Social Media: To Show Up Or Not Show Up?

As many of my friends know, I came late to the social media party–joining Facebook in spring of 2016 and Instagram in spring of 2017.

I had stayed away for so many reasons. I felt busy enough. I remained in touch with friends in other ways. I’m a private person, preferring to share my personal life with close friends. And so on. Social media just didn’t seem like the best match for me.

But I’d heard that it’s pretty much a must for writers to maintain some kind of social media presence. I took the plunge!

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What has my experience been in the intervening three years?

At first I felt like I’d landed in a whole new world.

So much news and information (not all true, as we know!). Humor. Interesting tidbits. Wow, I’d been living without all of this?

I connected with friends in the writing world. Made new writing connections. Reconnected with long-lost childhood friends, former colleagues and students, and my kids’ former teachers.

It was fun!

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However, as soon as I joined Facebook, I found myself reading fewer books. Reading the newspaper less often and less thoroughly. Even writing less often. These had filled my cup for a long, long time.

I tried to “keep up” on social media and headed to bed later. I grappled with what to post, how often to post, and how much to share. I wanted to show up for all of my friends (impossible!).

I also felt as if a switch had turned on (or off) in my brain. Whereas I had never had concentration issues, I suddenly needed to make an effort to not become distracted.

I turned off notifications on my phone and on my laptop. I limited my time on social media. But still, it took up plenty of room in my life and in my head.

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When I made the decision one year ago this month to get recertified as a teacher, I simply had less time to be on social media. When I took a teaching job this past fall, I had even less.

I just haven’t been able to be on social media as often. Period.

When I’m not teaching, I write. I consider it my other job.

When I have down time, I find that the speed and intensity of social media often doesn’t call me. Teaching is already fast-paced and intense.

You know what calls me?

More writing. Blogging. Reading. Taking walks. Meeting a friend for coffee. Because these things are quiet. They feel soothing. And that’s what I need to restore my energy for myself, my family, and my students.

I’ve got to give them my best. Look at what my students give me:

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Most days, I pop on to my social media accounts to check my notifications. I respond to comments, then maybe make a quick post and/or check my newsfeed for a few minutes.

I wonder what I’ve missed. It bothers me to know that I’ve undoubtedly missed wishing someone a happy birthday or cheering someone on or sending someone a condolence. Or sharing something that my friends would appreciate. They’ve got lots of other friends, I tell myself. It’s fine!

But still, it nags. It’s less from a fear of missing out (FOMO), and more from a desire to show up (DTSU?) for my friends and a desire to take part (DTTP?) in the community.

Should I just delete my accounts? Well, my writing dream lives on. And beyond that, I still enjoy the interactions and information.

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So for now, I’ll continue to balance life as best I can — and live with the unsettled feeling that comes with not showing up even when I want to. I’ll do so when I can! See you there… or here… or in person…

Happy Spring! I plan to enjoy the quiet moments that come my way.

An egg in the nest on my front door wreath

Until we meet again,

Amy

Want to Write Children’s Books? Study The Craft and The Business

Photo Credit: Susan Yin via Upsplash

Recently, my friend Greg emailed me asking for feedback on his first picture book manuscripts. In addition to specific manuscript feedback, I offered him general thoughts on getting started in the children’s book industry. I wanted to save my friend some time and energy. And maybe some headaches and heartache, too.

Turns out that Greg appreciated my thoughts. And then it dawned on me: If you’re beginning to write children’s books with the goal of seeking publication (or contemplating doing so), you might appreciate my thoughts, too.

As I was working on this post, it became clear that my email to Greg could become the basis for at least two posts: studying the craft and the business; and writing and submitting manuscripts. For this post, I’ll focus on the former.

My suggestions are by no means exhaustive. They’re just a start. After all, there are whole books on this subject! Still, my list is quite a bit to tackle. So choose a thing or two and go from there.

My suggestions are also not original or esoteric. (And yet someone else might send you off in a different direction.) These just happen to be steps that I’ve taken. I’m still working away and hoping they’ll pan out!

A neat thing: You can do a lot of learning for free (with your feet up and while sipping on a cup of coffee or tea or whatever suits your style).

via GIPHY

Read and study lots and lots and lots of current books. Did I say lots? Hang out at B&N and read what’s on their “featured” tables and shelves. Ask the children’s bookseller for recs that fit the kind of books you’re writing and attempting to publish. Ask your local children’s librarian. Head to the “new” section at your library for recently published and/or acquired books. Find popular and recommended books online and locate them at your library. Mine offers an online hold service which I utilize often, maybe too often for busy librarians, but I sure do appreciate it. Put that library card to good use!

Google away! Google can give you an education. One website, blog, podcast, etc. will lead to other links that will increase your knowledge of craft and business. Of course, not all of the info is current or worthy, but much of it is. You’ll figure out the difference.

Subscribe to free e-newsletters, blogs, etc. There are so many good ones out there that you’ll need to be choosy! If you oversubscribe, just unsubscribe. If you wish you hadn’t, re-subscribe. No biggie, either way. When these pile up in my inbox, I steal an hour here or there to catch up. I relish the time and info! Here are several that I subscribe to:A

Children’s Book Council

Jane Friedman

KIDLIT411

Lee & Low BooksM

Picture Book Builders

Publishers Weekly Children’s BookShelf

Sub It Club

We Need Diverse Books

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Join social media. You don’t have to live there and you don’t have to be on every platform. After all, you need to write! And do the dishes and laundry and… To start, choose a platform that appeals to you, somewhere you think you can show up regularly. You’ll make connections, learn about opportunities, and yes, even learn about craft and business. Some of the above links also have Facebook Groups that you can join. I avoided social media for years; now I miss it when life gets too busy for me to show up.

Join a Critique Group. You’ll gain a lot: accountability, feedback, camaraderie, and support. It’s par for the course to deal with rejections and self-doubt as well as plenty of alone time. So it’s helpful to have some peeps who get the journey and keep you company (and commiserate and celebrate with you) along the way. Here’s an interview with my critique group.

Take classes and workshops at your local writing organization. If you’re lucky enough to have a local writing organization, check out their website for offerings. I met my critique group at a local workshop at WriterHouse. If you can’t afford a class or workshop, keep an eye out for free events like author readings and social get-togethers.

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). If there’s only one thing you can afford to spend money on in order to further your writing life, choose this! It’s the biggest and most reputable professional kidlit organization nationally and internationally. The first year fee is $95 ($80 to renew) and grants you access to invaluable resources. There’s a place for any writer there, from beginner on. Here’s a blog post I wrote about the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Conference.

Those last four suggestions go beyond studying the craft and business to making connections. Get involved with others in the kidlit community to whatever extent you’re able. It’s a big, vibrant community filled with writers, illustrators, editors, agents, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and readers. Connections are key in kidlit, and the neat thing is, most people in it are very nice. They love writing and reading, just like you. I think it’s safe to say that most of them also love kids.

If you decide to go for it, congratulations on that first step! Truly. You’re pursuing a dream and that takes courage. Your journey will have ups and downs, as all journeys do. Every now and then, take stock of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Each step counts and is cause for celebration.

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It’s helpful to go in, from the very start, thinking long-term. It takes time to develop craft, understand the business, and make connections. And yes, to earn some income. Patience and persistence will be your best friends throughout the process (for me, it’s also coffee and chocolate).

Goodness knows, I’m still very much learning and finding my way through this wonderful world. There are so many steps I’d like to take including reading more books on craft, taking an online class, and attending a national SCBWI conference. One step at a time. The journey is endless which I love; it means that the learning is endless, too.

And to state the obvious: write. While everything else counts, it’s the writing that will teach us the most.

Oh! And have fun along the way.

Until we meet again,

Amy