Incognito Press

truth. knowledge. freedom. passion. courage. Promoting free-thinking, activism & rogue writing.

Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

On Stalkers, Trolls and Awesomeness

Posted by E on January 29, 2016

Fearless

I’ve given a lot of thought to this subject, especially in light of a recent landmark court case which determined that freedom of expression on social media networks trumps moral outrage and the perception of being harassed simply because one’s feelings have been hurt due to insensitive online comments. As the judge put it, “One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.” (Judge B. Knazan, R v Elliott). This precedent-setting court case involved two prominent Toronto feminists, Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly, and a man named Gregory Alan Elliott who had directed crude and disparaging comments at the women via Twitter.

As a writer and freelance journalist who prizes freedom of expression, but also as someone who identifies as a feminist and who has been harassed online, I understand both sides of this argument – the importance of standing up for your right to express dissent, even comments that others might consider politically-incorrect and offensive, versus a human being’s basic need to feel safe and not personally-attacked. It was an ugly case that probably shouldn’t have ended up in criminal court at all – a case where people on both sides of the equation were not entirely without blame for adding fuel to what became a nasty online battle made up of hurled insults and unproven accusations (such as pedophilia) between feminists and MRAs (men’s rights activists).

auschwitz meme forgivenessFor most of us who write political commentary and engage in social media conversations, this battle hits close to home. For me personally, what comes to mind is a comment left on my Facebook Author Page last year where an Oshawa man threatened to blow my head off with his shotgun. It was just after I’d published my memoir Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-up and the threats were coming in.

Even though I screen-captured the comment and my friends urged me to contact police, I held back – knowing that it wouldn’t do much difference. Some of my supporters contacted the man directly and threatened to report him to the authorities, and he promptly removed the comment and sent his profound apologies, terrified that I would get him arrested. In truth, I didn’t want to go through a court case and deal with police. Instead, I just blocked him on social media and chalked it up to drugs and/or alcohol having played a factor in the threat. Fortunately, after the dust settled I never heard from him again.

A couple of months later I received an email from Aryan Nations in Idaho (I have site trackers installed on my websites and I was able to authenticate the IP of the email as having come from the Hayden Lake, Idaho area) also insulting and threatening me. Once again, it disturbed me for a little while but I decided to shake it off – after a few years as a prolific blogger, you get your share of disturbed individuals and pretty much the only thing you can do is not let them get to you.

The courts are not going to be of much help. As everyone has seen after the Elliott case was decided, the comments being hurled at Steph Guthrie on Twitter these days are a lot more mean-spirited and threatening than what Elliott had ever previously tweeted. Moral of the story? Nobody can help you if you can’t help yourself first by disengaging in conversations with trolls and blocking them. It also means that you resist the temptation to answer back, to check what they might have said after you blocked them, to call them on their bullshit, etc. Ignoring someone is a two-way street, and most people learn this the hard way.

fearlesnessIndeed, I have blogged and published content on various social media platforms for close to a decade. In that time I’ve encountered my fair share of online stalkers, creepy harassers and trolls, and I also spent far too much time stressed and concerned over my safety – but such stress has impacted on my own well-being and productivity. As anyone who’s had an online presence for that long will tell you, the more nasty comments, tweets or emails you get, the more your ability to express yourself becomes limited, at the very least on a subconscious level.

You begin to censor yourself, to be unduly careful not to express opinions that might be divisive, lest they provoke and set off someone whose only pleasure seems to be targeting individuals online with anonymous hate and abuse.

Although my exposure to such abuse has prepared me for the possibility of being a target, I can’t say that it’s made the experience any easier when it is actually happening. I have come to realize that it’s an ugly world out there and not much I can do about mentally-ill, unbalanced individuals or substance abusers who have nothing better to do than stalk my blogs and websites obsessively.

awesome kittyWhile I cannot do much about others’ behaviours, I can choose to exert control over my reaction. I know it’s a cliché but it’s one that makes sense for a reason – your reactions can make or break your confidence and impact your view of the world. Despite the distress I’ve felt over the years, I realize today that I must grow a thick skin if I am going to last in this profession – I already wrote about this last spring in a piece titled The Brutal Truth About Being a Writer.

I have no choice but to reframe my reality and embolden myself by accepting that no matter what I do, crazy people will always be there. But they cannot hurt me if I don’t allow them the power to get to me, to poison my mind with fear. Like with voodoo, threats and intimidation only work when you allow yourself to believe them. By rejecting fear, you detach from needing external validation from virtual strangers, reject their interpretation of who you are, and take back your power.

This is how I become INVINCIBLE.

This brings me to my 2016 Resolution –to REFRAME how I deal with daily #socialmedia psychos. From now on, instead of allowing them to affect me or stress me out, I will simply view them as my jealous, adoring Bieber-like fanbase. People without any creativity or talent to make something of themselves; sad and pathetic losers who don’t have a life of their own and are obsessed with mine.

Besides, everybody knows that growth in popularity is commensurate with increase in psycho fandom – any celebrity can tell you this. Whether a movie star or bestselling author, the more popular you get, the more nutbars you are bound to attract. Call it the hidden cost of success.

So, from this day onward, instead of feeling stressed & harassed by IP-specific trolls (who’ve also used proxies and VPNs to stalk me), I will view them as adoring fans addicted to my awesomeness 😉

So if you’re reading this, I know you can’t help yourself – indeed, I am THAT awesome 😀

little girl green grass

right awesome

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Posted in activism, blogging, politics, press, social media, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

2015 In Review

Posted by E on January 28, 2016

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Secret of Compounding Blog Posts

Posted by E on September 9, 2015

inkwell feathers

Everyone who’s ever had a blog knows that you’ll get your winning entries – the pieces that bring you loads of traffic – and your destined-to-gather-dust duds. And the frustrating thing is, at first it all seems like a crapshoot where you can’t tell which post will take off from the starting gates and which will linger unread, despite all the effort and research you put into it.

Sometimes it’s sheer luck. At least it seems like that on the surface. But if you scrutinize the patterns of your own writing, certain facts are bound to emerge. It might take quite a bit of time, but eventually you can come to predict which articles are destined to be “winners” – the pieces that bring you a constant stream of traffic, and lead people toward your other writing.

However, until this month I didn’t have a word for this. Not until I stumbled upon an excellent HubSpot research report titled Compounding Blog Posts – What They Are and Why They Matter.

compounding and decaying So what are compounding posts? Why is it crucial that you understand how they function?

A compounding post is one that grows in traffic over time, surpasssing its initial, just-published traffic. “Compounding posts may not necessarily be blockbusters when they’re first published, but their structure and substance are so relevant that they continue to deliver value and grow traffic organically — no additional marketing needed.”

The opposite of a compounding post is a decaying post. A decaying post declines in traffic over time.

The report revealed an important statistic about compounding vs. decaying posts. According to HubSpot’s research, 38% of total blog traffic is generated by compounding posts. However, compounding posts only make up 10% of all posts.

compounding posts

This seems very frustrating – out of the approximately 200 posts I’ve published in the last few years, only about 20 will be compounding. That’s a lot of time spent planning and writing pieces that will probably not go anywhere or generate much of a return. So what can you do about that?

I think the goal of most individuals and businesses is to write posts that perform. But along with trying to learn how to write compounding posts right out of the gate, I think it also boils down to what you are trying to accomplish.

In classic marketing, there are two basic schools of thought when it comes to branding – you can brand yourself, or you can brand a business (with its own particular subject matter).

who-are-youI don’t beat around the bush about being partial to the former. With me as the brand, it gives me the freedom to write eclectic pieces about anything that I feel passionate about. One day it might be an intimate, journaling piece that chronicles a particular situation I feel strongly about; the next day I might use my psychology degree to put together a profile of Psychopathy, or perhaps offer my experiences as an expat living and teaching abroad.

For huge corporations, a business brand is crucial. I read an article recently which stated that when considering toilet paper, the vast majority of buyers are not interested in the company’s CEO. But for smaller businesses, the owner’s personal brand is absolutely critical.

If I chose to brand only one angle – say, a consultancy business as an editor – then all my posts would be very narrow in scope. Obviously I would write about editing, publishing and the art of writing as a whole. But I know myself – after say, 50 posts or maybe a year of plugging at the same subject, I’d get pretty bored.

Maybe if I wrote to a niche audience I might acquire a large following faster (though there are no guarantees) and of course there is the possibility of selling the business down the road – after you’ve accumulated enough of a following. But the internet is chock-full of niche writers, so if you choose a topic that has been flogged to death (say, social media marketing or indie publishing), you’d better have something truly original or it will be very difficult to monetize it. Not impossible – because nothing’s really impossible – but very, very difficult to resell.

So don’t choose your branding strategy based on some vague notion of future riches – choose what fits YOU and your personality the best.

After reading the HubSpot editorial, I decided to decipher what sets my top articles apart from everything else I’ve written on this blog. I decided to compile all the pieces that received the highest-amount of traffic and try to break down the components that contributed to their success. Once I started to understand what they had in common, I created this list:

Variety IS the Spice of Life

Don’t just clone your pieces. I can tell you that my top-performing articles are all divergent in their topic – one thing they all have in common is my unique perception. Don’t be afraid to roam free, rather than be corralled into a singular perspective. You are a well-rounded human being with (I would assume) more than one interest and one viewpoint – use your blog as a vehicle to explore the things that make your heart beat faster: books, music, politics, shoes, cooking – whatever makes you, well, you.

Emotional Authenticity – Be Genuine

Something that all my top pieces have in common is that most of them are written from the heart. They’re full of emotion: some were written when I was feeling heartbroken or frustrated at those who took advantage of me as a teenager (my blogs about the CBC, CSIS and the Heritage Front). Others capture a particular life experience that resonates with others (such as the story of my conversion to Judaism, or my memories of growing up in a communist dictatorship).

long word counts

 Length is an issue also – these are also pieces that are particularly in-depth and on average have a higher word count than my shorter entries.

Of course I have other, equally emotion-driven pieces that are seldom read. But just like a writer who publishes and fails and tries again, I cannot guess beforehand what will be a hit. The important thing is to plug away at the craft – it might take one book to break out, it might take ten until you hit the bestseller lists. What’s crucial is to keep going, and to be authentic at all times.

In this age of superficiality, there is an underlying aspect to the human condition: the drive for meaning. For emotional truth. Don’t try to write something compelling – FEEL IT. Feel the power of the words as they flow from your heart out through your fingers.

Knowledge – write about what you really know about

The other factor all my top-viewed posts have in common is knowledge and expertise. I wrote about subjects that I knew intimately. When you try to bluff being an expert and write pieces that are not rich in content, people tend to notice. Think of how many blog posts you’ve skimmed over, nodding to yourself, Yup, I already know all this. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to realize that valuable, smartly-written content is still hard to come by.

Take a Broad, Sweeping Approach

Broad topics that appeal to a large audience perform better over time than those with a narrower focus. Become a guerilla marketer for your own blog. Turn things inside out. See things from fresh perspectives. If 90% of what you write is serious, try adding some light-hearted, fun material. The reverse is true – if all you focus on are subjects involving fashion styles or cooking, consider a deeper, emotional piece about what a particular recipe means to you – does it make you connect with a grandmother who passed on, or a part of your heritage?

Be Unique

What draws you to one writer over another? I’m willing to bet that uniqueness is a factor. Superficial, short pieces might be fun reads and easy time-wasters, but they are also forgettable. They’re the fast-food of the masses – you read them, enjoy them, and two hours later you’re already hungry for something new.

Write about the things nobody else is talking about. Don’t just regurgitate the fluff everybody’s blogging about, or keep things lite and trite – there are thousands of very successful blogs that already do that. Fashion blogs, mommy blogs, even political pundits – it’s all been done. So just write what makes you content or fulfilled.

Be Passionate

Write the kind of material that will be savoured, bookmarked and reread. Look through your own bookmarks and see what you tend to revisit – and then find something that you are really, truly passionate about. Be fearless!

As you can see, these factors are applicable not just to creating a popular blog or website, but also can be translated to your approach to writing in general. Whether you’re working on a short, 600-word editorial or a full-length novel, the same rules apply.

Be Yourself.

Quill and Ink feather-pen-and-ink-on-old-paper

In case you’re curious, here are my top articles (in no particular order). Over time, they have generated thousands of hits to my blog and website.

White Lies: A Pack of Lies, or How the CBC Ripped Off My Story – in 1998 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made a movie that exploited and capitalized on my life experiences as a teenager. Problem is, they didn’t bother to tell me about it.

Journey to Judaism: The Day I Became a Jew – the most personal, spiritual journey I’ve made in my life. Genetic memory, discovery that my anti-Semitic father was a Jew who had hidden his roots, and uncovering my painful legacy lead my decision to embrace my heritage and convert to Judaism

An Open Letter to Canadian Media – in light of Bill C-51, I consider this article to be among the most important pieces I’ve ever written. This piece led to several alternative and mainstream media interviews, as well as speaking engagements.

Race Traitor MEDIA LIBRARY – a comprehensive but not complete media library to detail the situations described in my memoir Race Traitor

The Dubious Adventures of Grant Bristow, or How CSIS Taught Me Everything I Know About Phone Hacking The truth about what really happened in the 1990s and CSIS’ role in creating a white supremacist pseudo-terrorist organization in Toronto. This article depicts what agent provocateur Grant Bristow did to stir up criminal activity, and what I did as a teenager to shut them down.

Memories of my Communist Childhood – Growing Up Under the Red Banner is one of my most emotional pieces. It has been quoted in various online journals and is about growing up as a pioneer in the Romanian communist utopia of Nicolae Ceausescu, during the Golden Epoch of our Fatherland.

Doing a Midnight Run without Getting Caught – the title says it all. A practical how-to guide on escaping from Korea while bound to an E2 work visa.

The Brutal Truth about Being a Writer – the most important ingredient you’ll need to make it as a writer, and it ISN’T talent

Psycopath vs Sociopath Psychological profile traits to help you discern if anyone you know could be categorized as such – there is much confusion on what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. This article is going to clear it up.

The Artist’s Basic Guide to Establishing a Social Media Presence – Part 1: Build your Brand If you’ve ever wondered where to start to build a platform as an artist, read this first.

The freedom to dream, the courage to belong  If you’ve ever had a dream worth fighting for and you searched within yourself for the courage and resilience to move forward, you’ll want to read this.

Why I Defaulted on my Student Loans – and why, if you’re suffering financial hardship, you should too

If you enjoyed the read, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

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The Importance of Blogging – 10 Top Reasons

Posted by E on September 1, 2015

Girl on tablet with social media icon chalkboard

Every day, about 175,000 blogs are created. There is a blog born every half-second. So why should YOU start one, you might ask? The real question you should ask yourself is, why haven’t you started one yet? There might be millions of blogs out there, but they are not all created equal. In the blogosphere, Longevity, Frequency and Quality are king.

shakespeare blogSome are simply online journals that capture an individual’s daily routines. Some are heavy-duty corporate articles that attract thousands of readers, or motivational pieces that are retweeted and reblogged hundreds of times. Each blog is different and some serve multiple purposes. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, based on how search engines rank their pages, a blog that updates more frequently will rise up in the search results and achieve greater exposure than a static site.

FIVE BUSINESS REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BLOG:

Of course static websites like a .com have not outrun their purpose – but the most successful sites will have incorporated blogging as part of their brand-building strategy. You can also buy a .com domain and point it to a blog, which is what I’ve done in several cases where I didn’t want to pay for hosting a static website. Nowadays you can integrate a classic website with a blog architecture, as is the case of WordPress.org – where you can own your domain but still use the powerful blogging tools that WordPress offers.

people in the information space

  1. The cardinal rules of blogging are 1) Post frequently, and 2) don’t post articles that are too long. I’m guilty of violating the second rule rather frequently since many of my pieces run well in excess of 1000 to 2000 words. I believe in creating comprehensive and well-researched articles and often there is much more to be said about a subject than can be encapsulated in 500 words. But whenever I can, I make sure to break up the large chunk of text with appropriate images or fun facts, so it gets easier on the eyes.

Here are some reasons you need to incorporate blogging into your business:

1. Drive Traffic to your Website via built-in Links

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Each article posted on your personal or company blog has the power to drive traffic to your domain and sell your brand and/or products, along with potentially cross-networking with other powerful sites. The more interesting the material you post, the more likelihood there is for catching people’s attention and gathering awareness for your main product site.

blogging importance2. Increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Eighty percent of people who search for information online never get past the first page of results. It is therefore crucial that your business and brand identity appears in the top ten search results. Blogging frequently attracts higher traffic to your site and will result in your website being indexed higher in Google and other internet browsers, which in turn will lead to further expansion of your name and brand.

Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages. And 9.81% of businesses consider their blogs to be an important asset to their businesses. Blogging is a sure-fire way to increase your SEO and do it fast. According to Social Media B2B, companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t.

Fresh content is key to beating out your competitors in search engine results and boosting your offline business. According to a 2010 study by the Kelsey Group, 97% of all consumers use online media to shop locally. Another study conducted by Intelius shows that 78% of consumers consider it important to look up information about businesses online before deciding to interact with them.

3. Establish your Brand as an Expert in your Particular Field

For years now I’ve written blogs for several corporations and non-profit organizations, mostly as a ghostwriter – meaning I was hired to write articles for the particular company to publish at their own discretion. I’ve also built several websites for clients and created their web content. I cannot stress how invaluable it is to keep constant, new information coming. Writing one entry every couple months or so will never build enough interest to bring people back to your site. And it’s not just a matter of creating content, but actually making it interesting and relevant for your audience.

4. Develop New and Improved Relationships with Clients, Fans and Customers

A key to being an effective blogger is the opportunity to engage with new people who search for keywords and stumble onto your blog. After several years, I have close to six thousand regular subscribers to my Incognito Press blog. I probably could have built more connections if I had been more persistent in updating my content. There were months when I was working on other projects and neglected my own website. However, despite the occasional breaks over the years, I’m at the point where my blog averages approx. a hundred new hits a day – and on days when I publish a new piece, my traffic spikes to several hundred.

why blog blogging 5. Increase Sales of your Product or Services, which will Monetize your Brand

Many of the people who purchase my books discovered me and my story through the articles I posted on my blog. Aside from being able to sell books through a blogging platform, you can also be paid to write articles on various products. Leading bloggers in their field are often given free products and/or monetary compensation for reviewing anything from fashion products to consumer goods. The more traffic you generate to your site, the more your brand value increases and you become a commodity. Eventually you have the option of selling your blog and associated domain at a premium, or publishing its contents as a book – the sky’s the limit!

FIVE PERSONAL REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BLOG:

Should you blog, even if you have nothing to sell? Of course you should, and here are some reasons why:

how_to_blog1. Blogging Improves your Writing

I started blogging sometime in 2007, I think. Over the years I’ve noticed that, just like in journalism, blogging has helped me immensely in writing clearer and faster. Why is it like journalism? In a press office, journalists are expected to produce certain word counts on a deadline – after a while, the thought of writing 1000 words per day becomes routine. Practice makes perfect!

No more Writer’s Block

If you blog for as long as I have, you begin to realize that there’s really no such thing as writer’s block. Just like going for a walk, writing involves the process of putting one step in front of another until you get to the end of your goal – word after word after word, and then it’s done. It’s giving up the excuse of lack of concentration, and realizing that – just like in working out – blogging daily or weekly develops your writing muscle.

2. Blogging gives you a Voice

blogging voiceFew things are better than getting something off your chest. Art – writing, painting, dancing – are incredibly powerful and therapeutic methods to make yourself be heard in a world where it’s so easy for people to fall through the cracks. It’s a means to record your experiences through your own unique filter. It will capture a lasting chronicle of your days, months and years, as well as leave something behind for your loved ones when you are gone. Just like anything you create, it’s a legacy of your essence in this world and an important part of our collective history.

blogging-community3. A Supportive Community

Blogging can get you to come out of your shell. You can network with new people and be introduced to an audience and community of supporters who understand you and encourage your dreams. I’ve met some really amazing people through my blog or by reading their blogs, and I’ve been enriched by their presence in my life.

4. You are a Journalist

sky horizonHow many times have you watched your local television news and saw them quoting Twitter users or YouTube posters? In the age of social media, online news providers – yes, this means your blog also! – are at the forefront of NEW MEDIA. In fact, they are replacing traditional media at an astounding rate. Independent news networks and blogger sites are the main reason newspapers are shutting down all over the country and paid jobs in journalism are increasingly scarce. This isn’t a bad thing, people – the increased diversity of voices brings fresh and original perspectives to the human experience. It opens the door to niches and new ideas. It sparks a new hunger that ignites the imagination and originality.

bloggervsjournalistAs a blogger who often writes commentaries on politics and the arts, I can tell you that my blogs have attracted the attention of mainstream press and have reached many thousands of individuals. I’ve come to the conclusion that bloggers (especially those who cover hard-hitting issues) aren’t just doing a hobby but an actual job. Their pieces can be sold to newspapers and magazines and, in fact, they can be considered freelance journalists.

5. It can Lead to Speaking Engagements, Publishing Deals & Jobs

In the publishing world, there’s almost nothing better than having a platform of thousands of readers. There are authors who were rejected hundreds of times and subsequently developed such a strong following that agents and publishers came crawling after them. Many of them don’t even want a traditional deal anymore. Based on the contents of my blog, I’ve been asked to be a speaker at various conferences and have hand-sold more books than the average first print-run Canadian author typically gets.

Your new resume and calling card

Most companies’ HR departments are now regularly googling prospective new employers. People want to know you and what you’re all about, and this is your chance to establish yourself as someone who knows your field well.

Finally, the more you write and the more attention you get from your pieces, the more likelihood that you might be offered a freelance or ghostwriting gig. And there’s no better feeling than getting paid for what you were already doing for free.

On that note – if anyone reading this wants to hire me to write your blogs for you or your company, drop me a line! 😉

Blogging Brand Voice1

If you enjoyed the read or found it useful, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

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On finishing the book, getting agent, firing agent, & getting another agent

Posted by E on June 3, 2010

It was last June, exactly one year to today (and no, I didn’t plan it that way), when I made the decision to close down my blogs — not the smartest move, some would argue, given the fact that one of my blogs had close to 90,000 hits between 2007-2009. But I did what I felt was necessary to focus exclusively on finishing my book. Wayyyy too much of people’s time can be taken up with social networking and blogging, and while the encouragement and connections you make with others can be so exciting at first, it can lead to neglecting other tasks. Like finishing manuscripts. Which took me slightly over a year and a half to complete.

And I don’t regret it one bit that I chose to stop blogging, because on January 26 of this year I FINALLY finished the first draft of my manuscript! And after that, life took on the odd, techicolour quality of an amusement park rollercoaster. I could try to describe it, but I think I’ll let my Facebook diary speak for itself:

Facebook entry for Jan26: FINAL TALLY: 2 years, 3 grants, 1 nervous breakdown and countless grey hairs later (lol), I am FINISHED! Final numbers=228,500 words, which I’ve edited down to 226K. By the end of this, hopefully I won’t be more than the 200K mark. But I am DONE!! And too exhausted to feel anything but numb right now…….

The next day, I started querying literary agents. To my surprise, (in all the workshops they tell you to be prepared to wait for months) most of the requests for book excerpts came within 24 hours.

Facebook entry for Jan. 29: This afternoon received query for the full MS from my #1 choice literary agency…they wanted the whole thing. Keeping my fingers crossed! I wonder how long the excrutiating wait is before I find out if they take me on or not…anybody have requests for fulls or partials? How long did they take before they got back to you?

Facebook entry for Feb.9: queried 10 more agents today – 8 in NY, 2 in Toronto. It’s a numbers game, isn’t it? Anybody here have an agent? If so, are you happy with him/her and would you recommend their agency? Look forward to all input and advice. Many thanks in advance:)

Facebook entry for Feb.25:  “a few of us here have now had a chance to read the manuscript and we’re all quite taken with your story” — I’m scheduled for a lunch meeting with my No.1 choice literary agency (still keeping it secret for now) this week – wish me luck that they’ll sign me!

Given the long-standing, international reputation of the agent it is named after, this agency could easily be considered Canada’s top literary agency. The fact that they wanted to sign me right away was incredible, incredulous, and left me utterly ecstatic! 🙂 I mean, realize that all I had was a first draft to begin with – mind you, a well-written and polished first draft, with certain rephrasing here and there, but still…

Facebook entry for March 2: IT’S OFFICIAL – I’ve accepted an offer of representation from my #1 choice literary agency, the Lah-de-Dah Agency! (Name changed to protect the guilty, lol). We had lunch today, discussed the manuscript and sealed the deal 😀

Ok, so here is the point where you break out the champagne, have all your friends over and pretend to be coherent while you’re head’s spinning off in la-la land. You basically have a mini-meltdown a la hyper teen: OMFG, can you believe it, LOLZ!! I was in a euphoria for the rest of the week. And wouldn’t you know it, but the month was just about to get better.

The following week, there are two envelopes in the mail — one big one, with my official contract all signed and autographed from the famous agent the agency is named after, and the other is a shiny cheque for $12,000 from the Canada Arts Council!! I’d applied back in October and by now had pretty much given up on ever hearing from them. Ever the optimist, I was absolutely certain I was going to have my application rejected. I’d never applied before, I only had the minimum amount of required publication credits, yada, yada, yada…..but then, Holy Crap, it CAME!! And not a moment too soon, since I’d just run out of my other $12K from the Ontario Council.

So, as you can imagine, this was one of the happiest weeks of my life. Honestly, I was in hog’s heaven.

And then….it all went downhill. Got a horrible cold that practically killed me for a week, and worse even, I realized that I wasn’t going to click with my agent after all. As an unknown author, a newbie in the industry, the Big Name agent wasn’t going to rep me anyway, and not with a non-fiction book to boot, so I was being repped by two newbie agent associates. Not that it matters what their sales record is, given that they’re working with one of the biggest names among Can Lit agents. I mean, hell, I was represented by THE So-and-So Agency, right? And being told that they get hundreds, even thousands of queries a year and only take on only about 10 new clients per said year, it was an achievement in itself to be on their roster.

And then I realized that they weren’t the agents for me. That just because I was being repped by the same folks who represent Nino Ricci, Vincent Lam, Camilla Gibb and Lisa Moore and half the freaking country’s big-name authors simply wasn’t enough. Not if I got nothing back in the way of direction, input or enthusiasm.

Stay tuned for my next entry, Why I Fired My Literary Agent.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Posted in agent, blog, blogger, blogging, canadian literature, life, literature, manuscript, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Words of Encouragement to myself

Posted by E on November 16, 2007

When you write your first book, this is what you tend to think:

Finish book, stick in large envelope, mail to publishing house, receive call from ecstatic editor offering huge book deal, receive enormous check, buy mansion, end up on cover of Time.

I miss that period of delusion. I’ve become all to familiar with the reality of trying to have a book published. For instance…you cannot send your book to a publishing house anymore. Publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts. You must get an agent. Ok, no problem.

Except I’m currently stuck at “you must get an agent”. Getting an agent is about as hard as it used to be getting your book in front of an editor at a publishing house. If you can even get an agent to respond to your query, you’re lucky!

But…just to make us all feel better, I’ve posted a list below of famous authors that were rejected (some multiple times) by either agents or publishing houses.

Ray Bradbury has had about a thousand rejections over his 30 year career according to a B&N interview, and says he is still getting rejected.

Ellen Jackson’s Cinder Edna was rejected more than 40 times before it was accepted for publication. Since then, it has won many awards and sold more than 150,000 hardcover copies.

Jasper Fforde received 76 rejection letters from publishers before his first novel, The Eyre Affair, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2001.

Judy Blume received “nothing but rejections” for two years. “I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent.”

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time was rejected by 26 publishers before being accepted by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It ended up winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of 1963 and is now in its 69th printing. (Thanks to Mark Bernstein)

Meg Cabot said that her Princess Diaries got rejected seventeen times before it was finally bought.

J.K. Rowling was rejected by 9 publishers before London’s Bloomsbury Publishing signed her on.

Marcel Proust decided to self-publish after being rejected three times.

Lois Bujold wrote three books (Shards of Honor, Barrayar, The Warrior’s Apprentice) before her third book The Warrior’s Apprentice was accepted after four rejections.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was repeatedly rejected when he tried to sell a book sequel to his successful “Tarzan of the Apes.” After Tarzan serializations became popular in newspapers, book publishers suddenly became interested.

Stephen King got the following rejection for his bestselling novel, Carrie: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

Shockingly, The Diary Of Anne Frank received the following rejection comment: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity’ level.” The book was rejected 16 times before it was published by Doubleday in 1952. More than 30 million copies are currently in print, making it one of the best-selling books in history.

The Dr. Seuss books got rejected more than 15 times before the author finally found an editor who accepted his work.

William Saroyan collected a pile of rejection slips thirty inches high (about 7000) before he sold his first short story.

Alex Haley, author of Roots, wrote every day, seven days a week for eight years before selling to a small magazine.

Richard Hooker’s book, M*A*S*H was rejected 17 times.

John Kennedy Toole received so many rejection letters for his novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, that he finally killed himself. Only the persistence of his bereaved mother led to the eventual publication of his novel and its receipt of the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach was rejected 140 times before it was eventually published.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: 26 rejections.

Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected nearly 20 times before being published.

Feel like crawling back into bed? Well, don’t. If anything, this list merely proves that determination and commitment to the craft is what will get you published. The way I see, anything with any merit will eventually be recognized by someone.

Posted in blogging, writer, writing | Leave a Comment »

Blogging for independence in Burma

Posted by E on September 28, 2007

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Decades ago, back in 1988 to be precise, when bloodshed last erupted in Burma, thousands of student protesters were killed behind closed doors. Today it is a different story. The biggest story yet is not only the footage of peaceful Buddhist monks being fired upon by the army, but the individual acts of revolt that aim to spread the word about the violence on the streets of Rangoon.

Blogging for Political Change: Myanmar’s Dissidents is an ABC news article that depicts some of the struggles encountered by Burmese bloggers who are trying to get the word out via internet forums and online journals.

Censorship is not something new, and dissidence in the form of smuggled correspondence has been around far before the age of internet. However, nothing has reached as many people as fast as spreading news through this medium. Let’s hope that those nameless brave bloggers, wherever they are, will somehow sense and be empowered by all the support directed at them throughout the free world.

Posted in blogger, blogging, buddhism, burma, censorship, commentary, freedom, media, myanmar, news, politics, press, revolution | 1 Comment »

Sex Kitten, Radical Feminist, or Mommy-wannabe – what kind of girl blogger should I be?

Posted by E on August 7, 2007

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For a while now I have been musing about which angle I would take this blog toward. In order to attract a good amount of readers, a blogger has a choice to make:

1. Drive readers toward you based primarily on your personality – and you can write on any subject you like, since visitors are interested in you and what you have to say, OR

2. Develop a niche area that you preoccupy yourself with, thus becoming a blogging expert in that field. In this case, readers come to your blog because of the subject, instead of you personally.

For the last couple of months I’ve wondered how I could do both and get away with it. I would like to be visited by repeat and loyal readers, but I’m not sure how entertaining I can be to each person since I don’t know them personally! And as a writer, I tend to like to cover a wide variety of subjects, and really don’t see much appeal to cornering a niche market, even one on the subject of writing.

I find niche bloggers who focus on writing and the writing process to be among the most tedious and boring offerings on the net. God, even I as a writer can’t stand posts on end that cover grammar, how to attract agents, or how you’ll never be published unless you do X, Y and Z.

What niche am I in? I’m a woman, so I could write about woman stuff – that basically renders me to choose between a radical feminist angle (The Bitch), a mommy-and-kiddies angle (The Saint), or a sexual vixen with a penchant for odd-shaped toys and wild encounters (The Whore). Those archetypal personas just about sum up 99% of the girl blogs I’ve come across.

Ok, so since I’m not a mommy that eliminates me from possibly commenting on the subject, or so many would think. So since I won’t be blogging about my daughter’s birthday party invitations or how much fun face-painting and pony rides might be, or the tantrum she threw last night when she has to share her Bratz doll with her visiting cousin. Oh, but what if I don’t want to be a mommy, after all? Yikes, I couldn’t possibly write a blog about the joys of being childfree and not be attacked by my mommy readership!

Being a lesbian, however, almost demands that I take a radical feminist or a sex maniac angle, thus blasting the doors open to new blogging possibilities. Hmmm, so many decisions, so little time!

As a feminist blogger, I could tackle the mass genocide and abandonment of millions of female infants in China and India, or how I don’t think anyone wearing a hajab can call herself equal to a man, or otherwise truly delude herself into thinking that she is liberated from western sexuality rather than oppressed.

But I can just see all the flamers and critics already get choked up in a flurry of ruffled feathers and muffled indignation as they get ready to peck my eyes out.

I will now allow myself the pleasure of fantasizing about the kind of attention a sex blog might bring – lots of adoring readers, a stalker or two, various requests for odd and unusual tête-à-tête, and a genuine elevation of my ego to unheralded proportions.

All I would have to do is put together some scantily-clad photos of myself kissing a girl, maybe some free graphics of fetish wear – stilettos, black leather, you get the point – and an occasional review of the newest and most improved dildo and flavoured lubricant. Couple that with a link of my fav music video from YouTube (replete with semi-nude whiny vocalists) and we have ourselves a winner!

The only flaming I’d receive is from the burn-in-hell type (and we know those types love their sex blogs!), but maybe as a Sex Kitten someone would actually buy me a damn latte and maybe a few books on my Amazon wish-list….

So if you’re reading this, dear visitor, please add your two cents as to what kind of blogger you would love me to be – Bitch, Saint, or Whore! I welcome all comments on the matter!

Either way,  I am beginning to add different categories to this blog, so I can appeal both to niche readers and those who like me for me.

Any thoughts?

Note of discretion to all regular readers: this post is more of a tongue-in-cheek, ironic commentary on the trend I’ve noticed in women’s blogs recently, rather than a definitive attempt to categorize myself. But just out of curiosity, do you find you read a certain type of blog more than another? Artsy stuff, political blogs, satirical/funny blogs, feminist or family-centered material? I’d like to know what you find interesting.

Posted in blog, blogger, blogging, commentary, feminism, gay, girls, lesbian, life, niche, personal, sex, thoughts, women, writer, writing | 8 Comments »