August 2009

neal stephensonThe term Spew refers to the torrent of information spilling out over the Web.  It was an image first conjured up by author Neal Stephen.  Today the term could serve equally well as a description for the tsunami of tweets pouring forth from Twitter-ers across the globe.  Individuals and organizations have discovered many interesting uses for Twitter:

  • A research tool to plug into the raw elements of news stories while they are unfolding –  e.g. the Tehran protests
  • Live blogging at conferences
  • Distributing news stories – e.g. CDC using Twitter to get the news out swine flu
  • Mobilizing customers – e.g. the bakery in San Francisco that updates local customers on when its sumptuous peach pies are coming out of the oven

Top Twitter Tools Exposed & Explained at Lightning Speed

Not to be left out of the Twitter-mania, authors have also started using the tool to support their book development and marketing efforts.

  • Seek assistance with research for your book
  • Build a following that you can direct to your longer blog posts
  • Respond to comments about your book
  • Announce events such as readings, appearances and book signings
  • Delivering sample book content
  • Share news stories (and pictures) related to your book

twitter-toolsA plethora of Twitter apps are now available to make all these task easier.  The most comprehensive list I have found so far is at Mashable.  Want to follow some authors, agents or the publishing industry?  Try this starter list from Maria Schneider’s blog.  And if you want to track and quantify all your tweet followers and activities, there is a list of excellent Twitter analytics tools available at Social Media Today


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bonsai tree in containerEvery life is a complex story.  Our particular story is shaped by milestone experiences and important relationships whose consequences  unfold over time and ultimately define us like the living sculpture that emerges from the careful prunings of a young bonsai tree   Several sites have built large followings by allowing individuals to share their stories and secrets in a micro-format; in this case a postcard.  Like the dwarf bonsai tree, the art that results is due in part to the constraint imposed by the container.

For authors looking for character sketches or a good idea to build a story around, these sites can be invaluable.  Two of the most notable sites in this regard are PostSecret and Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story.

PostSecret – This is a site where individuals share their ecrets in pubic.  They submit their secrets on a post card and mail it – yes snail mail – to the Post Secret PO box.  The site’s founder, Frank Warren, then pubishes a new batch of secrets every Sunday evening.  Some of the ssecrets are humorous, others naughty, while many touch on very dark areas of the sender’s life experience.  Most individuals have presented their secrets in a compelling and artful fashion.

Postsecret Confessions

Michel Writes Your Life Story – This site is a variant of the postcard theme used by Post Secret.  Individuals tell their story to Michael Kimball, the site’s owner, who then renders a micro-biographysized to fit on the back of a postcard.  According to an interview with Madelaine Brand on NPR, Kimball began doing this in response to a friend’s challenge to turn his writing into performance art.  Kimball demonstrates a knack for extracting the meaningful core of each individual’s story. 

Madeleine Brand life story on postcard

There are many useful toolsto help authors develop character profiles with depth and powerful story ideas .  Drawing on this public psychography may be a productive means to jump start  the imagination.  The sites above reinforce the old adage that truth is often more interesting than fiction.

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