Tag Archives: blogging

Two Love Stories Inspired by Jack Kerouac

14 Feb

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk- real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.” ~Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Happy Valentine’s Day! I just want to take a moment on this sappy holiday to say how thankful I am for each and every one of you who reads my blog, leaves comments, and forwards it to friends. The life of a writer can be quite solitary at times, as we hole ourselves up in a room with our notebook or computer, and I’m so thankful for the community I’ve made through writing, researching, giving readings, and social media. Maybe I’m a big old nerd for spending so much time in front of a computer, but through blogging, I met my coauthor and made friends along the way so that has to count for something!  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to read and support my writing!!

If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day read this weekend, here are two great love stories inspired by On the Road.

 

Beatitude by Larry Closs

 

Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez

Will you be my Valentine?

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Writing Wednesday: 10 Reasons Memoirists Should Make Time to Keep a Diary

28 Aug

I wrote recently about how Jack Kerouac kept a dream journal and have been blogging a lot about social media. In a recent Salon article, Michele Filgate wonders “Will social media kill writers’ diaries?: Now Facebook and Twitter are business necessities, they may be losing writers’ journals. Is something lost?”

Filgate writes that authors’ personal diaries offer a key into their literary development and intentions. She says authors’ social media posts can do the same thing, but that it’s not as authentic:

Even if there is a level of acting involved in authors who use social media, it isn’t anything new. Brian Morton (author of “Starting Out in the Evening” points out: “I’ve read that Tolstoy used to keep two diaries, one that he left lying around for other people to read, the other a more intimate record for himself alone. I think self-exposure on social media is probably like the diary we leave out for others. There’s probably always an element of performance in it, even when it seems most naked.”

The pressure to build a platform and use social media is real for authors. Finding time to write isn’t always easy to begin with, but not it’s a constant juggle between writing (and researching, editing, and pitching) and social media (blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing, and pinterest-ing). In addition to big writing projects, many writers are also taking on small projects, like writing articles for various lit mags.

Diary keeping is last on my literary to-do list, and I miss it! Not only do I miss it for personal reasons, but I miss having a record of what I was going through and what I was feeling at various points in my life. Especially as a memoirist, I think it’s essential to keep a diary.

Here are

  1. It is a log for when and where we were on exact days
  2. It reminds us of precise events in our life
  3. It reminds us of little details that we forget over time
  4. It is a more accurate record of our emotions than our social media entries
  5. It is a raw space to create
  6. It’s a reminder of our growth in life
  7. It’s a reminder of our literary accomplishments
  8. It’s a place to dream and make goals
  9. It’s a good way to warm up our writing muscles
  10. Technology changes over time, so having a tangible diary preserves our day-to-day thoughts

How do you juggle journal-keeping with your other writing and social media? How has keeping a diary helped your writing?

 

Clip: Green Wedding Shoes

7 May

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The lovely editors at Resource Magazine asked me to cover a story on indie, DIY weddings for their Spring 2013 issue. I got to interview Jen Campbell of the blog Green Wedding Shoes, who is so sweet and creative.

You can pick up a print copy at your local Barnes & Noble or keep sitting where you are right now and get the digital edition.

The Writerly Blog Hop

3 Apr

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Huffington Post columnist and Burnside Writers Collective colleague Emily Timbol invited me to join a blog hop organized by writer Kirsten Oliphant of the wonderfully titled blog I Still Hate Pickles. You may remember that I participated in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop last year. I kind of feel like they’re the chain letters of the blog world and am infinitely curious who’s in my six degrees of separation.

Kirsten says in her “about me” section on her blog that she doesn’t like rules, so it should come as no surprise that she gave me and the other blog hoppers some general guidelines but told us we didn’t have to follow any set format or answer every question. Since I’m one of those creative types that tends to actually like rules (blame the editor side of my brain), I am taking a literal approach to the blog hop and answering her questions one by one.

 

What makes you (or makes a person) a writer?

A while back there was a funny meme going around called “What People Think Writers Do,” which shows just how relevant it is to discuss what makes a person a writer. There are all sorts of writers—some are political journalists, some write children’s books, some have their books turned into films, some are hobbyists. I don’t think it’s fair to place absolute judgment on who qualifies as a writer. There are many poets and fiction writers who only became famous late in life or even after death. Is a little girl writing in a diary a writer? What if I tell you her name is Anne Frank? Is a doctor who writes poetry on the side a writer? What if his name is William Carlos Williams? Okay, but what if that doctor is a career oncologist who writes nonfiction about cancer? Does it make a difference if his name is Siddhartha Mukherjee and he won a Pulitzer Prize for The Emperor of Maladies? Even if he never writes another book again? Is a blogger a writer? Is a grant writer a writer? Is someone a writer just because they have to write emails at work? Is there a difference between being a writer and writing? I wouldn’t say that whether someone is published or not or whether someone earns money or not means they are or are not a writer, but I would suggest that being a writer, in the sense of it meaning more than someone who occasionally writes their name on a check or writes a grocery list, means being intentional. This could mean being intention in carving out time for writing or being intentional in the selection of words, but not necessarily so: William S. Burroughs, for instance, used a cut-up technique that displaced authorial syntax yet he is still considered a writer.

So do I have the right to call myself a writer? Well, my name has appeared on book covers across the country and the New Yorker and the Paris Review have mentioned my writing. Then again, I don’t live off my writing—I didn’t even make a thousand dollars off my writing last year—and most people have never heard of me. I call myself a writer because even when I’m not writing I am thinking about writing.

 

Why is it sometimes hard to fess up to being a writer?

There are two big reasons why I sometimes have a difficult time admitting I’m a writer. The first is that when I introduce myself as a writer to people, they automatically ask who my publisher is—and I mean even people who aren’t in the industry suddenly want to know who the gatekeepers who let me through are or want some sort of proof that validates me as more than just the (in their mind) dreaded hobbyist. I feel like it’s like saying I’m a woman, and then someone asking who my gynecologist is. For the record, Barnes & Noble and HarperCollins Publishers have published books containing my writing. The truth, though, is that I sometimes don’t feel comfortable confessing to being a writer because I haven’t written, or published, a full-length book by myself—yet.

The second reason I don’t always like confessing that I’m a writer is because I am an editor. I personally feel that these two callings work well together, but I have noticed that people in publishing houses tend to think that the only reason I am an editor is because I’m trying to get published. I wish I was that savvy! The truth is that I began a career in book publishing because I love working with words. When I was starting out as a proofreader, the idea of being an author seemed like some far-off imagery dream, like being an astronaut. I always had a need to write, and even back then wrote for various publications, but I wasn’t diligently working on my own book. I really love working at a publishing house, seeing a book go from concept to finished product. I love working with authors and helping them achieve their dreams. From my experience, there are a lot of people in the industry who are editors and publishers because they love books and not because they themselves want to be writers. I just happen to be both.

 

How does writing affect your identity or otherwise impact your life?

I tend to view my experiences through the lens of being a writer. When I go to an art gallery, I automatically think that I have to write about the art I saw. When there’s a particularly momentous current event, I feel the need to write it down in my diary. It’s not just a matter of mining life for stories. I process information by writing. I often joke that I don’t really know what I think about something until I write about it.

Being a memoirist has helped me understand my identity beyond being a writer. Agents and editors tell writers that their main characters should never be a writer. But what do you do if you’re a memoirist and your main character is you, a writer? You dig deeper, you don’t allow your writerly self to speak for who you are. When you can’t rely on that shorthand of clichés about being a writer, that fancy wordwork that hides your true identity, you’re left with just yourself. Writing doesn’t just allow me to be myself—it forces me to be myself.

Want to join the blog hop? Answer the questions however you see fit on your own blog and post a link below as well as link to Kirsten’s post.

Blogiversary: Greeks Beat Kerouac in 2012

10 Jan

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January 1 marked the anniversary of my blog! Thank you all for your support and encouragement of my writing and blogging. It means so much to me that you take the time to read and comment on my blog entries.

I just reviewed a report of my year in blogging, and it’s been a good year!

Here’s a recap of my most viewed posts of 2012:

Notice anything interesting? They all have to do with Greece, and four out of five of them have to do with Greek beauty and fashion. Despite the fact that most of my blogging efforts this past year were about Jack Kerouac, not a single Kerouac-related entry made it into the top 5.

Two out of the above-mentioned blog posts didn’t receive any comments, despite being popular views. My most commented on post of the year was:

That just goes to show you that comments and views aren’t necessarily correlated.

What were your favorite posts from 2012?

Nominated for the Blog of the Year Award 2012

9 Jan

I was nominated for the Blog of the Year Award 2012!

Special thanks to Tarisai from Writersfield for the nomination. It’s amazing how much social media has influenced my life and work, connecting me to other writers, bloggers, and readers.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

21 Nov

I am so excited to have been tagged by Maria Karamitsos for the The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.  Even though I’m not a mother, I love reading Maria’s blog From the Mommy Files, which is full of humor and light.  She has the gift of storytelling.  Her blog entries read like snippets of a novel-like memoir, with dialogue, reflection, and a strong voice, despite the fact that much of her writing is focused on what could be a very technical topic: molar pregnancy.  Take for instance, her post “The Influence of the Lost Child,” in which she talks to her two adorable little girls—”BooBoo BeDoux” and “Bebs LaRoux”—about the baby she miscarried.  It’s a difficult and heartbreaking subject, yet she injects humor in it through the personalities of her daughters (“it’s tough to be 3, after all!”) as well as tenderness and faith.  I’m really excited about the book she’s writing called Positive About Negative: Adventures in Molar Pregnancy.  Maria also tagged some other Greek authors for the Blog Hop, and it’s great discovering all these writers.

I’m tempted therefore to write about my memoir about being Greek American, but since my book on Jack Kerouac is coming out first my answers to the Blog Hop questions are about that book.

What is the working title of your book?  Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Where did the idea come from for the book?  Paul Maher Jr. had written a book entitled Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road” for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s seminal work.  I had read this book one summer and some months later began reading Paul’s blog.  We began talking and decided to revise and expand his book because we knew that a film adaptation of On the Road was coming out and we wanted to provide a resource for those interested in finding out more about this famous novel.  It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative, contextual information, and new research because we wanted both the teenager turned on from the film and the literary scholar who’s read every book by Kerouac to enjoy it and find value in it.

What genre does your book fall under?  It’s literary criticism and biography.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Isn’t that the million dollar question?  There’s been a lot of talk over the years about who should play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in the film adaptation of On the Road.  Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell, Marlon Brando, you name it, they’ve been associated with it.  I almost never go to the movies and don’t really know the young actors of today well enough to say who would be age appropriate to cast.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Zac Efron?  These actors are too old to play the roles now but if I were casting the film back when I first read On the Road as a teenager, this is who I’d pick:

  • Sal Paradise — Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke would be excellent choices for Sal Paradise, particularly because they both have a deep appreciation for literature.  Depp is a known Kerouac fan and just started his own publishing imprint, and Hawke is a published author.
  • Dean Moriarty — Woody Harrelson would make a great Dean Moriarty.  He can play both earnest and wild so well!  Matthew McConaughey would be great as Dean too.
  • Carlo Marx — I loved James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in Howl, but if I had to select someone else I might go with Adam Goldberg.
  • Old Bull Lee — The choice of Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee for the Walter Salles film is brilliant, but again if I had to choose someone else maybe I’d with Ewan McGregor.
  • Marylou — Drew Barrymore would be so much fun to watch as Marylou.  Do you remember her in Mad Love and Boys on the SideAlmost Famous hadn’t been made yet when I was a teenager but Kate Hudson (think Penny Lane) would be my runner-up pick.

 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Burning Furiously Beautiful tells the true story of  Jack Kerouac travels on the road and how it took him years, not weeks, to write On the Road.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  We decided to self-publish Burning Furiously Beautiful.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  The first draft, so to speak, had already been written and published as Jack Kerouac’s American Journey.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  There have been so many biographies of Kerouac written over the years, and each offers its own perspective.  Burning Furiously Beautiful uses Kerouac’s journals and letters, as well as archival material from other people who knew Kerouac during the time he was on the road and writing On the Road, to tell a the specific story of the making of a novel that continues to generate interest today.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?  Obviously, Paul Maher Jr. inspired Burning Furiously Beautiful as it was his original idea.  I, however, had been researching and writing about Kerouac since I was an undergrad many years prior to this and brought my own knowledge and skills to the project.  I was very much inspired by the fact that the film adaptation is soon to be released here in the States.  There’s a whole new generation coming to Kerouac’s literature, which is immensely exciting to me.  Reading Kerouac when I was in high school opened up so many possibilities for me as a reader and writer.  I hope that the film will pique people’s interest so that they’ll go back and read Kerouac’s books for themselves—not just On the Road  but his other great works as well—and that they’ll watch Pull My Daisy, the film that Kerouac himself spontaneously narrated.  Burning Furiously Beautiful is important because it contextualizes On the Road and provides a fascinating look at Kerouac’s life and writing process.  This is critical because there’s so much myth surrounding Kerouac and the 1950s.  I became engrossed in odd little details like the fact that the Kerouac’s didn’t have a phone and took their calls at the store below their apartment in Queens.  It’s so different than today when it seems like every middle schooler has a cell phone.  If Cassady could’ve just called Kerouac up on his iphone, he might not have written the infamous Joan Anderson letter that spurred on Kerouac’s writing style.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Burning Furiously Beautiful is a great book for an aspiring writer, regardless of whether or not you like Kerouac’s writing style.  It’s a portrait of a young writer and details how his writing voice developed (his first book has a much different style), what his writing routine was, the editing process (yes, there was one!), what his relationship with other writers and editors was like (imagine lots of parties), and the many false starts he had in writing his book.  We even talk about book signings, contracts, and press interviews.  Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated with various writing projects of mine, but realizing that Kerouac, who purported to have written On the Road in only three weeks, went through some of the same struggles and took years to find success makes me realize that it’s all part of the writing process.

I tag:

Emily Timbol

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Larry Shallenberger 

Michael D. Bobo

Check them out!  They’re each really different from each other.

3 Takeaways on Blogging Advice from A Cup of Jo

22 Aug

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about social media, but when I ran across this article, “Blogging As a Career,” with A Cup of Jo’s Joanna Goddard, I knew I had to share it with you.

You’ll want to read the whole article because there’s a tenderness to it, touching on heartbreak and personality types, but here are my three takeaways:::

Follow your dreams. – As cliché as this may sound, you can’t force yourself to enjoy a career that isn’t the right fit for you (in Joanna’s case, law).  You’ll be more successful when you discover what you want and really go after it.  Following your dreams is not easy.  It requires sacrifice.  You may end up not even being able to afford to add a sliced tomato to your bagel with cream cheese.  You may have to work on your honeymoon.  But it’s worth it.

Don’t be afraid to fail. – Sometimes the things in life that feel like the most excruciating at the time, end up propelling you forward.  There is risk involved in work and love and life.

Stay true to yourself. – There are so many blogs out there.  Don’t try to copy other blogs.  Blog in your own voice.  As Joanna says, “When you write a post, imagine your mom or best friend reading it.”  To earn a living as a blogger, you need to secure advertisement; choose companies you love.

Joanna also gives advice on work-life balance, how to start a magazine career, and other insight, so check out her complete interview on her blog.

Social Media Lessons from SXSW 2012

11 Jul

Calvin Reid makes insightful remarks about the role e-technology and social media are playing in publishing in “SXSW 2012: New Publishing Models and the Rise of the Referral Economy.”  If you’re new to publishing and looking to make your mark on the industry and find readers, I’d highly encourage you to read the entire article.  To his point on “curating,” here’s some remarks of his that you might find especially helpful:

  • “Altounian said he’s targeting a demographic under the age of 40 that wants to read on an array of devices anytime they want and they don’t want to pay much, if anything, for the content they read on them. … Altounian was making the point that, at least for emerging artists, getting their content in front of readers through traditional publishers is an uphill battle that doesn’t work for everyone; that his goal is to build a list of self-branded artists (using social media tools) and by offering some free content now, and some for-pay content later when the freebie-oriented audiences for these artists reaches critical mass and wants more of their stuff.”
  • “Certainly one of the most intellectually vivid panels was Curators or the Curated, a panel examining the phenomenon of content sharing—essentially the practice of any and everyone linking to content and sending it out to followers and friends around the web—and what that means to publishers, creators and the curators themselves. … In theory curators bring attention to content and drive traffic to the original site; in practice some curators are having more impact than the publications they curate from. And its generated a debate about the practice and what it means—and of course how to monetize it.”
  • “He also rejected some of the anti-advertising curatorial comments, noting that business platforms were important and that he had worked for a Minn.-based newspaper that did away with escort ads and the loss of revenue killed the newspaper.”

What I take away from this is the following:

Writers need to start building a platform NOW—as in, even before we’ve written our book, we need to start curating content on our subject matter.  This means tweeting, forwarding, and “liking,” other writers’ posts related to our subject and also blogging, tweeting, and writing our own status updates on our subject.

Generate content and don’t be afraid to give it away for free.  It’s better to give our writing away for free in the beginning so that we can establish ourselves as authorities on that topic and/or as interesting storytellers.  Eventually, people will love you and want to buy your writing—but it might take a lot of giving your work away for free first.  Michael Hyatt is a big proponent of giving away free content.  Not only does he give away valuable information on his blog, but he also created an ebook that he gives to anyone who subscribes to his blog.  Both the blog subscription and the ebook are free.

Don’t be all holier than thou about advertising.  Solicit advertising for your blog.  I personally would suggest keeping your advertising in line with your brand—and your brand should probably be consistent with how you’d want to be thought of by your friends and parents as well.  What I mean is, I personally would rather go hungry than earn money from escort ads.  The best ads are going to be ones that relate to your subject matter.  So if I’m writing about Greek identity, ads about learning how to play the harmonica aren’t going to be controversial but they won’t be as relevant as ads about learning how to speak Greek.

Humbly consider the rights to your content.  Bloggers may quote rather heavily from anything you post—and by heavily, I mean they might use your work entirely and just give you credit via a link.  This might be a breach of your copyright, but before you get your knickers in a bunch consider if their promotion of your work might be helping you out with some free advertising.  Maybe it’s bringing new readers to your work.  …But then again, maybe it’s not.  Therefore, always be careful with what sort of content you put on your blog.  Sure, someone could pirate your whole book, but it’s more likely someone will repost a blog entry than your entire book.  With that in mind, be prepared that what you publish on your blog might end up elsewhere.

Pay attention to your e-rights.  Landing a book contract is about more than just the print rights these days.  Make sure your contract expressly states an agreement about electronic and print-on-demand editions.

It feels like writers—and artists of any sort—get a raw deal.  We have to give a lot of free content away.  Professionals in other industries don’t seem to have to do this to the same extent.  Lawyers may work an occasional pro bono case, but they’re not expected to work for free before making it big.  Doctors may do Doctors Without Borders to give back and help people, but this is a personal choice they make.  I suppose in some ways artists giving away their work—and having it stolen from them in the case of extreme curating—is an internship of sorts, but the difference is that artists are expected to intern their entire lives or at least until they hit it big.

Therefore, I’d encourage all artists to be savvy.

Yes, you might feel pressured to build your platform and give away content for free, but make sure you’re getting something in return for your investment.

Don’t let your platform overtake your writing.  Your platform is a means to an end—your book project.

Use the system.  There’s nothing wrong with giving away content for free.  There’s nothing wrong with soliciting ads.  There’s nothing wrong with social media.  Don’t let anyone or any platform rule over you.  Keep your goals in perspective and use the system to your advantage.  Find your target audience, make connections, earn money, promote your projects.

You can find me not only here on this blog, but also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Writing Wednesday: You Are King

30 May

 

I have a lot of friends who work in book production.  When the publishing industry began to change and ebooks grew in popularity, putting some people out of jobs, they looked at me, the editor, and said, you’re safe.  You’re on the content side.  Publishers will always need editors, writers, and people working with content.

As I simultaneously entered the blogosphere, I became more disenchanted.  Most blogs weren’t writer-centric.  They weren’t generating new content, they were rehashing—“aggregating”—content.  Any new content provided was mostly in the form of criticism.  Obviously that’s not all blogs, as today there are many blogs that feature fascinating stories that cater to niche readers, but if you follow the rabbit hole long enough you tend to see the same material linked over and over again.

In “Content Is No Longer King,” Ben Elowitz makes a very interesting and valuable point: “Content isn’t the goal.  Audience is.”  He explains that distribution needs more focus today.  Packaging and delivery are just as important as what you have to say.  In the end, advertisers—the people who pay your bills—care about how many readers you have, not what it is you’re actually saying.

Okay, that’s true, but it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario.  Which comes first, the audience or the content?  You need to have content to draw an audience, right?  Well, yes and no.  Here are two different stories:

A while back, a bunch of my favorite blogs mentioned a new food blog.  Because of their lovely posts, I trusted their opinion on this new blog and clicked to check it out.  It was indeed an adorable blog with pictures that made my mouth water.  Unfortunately, there were only two or three posts.  I went back a while later and there was maybe another post or two, but nothing too substantial.  Now I no longer remember the name of the blog.  My point is, they had beautiful packaging and a built in audience, thanks to all the hype, but without significant content they failed to keep me as a reader.

On the flip side, I’ve read many blogs that have great content, content that has informed and inspired me.  However, these same blogs appear to have no following.  Perhaps they get many hits, but no one leaves witty remarks in the comments section.  So great content obviously isn’t enough.  These bloggers are failing to reach an audience, perhaps because of their distribution or lack-thereof.

Elowitz gives a few tips on distribution.  He says:

Put someone in charge of audience development

Adopt an audience development strategy

Systemize it

Under each of these headers he explains the tips.  They’re valuable tips, but they’re also vague.  What are some audience development strategies?  Elowitz says “know your audience segments, and what each one will like.”  I’d like to expand on that a little because it’s an important point.  Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • What can you do to make your blog stand out from other blogs on that subject?
  • Is your content too broad?
  • Who is your dream reader?
  • Would you read your blog?
  • What ideas can you “steal” from other blogs?  Don’t literally copy and paste content or do the exact same thing as another blog, but think about what your favorite blogs are doing right and use it as inspiration.
  • Is your voice consistent?
  • Are you blogging often enough?

Now as far as getting your content out there, Elowitz mentions disseminating content through social media.  I’ve definitely found Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to be useful means toward promoting and distributing work.  However, you have to an audience on these social media platforms for it to work.  So, again, it all comes back to finding and developing that audience.  How do you reach an audience on social media?  Here are some questions to think about:

  • Do you sound like an advertiser?  Buy this! Read this! Click here!
  • Do you sound needy?  Like me!  Follow me!  Share this!  Subscribe!
  • Are you only disseminating your work or are you promoting other bloggers’ work too?
  • Are you only posting or are you interacting with your any followers?
  • What time of day are you posting?
  • Can any of your older posts be redistributed?
  • Are you following people who have the same interests as what you blog about?
  • Are you leaving comments on other people’s works?
  • Is your social media voice consistent with your blogging voice?

It’s important to be patient and consistent.  As in the example above, it’s not always a good thing to have an immediate following.  You want to grow with your audience.

Think of it this way:  Content and audience aren’t king.  You are king.  You rule your corner of the blogosphere, making important decisions about content.  The diplomatic aspect of being ruler is developing relationships with your subjects (your audience) and other rulers of the blogosphere.  If you’re a benevolent king, spreading good will (content) and cheer (promoting and encouraging other bloggers), more people will want to visit your kingdom.