Building a Better Tweet: Writing for Twitter

I’ve been thinking so much about Twitter lately. (This makes me sound like I don’t know what. But I have been. So sue me.) The other day I tweeted, “On the subject of social media before bed: last night I dreamed about tweets.” True—and terrible. It was NOT a good night of sleep, dreaming in hashtags and ampersands.

So I thought I would reblog this fun and helpful post by Michelle Feder (@michellekfeder, in case you’re wondering), which appeared on Popcorn a couple of years ago. Seemed worth revisiting (#amtweeting, or at least #amattemptingto).

Enjoy,
Susie

popcorntheblog

When I’m on Twitter, sometimes I have to refocus my eyes to fix on its assembly of hash tags, “at signs,” and emoticons. But amid the punctuation gone wild, writers can find a haven, innovation, and heart. What makes a certain tweet memorable, retweetable—and what does it mean to succeed?

Poetic prose

It may be counterintuitive (considering the Bieberese and other dross), but Twitter offers a form that is potentially poetic. These precisely punctuated high-low moments, captured in a breath. In her book A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver talks about “enjambment”—the use of line for poetic effect. (Many of us at Popcorn recently have been posting about poetry. I was lucky to come across Oliver’s guide, and it offers amazing pointers that apply to all forms of writing.)

When I’m writing, I consider where in a sentence you really feel the impact. Does it resonate at the end?  Oliver’s book has a section on…

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Secrets of the San Francisco Writers Conference Revealed!

The San Francisco Writers Conference was amazing.

Still life with business cards

Still life with business cards

Truth: Ahead of time, I had convinced myself that the event would be pretty stressful, full of intimidating publishing industry “gatekeepers.” I kept thinking, I just have to get through this. I had gotten myself a little worked up by last Thursday, the day the conference started, and even considered popping a Xanax before the first session. But then I went to hear Brooke Warner, Cynthia Frank, Regina Brooks, and other editors both local and from New York talk about writing and editing non-fiction, how to create a memoir book proposal, who to work with, how to categorize your work, and more. I felt immediately happy I’d trekked up Nob Hill on a hot day with a heavy bag (sans Xanax, for the record). The editors were accessible, the content was good, the format was easy, the hotel was nice—it was an utter treat to be there.

This was my first writers conference, and I’d managed to get in as a presenter in the poetry division. Saturday morning, I moderated a panel on “deadly writing habits” and then presented on a panel about how a day job can support one’s writing. Because my duties were fairly limited, I was able to attend all the sessions I wanted on Friday and Saturday: craft (in the sense of, how-to-write) sessions, meet-the-agents sessions, sessions about how to use Twitter and Facebook and other social media to build a writer’s platform. I filled my notebook to the brim with notes, ideas, contacts, questions. I collected a fistful of business cards. I pitched my memoir to five incredibly kind literary agents (three of whom gave me the green light to query them—yeah!). I had a lovely lunch with a book editor I’ve hired, a woman I felt I could be fast friends with (she’s terrific: if you’re looking for an editor, ping me via the contact page or on Twitter and I’ll connect you. Also check out the eatery Harrow, in downtown San Francisco—yum.) I met, paneled with, and read poetry with a wonderful poet from UC Davis, Andy Jones, and spent a lot of quality time with my writing-mom-walking buddy Aya deLeon (who has great news—check out her blog!). I met writers, editors, agents, publishers, teachers, social media experts, and more.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of talk at the conference about community. In a panel on building a writer’s platform, Andrea Dunlop from Girl Friday Productions, a Seattle-based editing/publishing/coaching business, talked about how the best way to build your writer’s platform (e.g., your stance as someone people will want to read) is to simply be a part of a writer’s community. That means reading your friends’ books, reviewing them, being in a writing group, hosting a reading series, going to readings, supporting your local bookstore, and tweeting and blogging and Facebooking about all of that. It was enormously comforting to me to hear that something as simple as having a thriving community of writers could do wonders for your work. Because I do have that wonderful community. (You know who you are.) And being at the conference was another exercise in community-building. I’d feared it would be about posturing or one-upping, but instead, it just felt supportive, like gates were opening rather than being held closed.

During the conference, I felt so invigorated, despite the fact that I was up at six on both Friday and Saturday mornings and the days went long (and my dinner Friday night consisted of some cheese and charcuterie and about three glasses of wine, which made Saturday’s wake-up less than awesome). During the week in my normal life, I often feel exhausted by working, writing, parenting, and keeping everything together. It felt promising that while at the conference I felt energized, excited, and possible, and that nice feeling stayed with me through a leisurely Sunday and Monday at home with my boys. Of course, questions were raised as well, particularly about the catch-22 that is “the writing platform”: in order to build one, you have to publish a book; but when you try to publish a book, everyone wants to know whether you already have a platform.

That, and other conundrums, will certainly stay with me over the next few weeks as I dig out from the conference: I have emails to send, tweets to tweet, notes to make sense of, ideas to put into fruition. I’ve got a handful of new connections, was just invited to join a writer’s group, and of course have some queries to send out (and a book or two to write). It’s exciting, thought-provoking, and good, and I’m so glad I went.

The Writer’s To-Do List

Screenshot 2015-02-11 11.41.51

Gosh, it’s been a long time since I’ve written. While all you back-East readers are getting clobbered by snow, here in California we’ve had a mix of mold-inspiring rain and gorgeous sunny days. It feels so much like spring that I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been a little confused. Is it winter? Or spring? What’s going on here?

This time of year always feels so busy. I’m not sure why. The fall is busy, too, but with a kind of festive air: the start of a new year, soccer season, new friends, everything exciting and overwhelming. Then, the mad and fun rush of the holidays. By now, February, we’re well into the routine, which is both a blessing and a curse. L is happier at school and at aftercare, we’re onto indoor soccer, we never paused for reflection, and I’ve roared through the fall semester, over winter break, and have squarely landed in my spring teaching and writing routine. Or what passes for a routine.

I spent the month of January a little confused by what to work on. This is not a familiar problem to me, or at least, in the past if I had too many choices it might have felt exciting. But I spent much of January thinking to myself, I should really get back to that novel—once I finish this essay, write a poem, start another essay, revise my memoir, apply to that fellowship thingy, prepare for the San Francisco Writers Conference, and submit my work all over the place. Yowsah! I never thought I’d long so much to just have one project on my desk. But I’ve been bombarded with ideas and opportunities, and, feeling like I’m at a place in my career when I need to say yes to lots of things, I’ve kind of been going with the flow. So I’ve been making a lot of to-do lists.

I’m also at this point with my writing—specifically, with writing prose, since poetry never felt like this—where it feels possible to check things off a list. Some of the romance is gone, to be sure, but I also have this sense that if I write something like “revise ending of Will essay” on my to-do list that that’s, actually, an accomplishable goal. I can look ahead on a Monday and think, yes, I can realistically revise that short story and send it out by Friday (as opposed to years ago, when I might have revised for months, or never gotten to it, or decided to scrap it, or decided what to work on the morning I sat down to write). Is this making any sense? I used to think that artists and writers waited for inspiration, wrote things, had things happen. Lately, for me, it’s more about setting small goals and achieving them. It sounds so boring, when I write that here. But luckily, luckily, when I’m in it—high on too much caffeine, 45 minutes until I have to get L or leave for work, and I just want to write all day—it still feels like there’s a lot of romance, a lot of excitement. So much, in fact, that I sneak moments the rest of the day to reconnect with whatever I’m working on. I sneak onto the computer while L is playing with Legos. I postpone my grading to edit one more paragraph. I drive my family insane because I can’t put down my work at dinnertime. I fall asleep reworking the first line in my head.

So in a way, the to-do list keeps me in check, helps me focus and not get ahead of myself.

But I do long for a time when I won’t need one. In a few weeks—after I’ve gotten notes back from the book editor, and sent out the personal essay a few more times, and finished that poem—I really am going to sit down with that novel I started during NaNoWriMo. It will be the only thing on the list. No, really.

I’ll be at the San Francisco Writers Conference this coming weekend, FYI. Reading poetry on Friday night, moderating a panel and presenting on a panel on Saturday morning. Should be good. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

On the subject of writing routines and just getting down to it:

“Kazuo Ishiuguro: How I Wrote The Remains of the Day in Four Weeks”