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How Technology and Social Networking Shape Publishing

It was early summer, 1977. . .

foxnews.com

foxnews.com

. . .when I stood blinking in the movie theater after the final credits rolled. I wore cork platforms. I had a Toni home perm that I was trying to grow out.  My date’s name was Clay. I’d been home fewer than 48 hours from living most of that past year in Austria. Maybe that fact – that I’d been out of the US loop for a while, residing on another planet, playing lonely goatherd near Salzburg – is the reason I said the following words as Clay and I got ready to leave the theater:

“Well, hmmm,” I mumbled, “I can tell you one thing: that thing’s never gonna catch on.”

Clay cocked his head, trying to check if I was joking. “But you didn’t even think those. . .those Stormtroopers were–?”

Head shake.

“And not even Princess Leah?”

Smirk.

“What about Han Solo? Don’t you think he was-?”

Contorted, noncommittal, wrinkled Calvinist librarian grimace.

“Oh, come on! Not even that little – what was his name? C3P0? But that was pure genius!”

Dead pan glare.

“Mark my words,” I said with disdain and self-assurance, “The soundtrack’s good, yeah. But the rest? It’ll never catch on.

Forget that my flippancy was an insult to my date who’d just paid for my opening night ticket. Forget that I made him awkward. That I then felt awkward.  I squirmed a bit in that windy gape of silence, teetering on my cork platforms, fluffing the frayed ends of my Toni perm.

1977. First time in Paris. Last time to have a perm.

1977. My first time in Paris. My last perm.

Forget all that. The real deal, the reason this moment has stuck with me, is that I. Hadn’t. Gotten. It.  I hadn’t gotten something really big, important, sea-changing, intergalactically cosmically epic.

Seven episodes, 25 Oscar nominations, (10 Oscars), video games, Halloween costumes, books, spin-offs, a global cult following and an oribatid mite genus named darthvaderum later–  and I’m chawnking on my words.

What Else Have I Not Gotten?

I just don’t seem to get the genius of some things. And a lot of those things end up spinning the planet.

For instance, I remember 20 years after Star Wars when a friend told me that the “next wave, Melissa – watch for it, it’s coming fast – the next wave,” she said,  “is technology.”

“Aeck,” I said. “You really think so?  Aeck [again], I hope not.”

In those days, I wrote (by hand, on onion skin paper, with special pens and in gorgeous calligraphy) epistles to my friends. I resisted my first computer. My second one.  My third.  When friends’ responses to my handwrought letters popped up on my PC screen, I thought they looked as personal as ingredient lists on a cereal box.  Sterile, generic, dehumanizing sound bytes.

pcmusuem

pcmusuem

I clutched my fountain pen in defiance.  I licked postage stamps until I got drunk on the glue.

But it didn’t take long to realize that as a writer, my quaint Thoreauvian methods of communicating just weren’t going to cut it in a rapidly changing world. So I capped my pen, shelved my envelopes, plugged my nose, and dove into email.

(So you know: I dove like Jacques Costeau.  Ask my friends. They call my emails “Melissives.” I write dense emails. Daily. )

And Then There Was This Thing Called a BLOG.

thewisdompearl

thewisdompearl

“Melissa, listen: You just have to start a blog!”

This was my technobility friend, one whose career has kept her steeped in that cyberocean since the days it was no more than a puddle.  For years, she’d been following our global life through me (on parchment, then, when I caved, via email), and was trying, I dunno, to oil me up for the 21st century.

I balked.  Blog. BLOG?  It sounded like a bloated trunk of a hacked down Sycamore rotting in an eddy of the Mississippi Delta. Never on your life.  It couldn’t be real writing, I protested. Besides, from all (the 3 blogs) I’d sampled, it was too exhibitionist, intrusive, prone to much-too-long daily dwelling in one’s own head. (Don’t these folks have jobs?, I thought. Families? Obligations? Water meters to read?)

Then my publisher, Christopher Robbins, crash-coursed me about authors’ blogs. Today’s serious authors maintain robust blogs. I scoured dozens of them. They’re packed with great practical material, some truly fine writing, tips on the craft, and links to (you guessed it) more blogs.

And so here I am. And here you obviously are. I’m doing this blog thing with conviction and exuberance, while also doing my job, loving my family, fulfilling my obligations (like significant ones I carry within my beloved church).  And I’ve not yet neglected our water meter.

Alors, Qui Ici N’est Pas Encore Mon FRIEND Sur FACEBOOK?”

wired.co.uk

wired.co.uk

As with Star Wars, email and then blogs, I initially winced at the drug called Facebook.  But now I’m a dealer.  At church.  It was last night, in fact, in our church parking lot after a big activity with my sweet Swiss and French charges, that I called out: “So, who here’s not yet my Friend on Facebook?”

Nearly every last person was. Facebook’s become not only the mechanism that keeps my personal self interconnected globally, but it’s also the portal through which my professional self shares her voice and gathers a readership. (You).  And it’s where you can offer me feedback and invaluable reader’s insights. You cannot fully appreciate how much I love your feedback!

(Haven’t visited the Global Mom: A Memoir FB page?  Bah, voilà: Click right here and be sure to “like” it.)

my little Twitter avatar. Thanks again, Luc.

My little Twitter avatar. Thanks again for the photo, Luc. 

Crystal, Kim, and Chirpster 

Email? Blogs? Facebook? How far can a former technophobe possibly slide down the slippery social network slope?

My two PR mavens have taught me.  Crystal and Kim at BookSparks are the minds  behind my book’s summer release campaign. (Still pinching myself, honestly, that there’s a team so invested in making my words fly.  And yes, I fawn all over their expertise). They have events in the works for NYC, Utah and LA, and have hoisted me onto various social media platforms.  This is why I’m now linked to Chirpster (Oh. You call it Twitter? Hm. That’s cute.) And am cuckooing every day.  Join in, if you want, at MDBGlobalMom.

Between this blog, the Global Mom: A Memoir FB page, and Twitter, you’re bound to bump into me on a daily basis. I’m signing off here so I can go work on some promotional pieces I’m writing for Crystal and Kim, and so I can also go edit the first installment of my Global Moms vlog series, which you can access on my YouTube Channel or the Global Mom: A Memoir FB page.

As long as you’re here, how about a vlog clip?  Watch. Leave a comment. Tell me what you think, what you would change to improve this piece, and what questions you would ask mothers like myself who live this kind of internationally nomadic life.

14 thoughts on “How Technology and Social Networking Shape Publishing

  1. Melissa, I think you are a great writer and can have lots of books published. I do not know much about blogs, Facebook, or computers, but I ami trying! Love to all of you, Joyce Callisterl

  2. I’ve always loved technology, so for me it hasn’t been too big of a stretch. I did sign into Facebook to “like” your page, but am letting you know I’m not out there much. I’m enjoying Pinterest much more, so that is my other social media besides my blog.

    It’s late and I didn’t listen to your video, but will do so later.

    Nancy

    • Nancy, I’m going to be much more present on Pinterest, too, so I’ll watch for you there. I have such a strange, ambivalent relationship with social media, one I’m sure to talk more openly about on this blog. (And if that’s not ironic. . .?) I see from your blog that summer is unfolding! So beautiful, I can smell the air through your photos.–M

  3. First of all, Luc is a fabulous photographer!
    As I watched you vlog, I wanted to come over and gab! It made me homesick for you. I loved that your Norwegian table sits behind you. I loved your warmth. . .it came across in the vlog and made me want to the one to ask the questions and soak in the answers. It’s great to see you introduce yourself to the world, because you are one to know. I love you.

    • Diane, Diane, Diane–Let me introduce the world to YOU, how ’bout that?

      Luc has a good eye, as does Dalton, and now we all fight over camera rights. 🙂 They are both adept at video editing, which they’re teaching me. And if you could come sit at my big old Norwegian table (included in many forthcoming vlogs because it plays a central role in my book), I’m certain we could talk until the Swiss cows come home. (They live just around the corner from our house. I’ll include a shot soon.) Such love, Diane, from too far away—M.

  4. Melissa,
    I’m using this forum because it’s the one I could remember. I’ve lost our invite for the July event and your old email address is sending me nasty “mailer demon” notices. I’m sure I “filed” the invite in an obscure folder accidentally but I don’t want to miss the chance to connect with you and your dear ones. By the way, I couldn’t help wondering as I read, were those cork wedges Pappagallos? Wasn’t the name of the shoe store you managed in University Mall, or was it just a brand they carried? Even with your perm I have always deemed you to be a standard-bearer of class and beauty. Much love, Adriane

    • Lovely cuz–I’ll email you privately, no problem at all 🙂

      And my cork wedges were probably from Sears. (This was pre-managing-a-shoe-store days. You’ve got me laughing and you’ve got quite the memory!)

      “Standard-bearer” I try to be, but hardly of class and scarcely of beauty. I’m looking at you for that, Adriane. 🙂

      –M.

  5. Melissa – Watching you vlog, brought back so many memories. I don’t know if you remember, but I invited you over to discuss my new life in Germany – how to navigate in a foreign country with a language I don’t speak, with a young family and with a husband who travels extensively. As we sat at my kitchen table, I probably overwhelmed you with all my questions. I had only been in the country for a couple of months and was desperate to find some bearings. You were so warm and generous. You really gave me a sense of hope. One piece of advice really stuck out. You told me to be easy on myself. I think the moment I landed in Munich I started holding my breath. I was so anxious to figure everything out right away that I was making myself physically ill. Because of our conversation, I began to breathe again. As I closed the door behind you when you left, I stood in the doorway and took a long, deep breath. Our afternoon together really was a turning point in my transition to welcome my “new normal.”

    • Carrie,

      This message evokes strong feelings in me. Thanks for sending it. You bet I remember that afternoon chat, and how the desperation in your eyes felt familiar to me: young mother in new country without the language to help navigate a totally new life with three little children and a spouse several time zones away for long stretches more than half the time. I felt for you! Because I’d felt the same things. With all our good inclinations to be strong, competent and available to everyone (when everyone else is in crisis, too), we can end up utterly depleted. That depletion can trigger feelings of self-incrimination, “I’m not capable enough. Why is this so hard for me? It really shouldn’t be. I have advanced academic degrees, so why am I feeling like a kindergarten flunkie here?!” At least I felt those things in my similar situation.

      What I loved watching, Carrie, was how you blossomed and truly mastered the pressures of a very demanding phase of your family’s development. No one can ever take that growth and richness from you! How basic but life-saving: be kind to yourself. And Buh-reeeeeeeeeeeathe.

      Thanks. You’ve blessed me. I needed that today.

      –M.

  6. Melissa, you are terrifically engaging! So many of us have ventured down that same road easing ourselves into the cyberworld and its ever-changing dynamics! Forget about the demands of establishing ourselves as legitimate writers, we now have all of these other online venues to tap into and share with the world. It’s a full-time job in itself! Of course the power of the internet cannot be understated and my website analytics tell me so. The interwoven connections between our websites, blogs, social networks and more are powerful, viral tools.

    You’re getting your name, your fabulous writing stye and content, your face and voice and indeed your very own branded imprint on the internet itself and time will ultimately become your friend as you develop a mass following. I have been on this journey for over a dozen years now and doing all of those things, and the current backbone of invaluable exposure developed through critical networking has afforded me the transition to full time writing/editing opportunities that even six months ago would never have been conceived in my wildest dreams.

    It all seems like a relentless, perhaps futile effort, monumental and at times overwhelming. I harken to the inspiration of ‘David and Goliath’ or even ‘The Little Train That Could’! Building blocks. It’s all about building blocks…stacking them ever so neatly, painstaking, resolute, undefeated until one day you wake up, boot up, logon and lo and behold your inbox holds a message that brings it all together and you know you’re on your way!

    That you have persevered through some incredibly difficult times in your life and through major relocation, surviving as a ‘global mom’ and still manage to come all this way is such an inspiration to us all! And most importantly in this day of cyberspace connectivity to the masses is just that…the all-encompassing engagement of your readers, that connection that compels your reader to come back for more. It may be highly technical and the mechanics not within our grasp yet it all comes back down to the simplicity of connection, human connection. You achieved that through your amazing and at times heart-wrenching story Melissa and that same human connection will bode well for you in your publishing endeavors.

    Thank you for affording us that wonderful connection!

    • Don, always encouraged by your caring words. They help hold back my self-doubt. Publishing is primarily about rejection and criticism, which wears on one, as you must know. So it revives me to find engaged readers.

      All the best!

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