The Mother Writer

Quick link: Blood, Sweat, and Words

I had a piece published in The Sunlight Press this week. I was traveling (college tours, yipes!) and am finally able to share it with you now. It is about my first published essay, a bloody nose, and being a mother trying to write.

My first published article arrived in my PO box in Djibouti three months after being printed. Rats had gnawed the corners of the box to get at Easter chocolates inside but the magazine, Get Born, was untouched.

The cover photo pictured a Djiboutian mother and baby standing in the downtown market in the pouring rain. I was in awe. My first story and it earned the cover photo. And, a photo of rain in Djibouti. Djibouti is a small, desert country in the Horn of Africa and at the time, it was in the middle of a drought. I wasn’t sure if my article or the rain was the greater miracle.

I stood in the post office’s open doorway to catch small wafts of steamy breezes and tucked the box and the rest of the goodies my mom had mailed between my elbow and my side. I held the magazine between my fingertips so I wouldn’t leave sweaty palm stains on the pages. I stared at it for a few seconds, then climbed into the car and drove home.

To read the rest, click here Blood, Sweat, and Words

Podcasting and Owning Our Stories

Quick link: What Happens When Your Essay Becomes a Modern Love Podcast

Beyond Your Blog published my essay on Monday, about nerves and editors and expectations and owning our stories.

In 2016 I got an email from Daniel Jones, editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times in which he explained the podcast that was launching, based on the column.

I love podcasts and was excited to listen but there have been over 600 Modern Love essays published and there was no way mine would make the list. I’m a small blogger with a few lucky clips in well-known places, no formal writing education, no connections, no writing community. I live in Djibouti where I’m the only blogger I know.

A year later, I got another email.

The actress Mireille Enos, of The Catch and Big Love, had chosen to read my story, A Child of Two Worlds.

I jumped out of my chair and let out a ‘whoop!’

My daughter Lucy was in the room. She looked up, “What happened?”

“You are going to be on the Modern Love podcast!” I said.

She high-fived me and then said, “What’s that?”

Click here to read the rest of What Happens When Your Essay Becomes a Modern Love Podcast

Self Promotion for Introverts (and others)

I wrote this for the writers at EthnoTraveler, sharing how I spread my work around the internet.

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Promoting my essays on social media or through my blog used to make me cringe. I felt selfish and boastful and I didn’t want to waste people’s time or interrupt their already harried days and brains.

But all that is ridiculous. What’s a writer without a reader? Sometimes journalists say they don’t care how a piece does, how many people read it, or what the response is to it. I don’t believe them. We write and, for all kinds of reasons, we want people to read our work.

We have to promote our work. There is an overwhelming amount of noise and chaos bombarding everyone. In order for anyone to find the essay you agonized over and care about, you have to break through that chaos and draw people to your work.

Don’t

Don’t be demanding or manipulative and don’t buy readers. The numbers look great on the page, but these are not engaged followers, they don’t retweet, they don’t share, they aren’t forming community around the work. Don’t send out messages like, “I am the best writer, I am working on stories you must read, follow me now” to editors, magazine writers, or agents. They won’t follow you back and sometimes will even block you. Don’t shove yourself or your work down people’s throats. Promote, and let the work stand on its own.

Do

Facebook – I have my personal page and an author page and I share my essays on both. On the day an essay is published I share it in the early morning on my author page and in the mid-afternoon on my personal page. An author page is a great way for people who are interested in your niche to connect with you. Share other stories and photos that you love and engage with readers, respond to comments, be generous with your likes and shares.

Twitter – I typically send out 3-5 tweets for an essay because tweets get easily lost down in the feeds. Sometimes I schedule more tweets to go out several days later, I don’t like the idea that a story might be read or shared only on the day it goes live. Same as on Facebook, be generous with your retweets of others’ work, too. Twitter can be a good way to find out what else is going on in the areas you are work in.

For posting on Twitter and Facebook, I use Hootsuite. This allows me to schedule posts in advance and all at once, especially useful for when I’m traveling. It means that I’m not always immediately available to respond to comments or tweets but I’m fine with that. I don’t want to be ‘on’ all the time.

PinterestImages do well on Pinterest, as do lists. Often writers will have a board on their Pinterest page titled some version of, “Published Works,” and pinners can specifically follow that board. Pinterest is also a good place to cultivate interest in your topics by pinning articles and resources from other writers. Become a go-to person on a handful of topics. For example, my boards include things I write about often like Third Culture Kids, The Horn of Africa, Travel Writing, Running, Travel with Kids, Spirituality…

Instagram – Images are a powerful way to get people interested and wanting to hear more and Instagram is one of the fastest growing online platforms in numbers and influence. Instagram can be a fun way to provide some ‘extra’ material or an ‘inside look’ at how you researched for a piece. Build interest in an upcoming article by posting photos and quotes in the days leading up to the pub date.

Tiny Letter – Email is out, 140-character tweets are in, right? Nope. In the last month I’ve read three articles in major publications declaring the death of Twitter. Of course, Twitter isn’t dying, there are millions of users, billions of tweets. But, Twitter has also devolved into a troll-loving, hate-mongering, cruel space at times. And lots of people are turning to newsletters. These can be used in whatever way you like – once a month, once a week, they can include lists or a story or links to published articles. I send a Tiny Letter newsletter once a month and it includes links to stories about news from the Horn of Africa, a little bit of my behind the scenes life as a writer and expat, and links to articles published in that month.

And finally, blogging. My blog is where I keep a record of all my published pieces so they can easily be found in one place. The day after a piece is published, I write about it, sometimes simply posting an excerpt, a photo, and a link, and sometimes I write the backstory, why I think this is an important story, or some funny or interesting things that happened in the writing and researching of the piece. People love this inside look at your process and journey in writing.

Other than publishing excellent content, a great way to build a following is to be a following. It is impossible to keep up with every writer or friend who writes, but choose a few that you enjoy and connect with them, build a community through your writing. Participate in linkups, comment on other stories. Be involved, be generous, don’t be afraid to promote your stuff, build a community around your hot button topics, engage with readers, and then get offline again and go out to research the next story.

What do you do to promote your work? Or, what bugs you about how authors promote their stuff?

Save

Save

Djibouti Jones Published Essays, 2016

I published more than 50 essays in 2016.

am writing

When I write that I feel shocked. What?! 50?! That’s a lot of words, some of them were longform, some super short, and that’s not counting blog posts but it does explain why the blog has slowed down. If only writing paid more than pennies by the hour. *sigh*

Here are some of the highlights:

Published in 2016

Runners World

Running the World, Djibouti

 

Outpost Magazine

Christmas in the Devil’s Lair

 

Brain Child

I Know I Should Boast about Battle Scars

Traveler, Writer, or Mother?

Can Kids Make Us Happy?

How to Wake Up a Teenager in 16 Easy Steps

Things No One Told Me About Grief

 

EthnoTraveler

Beirut Has a Trash Problem

Who Was Hawa Tako?

Around the World in Toilets

Letter from Bankoulé

Dreams of Djiboutian Glory

Tea Time at the TB Clinic

 

A Life Overseas

How Much Awesomeness Can We Really Handle?

Why Is It Always About Money?

White Savior Barbie Nails It

8 Ways for Expats Who Stay to Stay Well

 

Babble

Being an American Mom, Raising Kids in Djibouti

To the Mom Who Just Had Twins: You Can Do This

People Say We Fight A Lot

22 Ways Teenagers are Basically Super-Sized Toddlers

 

By |December 31st, 2016|Writing|0 Comments|

Pregnancy Scars

Quick link: I Know I Should Boast about My Battle Scars

What if I don’t want to brag about my jiggly belly? What if I refuse to post belly selfies? Social media makes me feel like we have to bare all and love it, or that if we wish we didn’t have stretch marks that means we don’t love our kids. I totally disagree and wrote about it for Brain Child Magazine.

pregnant-pregnancy-mom-child

 

So, this is NOT me, NOT my belly or my child, NOT how things looked while I was pregnant. We were more of the sweaty walrus variety. But this is how we’re told to feel and be during pregnancy, isn’t it? By ‘those people,’ the ones ‘out there’ on social media.

I know I’m supposed to boast about my scars, stretch marks, and shape.

I’m supposed to be empowered by naked selfies.

I don’t boast and I’m not empowered or posting those naked selfies (I’m not even taking them).

I have a stomach that looks like a saggy raisin. I never really had the chance to feel good about my body. I got pregnant at 21-years old, before I had grown into the idea of loving my size and shape. I was still in the high school and college years of hating it all, of never being thin enough or strong enough or having the right size ass or big enough boobs.

And then pregnancy changed my stomach permanently (the big enough boobs didn’t last long and leaked milk so they weren’t exactly what I’d hope for). The pregnancy was twins, it went full-term, I looked like a walrus. My skin stretched until it couldn’t stretch anymore and so it started coming apart, cracking open new seams that would never go back together, pushing the elasticity of young skin up to and then beyond the point of no return…

Click here to read the rest I Know I Should Boast about My Battle Scars