Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Help Me Solve the World's Problems (By August 1, 2013)

(Special Promotion: If you pre-order a signed copy, whether through me or my publisher, by the August 1 deadline, I'll enter you into a raffle for an extra bonus. What's the bonus? A signed hard copy proof--in addition to your signed book--with an extra handwritten poem that doesn't appear in this collection.)

In September, my first full-length collection of poetry, Solving the World's Problems, will be released by Press 53. I am very excited!

And I've bought a bunch of new pens to...you know...umm...sign books and stuff. Would you like a personally signed book by me?

The best way to get an autographed copy hot off the presses is to pre-order a copy from me now, so that I can pre-order copies from my publisher. When I receive that first shipment, I'll sign 'em and mail 'em immediately. (I need all pre-orders by August 1.)

Order a copy by sending me an e-mail with the subject line: I Want Solving the World's Problems.

Who knows? I might even slip a surprise thank you or two in there as well, though I hope the value of this collection is intrinsic, not extrinsic.

Here's what former New Hampshire Poet Laureate Patricia Fargnoli, author of Duties of the Spirit and Then, Something had to say about the collection (an advance proof): "The 'World' in Robert Lee Brewer's Solving the World's Problems is a slippery world ... where chaos always hovers near, where we are (and should be) 'splashing around in dark puddles.' And one feels a bit dizzy reading these poems because (while always clear, always full of meaning) they come at reality slantwise so that nothing is quite the same and the reader comes away with a new way of looking at the ordinary objects and events of life. The poems are brim-full of surprises and delights, twists in the language, double-meanings of words, leaps of thought and imagination, interesting line-breaks. There are love and relationship poems, dream poems, poems of life in the modern world. And always the sense (as he writes) of 'pulling the world closer to me/leaves falling to the ground/birds flying south.' I read these once, twice with great enjoyment. I will go back to them often."

Still not convinced? Wow! You're a tough customer. Good thing I've planned some hypothetical non-softball-questions ahead of time with totally-unplanned-off-the-cuff answers at the ready.

Why would I lay down my hard-earned money for your book?
Because you love poetry, and this book is filled with poems. (Click here to read a few.)

Or if you need another reason: Because you want to be a part of history, since this is the first full-length collection of poems from the Robert Lee Brewer. You can say you were there in the beginning, and that'll make you really cool in a "I was there in the beginning" kind of way.

Or if you need another reason: Because I begged and pleaded with you, and it's better than dropping the same amount of money on whatever it is that you spend money on that you usually regret later as a bad purchase. I ain't too proud to beg.

Is this book really going to solve the world's problems?
Hmm... Good question. You're pretty sharp. Sharp like a knife. Or sharp like the teeth of a shark. You know I think you'll find the answer you want to find by purchasing a copy of the book and reading it yourself.

But now that it's out there, I'm pretty sure of one thing: It will drive you crazy not knowing. So spare yourself the sleepless nights and read the book. You can thank me later.

I know Patricia Fargnoli said nice things about Solving the World's Problems, but does anyone else have anything nice to say about the collection? I mean, besides your mom.
Well, I do have a really nice quote from my mom, but I'll save that for another blog post, I guess. Since I can't use her endorsement, I'll use this one from one of my favorite contemporary poets Sandra Beasley, author of I Was the Jukebox and Theories of Falling: "Rather than solving the world's problems, this collection turns them to the sun like a prism--casting bright and spare images of humanity in flux. 'We spill ourselves all over ourselves,' one poem observes, 'our excess light / our forgiving natures.' Compassionate, challenging, and filled with slinky swerves of phrase, these poems refresh how we look at our daily lives."

Any other non-mom niceties coming your way?
Yes, this is what Scott Owens, author of Something Knows the Moment, had to say: "These poems illustrate the vitality of poetry in our daily lives. Diverse, refreshing, even at times startling, these poems make bold claims for poetry."

Okay, okay. How do I purchase this amazing book?
That's the easy part. Just send me an e-mail at robertleebrewer@gmail.com with the subject line: I want Solving the World's Problems. Then, we'll work together to get the book in your hands.

It costs $15 (shipping included), and I can accept check, money order, or PayPal. And you'll get a signed and dated copy to prove you were there in the beginning. Plus, I think the poems are pretty darn good.

Click here to read a few sample poems.


By the way, if you'd rather go through my publisher, that's a great option too. As with getting copies from me, the pre-order event is only valid through August 1. Click here to learn more.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solving the World's Problems - Sample Poems

My debut full-length collection of poetry Solving the World's Problems is due from Press 53 on September 1, 2013. It's been an exciting highlight to the year for me, and I can't wait to hold a copy in my hands. If you're interested in getting your hands on a signed copy, send me an e-mail at robertleebrewer@gmail.com to get the wheels in motion--or order a copy here.

The poems in this collection represent what I consider my best up to now, and many of them have gone through a major transformation since the collection was accepted for publication. I have my wonderful editor Tom Lombardo to thank for helping guide this collection in a new (and I think better) direction.

Solving the World's Problems

Anyway, this post shares a few sample poems from Solving the World's Problems.

solving the world's problems, by Robert Lee Brewer

i began as eyelashes blocking the sun
and my father was a digital clock
in a dark cave  my father counted

out the minutes as i kept myself
from myself   in this way  i learned to kiss
years later  when i became a horse

i ran the hot blood out of my body
father turned into a dream filled
with fire and a horrible laugh   i

burned into a cloud of smoke
father became a phone call and then
silence   i worried what i might

transform into next   i worried
what i might already be   then
i forgave father


you origami me, by Robert Lee Brewer

fold me into animal shapes
                         and hold me like paper
          you don't want to tear

i've been here before
                         i've waited like money
          and spent myself evenly

across your accounts of love
                         the time has come for our withdrawal
          into the pleasures of night

these simple transfers and deposits
                         these points of interest
          fold me as you will

and hold me longer still
                         i'm not a wolf  save when
          that's the only way you'll bend me


10:15 in a kroger parking lot, by Robert Lee Brewer

he sits with the engine off staring straight ahead
through wells fargo  through the next strip mall and the new
half-developed subdivision with prices that

start in the low five-hundreds  through mcdonald's and
chick-fil-a  through burger king and dairy queen  through
thick and thin  cats and dogs  teenagers in public

parks  radio waves and satellite images
carried to you  the possibility of you
a number on a graph  some outlier who reads

poetry as if reading might even matter
to the man with this weight on his shoulders staring
without any thoughts because his brain's finally

filled past the point of pure saturation and he's
sitting in his car oblivious to the world
outside  the store stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables

and diapers and frozen pizza and toothpaste and
deodorant and trash bags and prescription drugs
and his eyes are wet but he is not crying  blank

as he feels and overwhelmed as choreographed
cars park and people enter the kroger and leave
the kroger to drive away somewhere without him


As we run up to the release date for the collection, I'll be sharing more information, including various events--both online and in person. If you're interested in either having me read at your venue or doing some kind of interview or review, just send me an e-mail at robertleebrewer@gmail.com.

To get a signed copy, send me an e-mail as well, or click here to order a copy directly from Press 53.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Check out some other related posts:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Forsaking the Zone (Leah Lindeman guest post)

Silence permeates a musty-smelling library, shadows touched by flickers from candlelight. In the centre of this haven is a mahogany desk upon which sits leather-bound volumes. And the hunched over writer scribbles furiously; his ingenuity rolls through his tensed muscles. His masterpiece must be put into words.

Reality is that most of us fight to a gain a sense of peace and to be in a comfortable state when we write. Writing isn't about being comfortable; it's about forsaking our comfort zone.

Last year, Robert Lee Brewer challenged his participants to their build their social media platforms in one month. Many of the daily tasks I passed over because I was either too lazy, too busy, or too scared. However, I kept all the tasks I didn't do in my inbox. Just last month did I decide to revisit them, promising myself that I wouldn't provide an excuse for any lack of action.

Leah Lindeman, forsaking the comfort zone

One of the tasks was to set up an RSS feed. When I viewed the instructions on Google, I was ready to abort my mission. Words such as HTML, feed burner, and RSS feed intimidated me. I am no computer genius. But I was determined to do something new, to get out of my comfort zone. I followed the steps slowly. 
When I finally saw the RSS feed symbol on my blog page, I was ecstatic. I went on to setting up an e-mail subscription link, as well. This small, brave step for me has given my blog the potential to attract even more followers; and I am now able to use my "expertise" to help my friends set up these important functions.

Try New Things
Another way I try to get out of my comfort zone is to try new things, discover new places. This correlates with the advice "write what you know." There are arguments for its antithesis: "Write what you don't know." I won't try to prove which point is better over than the other; however, there is merit in writing about what you do know. 
For example, I've gone bungee-jumping twice. This daredevil stunt doesn't have anything to do with writing directly. But if I ever were to write a scene in which my character free falls or feels a greater force than his own pulling him in a certain direction, I could insert a realistic feel into the scene, making it and my character even more compelling and relatable. Try something new; you will have a wide range of experiences from which to glean.

Editorial Calendar
For those of us who like to roll with the punches, setting up an editorial calendar is hard. We like to create order, but we may not like to work within order. The problem with being disorganized is that it's a gamble; our feelings are the basis for our progression toward our goals. Setting up an editorial calendar which highlights research dates, deadlines, blogging subjects, and more will ensure success most of the time. 
My editorial calendar mainly consists of which days are set apart for blogging and an idea to go with each of those days. As a result, I've been much more consistent with my blogging; and I've been gaining more followers and connecting with them. What used to be uncomfortable has now become comfortable.

The first step is usually the hardest to take. But if you jump outside your box, you will expand whilst you benefit others. For me, setting up an RSS feed, trying new things, and setting up an editorial calendar has helped me become a better writer. Get out of your comfort zone. In what ways can you become uncomfortable?

Leah Lindeman was born in Montreal, Quebec. Throughout her childhood, she dabbled in different extracurricular activities such as ballet, piano lessons, and soccer. But writing became her one passion starting a few years ago. Wanting to become better, Leah enrolled in a writing correspondence course given by the Institute of Children's Literature. She graduated with honours and began working on her first novel. Presently, she is researching material for her second novel; and she is trying to conclude the finishing touches on the first. When Leah is not reading or writing, she's usually taking care of her home, her husband, and two children. Some of her hobbies include horseback riding, visiting with friends and family, and singing.
Follow Not Bob on Twitter @robertleebrewer 
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Here are some previous guest posts:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chasing April

OK, so the plan for April was to run all these guest posts (and even some of my own content) that were related to platform building. That obviously came off the tracks, and I'm not going to get into making too many excuses.

I'll just say that April turned into an even busier month than I expected (and I expected a busy month), and we'll just leave it at that. No need to dwell on it, but I do want to acknowledge that, yes, I was expecting to post more content this month. Sooo...

...let's take a look at what May's going to look like. I'm not going to over-promise, but we'll get back on track with the guest posting on May 7. Promise.

And now to hit you with an extra helping of cuteness, because it's cute.

Can you really argue with cute?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Facebook Groups Are Great for Writers (Zara Hoffman guest post)

Everyone says the Internet is either a distraction or the best thing to happen in our lifetime. More often than not, I agree with the latter. 

I love Facebook. It allows me to keep in touch with my friends and keep up to date on some of my favorite pages. Most recently, though, I’ve developed a new love for the social network. 
Facebook Groups
The Teens Can Write, Too! and Go Teen Writers Facebook groups are friendly communities for writers that offer moral support and fun anecdotes to help motivate me when I’m looking for inspiration. Some people prefer to write alone and share afterwards, and these groups give you that opportunity. 
It’s a hangout, not a mandatory club in which you need to contribute a specific amount to get advice or help (as it is with some writing website forums). 

As to balancing my time in these groups and actually writing? I generally check in once a day and see if there are any interesting new threads I should be aware of. I try and stay off Facebook other than to wish people happy birthday, see the latest news on my biggest obsessions so I can maximize my writing time. 
Word Wars!
Sometimes, there are “Word Wars” where people agree to write as much as they can within a given amount of time and we keep a chat open, it can be very effective and satisfying. I actually have yet to do one, but Go Teen Writers is hosting a similar scenario, but it’s called 100 for 100 in which you sign up and promise to write 100 words for 100 days. Currently we’re about halfway through and I’m over the 50% mark in word count. Forums on writing websites also offer these opportunities, but there’s something I just like about the Facebook Group configuration.

Facebook Groups changed my writing experience and it may change yours too. However you write, there are friendly writer groups all over the internet (I also use Figment.com, Wattpad.com, and NaNoWriMo.org), so know that you’re not alone!
Zara Hoffman is a teen author currently working on a YA fantasy romance called 7th Heaven and has three other WIPs. When she isn't wrapped up in projects, Zara can be found relaxing with friends, family, listening to music, reading, writing, and playing with her puppy. Learn more at her blog, her website, or directly via e-mail.
Connect with Not Bob via Twitter @robertleebrewer
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Selling Yourself as a Writer (Shaun Horton guest post)

-->There are a lot of different approaches to writing as a career. Mr. Brewer's blog is a good example of the end of the spectrum which leans towards reaching out to readers and offering more than simply books, short stories and poetry. The other end of the spectrum leans more towards the idea that writers should write, and not worry about spending time blogging, doing tours, or anything else.

People can move up and down the spectrum as they have time, as their needs change, and how successful they are. At this moment in time, I'm reaching out at an extreme level. Since I discovered the 30-day platform challenge back in August, I've created an author page on Facebook, started my own blog, signed up on Twitter and Goodreads, and even looked into starting my own website.

I don't even have my first book out yet.

Writing and Reaching Out
Now, at the moment, I have the time to work on reaching out heavily in addition to working on my writing, and I feel like it's working fairly well. While the number of likes I get on my author page on Facebook may not be up where I would like, I have to admit most of my posts get an average of 30-40 views each, which is fairly substantial for a writer who doesn't have much to put out there other than himself.

The posts I make on my author page are good examples of who I am, even as I try to keep things related to writing or my chosen genre's. I will break the rhythm and go off topic for something I find particularly funny or which needs addressing though. 

At the bare minimum, I want people to be entertained by my blog, my tweets, or my Facebook posts; and I hope people get that, because that is also what I want from my writing. So far, it certainly seems that way. I've read on Goodreads of more established authors who have books available, but don't get that many views for their posts.

Given that I don't have anything yet to tell people to go out and buy, I try to keep them interested with short stories on my blog and on my Facebook page. This way they can get a feel for my writing style, and see if they might actually be interested in my finished works or not.

Communication Is Key
All these different outlets also allow people to get in touch with me if they want. In case they have questions about my work, my pages or my opinion on something I may have mentioned briefly in a post somewhere. I feel like this opportunity for communication with fans, or would-be fans is a very important factor. 

When people are accessible, it brings them down to a level on-par with their readers and people do appreciate that. It also benefits the writer as people can get in touch and inform them if a major mistake is made in one of their works. With the advent of self-publishing burgeoning on the internet, it is becoming very easy to upload a work, and then fix mistakes as they get pointed out, re-uploading an updated version for future readers.

All these allow people to get to know me as a writer and as a person and I'm hoping that when I publish my first short novel, which may be between the writing and the posting of this guest blog post, that the people who have followed along with me so far will feel like they're sharing in my success.


Editor's Note: Shaun did self-publish his first novel between the writing and posting of this guest post. Link to come hopefully.


Shaun Horton is a Freelance writer living in Western Washington. His blog Shaun of the Not-so-Dead is a mix of posts about the horror genre, the business of writing, reviews of horror-themed things, and the occasional mad rant. He is expecting to publish his first short novel in the early Spring of 2013.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Year of Changes (Carol Cooney guest post)

I never dreamed of all the changes 2012 would bring into my life.

As the year started, I was working as a property manager and learning to cope with my husband’s recent diagnosis of diabetes. My writing was confined to letters and the editing of my daughter’s graduate school papers.

But I thought I could write a blog. The subject for a blog was right in front of me – I could write about the confusion and changes that diabetes had brought into our lives. So after I made myself write multiple posts, I bought a “how to” book and started my blog, The 9 Inch Plate.

Once I started blogging, I started reading blogs. By chance, I found a blog titled “My Name is Not Bob” (have you heard of it?). In April, there was a platform building challenge. I barely knew what a platform was so I decided that this must be written for me. I followed along each day and tried to participate fully.

There were times that I was more successful than others. I set up my Google+ account and joined Goodreads and Pinterest. There was a lot I did not understand fully but I was at least becoming acquainted with terms I had not heard before.

Wordsmith Studio
Near the end of the month, Robert pointed out that a Facebook group was formed by people participating in the challenge. I was accepted into the group and started meeting more writers. After several months of using the name the “not Bobbers,” the group name was changed and Wordsmith Studio was born.

I am still knocked out by the support that exists in the group. If someone is having a problem, they can ask for help and members will try to help. If someone has had their work accepted, the group cheers for them. If work has been rejected, a group hug and encouragement is administered.

When a call went out to recruit new members for the steering committee, I volunteered. It is wonderful to see the growth that has taken place in the last year. There are now at least three weekly Twitter chats and there are groups on Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Learning New Tools
During the challenge, Robert held two Twitter chats and mentioned Google+ hangouts. Those can be counted as some of the things that I didn’t understand. Now through the Wordsmith Studio community, I not only participate in Twitter chats but I know how to moderate and post a summary of the chat after the session. As for the Google + hangout, our weekly Steering Committee meetings use that medium.

Wordsmith Studio has a web site on Wordpress. Since my original blog was on Blogger, I had to join Wordpress to get on the site. I didn’t think much about it until one day I “googled” myself (come on, you’ve done it too) and discovered my empty Wordpress blog came up in the search. I decided I should put a post there. Then, I didn’t want it to be lonely so I started to put up more posts. My Wordpress blog became a place for me to write about random thoughts.

After having a narrow focus on The 9 Inch Plate, it is fun to have more freedom in my writing.

Opening New Doors
One of the tasks of the challenge was to interview someone for your blog. I was at a loss as to who I could interview for my diabetes related blog. And then it hit me. I could interview a podiatrist I knew. He would have a lot of information for my readers. I scheduled the interview and gave him the card for my blog.

On the day of the interview, I was prepared with questions. As we talked, he mentioned he really liked my blog. I shared with him what I had learned about how much a blog helps to drive people to a website. He then said something along the lines of, “I should think about that . . . ” I replied that I knew someone who could write the blog for him.

At that point he got excited and wanted to know who could write a blog for him. I told him that I could. And that was the beginning of my professional blogging career. It is a great relationship. He allows me a fair amount of freedom – it is not everyone who would let me invent the “Foot Blogger Chick” for their blog.

On December 19, my biggest property management client sold their building. I found myself with some free time on my hands. With the support of my husband and a lot of hope, I am spending more of my time writing and learning. I have never been so busy not earning much money. Granted, I still have some management clients and I am busy with that work but I have more time to devote to writing, learning, and networking.

The MNINB challenge last April set me on a course that has been fascinating and fulfilling. I have written more than I ever have in my life and I have met some of the nicest people. It is truly unbelievable how much I have learned in the last year and how happy it has made me to grow as a writer. And yes, I said I was a writer. I cringe a little on the inside when I say it but I do think it is true.

All this in one year.


Carol Early Cooney is married and the mother of two children who consider themselves grownups. She graduated with a business degree from Butler University and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. You can find her on the web at www.carolearlycooney.com which will give you links to her two blogs. She would love to connect with you on Twitter (@carolearlycoone), Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn.


Follow Not Bob on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Speaking of Revising (Nichole L. Reber guest post)

‘He needs approval of his work by others in order to be reassured that the vision of life he believes he has had is a true vision and not a self-delusion, but he can only be reassured by those whose judgment he respects.’ WH Auden in “Writing

I’m not very prolific when it comes to submissions. Most of my submissions have been half-baked ideas or revisions sent before their time. Thanks to two years of living in Peru, life has slowed to a glacial pace. which makes for interesting lessons in patience. It also gives me a lot of time working on my writing. I do more revising than ever. My latest piece, for instance, was an exercise in what Lynn Emanuel, author of Then, Suddenly, calls literary fluency.

“(Mistakes) are a kind of rupture, and out of that rupture can grow all kinds of interesting things,” she said on Vernon Lott’s documentary Bad Writing. “They are the sign of something… of an ambition that you have…or a way of writing that you want to move into that you haven’t yet. Sometimes they are a kind of critique of your own fluency.”

Moving into that kind of writing first requires courage. For me that meant asking a new fiction-writer friend and Pushcart Prize nominee, whom I’ll call MR, to look at a draft over the holidays. That allowed me the pretense of patience, if not the ability to gain some distance from the piece. When the last shreds of confetti and fireworks wrappings were swept away, I read MR’s critique. There was a change of diction here. A compliment there: “You have a clear vision for this piece, and the prose is solid.” Then the constructive part came: “(I)t reads like an excerpt, and not a stand-alone.” He suggested a solution to the piece’s greatest problem: Change from a double to a single narrative arc. He was spot on. I was thrilled. Especially because he offered a look at a later draft.

Fueled by desire to see the thing published, I set out to work revising it. Slash. Dash. Tighten. Tweak. I implemented his changes and sent it back to him. I felt proud of the piece. Just like when my Spanish proved fluid enough to travel solo around Peru for 10 days. My ego wasn’t inflated for long after that trip or upon receiving MR’s second critique. My Peruvian colleagues called me out on my hubris, pushing me into uncomfortable territory with phrases and verb tenses. MR revealed that I wasn’t so fluent in writing either.

“There’s too much back-story and exposition. The story posits more questions than it has time to address… Tone down the exposition and let your eye for description and sense of place guide the narrative. The protagonist’s guilt is poignant and complicated, and deserves more attention,” he wrote.

Who's Story Is It?
My heart plummeted. MR’s red and green edit marks burned into my head. Bloody hell, I thought, that’s not a critique; that’s the work of Edward Scissorhands. Is this my work or is he turning it into his own? Was it the genre difference, was it my feminine voice, was he just high on himself for having been published in enviable places? Irritation skewered my concentration. I just wanted to bandage my piece back together and shove it into editors’ hands, see the damn thing published. Instead I sought refuge in cyberspace.

Fellow writers told me when to stop listening to critiques and start listening to my instinct. A humorous piece on revision addiction and another on beta readers distracted my fingers from fumbling with my piece’s structure and characters, narrative arc and tone. In Bad Writing comic writer David Nadelberg slowed my spinning mind. “It’s not about ‘Do you care enough about an idea to write it?’ It’s about ‘Do you care enough about it to rewrite it?’”

Hold on. Rewrite. Do I care enough to rewrite it? That brought everything back round. I had asked for MR’s input. I had yearned for that level of input. Wasn’t that what I needed in order to forge head?

Still My Story
I sat back from my computer. Listened to the voice whispering within to check my patience. I’d practice patience then. Take the weekend off and gain yet more distance from the piece.
Monday rolled around and so did another look at MR’s second critique. This time I saw that he hadn’t shredded my piece. He had acted like a bonsai master. I implemented most of his suggested changes— and made new discoveries of my own. I polished that draft until it spoke. It may not earn me a Pushcart, but it’s fluent enough to comfortably travel into an editor’s hands.

Nichole L. Reber is likely taking a break from writing by watching a baseball game as you read this. Talk with her about nonfiction via Twitter, chat about publishing on Facebook, or read about her travels on her blog


Follow Not Bob on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Floundering (Stevie Libra guest post)

Okay, this guest post is from someone who represents many writers who've taken a stab at platform, felt overwhelmed, and are now floundering (a great title, btw, Stevie). If you have suggestions for time management or just words of encouragement, please include in the comments below. Personally, I try to budget my time, and editorial calendars have worked wonders for my various blogs.

Confession time: I’ve been ignoring my author platform. 

I worked so hard during the 30-day Platform Challenge last year, but I saw the end result as a monster that required daily feedings of intensifying proportions. It was too much for me, but I still felt the need to have a platform. So I decided to dedicate one weekend in March to figuring out what the problems were and how I might address them.
The Maven
Until last summer I had a thriving website/blog on health. I had lots of followers, lots of articles, lots of classes via e-mail, and lots of private consultations. It was lots of work.
I spent hours researching and writing. I was excited about posting twice weekly and my little idea book was bursting with subjects for more posts. I could answer just about any question about why your body wouldn’t do what you wanted it to do. I was the maven.
I dropped it so I would have more time to write fiction.
Not the Maven
I'm not the maven in fiction writing. I'm just now learning the difference between concept and idea, subplot and theme. It’s not the time to imitate my writerly friends and give advice. At this time I’m a sponge, sucking up all the information I can find.
So my first problem was that I didn’t know what to write about. 
If I were a fan of my novels, what would I want to find on my website? Maybe story progress, photos of settings, a bit about characters, some backstory. Funny stories about things that go bump in novel writing.
I’d love to do that in the future, but with my first novel in shambles due to the recent acquisition of plotting skills, I’m not ready to share that sort of thing. But I guess I can share what I’m learning. Hmmm, subject of the next post: plotting.
Finding the Time
Another problem is the horrendous amount of time some people spend writing/reading/commenting on blogs, tweeting, or otherwise cultivating their tribes. If I committed that much time to my platform, when would I have time to work on my novel?
I decided there was probably a place called “Platform Light” -- where I could keep it alive, post monthly so at least my family would keep reading, and then study some of those “Ten Ways to...” articles about increasing blog readership. So I dropped all but the three most useful: my Facebook author page, Twitter, and the website/blog.
Which leads me to those other problems I’m having...
I’ve spent more than a few hours pulling my hair out over services that collect e-mail addresses. They’re supposed to effortlessly disseminate my newsletters and blog posts using their mighty machines. I tried one free company, then another, and couldn't get either of them to work properly. The latest one delayed my posts by a full week. For my health website I used a fee service to do this and it worked brilliantly, but I paid them to be brilliant.
On a more basic level, I don’t like the entire idea of collecting e-mail addresses for a potential newsletter. Why can’t I just use my blog, Twitter, and Facebook to make announcements? Is everyone on Facebook yet?
And the most frustrating problem of all: spam comments on my posts. For every legitimate comment posted I would get ten invitations to do all sorts of things I would never want to do, thank you. My local television station now requires Facebook sign-in to comment on their news stories. I'm thinking that might work for me, too.
Less Hermit, More Platform
So... I think I can potentially solve the problems with e-mails and comments just by turning my life over to Facebook. And I’ve simplified enough in other areas to make me feel comfortable enough with the process so I can spend more time being social.
The last problem, what to write, will resolve in due time. I haven’t fully engaged in the process for several months but I have made the decision to continue with the platform. That’s a big step from where I was just last week when I was willing to dump the whole mess just to relieve myself of the guilt.
What to do to instill these changes into my life? My first action will be to add Facebook comments to my website. While I’m there I can post something about my wild ride into plotting. And then I’m going to sort my three-inch stack of note cards into little piles on the floor and enter the good stuff into Scrivener
Less hermit, more platform.
Stevie Libra only recently began taking the craft of fiction seriously — acknowledging the existence of stories inside that wanted to find expression on paper. In 2011, at the age of 60, her first story came to be written. Now she has four to play with. She and her husband live in Columbia, SC, with the best of family nearby. Along with attempting to keep up a platform and plotting novels, Stevie is on staff to a ginger-colored feline. You can find her at www.StevieLibra.com, on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/StevieLibra.9), or twitter as StevieLibra.
Follow Not Bob on Twitter @robertleebrewer
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Helping Other Writers Is Key (Amy Freeman guest post)

I joined the Platform Challenge late, but once I committed, I learned mucho. I began with the basic instruction. I created a Blog, made Facebook pages, and joined Twitter (which up until then I swore I would never do…didn’t see its value until Robert’s challenge). I also joined Google +, Tumblr and eventually LinkedIn.

I sent out messages and invites to friend and acquaintances. My stats grew--mostly friends and family. But I wasn’t getting the connection I wanted. After mulling it over a bit I asked myself “What would make me want to join or follow a website? What would grab my attention?”

The answer was--something that might give me exposure as well.

Back Scratching
I posted a thread to LinkedIn--a “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” invite. I immediately received responses, people wanting to swap blogs, pages and websites from all over the globe--from Australia to Russia, from the U.S. to the Middle East.

I then took it one step further creating “Write Addicts,” a page specifically designed to promote any writer’s work. Each person who connected with me received an offer to have their work promoted on this new writer’s page. Not a single person rejected this offer. Why would they? 

The upside for me? A global collection of writers knowing who I am. I am not just a nameless clicked “follow” button on Twitter, or a random checked “Like” on Facebook. These people know my name. Many have reciprocated, extending me guest blog opportunities and interview spots. I have made new friends in the writing world.

Great Karma
The best part is gaining exposure while helping other writers like myself. The literary world is tough. Reaching out and supporting one another in this flooded and competitive field is so crucial. If you can lift your own stats and help someone else at the same time--well that’s just great Karma, right?

These actions took only moments on my part and each participant was so grateful. I have learned that successful social networking is two-sided. I received back what I was willing to give, and so far it is a gift that keeps on giving!


Amy Freeman lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and 10-year-old son. She has four other children and one grandchild--all of which live too far away! She's active in several writing and critique groups, has won some local awards, and recently published an article in a global religious magazine. Amy's first novel comes out this spring. Learn more at her blog http://vedunywriter.blogspot.com or send her an e-mail.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Living Outside of Your Comfort Zone (guest post Kelly Williamson)

It is with the utmost clarity that I recall the moment my junior-year English teacher asked me to see her after class.  I was certain I had messed something up, missed a due date, failed miserably at reciting my memorized poem with any degree of style.  My heart was racing; I hate confrontation, still do to this day.  The words she uttered were not even close to what I expected.

"Do you have any idea how talented you are? This piece is one of the best I've read since I started teaching high school.  This could be your direction, your future."

Talk about being taken off guard.  I was flattered, though I didn't follow that path. I went into education, a decision I will never regret.  At times throughout my life, however, I have wondered what would have happened if I had taken her advice, had become a writer right off the bat. 

Reflecting on a Ship That Sailed
I assumed that, because I did not go to school for writing, that I was simply reflecting on a ship that had sailed for me.  That is, until I participated in last April's Platform Challenge, run by Robert Lee Brewer.  The challenge consisted of daily tasks, all of which would help writers build their platforms; get their author brand out into the world.

Just a few months before this challenge, I had started blogging about a difficult situation in my life, largely because it was helping me process the unimaginable.  That's when I started to think that perhaps, one day, I could write a book about all of it and somehow make a difference.  It seemed farfetched and lofty, but it was a thought.  

I don't even recall how I found Robert's challenge, but as I looked into it, I learned that an aspiring author is advised to build a platform to help readers to get to know you and your writing, and that it can help you sell a manuscript or land an agent.  A platform can help you to become a known entity in the world of writing.  I read more about the challenge, and I did hesitate.  I am really a quiet person by nature, and I have never believed my writing to be much more than really great for a high school junior; never expected to have an audience beyond my own friends and family. 


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Jumping Outside the Comfort Zone
I was driven by my topic, though, and I took a leap of faith, jumping into it with an open mind, even though doing so was entirely outside of my comfort zone.   Before the challenge, only family and friends were aware of and read my blog, and that felt safe.  Through the platform challenge, I was taking real-life steps to expose my writing to many more people, strangers and experienced writers.  I was on guard, and I was gearing up for constructive criticism in an area where I didn't have much confidence in the first place.

The opposite happened, however, and I gained amazing things as the challenge progressed.  I was connecting with new people and writing resources, getting positive feedback about my writing, and building enough confidence to provide feedback to others.  By the end of the challenge, I had grown by leaps and bounds, not only as a writer, but as a person.

As the challenge ended, I reflected a lot on the experiences and lessons of the month previous, and I was able to recognize my biggest take-away:  Living outside of my comfort zone, though scary, opens doors.  I started living a little more openly, with more confidence, and outside of what felt safe.  I had no idea how much it would change my life.

Living Outside That Zone
This past Christmas, one much better than our last sorrow-filled Christmas, my daughter bought me tickets to see Daughtry and 3 Doors Down.  I am a huge music fan, and Daughtry is one of my favorites.  I, in turn, bought us a VIP package to meet the bands.  As the concert approached, I started paying a little more attention to Chris Daughtry on Twitter, getting excited for the show, and I saw that he was just completing a fitness challenge with trainer Jen Hendershott.  This caught my interest.  One thing I had let go when tragedy struck my family was my health and fitness.

The concert came, we met the bands, and I actually struck up a little conversation with Chris about his challenge; another bold move on my part.  I followed that up with an e-mail to his trainer, asking about advice for getting back to a healthier fitness level.  I wanted to find a positive outlet to better heal on the inside, while also taking care of my body in a healthier way. We came up with a great plan, and my new fitness challenge blog was born.  It was a whirlwind, and I recall thinking "Is this really happening?  Did I just sign on to be trained by a fitness champion, and hold myself accountable on a blog?" 

Yes, that really happened, and then some.  Not only did I find a positive way to heal and a friend to guide me through it, but I also signed a publishing contract to write that memoir, the one I dreamed could maybe make a difference. 

My dreams have become my reality, and it never would have happened if I hadn't stepped outside of my comfort zone and followed Robert's advice.  I will forever be grateful for this experience and the lifelong affect it has had on my life.


Kelly Williamson is an Assistant Principal and writer who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children.  She has written short stories, personal essays, and is currently working on a memoir that depicts the tragic situation her family found itself in just over a year ago.  As she works to move on, Kelly has a strong will to use her writing as a way to help others in similarly difficult situations.   Digging deep to find strength, she has begun to redirect her focus on the many positive things in life, including her writing, her loving family, and her desire to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. You can connect with Kelly on Facebook, Twitter, and her two blogs: www.kellyannwilliamson.blogspot.com and www.journeywithjenh.blogspot.com.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Like an Online Writing Conference (guest post Linda G. Hatton)

Before April 2012, I had reached a point in my writing path when I was considering attending a writing conference. A couple of factors changed my mind about going through with it. Mainly, my schedule was overloaded with my kids’ activities and I wanted to be sure my writing skills were advanced enough before spending the money.

Still, I craved a networking opportunity. I also wanted the knowledge I would gain from attending a conference: tips on publishing, platform building, and querying, to name a few.


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Platform Challenge
So when April came around, hoping to gain some of this education, I decided to participate in Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge. I went places I never imagined, all from the comfort of my kid-activity-monopolized lifestyle.

His challenge included such activities as joining a handful of social networking sites, some of which I had previously avoided: Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Participants were also asked to start a blog or spruce it up if they already had one. Other exercises included creating an editorial calendar, commenting on other blogs, pitching at least one guest post blog to another blog owner, and contacting an expert for an interview post.

I was more successful at some of the assignments than others. For instance, I still haven’t perfected the art of my own editorial calendar, though I am determined to eventually find a method that works best for my style of writing (“seat of my pants”).

Since I had already signed up for Facebook, I could breathe on that day.

I fumbled around on Twitter during the challenge and can say that, one year later, I am actually beginning to enjoy it and I now regularly participate in Twitter chats.


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Take the Challenge
If you haven’t yet participated in the challenge, pick a month to commit to working through the assignments on a daily basis. At the end of the month, focus on your “weaker” areas or tasks you haven’t completed, easing your way in if you have to. As an example, it’s easier to pitch a guest blog post to a friend, but once you’ve accomplished that, move on to pitching to blog owners you don’t know personally.

One of the best parts about participating is the group of supportive and helpful writer friends I have made, most of whom now congregate as a community under the name Wordsmith Studio. I can’t imagine I would have gained such a supportive system from networking over just a few days.

Overall, participating in Robert’s challenge was the best thing for me. It not only helped me to build my confidence as a writer, but also taught me some very handy skills in marketing myself. Most importantly, it helped me to come out of my shell of shyness, so that when I do actually make it to a writing conference, I think I will be better prepared to network in person


Linda G. Hatton spends her days writing—poetry, novels, screenplays, web codes, or notes to her children. Otherwise she gets a little cranky. Read more about Linda at her writer website. Also, check out her online literary publication, Mouse Tales Press.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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Saturday, March 23, 2013

3 SEO Myths That Scare Writers (And How You Can Use Them to Your Advantage)

This guest post is by Alexis Grant, an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist. To learn more SEO tactics, check out her upcoming free webinar, Easy SEO Tips for Bloggers.

Creative writers often avoid search engine optimization, for two reasons:

  1. We’re intimidated by SEO because we don’t really understand it 
  2. We think using SEO in our writing forces us to be Iess creative

But the truth is, SEO can only help your career as a writer. By adding this tool to your arsenal, you’ll get more search traffic to your work -- which means more eyes, more opportunities and even more money. In other words, there are a lot of reasons why writers should care about SEO.

Here are three myths about SEO that scare writers into not optimizing their work:

Myth #1: SEO is complicated

Sure, if you wanted to learn every little detail about how SEO works, you’d have a lot to learn. But the truth is, there’s no need to dig down into the nitty-gritty tactics that will make your brain explode. Instead, you can benefit in a big way just from understanding and implementing a few simple strategies.

While SEO might sound like a daunting acronym, it actually favors the laymans’ language. Think about which of these terms you’re more likely to type into Google:

  • How to write a press release
  • Components of media package for maximum exposure

You chose the top one, right? That’s how most other people use search, too. And the terms those people are typing into Google are the ones you want to use in your writing.

Writing in layman’s terms benefits you two-fold, because if you’re writing for online readers you don’t want your voice to be stiff and formal anyhow. Writing in a conversational voice helps readers relate to you and helps Google showcase your work at the same time.

Myth #2: You have to write with SEO in mind

Yack. I can hear you sighing already. Who wants to think about SEO while writing? Doesn’t it ruin the creative process?

But you actually shouldn’t write with SEO in mind. Music to your ears, right?

Instead, write like you always write, and then go back later and look for ways to optimize for search traffic. The easiest way to do this is by scanning your work to make sure you’ve included smart keywords in these places:

  • Your headline
  • Your first paragraph
  • Your subheads (also make sure you have subheads -- not only does Google like them, they also make it easier for readers to quickly scan your work)
  • Anchor text for keywords (rather than making click here your link, link keywords that relate to the link)

This might seem like a lot of effort, but once you get it down, you’ll be able to look at something you’ve written and spend only a few minutes optimizing for SEO. For my own work and blogs I edit, I spend the most time on headlines. Why? Because not only are keywords in your headline important for SEO, headlines are also your way of enticing people to click on the post. That phrase is your one chance to reel in each reader, so it’d better be good.

Myth #3: You have to put a ton of effort into identifying the right keywords

Who has time for that? What we want to be doing is writing, right?

While you can spend a lot of time on keyword research, using tools like Google Trends to help you figure the best keywords for your topic, it’s absolutely not necessary. Instead, take five minutes and just use your brain. (You could also read this post Robert wrote on keywords for writers.)

What would YOU type into Google if you were trying to find the article you just wrote? How would you describe whatever you’re looking for in layman’s terms? Who, exactly, is your target audience?

Try to look at your post like the reader would. For example, if you’re writing for writers, make sure the word “writers” is in your headline. But if you’re writing a post about dogs that you’re hoping pet owners will read, don’t include “pet owners” in your headline because most people wouldn’t type that into Google. Instead, include the keyword your target audience would use to search for that information on Google; in this case, that’s probably something like “dogs” or “pets.”

Using the right keywords in your headline won’t only help you rank high in Google results, it will also help readers find your post, quickly understand what it’s about and, most importantly, click on it.

Yes, it will help humans find and click on your work. Because that’s what this is really about. Sure, you’re optimizing for Google, but you’re really optimizing for people. You’re helping people find you. And the more people who find and read your writing, the better.

This guest post is by Alexis Grant, an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist. To learn more SEO tactics, check out her upcoming free webinar, Easy SEO Tips for Bloggers.