Routine maintenance: clean up your online profiles

cat's tongue

  Photo courtesy of Shubhankar Sharma

The following advice is not intended for superstars and bestselling authors.

If you’ve created an online profile that you don’t intend to use, then delete it this week. Don’t leave it out there with unanswered inquiries, especially when they’re publicly visible. Everyone who sees an earnest question that has been posted by someone and ignored by you will think you don’t care about your followers, readers, and fans. 



Many social media profiles will allow you to adjust your notification settings so you’ll receive them via the email application you use every day. An alert will pop into your regular email inbox. If a profile you’ve created doesn’t offer this function, then you’ll need to discipline yourself to check that profile at least every other day. Delete your profile from a site if it’s too much trouble to check regularly.

Unless they’re spam or harassment, treat questions sent to you as comments, email, or text messages as though they were being asked in person. The sender is getting an unfavorable impression if you haven’t responded. Take the time to create a generic but friendly reply that you can copy and paste, if necessary.

If you don’t already have one, make a list of your social media profiles and email inboxes for your daily checks. Your browser’s bookmarks or favorites feature can streamline the process. Most of your social media profiles should be linked to the website that serves as your hub.

Don’t forget to update your biographical information periodically. Nothing highlights your neglectfulness more than an above-the-fold “update” that speaks of a past event as if it were still in the future.

Imagine

Peace on Earth

Litmags of Columbus, Ohio

My Delicious list of publications that include creative writing currently is undergoing its quinquennial cleanup, which takes several months. The number of resilient little magazines surprises me. Looking through thousands of listings at once, I can see that the failed ones have tended to be sites with names that were impossible to remember or spell, journals that had no social media presence, zines founded to celebrate embitterment, and startups whose editors ran out of time. Those are only the obvious among many reasons for a literary journal to fold, but if you’re thinking of founding a magazine they’re reasons worth noting.

It shouldn’t matter where a literary journal originates. After more than a quarter-century of being connected online, we’re slowly relinquishing the idea of a city serving as a crucial element of branding. Now, personalities and backstories matter more. The shift feels like progress.

Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of publications from my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, which isn’t known for its literary culture, James Thurber notwithstanding. These vigorously optimistic little magazines are endeavoring to grow where they’re planted. Let me know if I missed your favorite.

Litmags of Columbus
 

Anotherealm

Barking Sycamores gives preference to submissions from writers with neurodivergence, including autism, AD(H)D, bipolar, synesthesia, and other neurominority or related states of being

Betty Fedora

Botticelli

Common Threads

Flip the Page: Central Ohio’s Teen Literary Journal

Gesture

The Journal

Naked Sunfish

Pudding Magazine

ReCap

Silenced Press

Spoonful — A Happiness Companion

Spring Street & Shameless Pen

Still Crazy

The Sundial Humor Magazine accepts submissions from anyone enrolled at The Ohio State University

Turn to Ash

Also of interest to Columbusites

The Honey Jar: A Receptacle for Literary Preserves, Volume 1 (1899)

Ohioana Quarterly

Thurber House – 77 Jefferson Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43215

What living in the South has shown me

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

  Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

I lived the first fifty years of my life north of the Mason-Dixon line in two blue Ohio counties surrounded by red ones. When I moved to South Carolina in 2012, I had to recalibrate my bullshit detector, which takes a lot of trial and error. I’m still disconcerted by the deceitfulness of people who have tried to befriend me and by the self-confident warmth of those who, in the North, automatically would have doubted me and frozen me out until I proved myself trustworthy. I had been expecting the opposite, which is to say, Northern stereotypes are useless in the South.

It so happened that I moved during 2015 to the coastal town of Beaufort, South Carolina, midway between Charleston and Savannah, a few weeks before a young, self-proclaimed white supremacist shot and killed nine African American congregation members in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. I hadn’t been oblivious to the existence of the alt-right in America. Neither had I assimilated into the Southern culture beyond accepting that it was compulsory to express a greeting when passing someone on the sidewalk. That summer after the church murders I wondered where, exactly, I had planted myself. Or more precisely, among whom?

In the days following the hateful attack on innocent churchgoers, part of the Southern African American culture that had mystified me was articulated straightforwardly: “Wrong Church! Wrong People!”

I remember fumbling to explain to anyone who cared or at least listened that the African American people I encountered in South Carolina were not hostile, militant, deferential, or even avoidant. Their interactions with me were remarkably different than what I’d been accustomed to in the North. Particularly here in Beaufort, where some of the African American citizens are connected to the Gullah Geechee culture, their relaxed self-assurance is beautiful. I admire it.

After the racially motivated killings in Charleston, the members of the Emanuel AME Church congregation automatically lived their creed of peace, nonviolence, and forgiveness—Christians behaving exactly as Christian doctrine had taught them to respond to hate. It was an inspiring moment in the wake of unspeakable evil. It also placed into context the manners of my black neighbors in the South, which until then had puzzled me. Without saying anything, all along they had been demonstrating, “You can’t drag us down into the gutter. We’re better than that. We’re better than you.” I am a proud, incorrigibly idealistic child of the ’60s, and it makes me deeply happy to have them as role models.

An open letter to Charlotte H. F______ of Detroit

Dear Ms. F_____:

Your voicemail message for me arrived in the midst of a hurricane evacuation and storm forecast that has escalated to a hurricane warning for my coastal city and county, which is why I’m unable to return your call or answer the phone when you call again to discuss what seems to be your self-published poetry workbook or textbook. You did not provide your email address, and you don’t seem to have a discoverable online presence that would allow me to contact you via email, so I’ve resorted to a blogpost. Maybe this information also will be helpful to other writers in your situation.

Please understand that for nonfiction books, an established author platform is a nonnegotiable prerequisite for becoming one of my clients.

Please note the query guidelines on my website, which specify not to phone my agency but, instead, to send email containing all of the listed information that I would need in order to determine whether I might be able to work with you.

As it turns out, the information you’ve requested most likely can be found in one of my earlier posts, which I’ll list for you below. A great deal more information that might be helpful to you can be found on this blog. Enter the relevant keywords in the blog’s search box.

Literary agents for textbook authors

The demands of commercial authorhood today

How will readers ever find your book?

To writers who ask if I can interest traditional publishers in their self-published books

The posts linked above as well as the other information on this blog should send you in the right direction. If you feel you need to discuss your writing with someone, may I suggest you attend a reputable writers’ conference or a workshop on getting published that is led by a writer or literary agent you admire?

One of the best sources for information about getting your book published is Jane Friedman’s amazing blog.

Thank you for thinking of me. I wish you the best of luck with your previously published book or new manuscript and your search for the perfect agent to represent you.

Sincerely yours,

Robin Mizell


To all others who happen to read this post and wish to express well wishes or ask questions, please don’t be offended by my inability to respond to your comments this weekend. If all goes swimmingly, I’ll check the blog on Monday, October 10, 2016. Peace out.

Best online explanations of the creative writing advice “show, don’t tell”

It’s sound advice. A creative writer ought to show the reader what is happening in a story instead of telling or explaining too directly. Overtelling can make a novel read like a screenplay treatment.

The exception that immediately comes to mind occurs when an engaging and intriguing narrator recounts a story in a particular, even peculiar, manner that indirectly reveals parts of the hidden narrative. The narrator then becomes a significant character in the story. Too many writers unconsciously are the narrators of the books they write, when they would do better to invent more compelling doppelgängers.

Any truly creative writer can break the “show, don’t tell” rule to marvelous effect, but it won’t be easy.

For the aspiring author who is trying not to hit the reader over the head, following are a few convincing explanations of “show, don’t tell,” which, by the way, also can be effective in journalism. Read these posts in descending order if you need to grapple with the concept of “show, don’t tell.” I’ve attempted to list the simplest explanations first.

4 Questions To Ask Before Self Publishing (See questions 2 and 4.)
by Beth Bacon

Ask the editor: Trusting the reader
by Alan Rinzler

Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs
by Chuck Palahniuk

Stop Explaining Your Story (And Start Showing It)
by Janice Hardy

Don’t Explain, Don’t Explain, Don’t Explain
by Beth Hill

How to Apply the Advice to “Show, Don’t Tell”
by Nick Daws

Another reminder that, even when showing, less is more

Overtelling, Overshowing, Overselling
by Jane Lebak

For extra credit: an allusion “is not a shout-out”

The quality of allusion is not google
by Nicholas Carr

Comprehending the rationale behind “show, don’t tell” can allow a writer to feel less coerced by critics and more in control of the creation. That’s how the reader prefers to feel, too—like a co-creator.

If you find any of the listed articles particularly helpful, then by all means go thank their authors. Praise is in short supply these days.

The best and the brightest eschew oversimplification

One of the reasons I work with creative writers is so I can spend my time with people who are articulate and intelligent. We don’t always agree. We don’t always get along, but at least we’re able to communicate.

I would have disagreed with some of what H.L. Mencken wrote when he was alive, but I can’t argue with something he published in the Smart Set in 1922:

In every age the advocates of the dominant political theory seek to give it dignity by identifying it with whatever contemporaneous desire of man happens to be most powerful. In the days of monarchy, monarchy was depicted as the defender of the faith. In our present era of democracy, democracy is depicted as the only safe guardian of liberty. And the communism or super-communism of tomorrow, I suppose, will be sold to the booboisie as the only true palladium of peace, justice and plenty. All of these attempts to hook up cause and effect are nonsensical. Monarchy was fundamentally not a defender of the faith at all, but a rival and enemy to the faith. Democracy does not promote liberty; it diminishes and destroys liberty. And communism, as the example of Russia already shows, is not a fountain that gushes peace, justice and plenty, but a sewer in which they are drowned.

What was true in 1922 remains true today. Mencken’s “booboisie,” who are more vocal and visible than ever, prefer simplistic, even mystical, solutions to complex problems that have been intractable for hundreds of years. I’d much rather face and discuss the facts and with people who know the history and eschew oversimplification.

The Smart Set

  Image: The Smart Set, March 1922 (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Litmags that specialize in disability-related literature

pen and journals

Photo courtesy of Joanna Kosinska

Online, a creative writer can find her tribe much more easily than is possible anywhere else. The following disability-focused literary publications are readily discoverable and of interest to all, but they’re especially important to writers with disabilities.

I’ll add to this list when similar publications come to my attention. Please let me know if I’ve missed any good ones.

Abilities

Breath & Shadow

The Deaf Poets Society

Disability Studies Quarterly

Exceptions Journal

Kaleidoscope

Pentimento

Snap Journal

Spectrum Extract

When Language Runs Dry

Wordgathering

The Disability Literature Consortium and the blog DISPOET regularly post calls for submissions and other opportunities for writers. They encourage collaboration among artists.

Also of interest

Publishing stories about mental illness and recovery

Publications that specialize in the topics of illness, healing, and the medical professions