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Saturday, March 26, 2016

World Storytelling Day 2016

In the week leading up to World Storytelling Day I hosted an event in my Facebook group, Writers Without Limits. Those attending would participate in a creative writing collaborative exercise that would allow us to post our ideas for writing about the theme and get feedback on elements of the story we could focus on when the writing actually happened. And it would all be shared live. 

For my story I decided to use this year's theme of "Strong Women" to express my ideal female example of women being special because they are the best versions of themselves.  More importantly I thought the image should come from a male perspective to show how necessary a woman's presence is to the people around her. Consider those who are bettering themselves for small scale influence, women who work to be equally responsible for and giving of their intelligence, skill, independence, and the ability to communicate. Personal experience has taught me that frequent reminders of this female persona cannot be left unsaid. So am saying it in a song.

World Storytelling Day 2016 - a song dedicated to "strong women"

Verse 1
Had my head draped over the desk in a silent plea since noon
The clock's counting down to lift off
My heart a slow release time bomb
Distracted by a preview is the only way I can get through

I'm coming home to fill my cup with you
Joining reality, daydreams dissolve into a muse
Alive and real
Feels like luck but I know there's proof
You doing you is more than enough

Verse 2
Got my eyes locked hiding the treasure of a replay all day
Can't shake the twinkle in your eye
My thoughts hostage, hypnotized 
Witness to your design of a picture all your own

You will always have something to give
As becoming more has always shown
If you never change I'd still be in love
A flower doesn't bloom on just day one

There you have it. Mind you this song was written in a day week. The plan was to get feedback in the days leading up to the actual writing, but I was sort of on my own. I readily welcome your comments on specific answers about my character(s) that I'm missing. Deep down inside, I'm proud. However, on the surface I am shy about its unfinished edges. 

Any suggestions for making an event for next year more worthwhile and inviting for writers? What would you like to do to celebrate World Storytelling Day? Please share your thoughts in the Facebook group Writers Without Limits. Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Currently Reading: The Glamourist Histories

So you like historical fiction and stories with magic huh? First of all, can we be best friends? Second, if you haven't heard of/read The Glamourist Histories series then you are missing out.

I've made a commitment to read more this year - you know, self-improvement and being a writer and everything - and finding the right books can be so difficult because I can be so picky. When I found The Glamourist Histories I felt like the Literature Gods had created the books just for me. Read on to see if this series was written for you too!

**This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase goods or services through links contained in this post I may be compensated by the website, brand, or product. All the opinions in this post are my own. 

Currently Reading: The Glamourist Histories - A little magic and Jane Austen can go a long way

The Background
The Glamourist Histories is a 5 book series from award winning writer Mary Robinette Kowal. Set in England during the Regency era, the books are equal parts Jane Austen societal commentary and fairy tales with just the right notes of magic. I am currently in the middle of the fourth book, and I am as interested as I was from book one, page one. Each book has a unique plot centered around the series heroine, Jane, and problem solving that involves the use and study of magic as the key resource for solutions (and sometimes the cause of the problems too).

Each of the novels is distinct in subject and characters, but the familiarity of the writing as it relates to classic English literature makes the books easy to get into quickly. Kowal has certainly done her research. Thankfully, though, the writing isn't too authentic so it makes for a comfortable read in the modern age. The problems presented in the books are realistic for the time period and they aren't predictable so it makes for compelling reading.

The Best & The Bad
The real triumph of the books is the fantastic job Kowal does of making magic, called "glamour" in the series, fit effortlessly against the backdrop of the customs and culture of early 1800s England. You wonder why the capabilities of glamourists are not possible in reality as it feels more than appropriate and useful, given the setting. I also appreciate the representation of intimate relationships within the books. Jane's relationships are extremely important to the development of her character. To have them presented to an adult audience that isn't too racy yet also not condescending is a relief.

While I admire the series overall, the plot lines of the first two books have a disjointed build up to the climax in my opinion. The key mysteries seem to suddenly flare up and then dissipate just as quickly. By the third and fourth books the transitions between story elements are much smoother. The background information plays a much bigger part in the problems to be solved. Either way, though, I'm sure the intrigue of the individual books will draw you in!

More Books
When I finish this series I think a logical next step would be the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies route. I'd also like to look into other periods of history with magic woven in. Actually Mary Robinette Kowal has one coming out in July about a spiritual medium set during World War I. Sounds like a page turner to me! You can find more on Kowal on her website here and on Twitter

Ready to get started on some manners and magic? Explore the books below. And share your book suggestions in the comments!

Shades of Milk & HoneyThe Glamourist Histories: Glamour in GlassThe Glamourist Histories: Without a SummerThe Glamourist Histories: Valour & VanityThe Glamourist Histories: Of Noble Family

Prefer using an eReader? Find the The Glamourist Series digitally using these links:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

3 Ways To Grow Your Facebook Presence for Free

I spent 7 years in college before graduating in 2014: 3 schools, 4 different major tracks, and a whole lot of "What the heck am I going to do with my life?" When I finally left school with BA in Social Studies Education I was dragging my feet looking for a permanent teaching position. There were a few factors against me like it being the middle of the school year and a lack of connections when I arrived in Virginia, but honestly I just thought I'd get to to the classroom thing eventually. Once I ruled out other career options first I'd get to it when I actually had to settle down. 

A few months into my "job search" a neighbor asked me to be the marketing manager of their home-based business, focusing mainly on social media. At first it was a straightforward scheduling gig posting X amount of times a day on Facebook and Twitter. It's also where I got started with blogging. Later on I met a few clients through networking which increased the range of my work to promotions and creative consulting. Needless to say 2015 was a crash course in social media marketing - emphasis on the crash part.

Now as the social media specialist for Chromatic Elements I am writing, planning, and teaching for clients locally and across the country. We are growing quickly since we put the pedal to the metal last month. The other day I was invited to teach a group of local business owners about using Facebook more effectively. I wanted to share some unique tips with them that I had seen results from. I focused on organic growth versus paid advertising both as a way to save money and as an option that fit into their usual Facebook routine. I've outlined those same tips for using Facebook for free to draw your audience in and increase audience response to your Facebook page.

Why call it wasting time on Facebook when you could you be making money on Facebook?

3 Ways To Grow Your Facebook Presence for Free - make your normal Facebook routine work for you

Strategy #1: Reward Interaction
People like to be involved with their favorite brands. Capitalize on that people by offering a little something extra to those who engage with your Facebook page. Give out discounts, do giveaways or contests, or just a simple customer appreciation gift can go a long way.

I suggest only using this to push your audience to your page. Always make sure you have a consistent stream of relevant content when they get there. Otherwise your customers won't have a reason to come back except for the one time. Put in the work to maintain the relationship after the initial contact.

Spotlight Example:
A Dog's Day Out, a local dog daycare facility that I use often, offers a free day of care for those who leave a review on their Facebook page. They also use the page to post photo and video of the dogs hanging out for the day. I always get a kick out of checking if Muggle makes it on on the puppy cam.

Be Aware:
Check and double check the Facebook Terms and Conditions and other promotion guidelines to make sure you are staying within the boundaries of Facebook's pages rules. Depending on what you are planning, Facebook may not allow or appreciate it.

You Try:
Brainstorm 5 ways you could reward your audience for reviewing or responding to your Facebook page. Within a week choose one and test it out.

Strategy #2: Join Groups
If you are using Facebook correctly then you know there are a million different opportunities for local, professional, and hobby-related connections through groups. I myself am a member of 20 groups, including running my own writing improvement group, Writers Without Limits. I get a lot of traffic for all my projects through all the interaction. However, more often I am learning how to work through those projects thanks to the support and ideas of like-minded group members.

The key to Facebook groups to is spend time in the group for the sake of the community. Obviously we all want to promote ourselves, but the ultimate goal is to make friends, not spam. People are more likely to buy into what you are selling if they can identify with you as a person, even across the internet. Give them more than just your money-making goals to define you by.

Spotlight Example:
The Social Media Managers group is an amazing forum for anything related to social media marketing. I've asked questions, offered advice, and I've even been hired because of my participation.

Another great example is a local group called The Real Housewives of Loudoun County. Just recently I was contacted for an opportunity to help out at a local museum, combining my educational background and current social media work. Hashtag bucket list!

Be Aware:
Pay attention to the individual group rules, especially when it comes to promoting yourself. Each group is different. Some groups are open about sharing and others have dedicated threads or days. Breaking the culture or rules of a group can be awkward at the very least or worse have you removed from the group.

You Try:
Download the Facebook Groups app to your phone. Find and join one group related to you locally, one group related to your profession, and one group related to a hobby and start participating!

Strategy #3: Hashtag Holidays 
I learned this from Cara Chace in an online seminar for improving your social media calendar. The "hashtag holidays" idea refers to the celebrating random or interesting days of whatever. The best part is that they generally have a built in audience, as in just by adding the hashtag to your posts you'll be putting your content in front of people who actually care.

Hashtag holidays don't have to include just the extremely unique days. You could consider any traditional holiday the same way. You could even make up your own themed hashtags that work with your individual page or jump on the bandwagon of predetermined days like #mondaymotivation or #throwbackthursday. Either way have fun with it!

Spotlight Example:
The use of hashtags is fairly free form across the board on social media so you can find relevant examples for just about anything. My hometown football team, the Washington Redskins, is an good example of how made up hashtags can become mainstream. The page does a good job of consistent updates and hashtagging that encourages fans to use them for all kinds of posts. #Redskins, #HTTR (Hail to the Redskins), and #BeatDallas are all well-known and used by both on and off season.

Be Aware:
Do your research. Sometimes the hashtags and holidays aren't really associated with what you think they are about. Try looking up tagged posts and topics talked about so you are on track to get the engagement you were looking for and not putting your business or brand in an uncomfortable situation.

You Try:
Head to DaysOfTheYear.com and find 2 hashtag holidays happening in the next month that are related to your business or brand. Within the next week choose one holiday and plan something simple to highlight that holiday on your Facebook page.

Something for Everyone

These three strategies could apply to anyone who has a dedicated page on Facebook. In fact, the whole groups engagement thing made for some incredible results for my band Queens Over Kings. For one open mic event I shared it to a different relevant group every day and there were 1500+ people that saw it. That's over a thousand people that have an inkling of our existence. Since we've been lacking in our reach that's quite an accomplishment!

Which one of these 3 tips do you think would work best for your Facebook routine? Have you seen any growth or engagement from an unpaid Facebook practice of your own? I would appreciate some more ideas in this topic so please comment away!
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Kristyn here. I'm really good at Googling, dreaming, and thinking outside the box. Someday I'm going to save all the puppies and perform on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

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