you 
No longer need it 
For any deed. 
I shall never be Different. Love me. 
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 
To all musicians, appear and inspire: 
Translated Daughter, come down and startle 
Composing mortals with immortal fire.
III.
O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall, 
O calm of spaces unafraid of weight, 
Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all 
The gaucheness of her adolescent state, 
Where Hope within the altogether strange 
From every outworn image is released, 
And Dread born whole and normal like a beast 
Into a world of truths that never change: 
Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange. 
O dear white children casual as birds, 
Playing among the ruined languages, 
So small beside their large confusing words, 
So gay against the greater silences 
Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head, 
Impetuous child with the tremendous brain, 
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain, 
Lost innocence who wished your lover dead, 
Weep for the lives your wishes never led. 
O cry created as the bow of sin Is drawn across our trembling violin. 
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain. 
O law drummed out by hearts against the still 
Long winter of our intellectual will. 
That what has been may never be again. 
O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath 
Of convalescents on the shores of death. 
O bless the freedom that you never chose.
O trumpets that unguarded children blow 
About the fortress of their inner foe. 
O wear your tribulation like a rose. 
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 
To all musicians, appear and inspire: 
Translated Daughter, come down and startle 
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

 

THE SEED(Ps. 126:61)

Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown. 

Why do you weep?
For the precious seed.
The joy I might have today
I’m going out to cast it away
The pain sears me; is this a whim?
There’s little hope it will come back again.
Lord, I could have that joy today!
No, throw it away.
With the dregs of this day’s sorrow
You’re investing in the eternal tomorrow
Yes, weep, for it’s a loss
Cast it. Take up your cross.
Sink into the furrow.
You won’t feel like a hero.

They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves. (Ps. 126:6)

Like men dreaming, “This is too good to be true!”
I sacrificed my little seed
But how abundantly God multiplied you!
Thirty, sixty, a hundred-thousand fold
It’s too marvelous to behold!

Restore our fortunes O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert. (Ps. 126:4)

Your life is an exile from your eternal destiny.
You have in your hands one precious seed.
The furrow is before you, beckoning you to trust
While fears haunt you—And decide you must.
Will you go through life casting your precious seed,
dying in the furrow for sake of eternity?
Or will you latch on to the pleasures that lay at hand(Ps. 126:61)

 And fail to fulfill the Master’s plan?

Maria Reinagal 2013

1 Taken from the Feast of St. James, Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.

Editor’s Note:  The image above is from the Church of  St. Cecelia in Rome.  It is the work of the sculptor Maderno who was present when the body was exhumed in 1599.  Cecelia was martyred around 180!     She was sealed up in her own calderium and the heat turned up.  When she did not die after three days a soldier was ordered to go in and kill her. When her body was first moved from the catacombs it was found to be incorrupt, complete with the blow to her neck that finally killed her and dried blood on the rich clothing.   This statue is a sworn representation of what the witnesses, including Maderno, saw when she was exhumed after 1300 years.  The Pope at that time commissioned this piece as a witness to her sainthood.  Maderno even inscribes, in the marble in front of the body, that this is an accurate depiction of what he saw. You can view it  for yourself at St. Cecelia in Trastevere which was built attached to her actual home. You can also stand in the calderium where she died.

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Committee Coordinator Report for November 2014

 

 

Catholic Writers Guild offers members who two critique groups. For more information contact the group administrators by sending a message to:

  • Fiction ( FictionGroup@catholicwritersguild.com)
  • Non-Fiction ( NonFictionGroup@catholicwritersguild.com)

General Fiction Guidelines:

  • Getting started: The best introduction to the group is to submit a chapter or short story (around 2,000-4,500 words) for critique.
  • Reciprocity: You are obliged to give a reciprocal critique of an equivalent chapter or short story for every critique that you receive.
  • Responses: Currently around 3-5 critiques for each submission can be expected.
  • Format: Critiques are sent as comments within the body of an email and by suggestions in the margin of the manuscript using Word’s insert comment feature.
  • Frequency: Some members send a chapter or two each week. Others rarely participate.
  • Diplomacy: While generally the critiques are gentle some may appear more critical. Please remember that critiques are written in good faith and members are spending valuable time to help you improve your writing.
  • Typical comments: These may range from simple line edits (misplaced commas, missing words, etc.) to content editing (story lines, missing descriptions, etc.).

 

Catholic Writers Guild Nonfiction Critique/Editing Group Guidelines

1)       The CWG Nonfiction Critique/Editing Group is a friendly network for members of the Catholic Writers Guild who write nonfiction and are committed to improving their writing. We support and want to encourage each other as writers by offering constructive and honest critiques and editing suggestions.

2)       The group will abide by all the Bylaws of the Catholic Writers Guild.

3)       The writing of each group member that is critiqued will be respected as the original work of that writer, with all the rights of a copyright. Submissions will be downloaded and copied only as needed to carry out the critique, and the work is kept confidential within the group and not shared outside the group.

4)       Nonfiction to be critiqued can be in almost any nonfiction genre, such as: informational books and articles, spirituality, self-help guides, biography, autobiography, book chapters, or magazine articles, or blog posts.

5)       Submissions do not need to be Catholic or religious in content, but must abide by the CWG’s bylaws. Submit nothing against Catholic doctrine or morals, including unnecessarily graphic sex, violence, or language.

6)       Manuscripts submitted are to be between 100-5000 words long (usually less than 3,000). To post any piece longer than 5000 words requires a special alert to the members. If the piece is part of a larger work, give some background explanation of the scope of the work. Writers can ask for the specific kind of feedback that would be helpful.

7)       The number of members and timing of submissions and critique deadlines will be determined by the founding group members and evaluated when the needs of the group change.

8)       Manuscripts will be distributed by email. Use group emails with Reply All, except when returning critique. Use mark-up software such as Microsoft Word with balloon comments inserted into the manuscripts exactly where they are needed when critiquing. Editing suggestions are encouraged. Copyediting is optional since styles vary with publishers. Put general comments at the top of the manuscripts or in the return email.

9)       Group members commit to critiquing at least two manuscripts each month and to submitting at least one manuscripts quarterly.

10)     We commit to pray for one another, respect one another with confidentiality, and to support one another in marketing our websites, blogs and published work through networking and social media.

 

Critique Guidelines – giving and receiving critiques from “Don’t Forget to Write!” http://www.6ftferrets.com/
The Guild blog seeks and welcomes submissions from members. (submissions@catholicwritersguild.com)

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Social Media for Self-Promotion: What’s Acceptable and What’s Just Plain Obnoxious?

One of the first things I learned as an aspiring Catholic writer was the importance of using social media.  This was back when using an internet handle, rather than your real name, was a common practice.  Social media was, then, still largely an offshoot of the mostly-anonymous discussion groups that were the lifeblood of the early internet days.  ”Get your name out there!” we were told.  ”If no one knows your real name, how will they recognize you when your book comes out?!”

That was Social Media for Authors 101, and at the Catholic Writers Guild we continue to stress the importance of good marketing practices.  Every year at our conferences, we expand and deepen the discussion.  For about 5% of authors, marketing is a delight: A chance to get out of the writer’s box, meet people, chat, share the exciting news.  For the rest of us, it’s a chore.  I’d rather be writing.  I’d rather be holed up in my hermitage minding my own business.  I don’t want to bother people.

Many of us Catholic writers have an ideal of humility that involves the hidden life, and we like it that way.  We’d rather be hidden.  We have to learn to accept the other kind of humility, the kind that comes with taking the basket off the lamp so that the whole world can see the light we’re living by.   What I want is to show the world the Light of Christ; what’s going to happen is that people will see me, too.  That means they’ll get to see how poorly I measure up to the standard I’m trying to meet.

That’s the context in which we Catholic writers and artists promote our works.  We might be motivated by simple evangelical enthusiasm, or we might have the additional need to feed our families or to satisfy our portion of the marketing load that is our duty to our publishers.  Simple love of fellow man is sufficient reason to share good Catholic writing on social media: If my friends don’t have something decent to click on, what will they read?  Let me point them to the good stuff.

When are we going overboard?

In light of the reasonableness of using social media to promote good Catholic writing — our own or anyone else’s — we have to ask ourselves: At what point have we crossed the line from “spirited” into plain old obnoxious?

This is new territory.  Our instincts are at times unreliable.  There are generational and cultural differences in the way people compose e-mails, for example; there’s not a single established format for proper digital communications.  For shy writers, any use of social media at all for promotion of our own works can feel like too much of the Me! Me! Me! game.  For the naturally boisterous among us, it can be hard to tell what’s just a friendly hello from an author friend, and what comes across as pushy or self-aggrandizing.

I’d like to toss out a few observations, and I’d like to hear from others. What works in social media marketing and what irritates?  What do other authors do that you admire, and what do other authors do that you can’t stand?

Here are a few of my thoughts, by way of conversation-starter:

In e-mail correspondence, the busyness of the recipient matters very much.  There are fellow workers in the vinyard who have time to read and answer your e-mail. There are others who have to wade through hundreds or thousands of messages a day.  You can’t always know who has free time and would love to hear from you, and who doesn’t.  You can’t always guess when you do send an inquiry to an editor whether what you are sending is exactly what they’ve been praying for, or if it’s going to be one more dreaded thank you, but rejection note they’re going to have to send.

Two things that seem to help:

  1. Put the most important information in the topic line. Vague subject lines like about the blog or just wanted to share . . . are maddening to a busy editor.  Proposed Guest Post, Advent theme, 800 words gives the recipient enough info to know that this is important, and to set aside about five minutes to open and read the e-mail.  
  2. Acknowledge that the recipient may not have time to respond.  No need to go on and on, but a single-sentence, “I realize you may not be able to get to this, and if so, no worries,” takes a huge burden off.  While you’re at it, in your e-mail get straight to the point and keep the initial communication short:  ”Attached is my 800-word reflection on the beauty of Advent Candles and how that fits in with the theme of Commercialism versus Community that you’ve been discussing on your blog . . .”

I think a certain amount of e-mailing links to articles you think your friends and contacts would enjoy is fair game, but it needs to be thoughtfully done, and with a light touch.

In specialty groups, self-promotion gives way to group interest. If you belong to, say, the Catholic Fans of Idaho Rugby Teams Who Also Grow Rutabagas Facebook group, sharing your work concerning Idaho, rugby, or rutabagas makes sense.  Posting links to everything you write because hey, fellow Catholics, they must be interested? That doesn’t fly.  People realize you’re not in it for the rutabaga, you’re in it for you.  It’s off-putting.

Bumping or posting on friends’ and contacts’ walls should likewise be of personal interest. I have a friend who regularly bumps me links on medieval art, rabbits, and libraries.  I love those things. She knows it.  It brightens my day when she points me to those links — not just because I might be interested, but because it reminds me she’s thinking of me.  It’s not spam, it’s a genuine personal connection.

In the same way, if I write about someone’s work, I might send them a note or leave a comment on their social media presence to let them know I covered them.  It’s fair game to share your contribution to an on-going conversation that someone else started.  ”Hey, I loved your piece on Library Rabbits, and here’s a link to my follow-up on how to keep the hay dust down.”

What doesn’t work is constantly bumping your own writing or advertising onto other people’s social media feeds as if you’d purchased a commercial time slot.  It starts to get annoying, and eventually people will just unfriend or unfollow you.  (In contrast, if someone says, “I love your rutabaga posts — could you please bump me every time you add one?” then that’s your invitation to share early and often.)

Your own wall is yours to do with as you like. I think people pretty much understand that your house = your rules.  If it’s your blog, Twitter feed, Facebook profile, or whatever, it’s yours to do with as you like.  If you make it interesting, you’ll have more followers and get more interaction.  If you make it a non-stop series of boring advertisements, people aren’t going to read.  But it is your place, so you can manage it how you want.

Those are my thoughts.  How about you?  Agree? Disagree?  Have more to add?  In addition to leaving a comment here, it’s absolutely fair game to leave a link in the combox to a reply post you’ve written at your own blog.

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Gleanings from The Grace of Yes by Lisa Hendey

Lisa and Nancy at CWGLive 2014

Lisa and Nancy at CWGLive 2014

Before the plane took off Monday morning from DFW Airport, my nose was buried in an advanced copy of The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living. As we landed in Tampa, my new knowledge of Lisa Hendey, myself and true generosity was incredible. And one-third of the book to go!

By Tuesday afternoon my mind was full of spiritual truths. My heart and soul were so reinforced with encouragement that my copious notes now fill this review and overflow into several blog ideas.

Having known and grown to love Lisa long-distance for four years through CatholicMom.com and Catholic Writers Guild (CWG), I finally met her at the CWGLive conference in Chicago and took a photo with her. Her keynote speech on “Perseverance,” with many concepts from The Grace of Yes, and a one-on-one meeting in the hall when she advised me on a publishing question, created an instant connection in our spirits.

So I took personally her counsel in The Grace of Yes on many heart-deep issues I struggle with—as most of us will in our lifetime. I offer a few favorite gems from the eight virtues and invite you to find those that touch your heart.

The Grace of Belief:

I have realized that my family is best served spiritually when I concern myself less with how holy my husband and sons are and worry more about my own personal relationship with the God who loves me perfectly despite my imperfection.

Read how launching CatholicMom.com illustrates this belief.

A generous believer gives others the gift of letting them help her—at least on occasion.

Read about her prayer life and how she struggles with her priority of sitting quietly and listening to God.

The Grace of Generativity:

At its most genuine, generativity plants a pay-it-forward seed that, when nurtured, takes on a life so much greater than we one we will live in our days on earth.

Read her early days of marriage and motherhood when her generativity evolved, yet wasn’t realized until middle age.

The Grace of Creativity:

The smartest thing work-wise that I do every day is to include among my morning prayers a plea to accurately hear and respond to God’s agenda for my work.

Read her self-comparison to a petulant two-year-old throwing a fit.

Yes happens best and most authentically in my work when I remember first and foremost why I do what I do and through whom I do it.

Read how Psalm 127 is her inspiration for this reality.

The Grace of Integrity:

To Ponder: Describe your online avatar or public persona. How does this measure up to the way you actually live?

Find out how we can evangelize more effectively as our real selves than our online image.

The Grace of Humility:

True humility accepts help when it is offered and asks for help even when the world seems to believe we have it all together.

See how humility challenges us to put the needs of others before our own, especially in giving and receiving forgiveness.

The Grace of Vulnerability:

A firm and conscious assent to God’s will for our lives places on us the same responsibility to be unselfish in our caring for others and ourselves.

Cry over the heart-breaking story of little burn victim “Superhero Fulton” and his influence on thousands.

The Grace of No:

A kind andwell-intentioned no is a necessary part of the bedrock of a life of faith devoted to giving God our full and worthy yes.

Lisa’s no to one volunteer job and yes to another thrust her into the Internet and the technology she needed to launch the first of many websites.

The Grace of Rebirth:

I know the measure to which I am called is never greater than the resources God has given me to go all in.

Laugh at the outlandish life goals on her list—and make your own.

Which of these quotes from Lisa on the eight virtues touched your heart the most? How will your respond and follow through?

(Published by Ave Maria Press)
(Review © 2014 Nancy H C Ward)

Posted in Book Review, Catholic Writers Conference Live, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Faith, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Monday’s Writing Tips – Let’s start writing!

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We’ve been busy, haven’t we? Over the last few weeks we’ve developed our characters, learned how to use our adjectives and adverbs, created our storyboards, set up our office, and even discussed the importance of prayer. So when do we actually write? How about right now?

I know writers who go through all the preparations for creating the perfect book, but never actually write the book. They have a blockage about starting. It isn’t because they are not prepared. Nor is it that they don’t know their stuff. They can quote  from all the instruction  manuals verbatim.  They can whip through a critique of everyone else’s work with the precision of a surgeon. They have read all the classics, and have aced every creative writing course offered online.

These potential authors attend every writing group in their vicinity and ask questions at every library lecture.  These well-versed people used to intimidate me. My heart would flutter as they tore my first draft apart pointing out every missing comma or run-on sentence.  Now I realize that all the preparation may be just a stalling measure. Many of these people never actually sit down and write. Oh, they have plans and endless stories to spin. However, they seldom actually start writing. And if they do write, they never finish what they start. There are certain pitfalls in writing. Be careful that you don’t fall into them. Here are some suggestions to avoid those pitfalls:

  1. Decide that you are going to write five days a week. Yes, just like a real job! I find that writing five days a week allows for those unexpected days when life gets in the way. I can guarantee that there will be at least two days when the unexpected or family obligations prevent you from writing. I take care of my Mom one day a week. I can’t get any writing done that day. I love to visit my grandchildren.  I can’t write that day. So rather then being frustrated, I have factored life’s unexpected in. When a friend calls and needs my help or just my company I can go. Why? because I have already put in four days and have three days to play with. My goal is to work five days. I can’t always do five days but since I have planned it, it happens more often than not.
  2. Decide how many words you want to write each day. I used to struggle with trying to put in specific hours. First, I would wake up at an ungodly hour, guzzle down mugs of coffee and try to get 3-4 hours of writing in before the sun rose. I am a morning person but found that didn’t work. I started to resent my work. I tried to force myself to write in the afternoon, but soon found that life always threw a monkey wrench in the works. Writing at night was impossible and my  laptop was an uncomfortable pillow. So what did I do? Rather then become frustrated and give up, I changed directions. I gave myself a prescribed number of words to write each day.  Be kind to yourself. How about 5oo, 1000,or even 1500 words? These may not seem like much but remember  if you write one page a day, you would have a 365 page novel done in one year. What’s more, I usually surpass my word count goal once I get typing. Changing my focus gave me a sense of accomplishment and the frustration vanished.
  3. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT stop to edit your work as you go! There will be plenty of time to edit and perfect your work when you have finished your first draft. Yes FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT!  There is something magical about finishing even a poorly written draft. The sense of accomplishment removes all the pressure.  You will have many more drafts but nothing will ever feel as good as the end of the first draft. Once you are finished you can take each sentence, paragraph, and chapter apart. You can look for that perfect adjective and check that spelling. After the first draft is finished, you will be relaxed enough to see the big picture and nitpick the details.
  4. Work on more than one project at a time. I am currently writing three books. I am always inspired by one of them. While I am working on one, an inspiration hits me about the other. It keeps everything fresh. Oh, at some point I will get inspired to finish one work in a frenzied bout of production. I will never get writer’s block or get ‘stuck’ because I can always turn to another work when that happens. Because I am writing three books, I will probably finish all three within a year. Try it! You’ll be surprised how well it works.

Next week we will study plot creation and structure. This week start counting the words you write each day!

 

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