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Brittany: What I’m Attached To

After reading Kelly’s post from last week, it got me thinking about a similar topic that comes up in the lives of creative women — marketing ourselves. I’ve been to a couple of writer’s conferences now, and every one has stressed the importance of having a presence — taking advantage of any and all social networking opportunities, becoming active in the writing community at large, and creating an identity in cyberspace. Then in this month’s Writer’s Digest, six pages are devoted to Christina Katz’s article on building a “power platform.”  A strong platform, Katz says, includes an author’s Web presence, classes taught, media contacts, articles  published, public speaking services, and any other means available to make an author’s name known.

Lately, I’ve also become much more aware of where my name is and what it’s attached to. I Google myself periodically (am I the only one who does this?), so I know that my name is attached to my master’s thesis, the three playwriting awards I’ve won, and blog posts about my novel-in-progress. But my name is not attached to any short stories or poetry, and this frustrates me. I’m frustrated because while these aren’t my favorite forms of writing, I feel quite confident that if I just put my mind to it, I could write both, and write them well. Then I could submit them to literary magazines and develop the “street cred” that eludes unpublished novelists and playwrights.

The South Carolina Writer’s Workshop is the main literary arts organization in South Carolina. They put on the yearly writer’s conference, sponsor the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards, and publish the Petigru Review, a literary anthology. I’ve joined the organization, attended conferences, and won two Carrie McCray awards. All that’s left is being published in the Petigru Review, at which point, in my own mind, I will have achieved state of South Carolina superstardom.

The deadline for submissions is April 30, and a week ago, when I got the last reminder e-mail, I thought to myself, “Oh, easy peezy. I can whip up a couple of submissions. How hard can it be?”

Oh Lord, please deliver me from my unfailing optimism…

I started re-working the Sam/Squirrel story for a nice nonfiction piece, but it’s still incomplete because 1) I’ve never written any kind of nonfiction before and it was stressing me out and 2) I got this truly compulsive desire to write a poem about a diphtheria epidemic that killed two of my great-great grandfather’s sisters on the same day (who also happened to be  the same approximate ages as Sam an John at the time).  A week later, I’m still working on it. It’s a horrible, stark, Spoon River-esque kind of poem and I have the worst of the three stanzas to go. I have done so much research on the topic that I’m almost too shell-shocked to continue. And it certainly hasn’t helped that John ran a high fever all last week and seemed seriously ill, or that Sam developed a nasty finger infection that required antibiotics. Writing about dying children while my own children were fighting illnesses of their own brought my little poem a bit too close to home.

But despite all my reasons for not wanting to write it, it is coming along, and that makes me feel good. It’s a beautiful poem, and something that I’d like to have my name attached to.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    brittany, i really appreciate this post for 3 reasons.

    i am the worst when it comes to self-promotion. i had to write that above posting a link to my blog of this week on fb. it was the first time i pointed out that i write a blog there, let alone directed people to it! so i thank you for some of the self-promo techniques you mention and having you as an example that it can be done, regardless of reluctance, without turning into a schmoozer or being too self-deprecating.

    next is that i am at heart a poet. so i love the dark stuff and making beauty from it. i bet the fact that your family and yourself have been so steeped in illness since before the holidays, that your mind took you your ancestors losses which in turn inspired this poem – a belated elegy of sorts.

    and lastly for talking about stepping out of your comfort zone as a writer. you’ve mentioned previously that the novel(s) you’ve been working on of late were your chance to prove that a playwright could write a novel. i am really struggling with completeing a longer work, which isn’t so long after all because i really have only ever written poetry and short shorts. most of my poems are under 20 lines. most of my short stories under 10 pages. i also have an idea and outline for a screenplay i scrawled down a few years ago from a netherdream, between waking and sleeping. i haven’t dropped the idea, though i have no idea where that scrawl is. it’s the next project i want to work on.

    so kudos to you, and thanks for the examples of stepping out of your comfort zone, doing whatever you can to self-promote and taking the darkness of life and turning it into something beautiful! i’m sure combining the three will make you a very successful writer soon!

    April 9, 2009
  2. Kristine #

    I read that article in Writer’s Digest, too. I’ve also begun paying attention more to my online presence, especially when it comes to my writing. And yes, I’ve Google’d myself, too, just to see what’s out there. I think it’s a good practice for anyone.

    I would love to have more short story fiction credits to my name, but it’s a form that’s very uncomfortable to me. I’m much more comfortable writing big stuff. But I know that the more published credits I have out there, the better for marketing myself as a novelist. Maybe I need to just sit down and work on a short story to see what happens.

    Good luck on your projects!

    April 9, 2009
  3. brittany, i agree with you 100% on the promoting one’s self issue. that is a very hard thing to do, especially, i think, for creative types. our hearts are in the creative process itself, not in promoting it. i’m getting better about it all, but it’s still a long row to hoe. i love your new poem. good luck with it.

    the google thing is funny too. i have a pretty common name so i have a lot of competition. if i include my maiden name and married name in my search, my fb profile pops up as the first search item. for my married name, my jewelry website must be getting more good linkage but it actually at least made the first page. that was a surprise. everything else is pretty buried.

    April 9, 2009
  4. It’s true. We do need to promote ourselves and each other too, for that matter. This site is wonderful for staying connected with other creative women, networking, and developing a community. Blogging, in general, is a great way to establish a web presence. Writers groups, conferences, workshops, etc. can all further that goal, but most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves. That personal investment not only keeps us going and keeps us producing, but it is a visible asset, something that can be sensed by others.

    Isn’t it a wild world we live in when we Google ourselves and can get automatic news alerts when something new is mentioned about us on the internet? I love it!

    April 10, 2009
  5. Jen #

    Kelly, I totally hear ya on the common name thing! Google Jen or Jennifer Johnson and ya might as well look through the phone book….

    great post, Brittany. Hooray for beautiful poems!

    April 10, 2009

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