Networking for Writers

Are you lonely? If you’re a writer, chances are you answered yes. Writing is a solitary occupation. It demands long hours of concentrated effort. Alone time feeds the muse like nothing else. Yet even writers are social creatures who need and rely on friends.

Last week I was on a panel facilitated by writer Marla Miller at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference. The topic: Building your Author Platform. Quite simply, your platform is how you connect with readers.

Authors devote lots of time to building their platforms online with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as books sites like Good Reads and Shelfari. She Writes and the National Association of Memoir Writers are two of many sites that support and connect writers to other writers. Not to mention blogs, discussion groups, and online hangouts.

But what about good old fashioned face-to-face networking? At the conference I had the pleasure of meeting fellow writers – and potential readers – in person. We live in a screen-based world where most of our contacts are virtual, so it was refreshing to actually converse with people in real time.

I met one of my dearest writer friends, Madeline Tasky Sharples, the old fashioned way at a writing workshop led by Ellen Bass at Esalen. We were both grieving mothers, and we both wrote poetry. We bonded in Ellen’s workshop 14 years ago and have stayed in touch ever since.

Our friendship includes supporting each other as authors. I was there when Madeline launched her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, at Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach in 2011.

Madeline was my special guest when I relaunched Swimming with Maya in May this year. And she was one of my fellow panelists in Santa Barbara, along with Linda Joy Myers, head of the National Association of Memoir Writers. Linda and I have been friends on Facebook for a couple of years. We finally met in person when Linda relaunched her memoir, Don’t Call me Mother, at a She Writes event in April. [photo]


Linda Joy Myers, Eleanor Vincent, Madeline Tasky Sharples at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference

It was a special treat to be together with Madeline and Linda in Santa Barbara. We did civilized things like enjoy a leisurely lunch and brainstorm ideas for workshops we might offer together. The three of us gave a well-rounded view of what it takes to build your platform both online and off during our panel presentation.

We agreed that supportive personal relationships with other writers are vital to our writing process, our success as authors, and our emotional health.

So reach out and touch a fellow writer. If you read small press or independent authors, make it a point to attend their events, talk with them, and buy their books – as well as like their author pages on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. We appreciate your support!



Reaching out to Readers

When you can download a book to your e-reader in seconds that costs less than the movie playing at your local Multiplex, what is the relationship between readers and writers? Judging from the reviews of my book on the Swimming with Maya Amazon page, it has the potential to be closer than ever.Swimming with Maya

In the nine years since the book was first published as a beautiful but pricey hardback, the landscape has changed dramatically. As I writer, I see this most vividly in the ease with which readers can now buy the book and communicate with me about how it has affected them.

The digital edition of Swimming with Maya has been downloaded approximately 12,000 times – that is quadruple the number of readers of the hardback edition. Goodreads lists more than 500 people planning to read the book, as well as several dozen who have reviewed it.

As I write this, Swimming with Maya is in eighth position on the Goodreads list of books about “Bonds between mothers and daughters.”

When a writer pours her life out on the page as I did in this memoir, it is beyond gratifying to hear that readers are moved, or that their own lives have been changed. Not all readers react favorably, of course. Because of the immediacy of digital media I can hear exactly what they don’t like, which is valuable information.

If someone feels strongly enough to review my book – be it positive or not – I’m in the very privileged position of having readers who care enough to comment.

Like this recent review from my Amazon page: “What an incredibly powerful book. Both about the pain of losing a child and what it means to be human.”

Wow, somebody really got it! Swimming with Maya is a story about life – even though the trigger for telling the story was the death of my older daughter. It is about how life knocks all of us down and what it takes to get back up again.

Or this one: “I have a daughter who is like Maya was in many ways. Eerily, she is the same age now as Maya was when she died. This book made me realize how much I really love my daughter. I don’t think I will have any trouble showing her anymore.“

Affecting how someone relates to her daughter is about as high an honor as I can imagine. This reader, also a single mother, added this: “To me, this book is about how mothers love their children. Obviously, it is a deep, deep subject. I know Maya’ s story has had a huge impact on understanding the love for my own daughter. It is hard to read at times, but the message is worth it.”

I am sincerely blown away that those 90,000 words I sweated bullets over for almost 10 years are out there in the world making a difference in people’s lives.

E-books are making books available to people who might never have had such easy access before. It’s a trend I welcome. Don’t get me wrong. If you feel moved to buy the paperback as a gift for yourself or someone else, I’ll be equally happy. But please be sure to write a review or send me an email. Readers and writers need one another, so keep the comments coming.