Over the last three weeks I have had numerous conversations about authors and social media. At the University of Washington I had the opportunity to speak to a senior fiction writing class of aspiring writers, and they were surprised when I said to start building their platform NOW, before they are published.
Why? Author platform is what agents and publishers are looking for. As Jane Friedman explains “Author platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, partly because everyone defines it a little differently. But by far the easiest explanation is: an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”
I like to share simple ways that I’ve learned about how to start building and or enhancing your author platform through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Anyway, it’s always great (for an instructor) when you see the light bulbs go on in the faces of your audience, as I did at the U of W a couple of weeks ago. Author platform does not have to mean Kardashian like followers, but at least a presence on social media via whatever outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) you feel comfortable with. And myNUMBER ONE TIP for social media success is; pick the one that you can envision yourself doing, possibly even enjoying, because if you don’t enjoy it you will fail. If you enjoy it you have a much greater chance of social media success.
I also spoke with Edmonds Community College this week about doing a summer workshop on this evergreen yet always changing, topic. I’ll post that date once it is confirmed.
If you’d like to hear a bit about my thoughts on writing and marketing you can listen to this interview I did yesterday with radio talk show hosts, Stone Payton and Lee Kantor on Business Writers Radio. And I must say, after doing several radio talk shows these gentlemen are standout pros – GREAT hosts. I enjoyed chatting with them and hope to again.
It’s commonly accepted that Nazi Germany’s concentration camps were/are the epicenter of human sorrow and suffering as a result of human against human brutality. These places stand as tributes to the human race’s capability when fear leads to either blind faith in religion or government, or when vile rhetoric becomes our prime cheerleader. They are living tombstones honoring, not just the victims, but also the sins of those who shot innocent people with wild glee, locked gas chamber doors against the screams of their victims, or, perhaps more inexcusably, closed their eyes to grievous inhumanity. Or worse yet, today in 2017, those who deny the holocaust ever happened. The politics of today have everything to do with why I’m writing my next novel, Garden of Lies, not that it’s about politics specifically, but because it puts a face on a victim of the last time people endorsed fear and anger as their guide and allowed them to justify releasing the largest gathering of sociopaths ever – in Nazi uniforms – on an entire population. That’s my two-bits, now back to storytelling…
Using imagery in storytelling means constantly looking for images, old photos that will help me make the world I am creating (WWII concentration camps, 1960 Portland Oregon, and 1930’s Egypt) come to life in my head and ultimately in a reader’s mind. I collect images and information for my research and save it on my Pinterest board. For example, this image helps me envision what my main protagonist, Esmée sees in her dreams – memories of Auschwitz – and the ghosts who haunt her. Visit my Pinterest board to see the world I’m creating. Please follow my board if interested. Though I could not find (via Google image search) the source of this photo, I have linked it to the info I did find. http://www.mindyhalleck.com
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This is an image of an Ancient Egyptian Shabti, the sort of idol the main protagonist in my WIP (work in progress) Garden of Lies, collects. Why? These objects connect her to her childhood and more importantly to her parents whom she tragically lost in the Holocaust. The object reminds her of traveling Egypt with her archeologist parents, studying burial rituals and so forth – now she is trapped in a dance of death and mourning.
In her mind these objects keep her connected to her departed. Objects in storytelling can be a vital part of the plot.
Please visit my Pinterest page to see other objects and story-telling images for my next novel.
Shabti Dolls: The Workforce in the Afterlife
Today what’s on my mind is achieving dreams, despite all the mud and muck of politics right now. And sometimes to position myself mentally I envision a dream come true from my past, and thankfully for me there are so many. This picture is of me sitting in a cafe in the Piazza di San Giovanni, the plaza located directly in front of the Duomo in Florence Italy, writing. I had dreamed of this place where famous artists and scribes of the ages gathered, walked, philosophized and created, since I was 16 years old. It took a while (I’m a bit past 16), but I got there. It was such a happy day. So while my hubby climbed the gazillion stairs of the Domo I had that independant day of which I dreamed so long ago: I walked into a posh cafe, and with my bumbling attempt at speaking Italian I ordered an espresso and sat outside and was mesmerized by the world. Just being there, finally, was pure magic. I started to write about when I originally had the dream of being their. The piece I wrote that day was a memoir piece and is being saved for when I do finally write that memoir. What memory from your own past inspires you? Sit down and revisit that, then start writing.
There are so many reasons why we write: to tell our true life stories, to create fiction, to enlighten, to educate, to entertain. But to me one of the main reasons I write is to heal from things I struggle to mentally or emotionally comprehend, or to embrace my bodies complex journey with dis-ease.
As a writer and cancer survivor I believe writing helps us understand our life experiences. When we translate life’s events from the unspoken into written language we alter our perceptions and fundamentally make the experience graspable. As an author and instructor I strive to engage and inspire others to do exactly that, translate the unspoken into the written word.
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It’s Saturday, that means I’m doing some social media and then headed out for a walk with my dog (who is staring at me right now, SO ready to go.) But first I wanted to share an article that I wrote for Writing And Wellness Magazine.
As an author and cancer survivor I believe writing aids us in understanding life’s challenges, and that through understanding we become better writers.
When we translate painful or confusing events from the unspoken into written language we alter our perceptions and fundamentally make the experience graspable. You can heal the body by connecting to the mind using writing as a restorative tool.
Natalie Goldberg wrote: “Write about what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
It took three of what I call “tours in cancer-land” for me to finally “split open” and comprehend what life, at least my life, was about. It was about writing, and ultimately healing through the act of writing.
Writing Shines a Light Into the Black Abyss
The subconscious mind can be a dark source of paralyzing nightmares that latch on and don’t let go.
This stockpiled stress allows illness to infiltrate cells and psyche, keeping you in dis-ease and even making it worse.
Think of writing your truth—whether it be grief, rape, incest, bullying, or disease—as though you are shining a light into that black abyss. Once this light is shone, those nightmares tend to wither, and sooner or later their influence over you wanes.
Whenever I write about difficult topics, I visualize my cancer like a tiny black bat in a cave wincing and shrinking against the light. I love that image!
Through Writing, I Created My Own Shaman
Most writers create characters from deep in the subconscious mind, from unresolved issues or from traumatic events. And most of the time it’s unconscious until they re-read their work later and experience an epiphany about what they were really trying to write.
That’s what happened to me.
Though I have a strong belief in God, I needed more. During my decade of surgeries where my neck was cut open three different times from jugular vein to jugular vein, and my “giblets” were removed—thyroid, lymph nodes and a tumor—I intuitively created a shaman in my novel, Return To Sender.
When I was in the hospital or home unable to speak, not sure if I ever would speak again, I dreamed of a healer, felt him praying over me, meditating on my illness and telling me to not be afraid.
When I finally wrote (spoiler alert) his death, I mourned for several days—obviously (in retrospect) I was working at a deep level on my own fear of dying.
A Final Ceremony for a Character That Assisted Me on a Hard Journey
At first I was afraid I’d made a horrible mistake in writing his death. In writing his death, had I in turn written my own?
But then I realized it was time for him to go because I was strong enough to move forward.
Because I believe healthy rituals are good for the soul, I took a copy of the page where he dies to the lake, tore the paper into pieces, put the pieces on a large maple leaf, settled it on the water and lit the paper on fire.
The tiny fire that floated away from the shore was a final ceremony for a character who had assisted me on a hard, hard journey. In that ritual I asked him to take my cancer with him. If you read Return To Sender you’ll see how my transformational desire was written into his death scene.
That ceremony freed us both from our cancer bond. In saying good-bye to him I said good-bye to my paralyzing fear of cancer.
Keeping the Little Black Bat in His Cave
Of course, the fear will always be there, but it’s no longer that paralyzing fear. Why? Because as I seek to understand through writing about past traumas and stressors in my life that lead to dis-ease in a body, I am empowered.
An empowered body is enabled and thus begins a deep healing process.
“It is important to release the original trauma and see connections in order toheal from the trauma.”James W. Pennebaker, PH.D, author of Writing To Heal.
I now embrace that there is dis-ease within my body, and I work to understand it through writing, managing stress, and seeking out and engaging in alternative healing, such as acupuncture, nutrition, massage, resonance therapy, and long, long beach walks. All have been guides in my passage out of cancer-land.
I continue to thrive despite a bit of the tumor in my throat. I am closely watched by my team of doctors who constantly tell me that my attitude and approach to wellness has made me a triumphant patient.
I’m confident that I can keep that little black bat in his cave, and that I am triumphant because of the powerful tool of restorative writing.
Remember, please tweet and use the hashtag #write2heal. Thank you!
Mindy Halleck is an award-winning fiction writer, novelist, and social media and writing instructor. In 2015 her debut novel, Return To Sender, a literary thriller set on the Oregon Coast in the 1950’s, received a “Reader’s Favorite” award. Her short stories have won the Writer’s Digest and the EPIC Arts Association fiction contests. Halleck also blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber and three-time cancer survivor. Find more at her website.
Did you know that writing is a way to exercise toxins from your body, heart and soul? Whether you are dealing with a broken heart, illness, death or grief, writing can help you heal.
But then I’ve always written my way through pain and heartache. I remember at 17 writing tragic poetry (tragic on every melodramatic level) about a broken heart, then again in my twenties and thirties – different men, same heart. I wrote through my sister’s death, my best friend’s death, and in the same year how I finally fell in love with someone who didn’t break my battered heart. Then in my forties finally writing about that found love, being married, being happy. Both kinds of writing, sad and happy, nurtured my soul and kept depression at bay. Now in my sixties writing is a crucial skillset on my healing journey, with chronic cancer as my travel companion.
Writing has been proven to •Strengthen the immune system •Enhance sleep •Reduce anxiety, melancholy, and loneliness •Aid in emotional or physical pain management •Instill a sense of clarity, purpose and meaning in life. And much more. And let’s face it even if you’re in tip-top health who couldn’t use a little of all of that.
James W. Pennebaker, PH.D, a research psychologist and author of Writing To Heal, said, “It is important to release the original trauma and see connections in order to heal from the trauma.”
Often, we can begin to release trauma by writing about it. Often, but not always, so if you are having difficulties or sense a deep state of depression please get help. If you can’t get a referral for a counselor from a friend, then start here at Counseling.org. I’ve dealt with depression and nothing is more helpful than a GOOD counselor. Having said that if you feel the counselor you have found is not suited to you and your needs, find another. Seek until you find the one who can help.
I will be sharing information on writing to heal in this blog. Please share on twitter and Facebook where I have the hashtag #write2heal and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to follow these posts.
Like stars illuminating a path let your words be your guide to well-being.
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