A butterfly painted in the seventeenth century needs a social network? Apparently so. Yet this was not a question I contemplated several years ago, when I began the magical journey that resulted in last month’s publication of my first children’s book, Belle: The Amazing, Astonishingly Magical Journey of an Artfully Painted Lady. Recently, and not unlike my butterfly protagonist, Belle, I have found myself attempting to navigate a protean twenty-first century world. It turns out she’s better at it than I am. I am jealous of Belle’s ability to travel through the centuries by effortlessly blending into great works of art. She’s got that morphing thing down. Me? Not so much.
I am an art historian by day, but I began writing children’s stories as a serious leisure pursuit back in the mid-1990s, when the Internet was barely available via dial-up. I wrote because I loved children’s literature and I loved the process of writing and, in truth, I thought if I ever got lucky enough to have one of my stories published, the most daunting aspect of taking it public would be creating a lively presentation for expectant grade school audiences. But the fast-paced, ever- expanding opportunities offered by the Web has left me – well, spinning.
In anticipation of Belle’s release and at the urging of my publisher, I opened a Twitter account. But now the novelty has worn off and I find I have to make an effort to check in. And I have yet to send out a tweet. I am in awe of people who are able to create witty, insightful tweets and blog posts on a regular basis. And as I try to build some sort of online presence, I find I am also in awe of those people that can keep all of their various and sundry passwords and log-ins straight!
I do have a LinkedIn page (but no Facebook – yet) and there are lots of lively and useful discussions going on in the LinkedIn SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) group of which I am a member – but I am still waiting for the right moment to jump into one of those chats myself. I don’t know why I find that so intimidating. I think it is in part because I always feel so pressed for time and I have a subconscious fear of being sucked into a vortex of my own making and from which there will be no escape.
I have a day job that I love, a family (with a typically-active teenage daughter) that I love, and of course, I have more stories to write! I try to feed my writer’s spirit by attending conferences and workshops, when I can squeeze them in, and now that Belle has been published, I have happily added preparing book talks to the to-do list. It is so exciting to see her in print and I want to do right by her in getting the word out. But how? I am a bit bewildered as to how to best use my time in the evolving online world. Which of the social media is actually effective and worth the amount of time they demand? Should Belle be on Facebook? Should my butterfly be Tweeting? Should she have her own webpage? How about a Book Trailer? What should come first? How do I figure this all out???? And then, factor in the learning curve for using these resources – but that’s a story for another day!
Thank goodness I have an amazing old-fashioned web of support – you know, the friends, colleagues and family, without whom Belle and I would really be flying erratically and blind. (For example, check out Belle’s new book trailer by MediaMix Productions, aka my sister! Where would I be without her!)
It’s a new world out there, for Belle and I – but we’re bravely winging it!