Sarah's Scribbles

The Year of Months

Why People Don't 'Get' Twitter

Let me just start out with this disclaimer: I am crazy about Twitter.

Right now, about half of you are rolling your eyes and the other half are nodding your heads. I'm going to ask both groups to bear with me for a few moments here.

Explaining Twitter to people is very difficult, especially if you're explaining it to someone who already thinks it is dumb or pointless. Comedians love to make fun of Twitter - but they only do that because (like everything else they make fun of) it is popular.

I want to clarify some of the criticism of Twitter. It is not about updates like this:
  • "Sitting at the bus stop. Someone has body odor."
  • "Just had a bagel and cream cheese. Yum!"
  • "Bored..."

Now, that's not to say that these kinds of posts don't have a place. That place is to personalize it, make it human. One of these (though these are the most boring of the mundane, try to spice it up) every now and then can remind you that you're seeing updates from a real person and not just some news bot or blog feed. However, if that's all that a person uses Twitter for:  

They're doing it wrong.

They'll be "unfollowed" faster than you can fall asleep. (Except for the spambots, which is a whole other topic. Don't get me started)

This is how I defend Twitter to people (most of whom haven't even been to the site, btw) who think it's stupid:
I primarily use Twitter to follow people in the publishing industry: agents, publishers, publicists, published authors and unpublished authors. These people tweet about what's going on the industry and, most importantly for us aspiring authors, how to break into it.

The advice I have received on Twitter has been invaluable and is simply not available anywhere else. There is one agent, @colleenlindsay who conducts randomly-timed #askagent discussions, where you can ask her and other agents any question you want about how to be successful in the publishing industry. Some professionals, like @BostonBookGirl, @RachelleGardner, and @Bookgirl96, do a fantastic job of balancing 'real person' tweets with 'business' tweets. And, God bless them, (or Godiva bless them, as @Janet_Reid would say) they do this all for free on top of their not-so-light schedules!

I've also met some great new friends on Twitter. Other aspiring authors like @JasonAMyersTX and @ChristaCarol are great for companionship and consolation when I need it. Some published authors like @MaureenJohnson are just plain entertaining to follow.

And this is not unique to the publishing industry. I encourage you to seek out Twitter communities like this in the industries you're involved with, whether it be Veterinary, Web Development, Marketing, etc.

I also like to follow local news outlets like @orlandosentinel and @cfnews13 for up-to-date info, especially on topics like traffic and at-large dangerous criminals.

So, for those of you who don't 'get' Twitter. I'm going to ask you to check it out. You're going to have to give it some time before you really get in the swing of things and you're going to have to invest time every day for you to get anything out of it. Follow me, I'm here if you have questions.

For those of you who love Twitter, please try to be patient with the haters. It doesn't help the public image if we get angry. We know that there is valuable interaction available on Twitter and it's just too bad if others don't see it for what it is.

If you would like a basic rundown of Twitter and how to use it, check out this slideshow I created.

Why You Should Think Twice About Pirating ebooks

With the increasing popularity in electronic books, many people in the industry are discussing the effect pirating will have. However, I haven't seen too many people outside of the industry consider it. In fact, my very own boyfriend proposed pirating a certain book. Poor guy; he got quite an earfull. But you can bet the thought won't ever cross his mind again.

The point is, I wanted to write this post to help those who aren't so close to the industry realize what happens when you pirate a book rather than buy it - and how this differs from the music industry.

When you pirate music, you are able to afford to listen to more artists and genres. Ideally, this means you're able to buy more tickets to concerts and concert-related paraphernalia. The artists and their agents and writers and musicians and all them still get paid. The business-savvy musicians are even using their CDs and MP3s as a sort of concert flier.

However, for the book industry, the book IS the thing. There are no concerts and (most of the time, if we can all agree to ignore Twilight and HP) there is no merchandising. In fact, authors often pay their own way to speak for free at events and bookstores.

Already, I have seen many authors forced to return to 'traditional' 40 hour a week jobs because they're not making enough to feed themselves. Many people don't realize: 99% of book authors DON'T make very much at all - not even a median full-timer's salary. It's not because they're not good ... many people love their books. And it's not like they just dump these things out in a few hours and it magically arrives in your local bookstore:

We slave over manuscripts for (on average) a year; rewriting and editing and rewriting and editing over and over again. And that's the easy part. Then we have to figure out how to get it into the hands of a publisher and convince that publisher that people will actually want to read it. Then, there's the endless hours of promotion and marketing that we also don't get paid for. I know what you're thinking and no. Most books do not get very much marketing budget from the actual publisher.

So, after several years, finally checks start coming in. But when you subtract all the money you spent on marketing and self-promotion, sometimes you even come in at a loss. Unless you get stupendously lucky and end up like Brown, Meyer or Rowling. (You're more likely to get struck by lightning)

So if you're thinking about downloading an e-book without paying for it, ask yourself this question: If it turns out you love the book, is getting it free worth never reading anything from that author again because they had to take a job at Pizza Hut to pay their rent because no one was buying their books?? You think I'm being too doom-and-gloom?  It's already happening.

New Blog Location

I decided to move my blog over to blogger because my website's blog function just wasn't working for me.  It didn't do everything I wanted it to do.

I've copied most of my blog posts below, so they're still there... but your comments won't be. :-/

Thanks for putting up with me!

Two Types of Writers

October 5, 2009

Over the past year I have become increasingly immersed in the sub-culture of fiction writers.  I have met hundreds of fiction writers, both published and unpublished.

There are those who claim they write only for themselves, those who write to entertain, and those who write to get a point across.

Some writers compose by the seat of their pants, their first draft taking the place of an outline while some work from an outline that's nearly as long as their book and still others who write an entire series based on three words scrawled on a bar napkin.

There are historical fiction writers and fantasy writers. Chick Lit writers. Mystery writers. Childrens writers and erotica writers. Literary fiction writers. Science Fiction writers. Fan fiction writers and mainstream writers.

There are so many different types of self-imposed classifications with many sub-classes and crossover categories that writers have mulled over ad nauseum.

After much attentive observation, I have come to the conclusion that there are only two types of writers:

1) Am-I-Good-Enough?
2) I'm-Amazing-and-Anyone-Who-Disagrees-Can-Suck-It

Every writer I've ever met falls into one of these categories.  Sometimes they jump ship to the other category, but most will stay in the same category for their whole lives.

I find it interesting that there aren't really any other characteristics that the writers share. Both categories are home to some fantastic writers as well as some who commit heinous crimes against literature. There are published writers in the category 1 - even after they've sold millions of books. And there are unpublished writers in category 2 who will refuse to work on their craft until the day they die.

Personally, I find myself switchng back and forth between the two categories almost daily... sometimes hourly. I have confidence in my ability to formulate fascinating characters and an interesting story, but I often doubt my more 'technical' skills, the nuances of the craft.

What do you think?  What kind of writer are you?

What I learned from Kanye West

September 18, 2009

While he's still probably the most hated man in America, it seems the blood rage directed at Kanye West is finally falling to a dull roar.  Just about anyone who's anyone has weighed in on his outburst, calling him anything from 'rude' to 'jackass' (I'm still not convinced that wasn't a cleverly crafted PR stunt for the big man - saying something 99.9% of the country will agree with is never a bad move in the political arena).

So this left me wondering why.  Why do all of these important and/or busy people take the time to comment on the behavior of an obscene 5-year-old trapped in a man's body?  Why should his rude behavior be nothing more than a curiosity we can quickly move on from? 

Clichéd as it is, this is what I took away from it: Celebrities are people too. 

Wait! Before you groan to yourself and stop reading let me explain why you should read on.  Replace the word 'celebrities' with just about any other profession/station that you stereotype: Cops, Teachers, Tech Support, Politicians, Fundraisers, Sorority Girls, Tow Truck Drivers, Soldiers, Flight Attendants, Lifeguards, College Students, Literary Agents (ha! for my writer friends out there) etc.

The majority of people tend to class all Celebrities together, holding them in their mind as these sort-of robots with different faces, bodies and talents (which are too often inversely proportional to the attractiveness of the first two attributes, but that's beside the point).  I don't know about y'all, but I usually think that popular Celebrities are pretty much all the same person inside, but the West/Swift incident made me rethink that.

Their personalities, dreams and priorities are as different as yours and mine.  Before you disagree, think about what might have happened if it had been Eminem or Pink on that stage instead of Taylor Swift.  I'm not sure KW would have walked away from that encounter?  How many people in that audience agreed with what Kanye said 100%, but thoughts of doing what he did never even occurred to them?

Now this realization, as it is, won't really affect my life too much.  I imagine it won't affect yours either, until you do as I suggested above and replace the word 'celebrities' with something else. 

How many times have we seen an attractive sorority girl and dismissed her as a dimwit with the sole goal of finding a husband to support her?  How many times would we have been wrong?  More than we like to think.

How many times have we treated a cop or a flight attendant as a thing instead of a human being, a real person with motivations and emotions and needs and dreams?  I challenge you to take a look at your past encounters with certain professions and I'd bet dollars to donuts that you'll be shocked by your own callousness and bigotry.

These are just my thoughts on the subject, feel free to disagree, but I always like to try to take something positive away from a bad experience.  You can join me, or you can just call him a jackass and be done with it.

Job Hunt and Writers Groups

July 1, 2009

I have an interview today at 3pm.  It's a part time position and doesn't pay very much, but it involves helping out with events at the beautiful Gaylord Palms. 

So yes, I'm having trouble finding a job right now.  All job postings that I see I'm either way over or under qualified for.  All the engineering jobs want at least 10 years experience in a certain field that I haven't touched before.  I feel like I'm not getting call backs on other jobs because they feel that I'm overqualified for them and won't be happy in them.  I can't say that I will or I won't but I'm relatively sure that I'd be happy in a job related to hospitality, event planning, or non-profit - but I don't get the chance to prove it.

So, I keep trying.  Nothing else I can do, I suppose.  Except maybe networking.  I've been more or less a recluse since we moved here.  I'm hoping that will start to change tonight as well:

Tonight, I'm attending the Florida Writer's Association's local group at 7pm.  It looks to be mainly business-related as the organizer is stepping down and they're looking at changing how it operates, but it will be a chance for me to talk to other writers in the area.  Right now, I'm only in contact with other writers on Twitter.  Don't get me wrong, that's great and all, but there's nothing like a face to face conversation to get me motivated.

Also, I've formed my own meetup group for Speculative Fiction (Sci-fi or Fantasy) writers in Orlando.  We have our first meeting this coming Monday to determine the goals and structure of the group.  I decided to do this for two main reasons: 

(1) All of the so-called Orlando writers groups don't actually meet in Orlando.  They meet in Winter Park or Sanford, and that's kind of obnoxious.  Why don't you call your group the Sanford Writers' group??
(2) None of the existing groups are genre specific.  And let's face it: Non spec fic writers really look down on spec fic writers, even still.  Some of the best selling books right now are Fantasy, but we're still treated like the red-headed step child of the writing community.  Why bother taking advice from people who have zero respect for your genre?

I haven't written much lately.  I find it's hard for me to discipline myself when my schedule is so wide-open.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but when I have all the free time in the world, I get less done than when I'm working 60 hours a week.

So that's basically what's going on with me right now.  Oh, that and I'm talking to a Coast Guard recruiter about going into the Coast Guard through their Direct Commissioning program for Engineers.  I'll keep you updated :-)

Old Man and the Rain

May 1, 2009

Today, we were driving to the store in the rain.  It had been raining in Tulsa since yesterday.  There was an older man walking on the side of the street.  The car in front of us hit a puddle and a spray of dirty water showered him from the chest down.

What did he do?  He smiled, laughed a little.

Take from it what you wish, but please let it be a lesson to you.

Forced Distraction

April 28, 2009

I have an interview in approximately 25 minutes.  To keep myself from stressing over it, I started thinking about BC. 

Many agents/publishers say that you can easily cut the first 50 pages out of your book without missing anything.  When I looked at BC yesterday, I realized I could probably cut out the first 20 pages (single spaced, TNR size 12).  So that got me to thinking.  I'd hate to lose the scene in the pet store, but the second chapter could easily be pared down drastically without losing anything.  I could leave Chapter 1 where it is or tighten it up and use it as a memory/flashback. 

Once I'm finished I may want to go back and add occasional flashback scenes from ancient Brigid and Lear - ones that hint at what's going on, but don't really give it away.  One of these in the beginning could solve the problem of not really letting the reader know what's going on until 20 pages in.  I'll have to see how they come out though, as they would be more  hard fantasy and less urban fantasy, which I'm way more comfortable with.

So, for those of you who have read up to Aidan's rescue, what do you think?

I'm going to finish the story before I make any major revisions like the ones I'm talking about, but I'm defintely starting to think about it.

ok, killed some time, distracted my overactive mind for a bit... now it's time to focus on the job interview.

Til next time...

Job Update - What Else?

April 29, 2009

I have an interview! It's for a job as (primarily) a grant writer for The American Lung Association in Orlando, FL. I had originally applied for a different position with them, but the ED seemed to think I would be more suited for this one. I’m very excited, in case you couldn’t tell.

K graduates on the 10th and we should be moving into our apartment on the 15th. I am also very excited about that – and the new graduation present I just thought of for her!

Brigid’s Cross is starting to take over part of my mind again. I’ll have to really set to work on it when I get moved in. It’s just so hard to concentrate here for more than a few hours. I did get a chance to write a new SF short story that has been floating around in my head for a few weeks. It’s currently in first draft mode, being read by a few people I trust who volunteered for the job. :-) Let me know if you’d like to read it after revision. This may be my first submittal to Asimov’s... hey, a girl can dream!

We met with a website design guy this morning for The Center’s new website. I wrote the copy a few weeks ago and I would love to see a new website launched before I leave here, but we’ll see... They’re convinced they’re going to have difficulties without me here, but I think they’ll be alright. I’ve agreed to write the newsletters/copy for them from a distance and be available by phone when needed.

Well, that’s it for now. Back to work for me!

Job Update & Strengths

April 2, 2009

So I went to the website today to apply for that job and it had been removed from the website!  I found the email address of the chapter and emailed them my cover letter and resume anyway.  Hopefully, they didn't already fill the position.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed! 

I also applied for another job at Rollins College.  I think this one would be awesome too and with my Learner strength (see below), a college would be a great place for me to work!  I'd certaily make use of the tuition waiver!

According to Stregths Finder 2.0, my strenghts are:
Restorative (problem solving essentially)

The ED at The Tristesse Grief Center bought this book (and assessment) for all of our employees.  I did the test last week, but read the book today.  Usually with personality tests and assessments like these, they don't quite know what to make of me.  I usually get conflicting results or think that I'm more like another category, but on this one I think it's pretty accurate.  A social math-whiz who loves to write?  Doesn't really fit into any one box.

My Myers-Briggs personality type is EXTJ.  The T/F distinction is pretty close too. 

You know, just in case you care :-)

Something to Write About

March 31, 2009

Well, I 'started' this blog two days ago, unsure about whether or not I would actually write in it.  It seemed that I didn't really have anything worth writing about - at least nothing that I wanted people to know about!  Today, that sad fact changed.

On the way home from work today, we stopped at the grocery store to get pork for dinner tonight.  In the atrium, two Girl Scouts and a mom were selling Girl Scout cookies.  For those of you who know me, you know I'm trying to lose all the weight I gained when I had Mono, so I didn't want any for myself - despite how much I love them.  I have recently adopted a new soldier (my last one made it home safely!) through Adopt-A-Platoon and I figured our boys in Iraq might appreciate some of the yummy classic American goodness.

After picking out three boxes for my solider, I paid the girl.  My aunt made a comment about me not being able to eat them so I explained to the Girl Scouts what I was buying them for.  After hearing this the mom said, "In that case, go ahead and take another box on us."  I said, "Are you sure?"  The lady insisted so I picked out a fourth box.  So now I have four boxes of Girl Scout cookies to send to Samuel this week!  I hope he'll share with his fellow soldiers.  :-)

This may seem like no big deal, but to me it was very uplifting and inspiring.  Thanks to the current economy, people are getting both more stingy and more cranky.  People are doing less and less to help others out because they are worried about their own well-being.  In darkness like this, even the smallest light shines brightly and illuminates treasures you thought were lost forever.

"Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity."
~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

Something else that is worth writing about!  Since being laid off from AB (due to a restructuring after the InBev buyout) I have decided to move to Orlando in May and have been looking for a job there.  I check the major career websites nearly every day looking for the rare combination of a place I want to work at with a job that I want to do.  Most of you know I have a passion for non-profits and for event planning.  Well, today the Muscular Dystrophy Association posted an opening for Event Coordinator!  I said on my Twitter that this is my dream job, and I am going to try as hard as I can to get it!  The only way a job could be better is if they let me write too!