Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict



The Linkerview: The Path to Publishing

A couple of days ago Shelly Terrell, my friend from Texas, posted a link to an article titled “A Self-Published Author’s $2 Million Cinderella Story” .

Shelly is a teacher trainer and founder of #edchat, a weekly online international chat about education, happening weekly on twitter.

Why did you post the link to this article?
“A friend shared it with me because I am a writer, too. My projects are self-published and I am very keen on the topic of self-publishing. My self-published book, which I distribute online through my blog, got over 7,000 views/downloads in less than 3 years. My book is for educators and I am told in this category if you sell more than 1,000 you’re considered a best seller. It is now going to be published in print. So I guess the story of this self-published author, Amanda Hocking, was particularly relevant to me and I thought others may find it interesting, too.”

Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
“I am a writer and I have always written, starting as a child. I wrote poetry, too. I heard it was really difficult to get published by a publisher. Authors get rejected often. Amanda Hocking also says this in her story. One of my favorite authors, John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” committed suicide at the age of 31. One reason he did this was he suffered depression and I read somewhere that rejections of his writings were a part of it and that he couldn’t handle it. His book was published after his death due to the efforts of his mother. Writers are emotional by definition and some may take all these rejections personally. I decided when I first began wanting to share my writings with the public that I wouldn’t be able to cope with so many rejections, so I didn’t even try to contact publishers and decided to publish on my own work.”

How did you do it?
“Through my blog. I like the connection with the public, so I started to blog a series of posts, which turned into an e-book. I edited it and created an e-book that can be downloaded from my blog. I travel around the world through my work and give talks so I got to speak about the e-book, too. I didn’t expect it to happen, but yes, there are over 7,000 views/downloads of the e-book so far. It is a free e-book, so more people are likely to check out something that is free. When you do go to publishers you have to make an argument to justify publishing your book. Showing that it is popular online is a good argument.”

Do you think that the future of publishing will have to go through online publishing tools?
“I am not sure this is a must, but I think all writers should be familiar with online publishing tools. In poetry only 11% of the thousands of poets out there can actually make a living of it. When the statistics are that low you are right to ask yourself what is the likelihood of being the next huge writer? It does take a lot of luck and also a lot of persistence. Hocking points to that, too.
“I think in the future more people will share their passion for writing online. Maybe not all will make so much money like she did but many will be able to make some sort of an income from it.
I am just happy I did my book the way I did it because for me it was more about getting my word around than making a career out of writing. I feel I have accomplished something.”

Is there something we can all learn from this story?
“That if you love something and you are passionate about doing it – you should do it. Don’t let the rejections and setbacks along the way slow you down. Each of us is making a personal journey. I realized my capacity for handling rejection so I chose my path. You should choose yours. Whether luck played a part in it shouldn’t make a difference”.

What would you ask Amanda Hocking, the 27 year old author, if you had met her?
“I’d like to ask her about her encounter with her audience, about an author connecting with those who read their books and finding out what touched them. This should be pretty special.”


That Writing Bug!

When I started to write this blog it was a gentle entry back into the creative writing world. I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first book when I was 9 years old. It was called “The Terrific Ten”, and was written under a heavy influence of “The Secret Seven” and “The Famous Five”. It spread over several notebooks and I also illustrated it.
I resolved to shorter writings until, at the age of 14, I have completed a romantic short novel. This was written on a bet. Trying to encourage my best friend to widen her horizons and read some “serious books”, I bet her I can write a romantic book like those she reads. I completed it over a course of several weeks, and again, several notebooks. She loved it. She was the only one permitted to read it.

I did not publish any of my writings, until I became a journalist about a year later. I loved writing and considered journalism the best way to make a living out of what I really love: writing. But journalistic writing isn’t as creative as fiction.

Nor is the business type of writing I’ve been doing for more than a decade now, ever since I quit my last position as a daily newspaper’s stock exchange correspondence.

This blog is the 4th type of writing I’ve been into, and just recently that creative bug been biting me again. Like even this isn’t enough. I’ve got to set my writing bug free and just go for it. Let it loose. Maybe I’ll start with short writings here…and there…

Facebook Therapy for Teens

I have a privilege. I am connected to so many young people, my kids age, around the world, and basically invited to peek into their lives. I am not involved. I dare not speak. But I look and listen and try to grasp their reality. I have an opportunity my parents never had.

So, first of all, I am flattered, of being trusted enough. Now comes the observation. What are they talking about? What is the mood? What impresses them or occupies them? How much of their social life is managed online, and how much is offline?

And when I am looking for the answer to this question, I wonder about the difference between online and offline socializing. What does online give, that offline can’t (there’s been enough talk about the other way around…).

There has been so much criticism about the online social life. About kids clinging to their facebook-myspace pages for hours a day. Fears regarding net-safety and cyber bullying. Scares about the re-wiring of these young brains. Talks about their physical shape, changed by the growing number of sitting hours that they spend each day.

But I would like to point out some really great things that the online socializing does and might be overlooked.

I don’t know if anyone ever bothered to run a statistics about the percentage of teens who kept a diary or expressed themselves in various forms of writing 10 or 20 years ago. But I do know they percentage of teens who do it nowadays is extremely high. According to a recent publication from 93% of teens ages 12-17 use the Internet. 64% of teens are content creators. Writers.

What does it mean? And why is it of significance? I am thinking writing and biblio-therapy here. Venting.

I remember what it was to be a teen. Flooded with extreme emotions. Living a daily drama. Struggling to gain my independence, discover and re-shape my self. Wanting to do well at my studies, yet stay alive socially. I used to write a diary. I also wrote hundreds of poems. That was my way of venting. However, I didn’t have too many sharing options, and at times, the feeling you are alone, was the toughest. This sort of writing was more “for the drawer”. Looking at my kids I see something else.

What social networks give them is the opportunity for a natural support group. The discovery that they are not alone. This is a great social achievement.

So once we take a break from criticizing teens’ “inappropriate” online behavior, let’s talk about the cultivation of a new type of teen empathy. It might be difficult for them to note in the classroom that one of the students is ‘depressed’, but once he wrote it on his FaceBook status it generates a flood of comments. Suddenly the depressed is not alone, they “joined a club”. There is a kind of comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. That’s the start of therapy.
So I am watching with wonder and see the budding of empathy, caring, humor and intellect of the next generation. I am also seeing how different this blossom is, from any previous generations.

Summer observations.

Longer days. More hours of daylight. More demand for fun. Less time to work. More time with the kids. Vacation – a must. Thinning events. Too hot: Less time outside. More time for writing. Reading? Too hot. Nothing new. New projects? After the summer.

Socially yours…

I love social networking. Online and offline, virtual and real world networking. Over the past couple of weeks I have participated in several real life social networking events and enjoyed every minute of them. Reports will follow.

Here is an observation: social networking has always existed. In my life it has always played a major role. After all, I began my journalistic career at the age of 16, and what do journalists do? Network!

So what’s the big deal? Why do the 20-something walk around proudly as if their generation has invented social networking?

Well, the fact is they didn’t invent social networking, but social networking has been re-invented. First of all, it is not profession-dependent any more. You don’t need to be a journalist to network. Come to think of it, you don’t need to be a journalist to write…

Then, you do need the double channel for networking today. The online-offline go hand in hand. Online can allow a certain reach. Offline extends and enhances networking.

And here enter the 20-something. I started to type my stories, news and reports on a PC in 1990. That’s only 18 years ago. The 20-something were just about to start school. They started their reading and writing with the computer already present in their lives. Computer games, which were never present in my childhood, took a major bite in their childhood. If my better hours of childhood afternoons were socializing around the neighborhood, some of their better hours were already dedicated to solitary relationship with the computer. And yes, I know, you can socialize with friend around the PC too. I have a 10 year old son. Let me tell you something – it is not the same type of socializing, nor networking.

This generation was in the most desperate need for social networking. So when social networking finally arrived (did we mention web 2.0?), they claimed ownership, naturally.

Being a 40-something doesn’t mean I can’t benefit or I fit less. Au contraire! With my real-world social networking experience, the online-offline game is a true pleasure.

Next: Web 3.0 – semantic web, who is going to claim ownership for that??

Writing again

I think I need to start writing again.

Something is squeaking in my head.

I have given up on writing a long time ago, but I have to admit it: it’s like giving up a part of your soul.

Why is it so hard to get back on that horse again?

I think my left brain has taken over the right brain for some time. Forcing the emotional, spontaneous creativity out in favor of the analytical creativity.

It’s only when I saw the dancer turning to both directions that I realized – I must use both. Can’t let one side wins. It’s like leaving something out all the time. Like always forgetting if you locked your door.

So slowly, but surely: writing, here I come.

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