Cold Calling For Fiction Facts

I am a fairly outgoing person—at least in situations where I’ve had time to prepare for being social and can make sure I’m “on.” I am, however, a bit of a phone phobe, even when someone else is calling me, let alone when I—gasp—have to be the one making the call. And I hate feeling like I’m intruding on someone by just showing up to talk business or whatever (it’s a good thing most of my work comes to me, isn’t it? Gah.).

Yet what did I find myself doing yesterday? Dropping in unannounced on various people I’ve never met before to confirm some facts/flesh out details that I need for my novel. The biggest surprise? Well, it’s three-fold actually. 1) I wasn’t even scared! Perhaps I’m too excited about how the writing’s going to feel intimidated. Or perhaps all the work I do with my business now, for people who are initially strangers, is helping me come out of my shell with my fiction too. 2) The people I talked to were not only helpful and informative, they seemed excited about talking to me. 3) My gut-writing was on the right track—there’s very little I have to change in the chapters I was investigating for, so that’s awesome. Maybe my subconscious knows things I don’t. (Ha! No maybes about it.)

Fact checking may be considered the least inspiration-based aspect of fiction writing, but it got my muse all fired up. “You’re getting so close,” he hollered. “People are interested in your storyline—what they’ve heard of it anyway.” I know my innards will be jelly when I try to track down a friendly RCMP member to give me some inside information on procedures and policies, but yesterday’s experience will help with that too. I managed to be coherent, even interesting—and no one seemed to think my questions were stupid (my biggest fear!).

So yes, kudos to cold calling for facts to feed fiction. Whoever gave the stellar advice to “do something that scares you everyday” was really onto something. It’s very invigorating and affirming.

Fiction Addiction

So I’m smack in the middle of a huge project with a tight turnaround—yay! It’s challenging and gets my brain churning; I’m really enjoying it. The only thing I find daunting about it is just how much work there is to do in such a short time, so out of necessity, not desire, I’m on a one-month hiatus from my fiction work.

I was okay for the first week or two, but now I’m going crazy. A few times I’ve actually felt itchy with need to get back to it. It’s funny how it builds up—the worst part is that it’s not a burning desire to get editing. No, it’s much worse. I have a new book brewing. Anyway, brew it will have to. My coping strategy is thus: I’m dedicating a small notebook to New Book! When the voices get too loud, I will jot down the details and snippets they share. It’s pretty exciting—by the time I’m done editing my latest WIP, I will have (I hope!) another full book worth of ideas and plot in scribbled form.

So that’s me this week—loving my business work (excited because I already have another project lined up for March), and anxious to return to my *fiction addiction.

I hope your own writing—in whatever its form—is going great. And for the love of all that is good in the world, if you have the time to put into your novel, short stories, or poetry, get busy! Let me live vicariously through you.

*I’m running a set of writing workshops in late spring by this name. I can’t wait

The Benefits of Blogging… a link to someone else’s thoughts

Busy-busy this month, but not too busy to read the odd blog. 😉

I came across this one (thanks to a Twitter friend), and thought I’d share. The author, John Dupuis, is the head of the Steacie Science & Engineering Library at York University in Toronto; he has lots to say about the benefits of blogging–and his links to other blog posts that fueled his thoughts are fantastic. Follow some of them.

Cheers,
Ev

The Internet in all its glory – friend or foe? Time well spent or time lost?

For all my going on about how I spend too much time on the Internet, I really don’t (spend too much time)–and the time I do spend is valuable.

I’ve already shared my love for how technology has enabled formerly unheard of methods for professional development, so I won’t go on that tangent again. But I wonder if I’ve ever voiced my appreciation for the community and connections my Internet life brings me? As I’ve also said before, I live in a small town–quite fortunately, it’s a vibrant place with a varied and talented arts community. As great as that is, the sheer lack of population still dictates reality. Often if you have a specialized niche up here (or in other small towns across the province), you are the niche, and while you can find friends and colleagues in similar or complementary areas of work/interest, chances are, you’ll be the only one doing _exactly_ what you do. When I go to big conferences, I hear numerous writers complain about isolation being one of the biggest problems in their writing life.

On one hand, I’d argue that for writing (or any other creative endeavour, be it painting, building websites, fly-tying, whatever), a lot of alone time is not only the norm, it’s a necessity. But on the other hand, humans, even the most introverted of us, are social beings. We can’t survive, stay motivated, inspired, stay sane in a vacuum. It’s this other hand that itches to slap the face of the complainer (lightly and kindly, of course–for drama not meanness 😉 ) and say, “Get thee to the Internet!”

I don’t think the Internet matches the benefits of meeting up with like minds face-to-face, but it can foster community and connection nonetheless, and for the writer-for-hire or freelancer, it can build a great support network of working writers and people in related fields that you can turn to for information, advice, and job leads. And more and more, being online is a boon to your actual earning potential.

Today geography has very little limiting effect on those offering creative services. It’s expected and assumed that most, if not all, communication and work will be done and transfered via e-mail. Forums, chat rooms and online video conferencing allow for business meetings, brainstorming sessions, and collaborations. Things like Twitter, Facebook, etc., make promoting yourself and your services inexpensive (free!), with a unheard of reach (global!).

I confess, I mostly use the Internet for its personal connection/inspiration aspects. I’ve made close friends with other writers over the years, and unlike say, The Inklings (Lewis and Tolkien and their crew), we can’t meet up with weekly for port, good cigars, and writerly chat. However, we can get together whenever we like and have, I flatter myself, similarly interesting, growth-inspiring conversations online in the forum we created for that very purpose. I can’t see this primary benefit being subverted by another, but in recent months I’ve been very impressed and excited by how my online obsession has helped my business grow and led to opportunities I might not have had if not, for example, for this blog. Yes, personally and professionally, the Internet = two thumbs up.

And guess what? As often happens when I’m excited about something–I suddenly hear/see things about it everywhere–I was just notified about an upcoming seminar being put on by Small Biz BC (who else? ;-)). Guess what it’s about? Oh, you did guess. Good for you! Social Media – what it is and how it can build your business. They’re covering tools like Blogs, Facebook, RSS, Twitter, and social bookmarks, and I’d love to attend, but unfortunately I have prior commitments. I’m going to see about shuffling things, but I’m not sure I can. You, however? Nothing’s stopping you. If it’s not advertised as being available in your region, contact them and see if they can contact the Community Futures in your area–Terrace isn’t on their list of available places, but it is available here!). And if you do go, do me a favor and let me know how it went and what you learned.

Now go, pour another coffee, and spend a bit more time online before you get down to work. It isn’t time-wasting; it’s a powerful networking strategy for your small businesses. 😉

A Wise Decision?

Well, after a few back and forths (that actually included exporting this blog, importing into my website, then deleting it from said website), I’ve arrived at my final decision. I’m keeping Write Here, Write Now where it is. What can I say? I love the WordPress community, its help forums, and the fact that WordPress promotes your blog for you. Besides, I’m *neurotically loyal. I actually felt _sad_ about leaving my little niche here. Who spends too much time alone in her home office? Uh huh…. We have a winner!

Anyway, in other online news, I am LOVING (note the capitals, please) my new site. It’s very fun to play around on, and will be updated/added to regularly. If you’d like to check it out so far, visit www.evbishop.com.

*I’m not actually neurotically loyal. Pathetically is a much more apt descriptor! 😀

To combine my blog with my website or not to combine…

So I’ve pretty much decided on the template I’m going with in my latest update-my-website obsession. I don’t want to give any clues about its style or design features until it’s all pretty with my personal content, etc. Suffice it to say – it’s a WordPress theme (of course – ha ha), designed by itheme.com. I’ve perused a lot of template providers over the past few days, and I have to say ithemes remains my first recommendation for people who want a WordPress CMS site that _looks_ like a website, not just a blog (not that there’s anything wrong with sites that look like blogs/are blogs – it’s just not what I want, you know?). And that last bit about blogs brings me to my reason for posting today.

I’m trying to decide whether I should keep Write here, write now (this blog) at the address it is right now or if I should amalgamate it with evbishop.com. Are there advantages to having your blog separate from your official webpage? I can’t really think of any disadvantages to putting them together. If anything, perhaps more people would find my blog…. If you’re reading this and have any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them.

🙂 Ev

Entering the world of CMS

Gah! It’s hard to believe that it’s already January 28th – I fully intended to post a few times between my last post and the date I attended the “Managing Your Website Using CMS” seminar put on by Small Biz BC – oops! But c’est la vie. I’m here now, and that’s what counts. And now, the much awaited for Report Back (duh nuh, duh nuh, duh nuh).

So yes, yesterday found me taking part in a Small Biz BC video seminar – Chet Woodside, an ebusiness consultant with eBC presented from Gastown in Vancouver, and there were small clusters of people hooked in via video conference all over the province. I sat alone in 16/37 Community Future’s beautiful boardroom, and wondered why I was the only person there. Don’t small business owners in Terrace know what a terrific resource these conferences are!?

Anyway, I’ve been interested in CMS (Custom Management Systems) for some time now. No techie, I won’t give all the ins and outs of CMS, but if the phrase is unfamiliar to you, it’s basically just a way (a system ;)) to let people do their own website updates and changes (provided, of course, they have a CMS website). The benefits of this style of website are huge, chief ones being: You have the ability to update instantly, from any computer, so long as it has an Internet connection (and you’re using Open Source CMS), so your site is always current and dynamic – things that visitors and google spiders love. You can have a very professional site with lotsa bling 😉 (but not _too_ much bling – key word: professional) that costs next to nothing to get up and running. And after your site’s up, you’ll continue to save terrific amounts of time, money, and mental energy in not having to run to your designer every time you want something added or deleted.

The class was just what I was hoping it would be – a good basic introduction covering what CMS is and what it can do for you, whether a CMS website is the best choice for your personal website or business site (yes, and yes – always yes. CMS is where all websites are – or should be – going), and things to consider when choosing a CMS.

Chet also went over some of the “big name” CMS guys out there, giving their pros and cons, as well as promoting some new, apparently great, up and comers. Last time I video conferenced, I commented that it would be nice if the presenter greeted all the different regions, etc, and this time around, the inclusion was great. I actually felt bad, because I think the presenter would’ve liked even more in-class feedback than he got, but it’s hard to talk to a screen in a near empty room (or in my case, a totally empty room!). We were warming up by the end though, and if he’d had us another hour, I’m sure it would’ve been a question/comment fest.

If there were any “negatives” at all, they were small. Technical difficulties in getting people around the province plugged in (Terrace had no trouble :)) made us ten minutes late starting (and I had a 4:30 meeting, so I was a bit anxious about being done in time). This was Chet’s first time presenting on this particular topic, and although he knew his stuff very well, he was working from a PowerPoint that he hadn’t created, so some of his transitions weren’t as fluid as they could have been (that’s a good blog post for another day actually – if you do any presenting at all, always make sure you create your presentation yourself – even if you’re working from someone else’s material, organize it and lay it out in a way that makes sense to your sense of logic and order!). However, Chet’s easygoing, unflustered approach more than made up for any minor fiddling or backtracking, and he fully disclosed that they weren’t his notes and that’s why it wasn’t always smooth going – a great dealing technique.

So yes, two Small Biz BC video conferences down, two raving endorsements from Ev. Now I’m frantically wracking my brain, because they’re open to suggestions for classes – what else do I want to learn about, what, what?! I really enjoy getting out of my home office and doing a bit of PD, and I will definitely take another seminar with them.

You are probably tired of my going on and on about CMS, but if you’re a junkie and still want more, check out these fantastic sites:

Play around before you commit (a good philosophy ONLY for computer software!) – check out www.opensourceCMS.com to get product descriptions, user reviews, and hands-on demos for practically every CMS provider under the sun.

Browse or buy templates at www.woothemes.com or www.ithemes.com (there are tonnes of other template providers; I just like these ones because they offer lots of WordPress templates, and I’m biased. ;-)).

Want to go a step further and design your own CMS websites? Visit www.artisteer.com Right now you can upload finished sites into WordPress (or HTML), but upload capabilities into Joomla and Blogger are coming soon.

Okay, you’re sick of me. I get it. I’ll go…. All the same, I hope you found even part of what I said helpful. Let me know if you enter the grand world of CMS too.

Cheers,
Ev