A little book-spiration…

I checked out “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” from my local library.

I didn’t have the intention of reading the whole thing. I’m hardly at a point where I am ready to get a book published. I’ve got at least three fiction novel ideas swimming around my head. I am actively working on three and allowing the cream to rise. I feel like one will want to be written more than the others, so I am giving my work the time and space to emerge.

Without my own book even close to ready to be shopped around, this book had to come home with me from my local library. I read through some of it and came away with two things:

  • According to the authors, I have one solid habit of a good writer. I read. I visit the library at least every other week (gotta get those 14-day loans). I also download books on my library’s e-reads system. I make good use of the library too, always getting put on the best-seller hold list. Hopefully, I’ll get to read “Nest” before Christmas… I scour what’s hot on iBooks as well as the New York Times‘ Best Seller list. I have a very good writer’s reading habit according to “The Book Doctors,” which is comforting, maybe since my coworkers love to tease me for my overzealous library habits.
  • I’m not worried about my social media game. A lot of writer’s books preach the importance of social media, creating a platform, strategy, promotion, SEO, how to tweet — the works. I’ve been on Twitter forever, though it’s not the same platform it used to be. I’ve been an early adapter of all social media. Perhaps it’s  my years of radio broadcasting and journalism.

But there is something I need to do. I need to blog about writing more. Like most writers, I like to write in the shadows. I write privately, all alone. I hate to share what I am up to with my writing, although I do let a friend read what I’ve got once in a while.

That may be a habit I should let go of in order to promote my work. So I’ll have to work on that.

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Such the book fiend I am, my friend brought me this flyer so I took a photo of it to put it in my phone as a reminder… I’m trying to cut back on buying books! I swear! I keep giving them to friends and trading them in. But we all know…there will always be more books!

If you love books and writing too, follow me on Twitter, @heatherlarson

 

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Soon to be writing for Inside.com!

I am proud to announce you’ll soon be seeing my name pop up on Inside.com and the Inside app (for iOs, Blackberry, and Android). Time to put that news writing and journalism experience to work!

I made this video about it because I’ve been making lots of videos for my Wichita radio listening audience on my Facebook fan page since I’ve been off the air in January. Making videos and talking to my listening audience on social media has been tremendously creative and healing for me in my time of unemployment — which I now consider the greatest adventure of my life.

This has been a great opportunity to return to writing. Period. I’m back to working on novels and poetry. I’m taking The Artist’s Way course. I’ve landed four freelance writing gigs so far in just three months. I’ve gone to work part-time as a Peer Mentor in Training at the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas’ Crossover Recovery Center. I’m also still running my Reiki practice out of White Dove. I’m busy doing such a ton of creative things that life is a joy!

So thank you for reading this blog, watching the videos, liking the page, and otherwise just coming along on the journey!

Follow on Twitter @heatherlarson 

My first freelance writing gig is in!

I am once again writing SEO copy as well as social media updates. The last time I wrote SEO copy, we didn’t have social media to contend with, so that’s one change. I started working on this type of writing in 2006 when I took a job at SEO firm Submitawebsite.com. Back then, we could write any kind of horrific copy as long as it was keyword heavy. That’s changed. Now too many keywords are spammy (you think?) and the “articles” I am writing actually need to be compelling so as not to be penalized by the search engines. That’s so much better for clients’ websites, so that’s awesome. Plus, it allows me to be more creative in the content I create.

When I worked my last job at Entercom Communications, I was a morning radio personality. I’ve been on the air since 1998, which means two things:

1. I am a survivor.

2. I have witnessed and endured many changes in traditional broadcast media over this span of time.

When social media burst into the “old media” scene years ago, I jumped into it. I’d gotten into Twitter and Facebook the last time I was a freelance writer between 2006-2008. I incorporated my social media skills into my on-air shifts at 98.7 The Peak in Phoenix and then at KDGS-Wichita for the past four years. I am one of those “old school” jocks who chose to embrace social media.

I am looking forward to embracing more change in social media and SEO — two industries that live and die by algorithm changes. I’m happy to be a part of both!

This is not Heather Larson. This is, however, her cat. His name is Alcatraz and he is pretending to be useful. Or perhaps he's dreaming of being a writer when he grows up. Which will never happen (on both counts).

This is not Heather Larson. This is, however, her cat. His name is Alcatraz and he is pretending to be useful. Or perhaps he’s dreaming of being a writer when he grows up. Which will never happen (on both counts).

The power of blogging

I have this friend who has the ultimate slash career.  He’s a teacher/radio DJ/wrestling ring announcer/wedding DJ/comedian/actor/small business owner/entrepreneur.  He’s doing pretty well with his businesses but he has a new one he wants to spread the word about.  But he says he doesn’t know how.  I told him he needs to go online to market this new business, called Arizona Top Secret Chefs.  I explained to him that a good blog with a few SEO tricks thrown in could help drive traffic to his site.  I told him to get on Twitter and Facebook.

I also told him that blogging opens up a whole world of fun.  You blog and people find you.  You can blog about something obscure like CJD as I do.  My Cure CJD blog has helped quite a few people get in touch with me as they lost someone to the disease or afterwards.  Sometimes people comment on the blog, other times they email me privately.  It makes me feel good that I can help someone else find answers and that I can share my experience.  I shouldn’t have had to suffer through watching my mom die of that horrific disease for no reason; my words can help others.  Emailing with complete strangers about the disease still helps me heal to this day.

Promoting my blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn helps get some page views.  But I find on my blogs that people come across them because they’re looking for a certain topic I have written about.  It always amazes me what gets the most page views over a period of time.  The analytics WordPress provides on each of my blogs are fascinating.

So I encourage anyone to blog about their business, passion in life, or just the life they live.  One of my friends has a blog about expat life in Germany that I love to read because of her stories about adjusting to German life.  She posts tons of travel information and great photos.  You really get the feel for what her new life in the country is like.  The blog also helps her to keep in touch with family and friends back home.  Sure, you could post the same stuff on Facebook.  But at the end of the experience, will Facebook provide you with the same kind of “scrapbook” a blog will?  Probably not.  Your photos and experiences will be buried in everyone’s Farmville and Mafia Wards updates.

I use my blogs to show that I can blog, that I do blog, and though it should be obvious — I know how to blog. Journalism pays the rent, but it’s not all I know how to do.  I began blogging in my SEO content writing days with my first blog about CJD.  I’m not just a journalist or a radio on-air personality.  I’m a journalist and DJ who can blog too! But it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in.  You’ll probably find yourself blogging at some point.  Maybe you’ll have to be the public, expert face your company puts on a blog.  Maybe you’re like my friend who wants a new way to promote his business.  But give it a try.  It can’t hurt and you don’t need any prior experience to do it.  Do you have ideas to share?  Can you write and use spellcheck?  Go for it!

How to make a video go viral

I guess I’m just in a marketing mood today.  People were re-tweeting this piece earlier on Twitter about how to make a video go viral.  As a budding video creator myself, my ears perked up.  It’s an interesting take on the viral secrets of success. I’ve been making a few videos while on the air at the Peak, and I think mine fall into the “bored at work” category.  They’re far from going viral though.  So far, they’ve been good icebreakers on social networking sites with people I presume are listening to me.  (In the very least, they’re following me on Twitter, where I tweet about being on the air).  If nothing else, I am giving people another way to relate to me and get to know the station.  I’ll work on that going viral stuff as I make better videos!

Twitter tips for journalists

140characters.com has a decent post about Twitter tips for journalists.  I would add to it though.  Not that there are forgotten tips here.  When the list says to verify sources  —  something important for a story whether it involves Twitter or not, it doesn’t hurt to be more specific.

There are  lots of people by the same name on Twitter.  It doesn’t mean any one of them could be the specific one I am looking for. I write about music for my job, specifically pop music, but sometimes other genres I’m not as familiar with.  But one thing I have noticed across multiple genres is how easy it is to get the wrong musician.  You might think you’re reading a tweet by your favorite pop star.  But instead, it’s actually a tweet from a fan or fansite.

Want to read the real Justin Bieber’s tweets?  (Yes, I do.  I write about him almost daily in pop music). Check out his official Twitter account:

http://twitter.com/justinbieber

See the Twitter-turquoise check mark badge on the upper right-hand side of the page?  That verifies that this is really the Justin Bieber.

Oh, and just because someone famous has a verified Twitter account doesn’t mean they are authoring their own tweets.  Take a look at Sugarland’s Twitter account:

http://twitter.com/sugarlandmusic

It lacks the Twitter-turquoise verified check mark badge.  But it does say it’s the band’s official Twitter account.  Yet all kinds of people tweet on this account  —  they just sign their names on their tweets. There’s one signed by “Kristian,” which could be guitarist Kristian Bush.  The Twitter page does lead to the band’s official website.  But I can put up a Twitter account in two minutes that does the same thing.  That official website does list links to the band’s MySpace and Facebook pages, but lists nothing for any Twitter accounts they may have.

I’m pretty sure it’s Sugarland’s Twitter account, at least enough to add it to my list of country celebrities I follow every day.  But I doubt I’d ever quote it for a story.  I’d use it for a story lead and report it out.  But I wouldn’t live and die by it.

I’ve found Twitter is often best just for leads.  It gives me a lot of story ideas and directions to go in that have saved me a lot of time.

The downside of sovereignty

Now that I’ve raved about the sovereignty of working for oneself as a freelance writer…let me tell you about the downside.  The one thing that was lacking for me as a freelancer who worked at home was one of the most important: peers.  Say what you want about your coworkers, but they are essential.  Having a second opinion sitting one desk over from you is invaluable.

Can you recreate this experience as a freelancer?

It’s an important thing to ask yourself if you are thinking about going out on your own and stepping away from the corporate environment.  A lot of people here in Phoenix like to go to co-working places and/or coffee shops.  To be honest, sometimes I like working in coffee shops but other times, not so much.  I guess it depends on the atmosphere on any given day.  I most often like working in my own home office where I can control my own atmosphere.  But sometimes it gets to feeling like an island and the coffee shop starts to become appealing again.

But as a writer, peers are so important.  I work in a newsroom and can’t begin to tell you the importance of a second set of eyes on a piece of copy.  When I work on my own I have to change my work habits to give myself extra time for revisions.  I write and then let my work “cool” for a while before I re-read and revise.  Without a coworker sitting next to me to serve as my second set of eyes, I can only depend on my own.  So I come up with little tricks like letting a draft “cool” for a couple hours or overnight before I come back to it.  (This method has really helped with a few Boston University papers, too).

Freelancing from home means I have to create my own peers.  Twitter and Facebook are great for this. But so are instant messaging, email, and Skype.  It never hurts to have someone you can call or IM for advice or a second pair of eyes when needed.  I’ve met a few great freelance writers online and they have given great help over the years.  It’s also great to keep in touch with others to see how their careers take shape and see how they market themselves.  It’s so good to see how others succeed — it’s inspiring.

Sometimes that’s the most important thing.  Do your coworkers inspire you?  Do they make you better? Do they make you want to step up your game?  Are they supportive?  If not, maybe you would be better off creating a community of peers on your own.