Thursday 23 February 2012

The inconvenience of deadlines and ideas

I absolutely loved my sabbatical. My employer, the University of Salford, recognised that my work was of value and allowed me a whole five months off teaching, meetings and most of my emails so that I could get on with some research and some writing. And because I am employed as a creative writing lecturer, quite a lot of that time was spent on my novel.
However, there was also a creepy thought at the back of my mind. This is all fine and good, but what next? I was part way through editing another book. So, finish the sabbatical novel (not far off, now actually) and that other book – then what?
I shouldn’t have worried. I now have this To Do list:
Finish the sabbatical novel (in time to enter it for a competition next week?)
Complete the accompanying web site
Complete the associated Power Point presentations
Complete the associated academic articles  
Finish editing that other novel
Get the sabbatical novel and the other novel out there
Research and write the biography of one of the (real) minor characters in the novel
Edit and self-publish two books that have gone out of print
Follow up that idea for a teen novel situated in ancient times on Tenerife
Write a modern day novel about the girl who … ah that’s a secret!
Edit Spooking (by 11 March for Crooked Cat)
Accept Crooked Cat’s edits so that the book can be out by16 March (cripes!)
Get some self-promotion going associated with Spooking.
Possibly all of this came about as I came out of my deep absorption in Potatoes in Spring and got back to normal life. On my To Do list was get Spooking out there. I also have to get Veiled Dreams out there. But that will now have to wait.
It’s great. I’m now bubbling with ideas again. And I have some deadlines that are there because I have had some success.  
The problem is, all of this comes as I’m busy again with teaching – bigger classes this semester – meetings and exchange students. But that is the way it is generally. Deadlines and ideas rarely come at convenient times.                      

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Writers and Social Networking

It seems vital today that writers have a presence on some social networking platforms. In fact I am convinced I have made sales and been approached by schools wanting workshops because I have some visibility. My work at Salford University also helps and I note that my pages on various the web site there have had many hits. I maintain several blogs, I have several pages on Facebook but rarely use my wall, I’m on Twitter, I’m on LinkedIn and I’m on E-academy. I’m also quite active in a couple of groups that are supported by Ning.
However, I have noticed a quite disturbing trend, sadly on LinkedIn, which started off being such a professional organisation and on E-academy, which was originally a reliable business network. People join any group that has the remotest connection with what they do and thereby water down the possibilities of that group. Recently there was a whole campaign on Linked in within one sub-group where everyone was invited to like each other’s pages on Facebook. Many of the members of the groups only had the slightest connection with the topic. It wasn’t always clear exactly what there was to like. And frankly, I have better things to do with my time than simply click buttons on Facebook. I’m not saying there wasn’t something there to like – I just hadn’t found it yet.
No, no, no, I say. Let’s be genuine about this.
We have to take a little care that we don’t create an affiliate situation without a product behind it. Crowd-funding is fine as long as people fund because they like the product / project not just because they are friends with the project leader who has a great deal of charisma. Don’t vote for your friend’s story just because s/he is your friend. Vote for that story because it is actually the best.
I personally love Twitter. I treat myself to a look whenever I change task. It’s like meeting at the water cooler. I like the way it finds other people you might want to connect with, how you can show someone you approve of their message by retweeting it and the effect that then has on the way that message spreads, or you can reply to that message and give a bit of value-added. It’s all done in 140 characters so you’re not going to waste a lot of time. Often you can be directed to an interesting blog or a publishing opportunity. I’ve made a few friendships on Twitter – some people I knew before but I’ve got to know those people better and others I  met for the first time there. I keep on top of the local, national and international news and I have some connections which help me with some of my projects.
Social networking is helpful, perhaps essential for writers. It must, however, include genuine connections.