Electronic Publicity and Writers

This topic comes about because of something I did as a professor today. I teach Elements of Writing students (students who need a little warm up before their first composition course) from a book called America Now, a textbook which visits periodicals every two years and plans units around contemporary issues vis a vis campus newspapers, editorial pages, websites and so on.

Since the book is revised every two years, the book remains happily current. We just finished a unit on the obesity epidemic and now we’re starting on one about social networking.

All my students were aware of, and the majority were on Facebook. I had one of the students demo their Facebook page to a couple of students not in the know, and then I proceeded to talk to them about other networking outlets.

Maybe it’s because we’re in Iowa (you know, one of the backwards states that legalized gay marriage), but my students for the most part are not on Twitter, are not bloggers, and don’t use message boards. In my class, Facebook is king.

Of course, that makes me once again consider what I’m doing to publicize myself as an author.

You might notice, especially if you’re here, that I have a website, Writer Tamago. That site is mirrored into Livejournal and Dreamwidth. I’m also on Goodreads. And that’s…pretty much what I do.

I had a Facebook and a MySpace present for a short time. I never really found them anything but fluffy, but you know, it was a good way to be found. Then there was the copyright kerfluffle that lasted an afternoon. After that, I decided not to rejoin. The rules I rejected had been rescinded, but they’d irked me. I’ll probably be back on their some day when it’s in my best interest to be found by the folks who are there, but today is not that day.

I don’t know how I feel about Twitter. Mostly I avoid it because I think that there’s only so much time sink I can put into the publicity thing. I also believe that in order to be successful in Twitter, you need to have an Oscar Wilde-like ability to be witty in 140 characters. Most don’t.

I would rather invest my time in writing one good entry in one social networking venue, than half-heartedly spreading myself over several. So much the better if I can make one website do the work of three.

***

You might be amused by some of the points that some of my students raised today.

“I use Facebook to stay in touch with my close friends.”–a laudable goal. I too have friends in Europe and remote corners of the US.

“Do you really have 234 close friends?” –point well taken.

“Creepy people can meet you and stalk you on the computer.” –technology can be used for good and evil.

“Who really cares if you’re like, you know, sitting on the patio?”–Bryon always raises the point that so much of this is self-centered hubris. He only gets on line to talk to his toy buddies on message board, all of them brought together by their mutual love of polyvinyl chloride.

***

The article we read today was pro technology. The author asked the musical question: Why should I talk to a stranger I don’t care about, rather than someone I dearly love, just because one is present in the flesh. Maybe I don’t want to connect with them anyway.

We’ll get back to this unit as a class when I return from Viable Paradise (there’s a paper and some conferences next week and then I’m out of here for a week!), but I will be interested to see what the students think when we discuss marketing on line and the invasion of privacy due to the public nature of information on the Internet.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to ask you–where do you put yourselves out there electronically, and why? And how do you feel about putting yourself out there? And can I share your opinions with my students?

Incidentally, they were both impressed and horrified that I knew so much about social networking, and mystified and intrigued that I am also a creative writer.

Catherine

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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