Category: Social Media

Three for Irene

Sunday saw Irene come and go here on Cape Cod. Lucky for us there was not a lot of damage, and almost no rain. With both power and internet access I was busy scanning Twitter while my son watched Netflix on the iPad and the TV showed the New England weather action (hey, I said it wasn’t bad here…).

While on Twitter, I saw Katie Davis tweeting short poems and thought I’d join in with some of my own. Then I saw that Kate Messner was looking for other folks creating during the storm and figured I’d add my little bits to her collection.

Hope you made it through the storm safely. We’re incredibly grateful to have gotten away with a bit of yard work.


Irene is a tease
who tosses the trees
who skirted the coast
and toured the valleys


I watch the trees bend,
I watch them bounce back.
I wonder which ones might break.
One thing’s for sure,
This week will involve,
Quality time with a rake.


Branches bouncing off the roof.
Children bouncing off the wall.
Blustery, blowing, billowing blasts,
This storm’s a pretentious squall.

Twitter 101

I’m sure you’ve heard “you have to be on Twitter”, and you may have wondered why bother. Twitter has been lampooned for updates on what strangers have for lunch, and worse, their bathroom schedules. Who needs that?

You do. Twitter can be inane, but if you put a little time and effort in, it can also be an amazing engine of connectivity for authors, editors and publishers. Start thinking of it as a permanent floating conference, and stop thinking about Ashton and Demi.

The first step is signing up at When you pick a user name, my advice is to use something as close to your real name (or pen name) as possible. The user name field provides immediate feedback on whether a name is available.

Once you’ve signed up take the time to fill out your profile.

Tip #1 – Do not select the option to “protect your tweets”. This sounds tempting, but will limit the number of followers you will get. And you want to attract followers.

Tip #2 – Fill out your profile, especially your bio. If you’re a writer, this is where you tell the Twitterverse.

Your profile and tweets are how people find you and decide whether to follow you (or not). For example, here’s my bio:

Flaming Snot Rockets! Mild mannered designer by day. Children’s book writer and illustrator by night.

People search by keywords and phrases to connect with other writers. Make sure your bio tells the right story about you.

The next step is finding people to follow. Look on your favorite authors and bloggers websites for their Twitter name and follow them. Many will follow you back right away. Some won’t. Don’t be offended. It takes time to build a good reputation online, and you’re just starting out. Now let’s look for a broader community.

Twitter doesn’t offer out-of-the-box solutions for community building, so early users had to create their own using the hashtag. A hashtag is the pound symbol, #, attached to a short description of a topic, say #kidlitchat for instance. It’s a simple, searchable, way to link related tweets.

By searching for the hashtag #kidlitchat, I discovered a weekly online chat with writers, editors and agents focused on my genre. Instead of being isolated, I now had access to fellow creatives and industry insiders.

That was just the beginning. There are dozens of hashtags and chats for just about any genre out there. Debbie Ohi maintains a page that lists many of the chats available: .

The really cool thing about chats is that it helps overcome one of the major stumbling blocks I hear from Twitter newbies, finding people to follow. Without a doubt you will find people to follow when chatting. I keep multiple windows open when chatting. One for the chat, the other so I can click to a commenter’s Twitter page and follow them.

I guarantee that participating with thoughtful comments will get you new followers. I’ve seen the greatest boost in my own followers during and after a chat. Especially when I’ve been active in the discussion, and even better, when I’ve been re-tweeted because someone else liked my comments.

What’s a re-tweet? I’m glad you asked. A re-tweet is a method to share someone else’s tweet while properly crediting them with the thought. It’s another way to find followers, and interesting people to follow. It’s also a nice little ego-boost when you find yourself re-tweeted by someone you admire.

Which brings me to another benefit of using Twitter, access to the big dogs. Twitter can be a completely barrier free conversation. In chats, or through daily tweeting, you have the opportunity to converse with people you probably couldn’t get near otherwise. It’s an egalitarian platform that allows your ideas to rise above the noise.

I’ve found myself in Twitter conversations with the head of a world-renowned college, a talent scout for Disney, and top ranking editors and publishers in the kidlit world. For a unpublished prepublished writer from Cape Cod, Twitter presents opportunities that just wouldn’t happen outside of an expensive conference.

Getting noticed is a real benefit, but the aspect I like best about Twitter is the community. Twitter is always there, stocked with writers looking to share a laugh, critique a manuscript or throw down a word count challenge. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but if you take the time to find the right group of people to follow it can be a very rewarding experience.

You can start by following me, @heyjimhill on Twitter.





Thinking About Japan

I wrote this poem in January during the Queensland, Australia floods. The sentiment remains the same for the people of Japan who are facing unthinkable hardship. Through their courageous acts they, and the world, will find the strength to carry on. 

Want to help? Google has a list of aid relief efforts here, or text redcross to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Night Falls Like a Mountain.

Night falls like a mountain.

Covered in mud.
Endless sticky mud,
We face horror
and despair.

We will find hope,
and uncover miracles.
to keep us working.
to get us through.

There is mud,
endless, sticky mud.

Shoulder to shoulder,
Hand over hand,
We will work.
When I am weak,
hold me up.
When you falter
lean on me.

We will make progress.
We will mourn.
We will hunger and thirst.
We will cry.
We will laugh.
We will even celebrate,
because life doesn’t stop
when the world falls down.

We will rebuild and recover,
Shoulder to shoulder,
Hand over hand.

There is mud,
endless, sticky mud.

Night falls like a mountain.
The sun rises like a song.

photo credit Save the Children

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

I’ll admit it, I gave up on this one. Way back in December I entered this contest on KOrtizzle’s blog. In January I learned I was the winner, and then all kinds of USPS shenanigans intervened. I was sure the gods had consigned this package to postal purgatory. But, lo and behold, it arrived!

The Tor Books Prize Pack!
The Tor Books Prize Pack!

Maybe I ran around like Navin Johnson on phonebook day. Maybe I opened the package, grabbed a snack and started a weekend read-a-thon. Maybe I answered a million questions from a curious three year old wondering about those guys on the cover with swords. Maybe it was a little of all three.

Whatever I did then, what I’m doing now is sending a proper thanks out to Kathleen Ortiz for the prize. Check out her blog, the Never Ending Page Turner (she offers a lot more than contests – although the contests are great), subscribe to her podcast, and maybe, just maybe, send off a query. You do need an agent, right?

The books in this prize pack look great, and two I had come close to buying already.

I’ve become a big Brandon Sanderson fan since he stepped in to wrap up the Wheel of Time series. He doesn’t get enough praise for straightening out that tangled mess o’ plots, if you ask me. The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) has great buzz and I have high hopes for a great new “must-read” series.

The Half-Made World is the other on my “to buy” list. The distinctive cover caught my eye and the jacket copy drew me in (good job, Tor).

The Last Page is not a book I’d heard of, to be honest, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? The online reviews look promising and I’m always looking for new authors to love. And share with friends.

So, thanks again Kathleen!

p.s. Tor, I’ve got Tiassa on pre-order and I’m counting down the days.

That’s So Maven!

There’s a running joke between my day job friends and I about folks who call themselves Social Media Mavens, Gurus or Pros. The point being that, to our jaded, web-veteran eyes, many of these folks are hucksters (not you of course). I figured I’d get in front of this one, stop the jokes before they start and practice my Mock Fu (self-mock to block the mock). And I just realized how offensive Mock Fu sounds when spoken aloud. Awesome.

Anyway, after that long, defensive and mildly funny intro…

On March 16th, 2011 I’ll be leading a presentation and discussion on “Social Media for Writers” at Writers Night Out, the monthly gathering of the scribes put on by the Cape Cod Writers Center. It’s at Uno’s so you know it’ll be classy. I’ll discuss why a writer should bother with social media and run through examples using Facebook, Twitter and blogging.

Bring your questions, insights and an abiding passion for pizza and bad jokes.

There’s a Cardinal

Yesterday was the last day of Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry challenge. Here’s my last pass, image above, words below. I think just about everyone in the U.S. is with my sentiments on our Winter season. Of course, with today’s new snow storms I may have to amend this with a wish for March to start. We can skip February all together. Right?

There’s a Cardinal

There’s a cardinal in the holly
looking like the King of Winter
and I’m so very ready
for January to end

One more thing…
I guess the month of poetry had me revved up for more. When I saw Mike Jung tweet about a haiku contest on Ellen Oh’s blog for Cindy Pon’s books, Fury of the Phoenix and Silver Phoenix, I was ready. I’m still under the influence of red birds apparently. Can you guess what this is about?

fury of red birds
anger rising over pigs
phoenix save the eggs

OK, last thing. I promise.
The picture above is a quick sketch using Art Rage. I’ve been experimenting with Manga Studio too. I like Manga Studio for initial sketching and drawing, but I need to give Sketchbook Pro a real test before fully committing. Any opinions out them?

I’m With the Brand

Originally published in April 2008 as a Goals Gone Wild newsletter.

A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of goal-oriented artists as the first speaker in an 8-week series, “What’s Your Story?”. I was asked to talk about building a personal brand, and, being a THRIVE! guy, felt compelled to make it sassy. Thus, the title of my talk “Brand Spanking You – Discover Your Personal Brand And Smack It Into Shape”.

The idea for them, and now for you, is to introduce the concept of a personal brand. You might think that brands are only for big businesses or corporations. Wrong. We live in a branded society. Brand-think has entered the mainstream and we’re all infected by it. Heck, without even knowing it, you already have a brand to your colleagues, family and friends. The trick is controlling your brand.

The first step is understanding the brand concept. A brand is not a logo. A brand is the sum total of your experience with someone, something or some company. It’s the warm feeling you get remembering Gramma’s toll house cookies and the squeamish feeling you get dropping your car off for repair at the auto dealer. And everything in between.

Gramma doesn’t usually have a brand problem (unless she’s a cheek pincher), but the auto dealer does. We may love the car (so what if my Hummer gets 8 mpg), but the dealer isn’t the automaker. That’s why smart dealers work so hard to manage your experience. Free coffee, donuts, and wifi are now the standard. Nicely appointed waiting rooms with comfy chairs and cable TV make it as painless as possible.

Now think about the experience you offer to everyone you interact with during the day. Was it toll-house-cookie good, or auto-repair bad? Did you manage their experience or just flip them off on the way to work? (I’m talking to you, Schultz.)

One way to approach your brand is to think of it as You, Perfected™. It used to be that you could only be perfect on paper (hello, resume), but now you can project the idealized you as your brand. The hard part will be living up to your image, but as THRIVE! readers you’re used to lofty goals and wild success. Game on!

Join the Be Team

Sure, the A-team has Mr. T and Face, but the Be Team revolves around you (without Mike Post’s awesome theme song). Here’s how you do it:

Be Bold – Think hard about the image of You, Perfected™ and then take the steps to be that ideal you in real life. Think about your strengths (and weaknesses), your influences, your audience and your mission. Look for the overlap and the areas that reinforce each other. Take time to brainstorm this by writing them down; hopefully you will see a theme. Here’s a worksheet that you might find helpful.PDF.

Be Honest – OK, now the serious reflection begins. It’s great to have big goals (I like big goals, and I cannot lie), but it’s important to ground them in reality. If there’s a huge discrepancy in any of those four areas your personal brand (and ultimately, you) will suffer for it.

Be Consistent – This might be the hardest one of all. If you put it out there, you have to live up to it. That’s also why you have to nail the “Be Honest” section. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Not to your colleagues, your boss, friends or family. Sure, sometimes we all drop the ball. A solid peronal brand can help you recover when you do.

So that’s it, you may now build your personal brand. I know, this may sound a little over-the-top for most people, but, hey, you’re a success seeker. Your personal brand is just another tool for you to use when creating goals, managing your efforts and THRIVE!-ing it out.

Related Links

Brandspanking You – Worksheet [PDF]
A-Team Theme
LeaLea on Self-Branding
Tom Peter’s Brand You 50
Toll House Cookies Recipe

Quotes of the Week

“We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.”
– Tom Peters

Adventures in Children’s Pubishing Query Contest

Last week I entered a fun contest over at the Adventure’s in Children’s Publishing blog. They drafted an agent and a handful of writers to review fifty queries, help polish them up, and then take the query down to a log line. Here are the details:

Our new contest/workshop started on Thursday 8/19. We accepted the first 50 short synopsis (pitch) entries up to 175-words. Starting 8/26, those entries will be open for critiques from our panel of fantastic mentoring authors and you, our generous visitors. We hope you will participate. Next stop after that? On 9/2, we’ll get the loglines from our contestants, critique those for two weeks, then the writers will put everything they’ve learned together into a query letter. The query letter competition will be judged by Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown.

It’s a great contest idea and has a lot people involved giving good critiques of the queries. Here’s mine in case you want to comment.

Last week, as part of the Cape Cod Writers Conference, I had the chance to read from that story, The Case Against My Sister: Sixth Grade, and was blown away by the positive comments. People seem to love the voice, relate to the hero and worship the villain. I smell a sequel.

I’ll keep you posted as this contest continues.

NaPiBoWriWee Bloggers

Lifting this list from Paula’s post with additions from the comments. If I missed you, post your blog in the comments and I will add you to the list.

*UPDATED* I’ve added Nancy Sanders to the list. She’s the author of “Yes! You Can Learn How To Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career” the book I was lucky enough to win for participating.

Thanks, Nancy!

NaPiBoWriWee Participant Blog Links:

Hey! Greg Pincus Hacked My Mac!

A funny thing happened on the way to getting this blog rolling, and it happened over on The Happy Accident. Greg wrote a post called “the Blahgs” about struggling to maintain momentum with your site. He makes some great points and offers ideas to get yourself back on track. It hit home with me, as I’ve been working up the will to build out this blog. But that wasn’t the funny thing. At least not in the ROFLcopter way. No the funny thing is that buried in a folder on my Mac is a file called “comic ideas” and it includes the following:

The Blahgs – funky, freaky, ironic and cynical looks at life in the online age

“What’re you blogging about?”

“The fact that I have nothing to blog about. I’m citing your post from yesterday about the same thing.”

“Cool. I linked to yours about writer’s block from last week in mine.”

“Yeah, my traffic totally spiked.”

“People just love posts about nothing.”

It’s true, when you’re stuck write about nothing. It worked for Seinfeld, it’ll work for you. And me, at least until I figure out what I’m really blogging about.


I don’t really think Greg hacked my Mac, but you should read his blog to pick up a lot of great social media ideas.