Monday, June 25, 2012

Wordcraft -- When nobody knows you

I got an email from ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas,, asking which potential writing workshop leaders I was interested in. I recognized several names on the list but when I looked up the rest, for some of them, there was no information available.

Actually, in the case of one poor guy, Google listed his name as belonging to a Confederate soldier in the U.S. Civil War. Which would make him, at a minimum, well over 150 years old. Maybe it was a reference to his couple of times great-grandfather. But intriguing though the possibility was, a nineteenth century Civil War veteran seemed unlikely to be writing science fiction in the twenty-first century.

The point of this, besides to caution you against naming your kids for distant ancestors, is that if you’re writing -- writing seriously enough to be thought able to tell others how to write -- you need to get your name on the Internet.

I know, I know, everybody in your writing group knows what you write. Your instructors and mentors know. Maybe even everybody who’s anybody in literature in Austin, Texas, knows. But can they tell the world what genre you write in? What stories you’ve had published, and when and where to find writing samples? And is the information accessible to somebody who doesn’t know you from, say, a 150-year-old man?

So how do you get information about your writing to the public, especially if you have few or no publication credits? Well, you’re looking at one way -- blogging. It’s cheap, free even, although it takes a lot of links posted on the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn to persuade search engines to pick up your URL. (Here’s where you call in favors from all those writing group friends.)

Or you can set up a website, which costs, but not as much as you probably fear, especially if you’re willing to use off the rack templates. I used and its Website Tonight option. I’m a born and bred technophobe, so the result wasn’t pretty. But it’s out there. Or maybe you have a friend who’s good at stuff like that.

Even if you haven’t published yet, writing on your website or blog -- even on social media, which doesn’t cost anything either -- can tell people what you write and how you write, so they’ll have some clue whether they’d want to be in a writing workshop with you. And of course, if you’re published, share your blog or website address in your biography.

You may say you don’t want to appear on the Internet because you value your privacy. Are you kidding? You hope to share your writing someday with thousands, maybe millions of readers, right, but you’re worried about privacy?

It’s okay to allow your family their privacy. It’s okay to create decent passwords to keep your accounts from getting hacked. But remember that with every word you write, like it or not, you reveal yourself. And that’s great, because we read to learn what other human beings -- what we ourselves -- are like.


Conference update -- Last day to get a 20 percent discount on registration for the Houston Writers’ Guild’s October conference is this Saturday, June 30. See for details. YA author Nikki Loftin is a featured speaker, and I can attest from hearing her this past spring that she is dynamic.

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