ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Monday Morning Meander

English: Meander on the River Dee just west of...

Monday Morning Meander (Image via Wikipedia)

My Mondays typically are energetic, frenetic, anxious. All weekend I’ve been building up To Do lists and massaging my timelines, and by the time I crawl out from under the comforter to share breakfast with Griffin, my Labrador Retriever, my mind is already off to the races.

I suspect that there’s a Monday Morning archetype with lots of other caffeinated-before-your-caffeinated folks who know exactly what I’m talking about. Which validates my suspicions that we all need to break pace for a few moments and meander to refresh the dreams and go juices. If you’re understanding me so far, this post may be for you. Let’s meander together for a few minutes before we pull back into heavy traffic or return to slaying dragons or charming venomous snakes.

Are you social? Digitally social? Plenty gab to be had of late regarding merits and demerits of social networks, but GigaOm‘s recent post, “Do authors have to be social? No, but it helps.“, is worth a look.

Mat Johnson described the people he follows on Twitter as his “dream party guests — interesting strangers whose wit keeps me coming back.” But Johnson also put his finger on another reason that some authors like him have taken to social media like Twitter: the ability to connect directly with potential readers. As he put it: “I’ve never had a single ad for any of my novels, had a movie made or been given a big budget push by a publisher. Usually, they just throw my book out to reviewers and hope it floats. Twitter lets me hijack the promotion plane, sidestep the literary establishment and connect directly to my current and potential audience… It’s a meritocracy; if you’re interesting, you get followed.” (GigaOM: Tech News and Analysis)

I’m borrowing Johnson’s Twitter/dream party guests analogy the next time I try to explain the joys of skinny dipping in the tweet stream to a perplexed (or dismissive) audience. And while I’m thinking about dream party guests, what happened to Kevin Smokler? Was he abducted by aliens? Or is he just giving a fall/winter rest. Back in the spring?

@ This is why we need your #TED talk. Tyler Cowen takes a cynical, skeptical look at stories #gagreflex
Karl Sprague

Are you familiar with narrative pollyannaism? Fellow optimist Karl Sprague just introduced me to its antithesis, died in the cloth story skepticism. Economist Tyler Cowen’s TEDxTalk distills the dark, devious, dangers of storytelling in his warning, “Be suspicious of stories“.

Cowen admits a weakness for compelling narratives, but he’s concerned that stories oversimplify our messy lives. He reminds us that stories distort complex human nature, interactions and institutions potentially misguiding us and fueling bias and self-deception.

He’s right, of course.

As Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics at George Mason University and co-author of economics blog Marginal Revolution and an avalanche of economics books, Cowen is right about a lot. And despite taking a few laps to warm up, his dry, self-deprecating sense of humor prevails, gradually softening his admonition. And his nod to Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s Living to Tell the Tale ultimately won me over.

“Life is not what one lives, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Stories do distort and oversimplify. But so do street signs, the nightly news, education, modern medicine, music and virtually every other human invention. His bottom line?

Be more comfortable with messy. Be more comfortable with agnostic…” (TEDxTalks)

I can live with that.

And what better way to wrap up than a digital recap of Sunday’s meander? Yesterday John Davis (@trekeast) and I escaped with our brides and progeny for a Parch Pond adventure. This Eddy Foundation wilderness holding includes a handsome pond which was frozen and snow-free, perfect skating. Here’s a clip shot by Mr. TrekEast on his iPhone:

For additional images from the outing, check out “Skating Parch Pond“.

Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, Part #4

Yesterday afternoon at Writer’s Digest Conference 2011 was a game-changer for most participants, indeed for everyone that I’ve spoken to so far. Top notch presenters packing our heads and To Do lists with critical advice. And then the much anticipated opportunity to pitch our manuscripts to multiple literary agents while the coaching is still fresh. Exhilarating, empowering, humbling, encouraging, exhausting…

It was an intense two hours. Personally, the Pitch Slam offered some of the most important feedback and inspiration in my writing experience. Smart, attentive agents telling me what I can do, must do, will do. A road map. And opportunities. Whether or not agents expressed interest in your manuscript, their feedback was priceless. An opportunity to learn how to proceed.

I had fascinating conversations with other writers last night about what they gained from the experience. Even those who were disappointed not to have received as much interest as they’d hoped were grateful for the guidance and feedback they received. Many others were practically giddy with fresh encouragement and hope kindled by the interest of literary agents.

The positive vibe continued this morning, the final day of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011. Here are the offerings:

  • How to Use Social Media to Get Noticed and Sell Your Work: Dan Blank, Brent Sampson, Kate Rados, Moriah Jovan, and Guy Gonzalez as moderator on a panel on using social media effectively to build your platform
  • Writers and Mobile Apps: The Big Opportunity: Question of the Day creator Al Katkowsky on the mobile app opportunity for writers.
  • Showing & Telling: The old adage, “Show, don’t tell” is wrong. Find out why from an experienced novelist, Laurie Alberts.
  • The Kindle Publishing Workshop: This is a detailed and technical walk-through of how to get your work on the Kindle (without a publisher) presented by April Hamilton.
  • Book or Bestseller: Which Will You Choose?: Patricia V. Davis on working with agent, publishers and booksellers to build your writing career.
  • The Writer’s Compass: Using Story Maps to Build Better Fiction: Nancy Ellen Dodd on story mapping.
  • Revision: Learn How to Love It: Only James Scott Bell could turn a thing that most writers hate into something that you can attack with confidence—and yes, even a bit of love.
  • Successfully Promoting Your Book: Kevin Smokler, Brent Sampson, Kate Rados as moderator present this panel full of personality, wit, and damn good advice.
  • Success Strategies and Systems for Writing & Selling More: The lovely and inspiring (and productive!) Sage Cohen offers 10 ways to exponentially increase the results and rewards of your writing life.
  • Creating a Backstory: How and Why It Can Make or Break Your Novel: Hallie Ephron tells us how to use backstory to make a reader care about a character (rather than slow down the story).
  • Blogging as a Platform and Publicity Machine: Dan Blank on blogging to build your platform.
  • The More Things Change… (Benjamin LeRoy)

What follows is a beta mashup from Sunday morning’s sessions. I’m curating digital artifacts from Twitter, blogs, etc. to tell the digital story of Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, but I’m sure to miss great content. Please tweet me (@virtualDavis) or contact me directly with links to great tweets, blog posts, videos, etc. so that I can add them. Thanks!

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