The April Platform Challenge Anniversary: Who Knew?

This post celebrates the first anniversary of the MNINB Platform Challenge, April 2012, and all the good things that have happened since!

On April 12 of last year, I wrote:

I’m writing this post as an assignment after being away from the blog for too long. Every time I’ve logged on lately and have seen the dates of my last posts, I’ve felt embarrassed and a little panicky. Should I give up the blog entirely? How will I carve out the time to write frequently, or at least regularly, without neglecting what I ought to be about: revising a novel and working on short stories?

Seeking answers, I’ve been participating in Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge during the month of April. Robert has created a series of exercises intended to help writers wrangle their online presence into shape. In the process I’ve done more Facebooking and tweeting and read more blogs than I could have imagined. A “platform”—significant interaction with others (on the Internet and otherwise) with the purpose of building a following—seems necessary these days, even before you publish a book.*

When I wrote those words, the Platform Challenge was approaching the halfway point. I had kept up with the daily tasks, but I still felt pretty lost.

I had set up this blog in 2009. I’d written a grand total of one post in 2009, none in 2010, and a real run of posts—three—in 2011. Obviously, my online presence wasn’t working. Then came the April immersion into all things platform, with Robert cracking the whip and a whole lot of other interesting writer-type folks along for the ride.

Now here we are . . .

Blogging in August
Blogging in August

If you’d asked me last April if I would still be here today, I would have said no. But I’m finding my niche: writing about writing, writing memoir, posting photos and favorite links and even my own poems or short fiction occasionally. I’ve hosted some terrific guest posts and conducted an author interview. I’ve written a couple of guest posts myself (thank you to the hosts who gave me that opportunity). I’ve spread my wings.

The platform challenge didn’t cure all my insecurities and bad habits. My biggest failing? I’m still not good at keeping an editorial calendar. (I faced long ago that I’m a “pantser” where writing fiction is concerned. That’s true here, too.) I’m not crazy about Twitter, but I’m getting better at using it, and I enjoy the Wordsmith Studio chats when I have time to get there. I’m a slow learner on Google+, and I’m still a weakling when it comes to Pinterest and LinkedIn. I just discovered StumbleUpon.

So much to learn! And we have to choose what suits us best. I’m doing that.

Memoir and Me

I have to tell you about two extraordinary things that happened here. During her Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge in October 2012, Jane Ann McLachlan established a huge goal—to write a post for each of the first twenty-five years of your life. Impossible, I thought; I could never do that. Once I started tapping into memories, though, they came so fast I could hardly keep up and write them down.

I look back on that experience as a breakthrough moment for me as a writer. I didn’t think I could write memoir. I discovered that I could. And since much of my fiction has its roots in autobiographical elements, that month of exploration proved invaluable.


The second extraordinary thing: A couple of months ago, an agent contacted me. Yes. Contacted me, not the other way around. She had found this blog, and based on what she’d read here, she asked what I had that I could send her. I responded, and she asked to see a full manuscript. She didn’t take on the book — : ( — but still, it happened.

It could happen again. It could happen to you, too.

There’s a lesson in this bit of luck. I do consider it lucky, even though this agent turned out not to be the one. It’s an example of platform at work. Had I not participated in the Platform Challenge, had I not stuck with the blog, had I not grown my online presence, that particular agent encounter never would have happened. And every step takes us closer to our goals.

The Cyber-Circle

Wordsmith Studio
Wordsmith Studio

When we first took on Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge, most of us knew nothing about each other. But we worked on Robert’s assigned tasks, explored, shared, grumbled a little, and after April, we stuck around. We got to know each other better. We became friends. We shared our strengths, our weaknesses, our pet peeves, our writing hopes and dreams, our disappointments and successes. Some of us have even shared the personal—both good and bad.

We’re a big bunch of BFFs, most of whom have never met.

Extraordinary. And we keep adding to the circle.

Here’s my earlier take on this remarkable cyber-circle of friendship:

And then there’s the new world of cyber-friends. Friends, you say? Are you skeptical? That’s all right. I was, too, in the beginning . . . We may have started out with the goal of increasing our online presence and creating a “platform” so that as we publish and hopefully, someday, really need a platform, we’ll be ready with the website and the Facebook Writer’s Page and a Twitter account and a nice number of connections across the Web. But as we’ve gotten to know each other better, we’ve formed bonds. We don’t all know each other equally well; we don’t all share the same goals; we might not recognize each other if we were all thrown into a crowded room together. But we are connected. What we care about—our writing, mostly, but also our successes, our failures, our significant life moments—we have come to expect to share with these other folks whom we may never see in the flesh.**

So the Not-Bobbers became the Wordsmith Studio gang. I won’t say the rest is history, because we’re still making history. Our own. Still growing as writers and as a group.

I’m glad I leapt into the challenge last April. Funny, isn’t it, how one small decisive moment can change your life?

So thanks, Robert Lee Brewer. And to those who had the vision to see the community of writers we might become, I say thanks to you, too. You know who you are.

Happy anniversary and congratulations, Wordsmithers all. We are growing a good thing.

* “A Platform Is Something You Stand On,” April 12, 2012

** From “So Many Streets, So Many Connections,” July 26, 2012

38 thoughts on “The April Platform Challenge Anniversary: Who Knew?

  1. Great post, Gerry! That’s so wonderful that you did the memoir challenge. I feel uncertain if I can find good personal stories to share, but your positive experience is really encouraging. Also, congrats on the agent call! Here’s looking for even more to celebrate in the next year!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I was surprised by how easily I fell into memoir mode, but I’m not sure it has book potential. Maybe just as a family thing; that might be nice to do. Happy anniversary to you! Here’s to another great year for all of us.

  2. I’m so surprised to learn that you only really delved into memoir recently. Your memoir posts are stunning. I figured you had been doing this style of writing for a long time! Also, it’s so neat to hear that an agent found you through your blog. How amazing! I can’t wait to see what your blog holds in store for us in the coming year.

    1. Well, I guess I can’t leave the blog behind now, can I? : ) I read a piece by Julianna Baggott today where she says she had a happy childhood, “the worst thing that can happen to a writer.” That’s sort of how I feel about mine. But we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the affirming words! I appreciate them.

  3. Enjoyed reading your essay, Gerry. You did have two extraordinary happenings. You were great with the memoir posts, I remember. And it had to be exciting to have an agent contact you. All the best!

  4. I love how you incorporated your earlier thoughts into your post. Wonderful, touching, and very well-written! We are making history. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it’s true. You’re making history too, or should I say herstory 😉 I haven’t heard of anyone being contacted by an agent on the strength of their blog. Even though it didn’t result in publication, that’s a feather you can wear proudly, in your cap or any other darn place you like 🙂

    1. Love it–herstory! Yes. The agent thing came out of the blue while I was at a writers’ conference in January (but she was not on site). The blog means a lot to me personally, but that incident made me realize that it does also matter re platform. And we are all growing, aren’t we? Thanks for commenting, Melanie.

  5. Who knew?! I’m not proud of everything I blogged or tweeted (I started about 2009, too), but the process taught me things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Congratulations on your progress and your writerly adventures!

  6. Great post Gerry! It’s been quite the year and I’m glad to have you as a cyber-friend. I’m so amazed that an agent contacted you. Wherever *the one* is, I’m sure he/she will find a way to you. Best of luck!

    1. Sopphey, whether that (the agent thing) ever happens or not, this whole experience has been worthwhile and I’ve learned so much. Grateful for all my WSS friends! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. A powerful essay! I sympathize on the agent decline.

    If you had asked me a year ago if I was going to submit a speaker proposal to the upcoming Blog Paws convention I would have laughed myself silly.

    While my proposal was declined I soon ended up being sponsored to attend the conference by someone who said they just felt “You need to be there”.

    Next week I get eye cancer surgery and then in mid-may it is off to Va. for the conference where I will meet many of my fellow blogging friends who I have only known online, and hope to learn things that will help me as a writer and help me build a better platform.

    None of this would have happened if not for friendships made in the aftermath of the challenge that helped spur me on in new ways.

    1. Kiril, I think we are all in very different places from where we might have been without last April’s challenge. Good luck to you! I’m looking forward to getting to know you better!

  8. Aaww . . . gee, I’m all teary-eyed. What a wonderful post. So glad to know you! And I was cheering when I read the part about the agent contacting you; how amazing and inspiring! Thank you for sharing your journey.

  9. Teary-eyed, Gerry. You’re so right about the cyber friends. You have all made what could have been the toughest year of my life so far into the greatest! Congratulations on how far you’ve come and on your discovery of memoir as a compelling style for you. I feel so proud to know you! Oh, and Pantsers Unite!

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