Southern Exposure


Way back in the day, I used to write for Dot Moms. It was still a relatively new concept at the time — The Group Mom  Blog. I enjoyed it immensely and was sad to see it fade away. I loved memoir-style writing. I loved being part of a community. I did Dot Moms simply because it was so much fun. And I really miss it.

Since then, I’ve come a long way in understanding the business of writing. I now know that, like it or not, internet exposure is crucial to becoming a successful writer. (And by successful, I mean “published.”) So I’ve been taking steps to become more savvy. The main reason I joined Facebook was to network with people for purposes of my writing. The main reason I didn’t just dump blogging altogether (when I became sick of it last fall, quit writing Hundred-Acre Wood and started this one) was because it’s a (literal and figurative) virtual necessity if I want others to take me seriously as a writer. As much as I like to pretend it’s not true, the craft of writing has a business aspect to it just like any other skill. Prospective editors want to know how many hits a post or a website gets. They demand traffic.

After my numerously rejected book proposal last year, I know that I have to find a way to constantly expose others to my writing in order to build a platform. And I need a platform, in order to sell more of my work.

I hate that word. “Platform.” It reminds me of walking the plank off a pirate’s ship.

I’ve written before about my annoyance with pyramid scheme businesses (such as Pampered Chef), and the awkwardness that comes when you have to ask a friend to buy one of your products. But I know enough now that I need to stoop to that level, and if I don’t, I’ll never become more published.

So for a while, I looked into blogging for various websites. When I found mamazine, I was thrilled. I truly believe in Sheri and Amy, and the work they do. There is such a labor of love in that zine, and the stories and poems they publish are powerful and inspiring. I look forward to writing installations of my column there.

I looked at other websites, too, to find regular writing opportunities. But most parenting websites tend to focus on the aspects of day to day parenting, rather than creative nonfiction. Practical, informative writing (such as how to combat potty training) is not my forte. And it bores me to tears.

Two years ago, when I came to Atlanta by myself to look for a place to live, I happened upon a stand outside of a Chinese restaurant holding free issues of skirt! magazine. If you are fortunate to have skirt! available in your area, you know what I mean when I say it’s absolute eye candy. The pages are long, the covers are colorful (usually created by a talented artist) and you feel compelled to drop whatever you are doing to sit down and read it. Which is exactly what I did. I entered the Chinese place, ordered some lo mein, and read it cover to cover.

skirt! is kind of a dream come true for women who love reading creative nonfiction. It is a monthly print magazine written by and for women of mostly personal essays. (And did I mention, it’s FREE?) There is a fun theme to every month’s issues, so all of the essays are built around this theme. I had one piece of mine, entitled “A Taste of India,” published in skirt! in the summer of 2007.

And now, I’m going to be a skirt! blogger! I’m so excited to be regularly writing for this fabulous publication. I’ll be posting about 3 times a week there and writing about various topics. I’ll post links here when I have pieces up, but I’m hoping to still write fresh entries here 2-3 times a week or so. Stay tuned.

I’ve got several other writing deadlines for this month. I like to give myself deadlines, even though I likely have no chance in hell of getting in the publications I’m trying to write for. Call it dumb optimism, but it’s optimism all the same.

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14 thoughts on “Southern Exposure

  1. Congratulations! I have friends who have published essays in Skirt, and they always had positive things to say about it as a market. I’ve never seen it in print. And you’re right– all the working writers I know are all about “platform.”

  2. I discovered Life in the Hundred Acre Wood through Dot Moms. I miss both sites, but am so happy you have found a home here. And I think you have every reason to be optimistic…your writing after your miscarriages was some of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read. You have the talent part down pat…the platform part will come.
    If I finish my book proposal this weekend, I’m sending queries out on Monday….any advice you have to pass along would be most appreciated!

  3. Congrats on finishing a book proposal! And when the book does come out, let me know so I can post about it here!

  4. Congratulations and welcome to the wonderful world of blogging for pay. You may be surprised at the opportunities it will present. Skirt is a great magazine.

  5. Oh, Mary Ann, I wish it DID pay…The essays in the magazine pay (and quite well, if I remember), but not the blogging.

    Unless you count emotional pay, which I have sorely missed since Dot Moms. So I’m happy, nonetheless.

  6. Well, being paid in experience and exposure is worth it! Plus with your talent, you’ll soon go, go go. I can’t wait to read your stuff. BTW–I have negotiated with non-paying gigs to get paid. Contact me off line if you want to talk about it.

  7. Congratulations on the new gig. But, if I can say this without detracting from that or the resolve you have (which I think is probably the most important factor in getting published!), I’m going to be a bit of contrarian on this one. I’m not saying that having a platform hurts — I do think it helps substantially. But the one person that I know with an actual in-hand book contract with a major publisher got there by focusing on the *writing*. Not on the platform. To the extent that building a platform can serve the purpose of improving the writing, I’m all for it. But I think there are an awful lot of cases where the platform ends up subsuming the writing.

  8. I agree, Phantom. There is certainly a balance between platform and writing. And I can certainly see the danger of paying too much attention to platform.

    It just so happens, though, that virtually all of my personal rejection letters have focused on platform. (Though it could be that they also thought my writing sucked, and didn’t want to tell me.)

    I’ve known several people in the past 2 years who received book contracts — all of them were former newspaper or television reporters. So it could be that they were naturally great writers to begin with (and could have gotten book contracts without their public jobs) or that their professional background provided them with a convincing marketing platform. One can never know for sure, I suppose.

  9. Oh congratulations! How nice to have found something to be another stepping stone. I am completely happy for you, and also a teeny bit envious! (But not in a Real Housewives of Atlanta way where I will say something nasty behind your back!) I can’t wait to go to Skirt! and start reading!
    Go girl.
    Sue

  10. Don’t get envious, Sue. Get YOURS. Go to the skirt! website (skirt.com), then I think you go to “contribute to skirt!” or something. As far as I know, it’s an open call for bloggers. Email them, tell them you’re interested, and then they’ll email you a very brief application. I’d love to “see” you there.

  11. Jackie,

    skirt! only publishes in the south (hence the title of the blog post). But they are getting more and more widespread. I hope they come to Baltimore, soon. You would enjoy it!

  12. I know nothing about the business of writing but I am really happy for you. You have such an elegant style about your writing, it’s what kept me coming back to Life in the Hundred Acre Wood. Best of luck with the new gig.

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