Janet Sumner Johnson
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Passionate Discussions on Social Media

Jun

23, 2014 |

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***Five days left to enter for a chance to win a pre-order of RED BUTTERFLY (link)***

I am a person with strong opinions. Only natural considering my family loves to discuss. After meals, we’d sit around the family room and “passionately discuss” (my husband’s euphemism for the sport). I never thought much about it until my then-boyfriend, now-husband sat in with us. He was shocked that we hadn’t all leaped over the coffee table to beat each other up. I was shocked at his take on the evening.

But since that time, I have thought a lot about how a discussion can come across. Especially in the last few years, given the explosion of social media. I love discussing things passionately, but I have been amazed at how quickly a discussion turns to mud-slinging on the internet.

Instead of discussing issues, people turn to name-calling. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a jerk, and a whole slew of much more vulgar insults. To make things worse, intent of the Written Word can be much harder to interpret than that of the Spoken Word. Plus, it’s easier to be rude when you don’t have to look your audience in the eye, and it’s double easier when you can post that rudeness anonymously.  The exchanges can leave you feeling like this:

Which is why I’ve hesitated to join in. Instead, I’ve kept my posts/tweets/status updates innocuous.

Once, I broke my silence. Expressed my confusion on a current Media to-do. I sincerely wanted to understand and said as much, asking commenters to keep it civil.

From that, I had a “friend” explode on me. It was crazy. She unleashed her anger on me over a slew of subjects that had nothing to do with my post, and before I could even figure out what had gone wrong, she unfriended me. And I don’t just friend anyone on Facebook. This was someone I knew well. Someone I truly considered to be a friend. It made me sad.

More thinking ensued, and in the end, I determined that I can’t avoid discussion forever. But I refuse to let others dictate my behavior. As such, I have come up with three rules of conduct for social media:

1. Treat others the way you would want to be treated (the Golden Rule, yo).

This means you gotta show respect. People will have different opinions than yours, but going all kinds of piranha-crazy-fish on them isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. When someone can express their views passionately yet respectfully, I’m much more likely to listen. 

2. Let your work gel before hitting “send.”

Does what you are typing really need to be said? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Let it sit for a few hours and see if you still feel that responding to something is the best choice. But ask yourself: What am I accomplishing with this tweet/facebook post/response/social-media-message-of-choice? Are you really convincing others of something, or are you speaking to dead air? Are you venting, or are you defending something that needs defending? Time gives better perspective.

3. Accept that you cannot possibly please everyone.

No matter how nicely you say something, you will find people who just don’t want to hear what you have to say. People have their own reasons for doing what they do. I’ve found people ready to be offended at nothing. We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. But if we are respectful in what we say on social media, try to consider other’s points-of-view, well, in my book we will be happier.

What suggestions do you have for engaging in social media debates?

Speak up:

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Twitterpated, Part 4

Mar

04, 2013 |

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So I know you’ve all been dying for more about my mistakes on Twitter. I’m realizing I may have to do this one mistake at a time, because apparently I’m a bit long winded. But hopefully this will help any newbies to Twitter have a smoother time of it. Maybe it won’t take you A YEAR (!!!) to figure it out.

My Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


Mistake #1:  When I set up my account, I followed only a select few tweeps. My reasoning was that I didn’t want to hear a bunch of random comments from people I didn’t know.

Umm
. . . so that’s pretty much what Twitter is. But there are the good
kind of stranger-tweeters and the bad kind. I think you will learn
pretty quickly which is which.

So here are my suggestions about who to follow (speaking as one writer to another)

1. Agents: Summer Heacock (aka @fizzygrrl) has made this easy for you. I present Agents-to-Follow Cheatsheet 1 and Cheatsheet 2. You might even want to create a list of just agents so you can see what they are tweeting at a glance.

2. Editors: A couple of my favorites include: @the_SDB, @StacyAbramsEdit, @CarolineAbbey, @MKCastellani, @EgmontUSA, and I could go on. My focus is MG, but find the editors that work on the stuff you write. GalleyCat gives a long list of tweeting editors here.

3.
Industry Groups
: This would include publishing companies, writing
magazines, and any group that might give information you’re interested
in. Twitter can help find the bulk of these.

4. Blog Friends: Gosh, I hope you know who this is for you. 😉

5. People who interest you: Heck, if you think Ryan Gosling is the bomb, follow him. Maybe Honest Toddler is your thing. Go for it!

6. People who follow you: This is the trickiest group. I know that most people who follow me do it to get a follow back. But that doesn’t mean I have to give it. Usually, I glance through their tweets and see if they are a real person or just a tweeter of spam, then make the call. I know some people who only follow people they know. But I have met some cool people by taking a chance

7.
Family/Friends
: So no one in my family tweets, and very few of my real
life friends do. And I’m okay with that. I use twitter as a tool in my
writing life, and reserve Facebook for my family and friends. But if you
do, you might want them on your feed. Your call. Just remember who follows you when you tweet. If you wouldn’t want your mom to read a tweet, better not tweet it.

(And actually, that might be a good rule to live by whether your mother is on Twitter or not.)

So there it is. In a nutshell. My suggestion is that you take some risks. Try following some new people. The thing to remember? YOU CAN ALWAYS UNFOLLOW SOMEONE. If you don’t like someone’s tweets, unfollow them. And if they unfollow you back, so be it.

Twitter is a tool, and you should play around with it until it works for you. And for all you experts, how do you decide who to follow?

Next Twitterpated installment? What to tweet . . . and what not to.

Speak up:

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Pitches: A Reader’s View

Feb

25, 2013 |

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Today I come to you with my WriteOnCon Pitch Fest Blogger Cap.

If you head over to WriteOnCon’s blog, you will find all sorts of posts from various agents giving advice on writing a pitch. AND, if you go to the WriteOnCon Forum (open until March 10), you can get your pitch critiqued.

So, about pitches. Sometimes, I think we forget their purpose. We think it’s supposed to tell people what happens in our book.

Wait . . . what? Isn’t it? I can hear the questions already.

The real purpose of a pitch is to entice readers to read more.

The irony of it all is this: As a person writing a pitch, it’s easy to forget that. As a person reading a pitch, that’s all you think about.

So let’s pretend: You walk into a bookstore unsure of what to buy. So what do you do? You read back cover copy (and maybe a line or two of the beginning) until something grabs you.

First book you grab: The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kindgom

This could be good, you think, so you flip it over:

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan.
Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who
saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and
yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only
as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their
princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot
that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over
their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and
other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could
be.


Obviously, every person will have their own reaction to this pitch here is mine, Twitter style (just because):

And of course, what do I do? I buy the book (yes, I bought this one in real life, not just our pretend adventure).

So how might this help you?

First, realize that pitches are subjective. Not everyone likes the same things. I happen to love fairytales, and this pitch is absolutely aimed at people who like fairytales. If you have an intended audience, make sure they know this is for them.

Second, voice. It didn’t take much to set the tone, but “lousy bards” told me this would be a voice I’d appreciate. Work the voice from your book into your pitch.

Third, hook. This particular book plays off the fact that all of the princes in fairytales seem to be named Charming. Absolutely something I have laughed at for years. That is the line that sold me on this book. What is the hook of your book? What about it will make others connect to your story and want to read more?

Writing a pitch is not easy. The pitch I shared is a mere 112 words, and I guarantee those are some labor-intensive words. But try to look at it as a reader:

What in a pitch makes you go, “Ooh! I want to read that book!!”?

Best of luck to all you pitch writers!

Speak up:

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Twitterpated, Part 3

Feb

18, 2013 |

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Apparently, my knowledge of Twitter is a secret weapon of some sort, and the evil Twitter gods don’t want me to share, because THIS weekend, my computer took a hit. Like, we had to go get a new computer type of hit.

But I WILL NOT BE THWARTED! (Though I may be brief in my revolt).
So first, I just want to say, I hope my learning will help new Twitter users, or anyone contemplating taking the leap into twitterpation. Old Twitter pros: just go leave a comment giving us your best Twitter advice. 🙂
After a year of using Twitter, I discovered that I went into it with completely wrong expectations. I expected instant insider tips. I expected SECRET knowledge. I expected to FINALLY GET GILLIGAN OFF THAT ISLAND! . . . Oh, wait. Wrong blog post . . .
What I now know is that Twitter is not so much about getting information (though you can), rather, it’s about making connections to people. Through Twitter, you have access to people in a way that simply isn’t possible with blogs. Instead of well-thought out posts, you get the-thought-of-the-moment. You get a 140-character insight into taste and personality. You get improv instead of a script.

The thing is, when Twitter is one-sided (i.e. you lurk instead of participate), it’s kind of lame. The BEST way to make Twitter a useful tool is to respond to people.

And the beauty of Twitter is that it won’t take you long because you CAN’T send a hefty reply. 140 characters. It’s BRILLIANT, I tell you!!

But even then, if you aren’t up to words, you can still interact quite easily: If you like what someone tweets, Favorite it! If something makes you laugh, send a quick “LOL” in reply. Find a quote that inspires you? Retweet it!

Yes, it’s limited, and it’s hard to imagine much coming from such a response, but do you know how cool it is when someone Favorites your tweet?!?

Really cool.

And do you know how much my esteem goes up for someone who responds to me (in any way)?

Yeah, like a lot.

(True, I just admitted my need for outside affirmation, but no judging. We all have it to some degree.) 😉

Okay, not as brief as I planned. So for now, my advice is “Interact.” It makes everything better. In the next series of “Twitterpated” posts, I plan to talk about my mistakes and how to avoid them.

In the meantime, how do you interact on Twitter?

Speak up:

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Twitterpated, Part 2

Feb

04, 2013 |

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Phyllis the Groundhog in Twitterland

A little over a year ago, I took the plunge into Twitter, and talked about it in THIS post. I always meant to do a follow-up when I got a hang of the thing.

Yep, so here we are, 1 year later and I finally feel like I have something to say on the subject.

The thing about Twitter is that it’s kind of like going to a ginormous party during a blackout where you can only hear snippets of conversation, and all the conversations mingle together into a vat of confusion.

 I spent many months tweeting a random comment here or there, and feeling like I was shouting into the emptiness of the Grand Canyon. And then, whoah . . . someone replied to one of my tweets, and it was like, “That was cool.”

And then I connected with an actual friend and we had silly conversations in 140-character-spurts or less. And I started with the head bobbing. “Maybe Twitter isn’t so bad.”

And THEN, I finally got up the courage to respond to something with a tweeter I didn’t know. . . .

And HOLY COW! They replied! And suddenly I started actually enjoying Twitter. Looking at it more than once a month. 🙂

The point of all this is that I finally have concrete thoughts on how to make twitter a useful (and FUN) tool. And I plan to share those thoughts, but just not this week, because I revel in brevity and this post is getting too long.

So while you wait for the exciting 3rd installment of “Twitterpated,” feel free to share your thoughts about Twitter. And if you’re on Twitter and I’m not following you, please leave your handle so I can! Because seeing what friends are posting is my favorite part. 🙂

And P.S. My handle is @MsVerbose.

Speak up:

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A Day in the Life: Weekend Vacation

Dec

03, 2012 |

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This past weekend, I took my family on a mini-vacation. Okay. I thought it would be a vacation, but that’s not exactly how it turned out. Here’s a summary of what took place:

8:00 AM

Pack, pack, pack.

Remember email I forgot to send.

Write email . . . Oh, look at the pretty Twitter . . .

11:00 AM

Drag myself away from the computer.

ME: “Shoes on everyone! Go to the bathroom! Move! Move! Move!”

CHILD: “But I don’t have to go to the bathroom! I WON’T GO TO THE BATHROOM!”

ME: “Just do it! . . .” Blah, blah, blah, channeling my parents, etc.

Buckle all kids in the car.

ME: “Wait! I forgot the camera, let me just run in and grab it.” Oh, dishes in the sink . . . can’t leave dirty dishes . . .

12:00 PM

Drive off.

12:10 PM

CHILD: How long have we been driving now?

12:11 PM

CHILD: How long have we been driving now?

12:11:30 PM

CHILD: How long have we been driving now?

ME: ASK THAT QUESTION ONE MORE TIME AND I’LL TURN OFF THE MOVIE!!!

1:00 PM

CHILD: “I have to go to the bathroom, and I can’t wait!”

Grumble, grumble, lecture.

1:05 PM

Stop at gas station. Make sure EVERYONE goes to the bathroom.

1:30 PM

3rd CHILD: “I have to go poopy!”

Sigh.

4:30 PM

Pull in to Hotel parking lot.

HUSBAND: “This is where we’re staying?

4:45 PM

CHILDREN: “I’m bored! Can we turn on the TV?”

“No!”

Game of tag begins over bed, through bathroom, under my feet.

 Uncontrolled laughter.

High-pitched screeching.

4:50 PM

Turn on the television.

9:30 PM

Climb into bed.

10:00 PM

THUMP!

Climb out of bed, put 2nd child back in bed.

Get back in bed.

10:15 PM

THUMP! THUMP!

Climb out of bed, put 2 children back in bed.

10:30 PM

THUMP!

2nd child gets back in bed on his own. On the wrong side.

Lays back . . . THUMP . . .

2nd CHILD: “Owww!”

Climb out of bed, put child back in bed.

11:00 PM

3rd child climbs into our bed.

11:30 PM

Wake up to an elbow in the head.

12:00 AM

 Wake up to find child sleeping on husband’s head.

3:31 AM

Stare at clock and wonder why I can’t sleep!

3:32 AM

Feel springs poking me and remember why.

3:33 AM

Decide there is no way we are staying the second night.

6:30 AM

CHILD: “WAKE UP! IT’S MORNING TIME!”

Breakfast.

Park

Lunch.

2:00 PM

Decide to try local amusement park before getting an early start home.

Purchase tickets online. Non-refundable.

Pull onto road for the 2 minute drive and discover that everyone else in the whole town made the same decision.

“I’m bored!”

“I’m bored!”

“This is no fun!” 

4:30 PM

Arrive at amusement park.

Fight through crowds.

Ride rides.

7:00 PM

Christmas parade

8:00 PM 

Get in line for bus back to parking lot

9:00 PM

Arrive in parking lot.

Drive home

10:30 PM

Stop for gas. Potty break.

11:00 PM

Pull over to side of road for potty break.

11:30 PM

“Help! Dad, help! My stomach hurts!”

Pass back a plastic bag.

12:30 AM

Arrive home, send kids up to bed.

12:31 AM

Go inside.

ME: “What is that awful smell?”

12:32 AM

Head upstairs. Discover trail of puke up stairs toward my room.

1:00 AM

Finish cleaning puke. Vow to buy a carpet cleaner.

Vow to reconsider next vacation.

Tuck children into bed.

2nd CHILD: “Mom, this was the best day ever.”

Vow to reconsider reconsidering next vacation.

So how was your weekend?

Speak up:

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Not Quite Twitterpated

Jan

09, 2012 |

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So I did it. I finally took the plunge and signed up for a Twitter account.

For the past month now, I have been peeking in, scrolling through the tweets and trying to figure out what in the world half of them are saying. Perhaps I should have read “Twitter for Dummies” (that’s got to exist, right?) before launching in.

I think I got the @ symbols, but the pound signs? Or are they called hashtags (hash tags; hash-tags; hatch tags; has tags; has-been tags; has-anyone-got-a-clue tags)? Twitter groups perhaps?

Not to mention coming into a thread halfway through a conversation. There’s got to be a way to read what someone responded/replied to, right?

And lists . . . groups with shared interest? But then what about the hash tages? Plus I’m not sure I get the purpose just yet. Though I’m sure there is one. There’s gotta be.

Alas. So much information. So much I don’t know.

This is, of course, where you come in. Shoot me your best piece of Twitter advice. Please? Pretty please with a strawberry (much better than a cherry) and fresh-whipped cream on top? And fine, if you insist I’ll throw in the chocolate syrup.

Because I need it (I mean your advice, not the chocolate syrup). I need you! Explain this Twitter-verse to me.

And oh yeah. I’m @MsVerbose if you wondered.

Speak up:

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Guess that car!

Oct

04, 2010 |

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It’s been months since I obsessed (publicly) about personalized license plates. But I certainly haven’t stopped finding fun ones. Yesterday I saw:

BZE GMA (any guesses?)

and

LOVE NBA (obvious, huh?)

Seriously, they’re like the ultimate twitter. How much can you say about yourself in 7 letters?

But I digress. So here’s the game: Guess the car make, model and color.

Simple enough, right? Last time it was WAY too easy. And I foolishly gave a hint. *snort, cough* This time it will be harder. Maybe.

SUSHIBX

First person to get it right, I’ll mail their favorite candy bar. Or they can choose to be surprised. *big grin*

Ready. Set. Go!

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