Guiding Authors through Social Media at Midwest Writers Workshop

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This was day one, and a very excited me.

Midwest Writers Workshop took place July 24-26, 2014. I had the privilege of being a Social Media Intern. This means I helped authors understand how to effectively utilize their online presence to actively participate in conversations about writing, publishing, and of course, how to build their platform without being pushy and awful about their work (AKA the “BUY MY BOOK” disease).

I have never been to any other conference but this one, but many Tweets from the conference agree. No other conference is as friendly and intimate as Midwest Writers.

My days were extremely full. There were so many authors looking for help building their platform, specifically through social media. A majority of them came to me asking, “What is Twitter?” Between countless sips of coffee, I would try to show them the ropes in the world of retweeting, hashtaging, favoriting, and following. One cunning client told me a hashtag (#) used to be called an octothorpe, and it has become my new favorite word.Octothrope

But it wasn’t all Twitter. I taught authors how to create lists on Facebook. How to operate WordPress and Blogspot. How to use their time effectively on Twitter with Tweetdeck. How to create websites or a blog and what to write about when they have a blog. I showed authors social media they had never heard of, like AboutMe. I advised authors how to manage themselves on social media, and what to talk about.

I met mystery writers, and legal thriller writers, christian writers, and memoir writers. Every one of them had a story to tell, and each one of them wanted to tell other people about these stories. I gave them as many tips as I could, but there truly is only one answer to this question. You must care.

You must care about the writing world, and this means caring about other writers just like yourself who are trying to make it. Be influential. People will realize you are more than just another writer, you are a supporter of other writers. This is worth more than any story could ever be. Be connected with the writing universe, and they cannot help but connect with you back because you CONTRIBUTE SOMETHING.

Social media is used incorrectly too often, as I told many of my clients. So now I will tell you.

Many people see social media as a way for people to pay attention to them, and I used to be one of them. “Look at me, I look so pretty today.” “Look at me, I’m hurting other classmates/friends with my words on social media to disguise my own pain.” “Look at me, I have so many followers/friends on this screen.” “Look at me, LOOK AT ME.” “Look at me!”

Social media should be a place to showcase the positive about yourself AND OTHERS. Mostly others.”Look at me” should instead be, “Look at you”, or “Look at this.”

If you need to be convinced further, check out the term Literary Citizenship. Literary Citizenship speaks specifically about using social media, and your entire life, in order to promote writing and authors you love, but really it can apply to anything you want. Supporting things that interest you and people that make the world better will make others interested in you. There is no better way to get others interested in you than being kind, relevant, and helpful.

But really, Midwest Writers is the best conference on the planet. Next time you are itching for some writing inspiration/advice/feedback, check out this conference. It will be worth your while.

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All the interns! From left to right: Linda Taylor (our beautiful supervisor/superhero), Morgan Aprill, Heather DiGiacomo, Me, Sarah Hollowell, Jackson Eflin, Brittany Means, Haley Muench, and Becca Wolfey

Make the Most of Midwest Writers Workshop 2014

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Last summer I had the opportunity to attend Midwest Writers Workshop on scholarship. I am not exaggerating when I tell you my life will never be the same. It was the first writing conference I had ever been to, and it was the greatest experience in my young writing career to date.

It’s the people. Hundreds of them in the same building with the same passions, and ultimately, the same goal: to get their stories out. To show the world something. Every single one of them have stories to tell you. And all of them are worth listening to.

Having been to this conference once, I have gained some insight on how to get the most out of this phenomenal experience. Here are a few things you should take advantage of at Midwest Writers Workshop 2014.

1) The Down Time

There is very little of this, but when you do find yourself twiddling your thumbs, here is what you need to do instead: TALK TO PEOPLE. There are so many great minds and stories and people at this conference. Try to collect them. Sit at a different table with different people every time you go into the big lecture hall area. You will not regret it.

 2) The Hashtag (#MWW14)

The great thing about the people at Midwest Writers is that they love to tweet. Last year, you could look at the hashtag and see snippets of sessions you wanted to go to but didn’t. This is called “live tweeting”. You tweet quotes, thoughts, or activities that you think are helpful about a session so others can experience it too.

The hashtag is a great way to stay connected to the conference as a community, as a whole, as one big pulsing passion for writing. Use the hashtag, and watch how you expand your online community as well as enhance your experience at the conference.

Below is a very simple tweet I tweeted from last year’s conference. I met the two authors (Liz Lincoln & Lori Rader-Day) who responded, and we still are connected through Twitter today. You should follow them too, they’re funny.

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3) The Books

Yes, there are books at Midwest Writers! There is a chance one of the writers you meet will have their book for sale at the conference. If you meet them, like them, and want to support them, BUY THEIR BOOK. It’s simple.

4) Pitching to Real Agents

Midwest Writers offers you a chance to pitch your novels to an agent. If you feel your piece is ready to be in print, DEFINITELY take advantage of this. Oh you know, that DIVERGENT book? Veronica Roth was discovered at this conference. These agents are serious about books, and if they like you, there’s a chance you could be their next client.

Even if your novel is not quite finished, I still recommend you utilize this opportunity. An agent will tell you the ways in which your novel is perfect for the publishing world, and in which way is it lacking. Rarely will you be face to face with an agent who is willing to give you feedback again.

5) Social Media Tutoring

I’m not just saying this because I am one of the social media interns. Unfortunately in the writing world, a lot of the time it falls on the author to let others know their book exists. Social media is an efficient way to accomplish this, as well as help promote other authors in the exact same position. You just need to know what you’re doing. That is where the social media tutoring comes in.

And there you have it. 5 simple tips for optimizing your Midwest Writers experience. I have referred to Midwest Writers as a home of sorts. A place where I feel understood and cared for by other writers who have been fresh out of college without an idea of how to make this writing thing work. This has not changed. Midwest Writers is a beautiful place to be.

I am inexplicably excited to meet new faces at this conference. I am equally delighted to help writers understand how social media works and why it is important.

I hope to see you there.

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