Monday, October 26, 2009

Robert's whacked out 21st century media dream

True story: Last night, I had a dream that our writing community here at F+W Media was overtaken by a bunch of early 20-something slackers who had huge followings on social networks without any ambition to actually create products or useful services. They were also wearing Halloween masks, and I felt like I was watching myself on camera (was probably on some kind of reality television show called Hostile Takeover or something). Such can be life in a 21st Century dream when you work for a media company, I suppose.

Anyway, when I have an absurd dream like that, my mind usually ends up working the dream this way and that--searching for some kind of meaning or purpose for having the dream in the first place. I can only imagine that I had the dream for several reasons.

First, I think my head has been bombarded with social networking lately and trying to find a professional balance between interacting with my audience and creating valuable products and services. I've been reading articles that say things like, "Content is king," or, "Advertising is king," or even (yes, I really have read this article), "Context is king" (not content or advertising).

Second, I think there's the issue of uncertainty about the role of an editor (or content manager or specialist or whatever my title should be) in the 21st century. When I started interning at F&W Publishing (notice two key changes in the company's name) in 2000, editors just edited and assigned articles. Then, launched. Then, we started doing an e-mail newsletter. And eventually, blogging, social networking, etc. Editors still need to have those editing skillz to pay the billz, but so much more is required now than ever before.

Third, there are the Halloween masks. Obviously, Halloween is around the corner, but I think this had to do with the image not matching the identity. In this case, there were people who were great at getting people in the door, but those people would not find anything of value or substance once they stepped through. You need great marketing and promotion if you ever want to find new customers, but you also need a great product and/or service if you want to retain those new customers you do find.

So, here are the lessons from Robert's whacked out 21st century media dream:
  1. Nothing is king. Great content without effective marketing doesn't reach an optimum audience. Effective marketing without great content wastes and infuriates potential customers. And both need context to work effectively together.
  2. The definition of Editor has changed and will most likely continue to change. As a result, the definitions of writers, agents, and anyone else involved in producing content and/or services will continue to change. I hope everyone's holding on tight, because some are sure to be thrown off this coaster before all is said and done.
  3. Your identity has to match your image. This is an old rule, but it's one that everyone needs to remember with so many rules changing. Your identity has to match your image. If it's not, potential readers/customers don't know what to expect and/or they get upset when their expectations don't match reality. That's just how it works in real life and in the business world.


Speaking of 21st century media, etc., here's what I've been up to virtually recently:

And, of course, I've been doing random stuff at my Twitter and Facebook accounts. (Search on the #poettues hashtag on Twitter tomorrow if you want to discuss poetry bumper sticker ideas, for instance.)


I'm in Ohio for the week. My brother David is getting married on Sunday (day after Halloween) to his long-time special lady friend, Laura. I believe I may have mentioned before that I need to write some kind of Best Man speech. Yeah, that's still on my To-Do List. Know what I need to Google this week.

Tammy and Baby Will will be flying in from the ATL; my brother Simon, the stormchaser, will be in from OKC; and Ben & Jonah will be in attendance as well. Good times!


Speaking of Ben & Jonah, I had a great weekend with them. We went to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, drew pictures together, played games, read books, cleaned up, watched TV, and other father-son thing-a-ma-gigs. One of the great things about my Ohio trips is that I totally unplug on the weekends, which is actually going to make the start of the November PAD Chapbook Challenge interesting this weekend.


Besides that, I'm just wondering what everyone else is up to?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the wild things are not

Had a great weekend with Tammy and Baby Will while Reese was having a "daddy weekend." On Sunday, we walked at a park for about an hour, shopped at Goodwill, bought groceries, and watched Where the Wild Things Are, which got a thumbs up from all three of us (yes, Will was laughing through many parts of the movie). Oh yeah, we also watched my stormchaser brother's Tornado Road show on The Weather Channel as the Atlanta Falcons beat the Chicago Bears in a close one. Busy, fun day.

So why the bummer title above? I've come to realize lately that I am turning into a parent. I've always realized this and worked hard to be a good parent, but as the boys get older, I notice myself saying things like, "Slow down," and, "Watch out," and, "Don't jump in that puddle," and so on. Of course, as a boy (and I'm still a boy at times), I was the one to speed up and take chances, especially if puddles were involved.

One of the more challenging aspects of being a parent (I think) is tiptoeing the fine line between protecting and stifling your children. One part of me wants all the boys to be ambitious, take chances and risks, and follow their passions (just like me!). Another part wants all the boys to never get hurt. It's totally unrealistic, but there it is: the parenting dilemma.

As a runner, I often pushed my body to the limits. In high school, I actually made myself pass out during repeats a few times. Even as a student in college and as a working stiff in the corporate setting, I've pushed my body to its limits by pulling all-nighters and trying to fit 25 hours into 24-hour days. But I realize that as a parent, I'd worry myself to death if my boys passed out or hospitalized themselves (as I did earlier this year).

My brother Simon (the stormchaser, AKA "crazy uncle Simon" to the boys) follows his passion, stormchasing, to the extremes. He's been in a building that was hit by a tornado; he was trapped in a police station in Slidell, LA, during Hurricane Katrina; and he's done so much more. I'm so proud of him, but I'm always afraid that one day a storm will claim his life.

So, it is with being a parent. You want to see your children reach out and wrestle the world to the ground, but you don't want to see them ever get knocked down. But they have to; it's the only way they'll ever learn to pick themselves back up.


Other news: November brings with it the 2nd annual November Poem-A-Day (PAD) Chapbook Challenge. (Click here to learn more.)

Also, the Writer's Digest community is looking like a success so far. If you haven't yet, feel encouraged to join, friend me, and join some of the writing groups. It's free. (Click here to create an account.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When is enough too much?

Hmm...why do I ask myself questions? Because then I have to answer them.

I'm now involved on the new Writer's Digest community. Not sure if I'm allowed to officially announce the community, but I think you can sign up and friend me. Like most awesome social networks, it's free. But especially since it's tied to F+W, it's also time, which is and isn't (mostly isn't) free. When am I stretched too thin? Or, when is my involvement in one area sucking me away from somewhere else? These are great questions.

Whenever I get this way, I have to sit down and make a "to-do" list. I also have to re-evaluate my situation and my goals. If things are not synching up, I have to consider changes. Sometimes, changes can be simple (like only spend 15 minutes a day on Twitter or do 100 jumping jacks before lunchtime). Other times, changes can be complicated and scary (like when I felt the need to divorce my first wife). Changes may or may not fix the underlying problem I'm suffering, but I at least feel like I'm trying when I use my "to-do" list/goal-setting system.

And I'm not going to wait until tomorrow. Tonight (after this post actually), I'm going to get down to the business of making my "to-do" list and comparing against my goals, so that tomorrow morning I can hit the ground running.


Amanda Oaks posted a poem I wrote today for my weekly Wednesday Poetry Prompts post on Poetic Asides. She matched my poem with an awesome (and appropriate for the poem) image. You can view them at Amanda's Kind Over Matter blog by clicking here. (Thanks, Amanda!)


Parenting observation: One thing about kids (after more than 8 years raising 4 boys) is that you can start trying to get them to bed as early as YOU want, but they'll go to sleep whenever THEY darn well please.


General observation: The above parenting observation is true of so many other things. Just replace the x and y, and you'll get a new z.


I'm getting excited about my brother David's wedding on November 1. He's only 50 weeks younger than me, and we're close enough that he's selected me to be his best man. It should be a great event, because it'll be one of those rare (and ever getting rarer) times when all three of us Brewer brothers will be together at the same time. I'm always so proud of both my brothers, and they both make me laugh so much. (Ack! It's just dawned on me that I need to come up with some kind of speech for the reception. Double ack!)

Besides now worrying about giving a wedding speech, all is well at the Brewer homestead. Reese and Will are in bed; Tammy is relaxing in the living room with some hot chocolate; and I'm off to make my "to-do" list.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I'm not a good blogger, but you can be one

First off, thanks to Jane Friedman at her There Are No Rules blog for mentioning My Name Is Not Bob as one of her 15 Worthy Blogs I Just Discovered!

It's great to get any kind of recognition, so making a top-anything list at Jane's awesome blog is awesome. But I feel a bit like an impostor, because My Name Is Not Bob does not follow any of the common rules of blogging.

First off, I haven't posted anything in like a month. Maybe more. First rule of blogging is to post regularly. Not daily, but at least weekly. Even at my Poetic Asides blog, I have a weekly Wednesday Poetry Prompt that I NEVER miss (even the week when I was hospitalized).

Second, I'm too lazy with this blog to even see if it's actually been a month or more since I've posted. Lazy is not an attractive feature for any blog--unless the blog is called Lazy Blog for Lazy People (even then, your audience is so lazy that they'd never check out the blog).

Third, there's no central theme tying My Name Is Not Bob together. Going back to Poetic Asides, the central theme there is all things poetry. Poetry prompts, poetry workshops, poet interviews, poetic forms, and other poetry-related stuff. My Name Is Not Bob is not a specialized center of information, instead it's like a flea market or yard sale of random what-have-yous.

So, if you want to immediately have a better blog than My Name Is Not Bob, here's all you have to do:
  1. Post regularly. At least once a week.
  2. Work at it. Don't spend hours on each post, but be willing to check facts, link to other sources, and proofread before posting.
  3. Create a central focus or identity for your blog. Poetic Asides is for poetry; Jane's There Are No Rules blog is for writers trying to find success in publishing and other media. (Note: Having a blog with a clear identity that has readers can help you develop your platform, which can help you publish books, get speaking gigs, etc.)

Three easy steps you can take to have a great blog. If you don't have one yet, make one (it's free and only takes a few minutes). If you do have one, make sure you're following these rules that My Name Is Not Bob is so blatantly not.


Random good news: Poem accepted by OCHO recently. That's the second poem accepted by OCHO this year (for two separate issues), and both deal with my father. Maybe that father-son relationship will eventually develop into a chapbook.


This weekend: Tammy, Reese, Will and I are having a Hallo-weekend together. This means breaking out the Halloween decorations, telling scary stories, watching scary movies for kid scary movie night, drawing spooky pictures, getting out to the pumpkin farm, and more Halloween and autumn tomfoolery.

And tonight, Tammy will be interviewed by Joe Milford for his popular poetry interview series, The Joe Milford Poetry Show.


Random thought: I can NOT get the freaking Wonder Pets theme song out of my head. If you do not want to suffer the same fate, do NOT click on this link.

(Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets, we're on our way...blah-blah-blah...and save the day; we're not too big, and we're not too tough, but when we work together, we've got the right stuff; gooooooooooooo Wonder Pets! Yay!)