Writers tap into publishing and recognition via 'Web-working'
Published: February 5, 2008
Writers have long sought to associate other writers in an effort to advance both intellect and career. In the 1920s, Gertrude Stein was a virtual diva of networking because of her weekly salons in Paris. Today, the Internet offers the same options and you don't have to cross an ocean.
Janet Carr Hull
Writers have numerous options for what might be called 'web-working,' or gathering with like-minded individuals to capitalize on the group as a resource. I've personally experienced this a number of times. For instance, a friend who lives in another state isn't someone I can easily meet for coffee. So we keep in touch by e-mail and via a message board for professional journalists. When a TV news anchor named Rebecca Pepin decided to gather a collection of essays about U.S. troops who died in battle, my friend recommended me for the project. The result is a beautiful coffee table book that commemorates the sacrifices those in our armed forces make. The book Faces of Freedom is done in an apolitical manner, an effort to focus on the sacrifice rather than on pro or anti-war sentiment. All profits go to organizations that help soldiers wounded in battle. The project was coordinated by e-mail, and most of the writers and the editor have never met in person.
Another project I participated in came by way of a listserv for poets, Wom-po. The group name stands for The Discussion of Women's Poetry Listserv. The group was organized by Annie Finch, a celebrated poet who is also Director of the Stonecoast graduate creative writing program at the University of Southern Maine. Members exchanged messages about doing a poetry anthology. Somewhat amazed, I watched the anthology go from calls for submission wherein you posted your poem on a blog to final edits. Publisher Red Hen Press stepped in to bring the book Letters to the World to market. The entire work was done via communication by e-mail among members who primarily knew each other through the listserv. Many of the poets in the anthology are poets I admire. The book is truly democratic, bringing together lesser published poets and those whose reputations are well-established in the literary canon. It's a perfect example of 'web-working.'
Janet Carr Hull is a veteran at bringing diverse individuals together via the Web. Hull is a widely published poet, but like many others, she isn't affiliated with a university. So she sought like-minded poets in hopes of taking her favorite genre to the public. She began the group Pure Poetry in 2005. "The purpose is to promote the poetry genre, and it's a great way for individual poets to promote and sell their own work," she says. "Since poetry is not as widely read as other genres, the Web was the only way I could reach certain readers or potential attendees of poetry events."
Hull relies on different poets for Pure Poetry-it isn't a static group. She says national, regional, state and individual Web sites have contributed to the success the group enjoys. She points out one example, a listserv named Southern Scribe. The group has about 400 members and is coordinated by writer and book critic Joyce Dixon. The Southern Scribe site on the Web focuses on books and writing, and members of the listserv are privy to the Sunday Papers, receiving by e-mail a weekly collection of story and announcement links gleaned from newspapers, Web sites and magazines as well as organizations.
Hull says state cultural and arts organizations also assisted with Pure Poetry, by announcing performances at venues like the SC Book Festival. Individual poets like Linda Annas Ferguson also helped, Hull says, "by posting events on sites like the South Carolina Center for the Book Web site." Others posted on their own blogs and/or Web sites. Hull maintains her own Web site as well.
For the South Carolina Lowcountry poet, "web-working" has been an efficient way to connect with readers. "The great thing about the Web," she notes, "is that it doesn't cost anything when a friend of your cause offers to post a link or make an announcement." She says one county arts group alone, located in the Lowcountry or coastal area of her state, has approximately 6,600 visitors a month. Being included in announcements and links helped spread the word about Pure Poetry.
Hull points out that writers have to seek support from others. "Pure Poetry could not have done well without performing the first step-asking. I asked for help and I got it," she says.
Yahoo alone will return 98,909 responses to a search of groups labeled "writing." The trick is to find the group that's right for you. Also, wade in slowly, reading posts by others rather than speaking up before you understand the dynamics of the group. You may opt to read each message individually by e-mail, or you can do what I do and receive all the day's posts in a single digest. There's also the option of reading posts at the group site on the Web.
By connecting and sharing with others who seek similar goals, writers will not only learn about craftsmanship, publishing and marketing. You may also find yourself part of a project that results in publication. The 21st century may one day be recalled as an era of group synergy, with social and professional groups connecting via the Web to expand the individual reach to global status.
"Thanks to the Web," Hull says, "I have been able to reach out on a national level to poetry enthusiasts." The same can apply to writers of fiction or nonfiction who take a single step. Join a group and start "web-working."
Links to sites mentioned in this article:
Rebecca Pepin, editor of Faces of Freedom.
Red Hen Press, publisher of Letters to the World and other titles.
Subscription info for Southern Scribe.
Women's Poetry Listserv; both genders comprise membership.
Janet Carr Hull, founder of Pure Poetry
--Feb. 5, 2008
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