Looking for Change

Come April, this blog will turn two.

Well, that’s a bit of a cheat. I created the blog back in 2010, wrote a few scattered posts, and then abandoned it. It came to life again as the result of  my participation in a “platform” challenge in April 2011. During that challenge created by Robert Lee Brewer, I learned a lot about social media and blogging in general and met many kindred souls.

I began the “new, improved” Writerly Life blog with the idea that it would be about what the tag line says: the writing life–how I was/am living it–and writing craft. But over the past year, the blog seems to have gone in a different direction. My posts have moved toward more memoir and personal narrative than writing advice.

So as I approach the blog’s birthday, I’m thinking about change and direction: Is it time for a new look? Maybe a new title and/or tag line? Should this space be primarily a “writer” site that deals with writing craft and issues? Or should it be a place for memoir and reflection? A mash-up of both? The memoirs and reflective essays often tend to tie in with my writing life, so there is that.

I would love to know where you think The Writerly Life should go from here. I hope you’ll participate in the poll below. If I haven’t covered a suggestion you’d like to make or if you’d like to elaborate, please leave a comment.

The blog is for you, you know. Help me re-establish its identity.

(You may choose more than one answer.)

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.

Discovered—Almost!

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