writing

Mapping My LinkedIn Network

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 4.41.07 PM My network has a new branch since I last did this network map in March 2013. That maroon group on the lower lefthand side is from PJ Van Hulle's 90-day list-building challenge, Listapalooza.

The blue are Turkey and Expat Harem-related. The green are Turkish diaspora. The pink is Bryn Mawr College, the orange is social media and online marketing pros, and professional coaches. The bronze is NYC, SF, writing and travel peers. The yellow at center is Silicon Valley, startups and the VC world, while the light blue is the TED community.

Click on the image to see a larger version. Here's where to get your own.

Requests That Get A Yes

I get a lot of requests related to my Expat Harem book and other productions that I wish I had the time to say yes to.

Sometimes I get requests that I would have said yes to if the requester had spent a little more time setting it up. Make it really easy!

 

I heard from a travel writer developing a story about her own cross-cultural family experiences who needed expert sources to flesh out her query to an unnamed publishing venue. She gave me four questions to answer.

Four questions is a lot to ask, but her email gave me even more things to wonder.

Which venues she was pitching and by when did she need my answers?

I wondered why she was seeking an expert quote for a personal story (expert quotes in a pitch usually point to experts you're going to interview if you get the assignment). That would be like using my material to land an assignment to write about her own life! If she were to be assigned the piece, was she planning to interview me in more depth? It would have been good to hear that she only needed a one sentence answer for  -- any of -- those questions.

An expert would want to see how she was going to be described in the query. This could be done by telling me why I am being approached. For instance, "because you wrote about your Turkish in-laws in the Expat Harem book and in Cornucopia magazine." Or, it would be nice to be asked to point to a description I prefer.

Assume people want to help.  Just cover your bases and keep the ask as small as you can, so they can.

P.S. Be gracious when someone says no. When I let this travel writer know I wouldn't be able to help her out and explained what questions her pitch brought up for me, she let me know how sorry I was going to be for not doing what she asked.

Interview With Writer Abroad On Lowering Barriers And Raising Your Game

I’m thrilled and honored to be featured in Chantal Panozzo’s WriterAbroad Interview series. I join fellow expat and global nomad authors like the Petite Anglaise blogger-turned-novelist Catherine Sanderson in France, veteran Expat Expert publisher Robin Pascoe, Maya “The New Global Student” Frost in Argentina, and Alan Paul, the Wall Street Journal’s “The Expat Life” columnist based in China.

Chantal -- an American in Switzerland whose work appears in the dysfunctional family Chicken Soup anthology with mine, and guest posted last week at expat+HAREM -- asks how to connect with a reading audience back home.

People abroad have often turned to writing when other options for work and expression were limited. It tends to be a location-independent profession and pasttime.

Technology and the times now challenge writers abroad to do even more. Because we can -- and must.

We can make a bigger impact with less resources. Plus, even if we wanted to, we can no longer depend solely on high-barrier traditional routes.  We writers are now producers, and directors, and engineers of content.

Revisiting all my entertainment projects in development in this new light: how to tell the story of my ‘forensic memoir of friendship’ using 25-years worth of multimedia? Can two screenplays be converted to enhanced ebooks for iPhone or iPad -- incorporating images, sound, text -- or even made into a graphic novel?

What recent technology or industry shift both lowers a traditional barrier for you and raises your game?

Publishing And The Digital World Citizen

I once opened a can of ebook whoop-ass on Stephen King. “No interactivity, no extra benefit for readers!” I scolded the usually imaginative novelist back in the go-go days of Y2K. From my desk on New York’s Silicon Alley where I had the publishing beat at an internet industry magazine, King’s self-publishing experiment The Plant – a flow of static installments lacking flexibility, community and collaboration – was a lackluster leap of faith.

I was used to doling out tough-love to content owners peering across the digital divide. After previous stints in media and entertainment, intellectual property rights and audience concerns were also familiar to me but my exuberance came from a new media clean slate of the expat sort.

I'd just parachuted into the dotcom boom from Southeast Asia.

For five years my Malaysian office was minutes from Kuala Lumpur’s Multimedia Super Corridor, a futuristic zone advised by Bill Gates and Intel’s Andy Grove. Like the rest of the Newly Industrialized Nation, I was plagued by weekly power outages and wrote by candle light. While my attention span shrank to the length of a Compaq battery life, expatriate skills included patience to wait one month for a government-issued phone line. Waiting for internet access expanded my endurance to a couple of years.

When I finally got online the possibilities of global and real-time connection revolutionalized my estranged expat life.

A decade later I’m dipping into the professional fray from 6,000 miles to the East. I’ve been a writer and producer of cultural entertainment in Istanbul since 2003, and continue to live here. My first book Expat Harem took a conventional route: lit agent, Turkish and American publishers, road trip book tours, an electronic release for Expat Harem on Kindle (aff) and Sony eReader. My second effort — an edgy nonlinear memoir of friendship — requires a complete rethink. (Three months to set up our 49-day 10-state road tour across America, three years to recover from? Wouldn't do that again!)

Geographic disadvantage demands I compete in my home market virtually. With the economic crisis, collapse of traditional publishing and fresh hope pinned on the social web, my global audience is also now virtual.  I’m shifting to new school thinking in distribution, promotion, and sales.

Like internet access equalized my ‘90s expat reality, now social media closes the professional morass as my Tweetdeck columns resonate thought leadership across publishing, technology, and marketing. (Follow my Twitter lists of  300+ publishing professionals and 200+ interactive media people, transmedia visionaries, digital storytellers and marketers.)

I’ve got Web 2.0 and 3.0 plans for my second book -- see Digital Book World, the publishing community for the 21st century -- not only because as a contemporary author abroad I must connect with readers and offer dynamic interaction with me and my material, but because as a digital citizen I can.

Building community around the healing power of friendship – the memoir’s heart — promises to bring my writing world even closer to who I am and what I care about, making where I am viable. Exactly where I want to be.

Have you been culturally or geographically challenged in your career? How has the playing field shifted today?

A version of this essay first appeared in former editor of Writer's Digest Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed, 2009.

See more images relating to this story here and here and here.

Launching Writer's Desk: A Web Tool To Organize The Writing Life

My software developer husband and I designed and built a new web-based writing tool. It was inspired by my experience as a freelance nonfiction writer. This online service provides a basic foundation for writers to get organized by recording revisions, tracking submissions, compiling market information and registering rights and income. For the past six months my husband and I have been designing and building a new web-based writer's tool. In this season of resolutions, we're happy to announce the launch of Writer's Desk, an online workspace to improve the way writers spend their time. We'd be honored if you pass the opportunity to colleagues and friends -- writers of all kinds -- who may have resolved to get organized this year.

SITUATION

Being a writer often sneaks up on a person.  Not many train for the vocation nor start with all the equipment, contacts, long view.  It's no wonder that eventually the snowball of success or dogged enthusiasm becomes an avalanche of produce - or expectation. Then buried writers inch along using outdated, poorly conceived systems to track work; repeatedly resolve to better keep writing in circulation; dream of one day expanding to new markets. SOLUTION

My computer scientist husband watched me -- a New York-based freelance writer -- function in this typical writerly way.  But unlike sympathetic others in the writing trade, he found observing me in action unbearable. So we pooled my professional nightmare with his software developing expertise to construct a website that has revolutionized the way I work and is too useful not to share with the wider writing community.

If you can operate a web browser anywhere in the world you can use this online service to simplify the logistics of being an active writer. Subscription is less than USD20 per year and while the site is optimized for the U.S. market, feedback from international users will help make it a global service.

FREE SUBSCRIPTION

Register for a thirty day free trial at www.writers-desk.com to judge if Writer's Desk improves your current method to:

  • Track writing objectives and submissions
  • Compile editorial guidelines and publishing contacts
  • Register rights granted, income earned
  • Trace the development and history of work - and more!

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We just opened it to the public as a subscription service.  You can find the creative and business workspace at  www.writers-desk.com

Writers use tools to *write* and tools to *sell the work*.  Writer's Desk is a bit of a cross between the two since it helps a writer envision her portfolio, both published and unpublished; encourages hierarchical thinking about projects and other writing ideas in order to more deeply develop material; offers a place to consolidate market contact information and notes; and helps track submissions, rights and income.

I can upload documents to the web service for retrieval on the fly -- and open and update my account from any computer with Internet access. So for me, logging on to Writer's Desk every day affords a quick overview of what I've done, what I must do today, what I plan to do and what I hope to do.

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A superb and versatile tool to manage song submissions and grant applications.

-- songwriter, Seattle, WA

Smart use of web technology. Finally I'm not tethered to my laptop.

-- journalist, New York, NY

Perfect for disorganized writers. Especially helps follow up with editors and agents!

-- novelist, Lawrence, KS

Portfolio overview is priceless. Great to develop new ideas, exploit material.

-- essayist, Des Moines, IA

Suits my purposes: developing scripts, tracking festival submissions.

-- screenwriter and director, San Francisco, CA

 

Invite To Beta Test A New Writer's Tool

As a writing friend or associate of mine, I’d like to cordially invite you to beta-test WRITER’S DESK.  This new web-based writer's tool was designed by my computer scientist husband after unbearably observing me in action. Too useful not to share, we soon plan to launch it as an online subscription service.  If you can operate a web browser, you can use this database software intended to simplify the logistics of being an active writer. An online centralized place to store and manage information to maximize your writing potential, WRITER’S DESK can help you:

TRACK SUBMISSIONS AND MONITOR PROGRESS

  • Identify publications and presses where your work is currently under consideration
  • Display a history of your submissions to a specific outlet
  • Distinguish agents and editors you’ve followed up with and their reactions
  • Map the exposure of different incarnations of your work
  • Register the rights granted and income earned on each project

 

DEVELOP YOUR WRITING GOALS

  • Brainstorm overarching project ideas
  • Pinpoint specific directions to go with your material
  • Note thematic patterns in your publication history to strengthen your portfolio or phase-out beats of little interest
  • Log unpublished or unused material and make plans to capitalize on it
  • Chart a publication path to your dream gigs

 

ORGANIZE YOUR RESOURCES

  • Plan well-received approaches based on editorial and submission guidelines of your target presses, publications, and editors
  • Compile, annotate and manage a database of publishing world contacts
  • Upload document files for access on the fly
  • Search your projects and files by keyword or word count

 

HOW TO BE A BETA TESTER

The beta test starts in October. During the test period, use the tool to its fullest extent to evaluate how it works for you. While using and in an exit questionnaire, share your impressions about any and all aspects of the tool.  (If you lack sufficient time or motivation right now, but want to be kept abreast of WRITER’S DESK developments, let me know by email before October 1.  I will be happy to notify you when we launch so you can enjoy the software at your own pace.)

In exchange for your active participation as a beta tester, I am pleased to offer the online service free for a year, with significantly discounted membership thereafter. A considerable additional benefit of being a beta tester is that later versions -- customized with your valuable feedback – may align not only with the way you truly work, but how you have always dreamed of working.

Interested beta testers, please email me by Tuesday, October 1 and let me know what computer system and version of IE or Netscape you plan to use.  Soon you will receive a detailed email with a link to the tool and the start date of the test.

Thank you for taking a moment to consider assessing WRITER’S DESK beta version, I appreciate it!

 

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Welcome to the WRITER’S DESK beta test.  Thank you for trying this new web service, your enthusiasm and sense of adventure are appreciated!  Here are further details of the test -- which begins today -- and a link to the tool.

CONTROLLED BETA

The test you are about to participate in is a controlled beta test, which means that it is not open to users beyond those who are initially invited. Any new accounts registered after the beta group has enrolled will be blocked.  Others will be able to try the system for free when we launch.

However, feel free to refer associates who might be interested in trying WRITER’S DESK in an expanded test.

SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS

Since this is a beta, we will regularly update the site, incorporating fixes and changes based on the results of testing and your feedback. An update takes about five minutes, but for now we ask you not use the site between 11:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. nightly.  If or when the schedule changes, you will be notified by email.  We will also alert you to longer updates.

SAFEGUARD DATA

Like all beta versions, the WRITER’S DESK software you are about to use is potentially unstable. While no data has been lost during development and alpha, we recommend you safeguard the information you enter in the tool by printing it out.  Also make sure you keep a copy of any documents you upload from your personal computer. The database will be backed up daily and transferred to a remote machine, but not the documents you have uploaded.

CONFIDENTIALITY

By participating in this beta you agree that you will refrain from sharing details -- large and small -- about WRITER’S DESK with anyone from the start of the beta period until we publicly announce launch of the service. We apologize if this goes against your communal grain. When we launch we would be more than happy if you mention the web tool to others!

BEING A TESTER

During the beta period, use the tool as often as you can and to its fullest extent to best evaluate how it functions for you. But also test its limits: don’t fill in every field or only partially fill a field.  Enter what you think might be bad data and see how the system reacts. DO ODD THINGS! If all goes as planned, you will know when the system fails when you end up on an error page, on which the path of the page that generated the error will be displayed.  But any other odd behavior should be reported. Let us know what happens to you, and while you work, share what you’re thinking by jotting observations and questions in the feedback form.  Which sections seem gratuitous, which are vital, what is missing?

EXIT QUESTIONNAIRE

When the beta ends, in an exit survey we will solicit your opinion on possible new features, based on our own plans for developing the service, and your feedback while testing it.

GET STARTED

Proceed to http://www.writers-desk.com. Register. Preview the Getting Started page, and you’re on your way!

We look forward to hearing what you think of WRITER’S DESK and thank you for your time.