A Story I Know You’ll Love

Ron Lynch is a name likely completely unknown to you. And Matthew Flores is probably no different. But the rest of the world is becoming more and more acquainted with the two by each passing day. Let me tell you why.

Ron Lynch is a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service (USPS). For those of you located in other parts of the world, USPS is our primary snail mail service. Recently Ron Lynch discovered 12-year-old Matthew searching through junk mail for anything he could read. And Matthew even asked him if he had any extra mail that he could read because his family doesn’t have a car and can’t afford for him to take the bus to his local library. But Mr. Lynch decided to do something just a little bit better than junk mail. He put this on Facebook.

One would expect the typical person to have a few hundred friends on Facebook and to actually interact with a fraction of them, right? Wrong. This post has caught fire. People all over the world have been rushing to send young Matthew books to read. And I’m asking you to join in! I’m not asking you to send him a box of all your favorite books, but if you do have a book or two that you think this young boy would enjoy, then I say ship it to him. I’m getting on Amazon and finding something for him right now as I sit here and write this. I’m even going to include a personal message.

Matthew just wants to read as much as he possibly can, and I want to help him do that.

Let’s all give Ron Lynch a nice salute for what he did. He showed us that the world isn’t such a bad place after all. There are plenty of good people all around.

PS: The address for Matthew’s local post office is at the end of the first picture. You may have to click “see more” depending on your device.

This happened after just a few days.

I decided to send him a boxed set of the Percy Jackson series! But then I realized that he’s already gotten it. 😦 I’m going to think about this for a day or two and then decide. But you don’t need to wait for me!

It would be really nice of you to share this post with your friends, followers, or whomever. Because it’s impossible to have too many books, right? 🙂

Writing Pet Peeves #10: Its/It’s

You know, there are a lot of people who misuse words and phrases daily. Just look at Twitter or Facebook. But there are also many people who identify themselves as writers or authors and run a writing blog and misuse those same words all the time.

I don’t particularly care if some random person misuses a word in a Facebook post, on Twitter, or even in a text message. I mean, sure it’s a bit annoying if you are struggling to figure out what they’re trying to say, but it’s not the end of the world. But I do have an issue when I find a blog titled something like “Sarah Michaels – Author” and she doesn’t know when to use its or it’s. And some bloggers I interact with don’t even use the two words correctly. “What is this, amateur hour?” -Ron Burgundy

I’m not even going to give examples of what’s correct and what isn’t because this is something that just about everyone is taught in elementary school at a young age. I find it inexcusable to see people running these writing or author blogs while misusing the simplest words.

What do you think?


On this day in 2014 I published Taking Advice From Other Writers.

 

Guest Post: The Buddy System

About five months ago, I agreed to edit a short story for a client in California. Her story was a joy to read, and she was a pleasure to work with. Unlike most clients, she and I hit it off on a number of levels, and before I knew it, we were chatting daily over instant messenger.

I’m also part of a Mom-Geek-Writer group on Facebook (don’t judge). I’ve befriended a couple of the women in that group, and we talk regularly as well.

We talk about everything: Life, relationships, our kids, our jobs, the state of the world. But it always circles back to writing. The art. The craft. The hard work and heavy lifting. The self-scrutiny. Our triumphs. Those facepalm moments we wish we had to do over.

Last weekend, as I worked on writing my current chapter, and one of my buddies lamented over editing her recently-finished novel, I realized: Neither of us would have come as far as we have in the short time that we did without each other.

And that’s when it struck me: Writing is better with a buddy.

Buddies Provide Encouragement

We think of writing as a solitary act. We sit in a room like a hermit in his cave, tapping away at a keyboard. And in some aspect of reality, that’s still the case.

But when you reach out and talk to others who understand the act of writing, you find that you’re not alone in your struggles. At one point, one of my buddies asked me, “Did you finish the chapter last night?” In truth, I had not. I’d stalled out. She encouraged me to keep at it. I did. Now we have daily check-ins that are constant reminders that someone out there cares. We value each other’s writing as much as we value our own.

Buddies Challenge Us To Excel

I’ve been writing for twenty-five years. I’ve only given my writing its due in the last year (another topic entirely). But whether I’m focused on writing-as-a-hobby or writing-to-feed-my-family, I’ve always pushed myself in terms of grammar and style.

When a writing buddy commented that she found X-number of occurrences of the word “was” in her manuscript, it prompted me to search my current work in progress. In 22 pages, I have 64 occurrences of was.

Insert passive groan here.

It became a challenge: Write without using was. My buddy and I discussed proper use of passive-voice words. We agreed that in dialogue, the word was is probably inevitable. Otherwise, your characters come off sounding like pretentious snobs. Other than dialogue, there’s almost never any reason to use this horribly lazy word.

And so I wrote. And I’d share. And she’d point out where I had gotten ahead of myself, lazed out, and dropped the W-bomb.

I put down about 8,000 words after our discussion, and then re-read it last night. It surprised me how strong and tight my first draft had become.

Buddies Get The Joke

My husband is my best friend in the universe. I also have a close group of friends nearby. We share many similar interests, but none of them write. When I tell them that my main character woke me up at 3 AM and wouldn’t let me sleep, they look at me like I should probably be committed.

A writing buddy understands.

Writers are an odd lot. We don’t view life through a typical lens. We see plot bunnies scurrying before us, and we chase them down. We daydream out windows and reply off the cuff in ways that make people wonder.

Having writing buddies who not only understand your odd tangents, but continue them and build upon them, is refreshing and energizing.

I saw a bottle of glitter vodka in the store, so I snapped a picture and texted it to a writing buddy with the caption, “Looks like something your main character would drink.” She agreed completely. My buddies and I have exchanged stealth pictures of strangers and we’ve written little stories about them over instant message. We laugh at our own bad grammar when it slips into our manuscripts. We celebrate together when our marketing pages gain followers. No one but another writer truly gets these moments.

Find Your Buddy Today

Finding writing buddies who match your style, interests and genre can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

  • Go to writer’s groups: When you read your work out loud to others, you’ll find the other writers with whom you click.
  • Join online groups: There’s a Facebook group for just about everything now. Sometimes they make you want to run for the hills, but occasionally one of them sticks.
  • Read and comment on blogs: I have writing buddies who I’d never had “met” unless I actively followed and commented on their blogs.

When you find people with whom you click, stay in touch. Reach out to them when you’re stuck. Share your works with each other. Celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Encourage, enjoy and laugh. Pull each other from your respective writing caves, and find mutual joy in the process of writing.

Shanan Winters

Interpreter of Inspiration

Mark Zuckerberg’s “A Year of Books”

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If you read yesterday’s post, then you know that I hate New Year’s resolutions. I really do. Of course the same day I posted that I came across a resolution I rather like. Go figure. Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 resolution is to start a book club. He’s calling it “A Year of Books” and the group will be reading a book every other week of 2015.

The Facebook page says the group will be focused on books about “…learning new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” I’m not sure how many novels will be read during the course of the year, but tell me this isn’t a great way for 26 authors who have probably written books that no one is talking about to find a very diverse and enthusiastic audience. We’re talking the potential to find millions of readers here. Mark Zuckerberg has more than 30 million followers on Facebook. Of course not all of them will be interested in his book club, but I think a good portion of them will be.

So what do you think about Zuckerberg’s “A Year of Books” book club? I think it might just be the best resolution I’ve come across. Because Zuckerberg can read his 26 books a year and tell no one about them. But now he’s creating a conversation and getting people reading. I’m hoping his club comes to challenge Oprah’s because there can never be too many people buying and reading books.

You can access the Facebook page for the group here.

The first book for the club will be The End of Power by Moises Naim.

PS: I can’t say whether or not this is a direct result of the book club, but the paperback edition of the book is currently unavailable on Amazon. Hmm.

Blogging Doesn’t Sell Books

I know this isn’t news to most of you. Cause you’re a blogger. And a writer/author, whatever you want to call yourself. And your book isn’t selling as well as you’d hoped. And the thing about this is that it is not only self-published authors who face this problem. You always see posts about author platforms on social media to help sell books or even get a publishing deal, but let’s take a step back.

Author platforms are great. But are authors selling more books because they follow 50k people on Twitter and have 45k followers? I think not. Are authors selling more books because they have 25k followers on their blog? Perhaps. But how many authors have that kind of following on WordPress or Blogger? I know A LOT of bloggers. If I’m just looking at book/writer blogs that I know of, I’m only thinking of a handful who even have a larger following than I do. And I’m just barely over 2,000.

Of course, a blog and Twitter aren’t the only social media sites out there for authors to use. Facebook is still used by a number of my favorite authors. And then of course YouTube. But just about every social media site is difficult to find an audience, especially for authors. I’m certain that my blog could grow exponentially faster if I wanted to write about news or pop culture or music or movies, but I don’t. I write about books. I write about writing.

Blogs seem like the obvious choice for authors to start their platforms, but selling books is difficult for everyone who doesn’t have a household name. Which is like 99 percent of us.

PS: If you’re going to point out one or two or ten bloggers you know who are selling a lot of books, then that’s nice. Except for the fact that there are literally thousands of others out there who aren’t. Cause blogs just don’t sell books like one might expect.

I have the perfect question for this post. If I were to release a book today, how many of you would seriously consider buying it? I’ll even do my first ever poll to make it easier.

Saturday Selects: The online community

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Photo Credit: SustaiNet

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write the first Saturday of each month in which I discuss something completely unrelated to books and writing and all the normal stuff you see here. You can check out my previous posts here.

Something that I am constantly baffled by is how people interact with each other over the internet. I’ve gotten some pretty harsh words in the form of comments on here (a damn book blog). You absolutely positively cannot have your negative tweet retweeted by a celebrity because the wrath of their fans will come down upon your Twitter notifications. Yes, I have personal experience with this. And all I said was that I didn’t like a song and I think the tweet I was mentioned in by the celebrity was favorited something like 1500 times and I was mentioned even more. I couldn’t look at my phone because the notifications were nonstop. You also can’t comment on news articles without someone going crazy and turning a difference of opinions into a personal attack.

It’s really not a good thing to see. And I bet I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that these are just trolls who go around tweeting and commenting ignorantly on whatever they read. Uh no. Twitter is the easiest place to see that these are just regular people who have no idea how to communicate. Let’s say you make the mistake of tweeting a celebrity with maybe 3 million followers. And then they decide to retweet or quote you. The first few responses will likely respond to whatever criticism you tossed toward the celebrity. Okay. Nothing wrong there. But very, very quickly you’ll find that people have just gone through your tweets and are now on the offensive. They’re using what you said about something two weeks ago to their advantage. They’re looking at your pictures. They’re saying things that make absolutely no sense in the context. It’s bad. And it’s not only on Twitter, of course. It can happen on here, on Facebook, on a news site, just about anywhere on the internet that has some kind of comment section.

You know, it doesn’t matter if you disagree with someone or if you think this about abortion or that about the President, but there is never any reason to go into all-out attack mode over nothing. I mean, who cares what I think of that new song on the radio? Who cares if I like this sport over that? Who cares if I’m not a fan of this actor? What does any of that have to do with you tossing out a derogatory remark? Or trying to belittle me in some way.

I won’t go so far as to call it cyberbullying in most cases because it’s often just one or two things and then the other person forgets you exist once again. But the hate language that is tossed around over the internet every minute of every day is a joke. I don’t have a solution for better policing it, but I can’t be the only person who thinks something more needs to be done.

The Books That Have Stayed With…Everyone

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This is sort of an update post to my first post about this topic. Back then I mentioned that I could only come up with one or two books that have stayed with me rather than the usual ten people list out. But recently Facebook released data from another six countries and there’s a clear take away from their data: The stories of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are universal. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking to yourself the billions of dollars that the movies brought in at the box office. True. But when this meme got started I definitely figured JK Rowling would lead the way in the US and UK. But also in France, India, Italy, the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico too? (Facebook only surveyed English status updates in India and the Philippines)

This just tells me that Potter is one of those characters that’ll be remembered and related to for decades to come. Not because the books are the greatest books ever written, but more likely because the books appear to have readers all over the world who appreciate their message.

The Harry Potter series ranked number one in France, India, Italy, the Philippines, Brazil, and number three in Mexico. What do you think about that?

You can see the full lists for each country here.

The Books That Have Stayed With Me

Don’t worry, I’m not going tell you about ten books that have stayed with me. Cause I don’t think I have ten, or five even. But in the name of kinda sorta not really participating in this little Facebook tag that seems to have sprung up out of nowhere, I’m going to talk about it.

I’ve just read an article that states that Facebook has determined the book included the most in responses to the tag is…can you guess it? I could have. Easily. I’ll give you a second to think about it.

Here’s a hint if you’re still thinking. The main characters in the book go to a special kind of school by the name of Hogwarts. The most common response to this particular Facebook tag was the HP series. I think it’s understandable considering who I think is more likely to be on Facebook responding to these kinds of things. Would I have included the series? No. I think the movies are great and the books are likely a bit better, but have they stayed with me? I don’t think so. They’ll ultimately just be really great books that I think generations upon generations will continue to read. But I’ll just be reading through them once.

The rest of the top 20 on the list compiled by Facebook is about what you’d expect. Here it is:

1. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling – 21.08%
2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – 14.48%
3. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – 13.86%
4. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – 7.48%
5. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 7.28%
6. The Holy Bible – 7.21%
7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams 5.97%
8. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – 5.82%
9. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 5.70%
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 5.61%
11. 1984 by George Orwell – 5.37%
12. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – 5.26%
13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 5.23%
14. The Stand by Stephen King – 5.11%
15. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 4.95%
16. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – 4.38%
17. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 4.27%
18. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 4.05%
19. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – 4.01%
20. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – 3.95%

Stephen King is perhaps the only mild surprise if you ask me, but eh I’m no expert. What do you think of the books people are saying have stayed with them? I know it’s completely subjective, but we all have opinions. If you’re wondering, my entire list would consist of The Diary of a Young Girl and The Hunger Games. No more. Dracula would be very close to being included.

Besides letting me know what you think about the top 20 responses, let me know why particular books have stayed with you, or if you’ve written this post link to it in the comments and I’ll take a look at your picks.

I snagged this list from here.

A Recommendation!

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Did you happen to catch on to the fact that I actually MISSED a post last week? I didn’t post Friday and then I missed my Saturday post the day after. Why? Because whenever it comes time for me to sit down and write one of these wonderful things for you all I will always and forever prefer to sleep instead. Y’all have no idea how much I need my sleep. Anyway, who cares about any of that stuff.

Today’s post will be a recommendation! I can see the wheels in your head turning. You’re thinking of my post from a very short while ago in which I was very specific in saying that I hate and never give out book recommendations. That remains true, BUT this won’t be a book recommendation.

Let me tell you how I just so happened to stumble across this outrageously funny girl I’m going to be suggesting to you all in a short bit. I’m scrolling down my Facebook News Feed. I hate the social network itself and talk to none of the people I’m friends with on there, but I still scroll through my News Feed several times a day. Mostly for funny Vines or memes. So I’m sitting there scrolling along and I catch the title of a Huffington Post article about some rap duo who capture the ridiculousness of Generation Y. I’m like…”Oh.” Honestly, some really trashy articles pop up on Facebook but I click ahead anyway. You can read the article here and you most definitely should! It’s short!

Then I watched the music video, it’s an actual song and a REALLY catchy one! But that’s only how I came to discover Superwoman. Who is Superwoman you ask? She’s who I’m recommending to you guys! Her name is really Lilly Singh.

She has a GREAT YouTube channel that I’ve been binge watching all day. It’s mostly comedic stuff, but in the process of my watching I found a “Draw My Life” video. If you don’t know what these are just think of a person narrating in the background as they draw what they’re saying on a dry erase board. These are always great to watch. So I watched hers thinking that it would be a little about her and a lot about how she managed to gain over 3 million subscribers to her channel. 3 million! And here I thought 1300 blog followers was something special. Anyway, the point that I’m making is that this video was not comedic. It wasn’t at all what I expected. If I had to put a label on it I would call it a video of hope and strength. And holy crap it’s seriously fantastic. And you learn about the girl whose videos are watched by millions.

I know this isn’t my regular bookish post, but you guys should really give this girl a look. At least watch the Draw My Life video because I guarantee you’ll love it. And then watch the music video for #Leh because you WILL be singing it the rest of the day and a purchase will be made.

Read the Huffington Post article and watch the music video for the song #Leh here.

Watch her Draw My Life video here.

Access her YouTube channel here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Download the song #Leh from Amazon here. (Couldn’t figure out the iTunes link)

PLEEEEEEEEASE don’t just read this and skip all the links. This girl is beyond hilarious and I know you’ll find her entertaining. Regular bookish post coming tomorrow!

I decided to go ahead and include her Draw My Life video because I know you guys are lazy and won’t click. Now watch!

Saturday Selects: Blogging amidst your social media

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For all you newcomers to my wonderful blog, the first Saturday of each month I write a post about something unrelated to my typical book posts. It’s my way of discussing other topics that interest me and bringing a LITTLE bit of diversity to the blog. This week we’re talking about how blogging relates to your other social media accounts. I’ve had this post in my head since the last time I did a Saturday Selects post over a month ago. Let’s begin.

I definitely don’t have the greatest social media presence. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress. That’s it. No Pinterest. Or Tumblr. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat. Or Vine.

Facebook

I first joined Facebook all the way back during my sophomore year of high school. That would be ’07-’08. Ish. I thought it was pretty cool. I started adding all those people I had been in school with for years. I even interacted with plenty of them. BUT then, like seemingly everyone else, I just lost interest. I mean, the platform itself is essentially the same as it’s been, but now there are so many other options out there. My blog is linked to it and I post a status about once a year. Seriously, I checked. I mostly go on there for Vines and memes. Judge me. But I should also admit that I do not talk to a single person from my high school graduating class. Not one. That was just four years ago. So maybe that’s why I lost interest. I don’t have anyone to talk to.

Twitter

I first made an account on Twitter in 2009. The site was used, but it wasn’t what it is today. I didn’t know a single person who had an account. I didn’t use it again until 2011. By then it was wildly popular and EVERYONE I knew had an account. I think I tweeted like 90 times or something and again stopped using it. Then I started writing and knew it would help people find me IF they somehow read my book and wanted to follow me. I’ve stuck to it since about September. I used to strictly tweet about writing and books but now I tweet pretty lame stuff just like everyone else. I like it. It’s okay. BUT I still don’t have many followers. Like 58 or something. If you follow me on here and like what I post then you should follow me on there to get a glimpse at me in a different medium. Come on. I’ll follow back and if you tweet interesting things I’ll even favorite or tweet you back! I have that Twitter thing on the side for ease of access. But you can just go ahead and click here if you want to. You should. I’m funny on there.

WordPress

I don’t remember ever hearing about any person I knew ever maintaining a blog throughout high school or even during college. Well, as soon as I walked across the stage at my university’s graduation ceremony almost a year ago I started this bad boy. My original intent was to only talk about my writing process and the journey to publishing my first book. I stuck with that until January of this year. When I realized that there were so many things I wanted to say about writing and books and publishing. That’s how I’ve gotten to interact with all of you! I honestly don’t see how I’ll ever stop blogging. It’s wonderful. It’s like interacting with hundreds of versions of me. We all love books!

My Favorite

I’d think it fairly obvious by this point that blogging is easily my favorite social media platform. Honestly, I love it. I love interacting with people who share the same interests as I do. I love reading such great posts every single day. I love having people read the posts I write. I love talking to people from all over the world. But most of all I love being able to share a part of me that I don’t get to discuss much in person with people I know. I do have a handful of people who are genuinely interested in my writing, but it’s not the same as the people I meet on here. I mean, I’m not going to go up to any friend of mine and ask how they name characters in their book. I have no writer friends. I can’t ask them what they think of the bestselling authors since 2001 because they don’t care and likely don’t know half of them. I can’t ask them what their favorite series of books is because they’ve likely read Harry Potter and nothing else. And I can’t ask them what they think of Amazon’s 100 books list because they don’t know it exists. But I can do ALL of those on here.

Thank you for that. And thank you for reading and interacting with me every week.

You’re awesome.

What’s your favorite social media site to use? I don’t mind if it’s one of those sites I don’t use.

Photo Credits: Florida State University College of Communication and Information

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WordPress.org

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