BWS 07.13.22 report: Which Creative Writing Program and Why?: One Writer’s Perspective on MFAs, Continuing Education Certificates, and Private Workshops

Anna Lee-Popham is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph, and a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education Creative Writing Certificate, where she received the Janice Colbert Poetry Award. Anna co-hosts the Emerging Writers Reading Series.

Which Creative Writing Program and Why?: One Writer’s Perspective on MFAs, Continuing Education Certificates, and Private Workshops 

By Anna Lee-Popham 

Have you ever wondered about the difference between creative writing programs? You’re in the right place! I recently presented at the Brockton Writers Series about MFAs, continuing education certificate programs, and private workshops – and I’ve outlined what I shared in that presentation here.  

To start, there are many different ways to approach learning creative writing. Many writers don’t engage in organized courses or programs and focus instead on a self-directed approach. I’m certainly of the belief that whatever gets you writing is the approach to take. In this very insightful conversation between Dionne Brand and Harryette Mullen, they were asked what advice they would give to aspiring poets and writers in the context of protest and rebellion. Dionne Brand said:  

“Write, write. And read, read the tradition you are in. Read everything and just write it. It’s important and it’s urgent. … Write till four in the morning, until six in the morning. …  Do whatever kind of work you need to do so you do that work. We need that work. We need this production of our life.” 

Harryette Mullen replied: 

“I would add: You don’t need permission. You give yourself permission…. Your voice has value.” 

So most importantly: follow their advice. 

If you do decide to engage in a formal education program geared to creative writing, think about why you want to do so, what your goals are, and so which program might best suit you. It might be helpful to glance at this table outlining three different approaches: 

There are many other reasons you might want to get involved in a creative writing program. Think about what your reasons are and which program best aligns with your goals. Also, while the MFA is the only option that will get you a degree, not all university institutions require a degree to teach creative writing.  

I decided to pursue an MFA because I felt it would assist me in the work I wanted to do, the community I wanted to build, and the confidence I wanted to develop. In regard to work: I am interested in teaching creative writing and it would give me the opportunity to learn from teachers I respected and whose writerly and pedagogical approaches I was interested in. This would also help me in my role as an editor, as I could watch writers in the role of teaching others about writing. I was also interested in working with writers I respect in terms of what they think writing is doing politically. In regard to community, you certainly don’t need to do an MFA to develop a writing community – at all! I was interested in the opportunity to write actively with a cohort of writers over a multi-year period. The MFA did that – and gave me access to writers approaching the written word in many different ways. Doing the MFA also prompted me to take my writing seriously. But again there are many, many, many other ways to do that.  

The University of Guelph MFA program is a two-year program that allows students to focus on a number of different genres: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, or drama. In addition to the workshops, students take two plenary (reading-based) courses called Writers on Writing and Writers in the World. There is a 3-month mentorship which matches students with a professional writer. The thesis writing period occurs from January-June of the final year and students defend their written work in the summer of their final year. The deadline for applications December 5, 2022. Interested in more information? Check out the links below: 

• General info on the program: https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/cwmfa

• Want to apply?: https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/cwmfa/apply 

• Info about funding and awards: https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/cwmfa/financial/funding/ 

• Tuition fees: https://www.uoguelph.ca/registrar/studentfinance/fees/guelph_gr 

A few general suggestions 

When you are looking at a program – whether it’s an MFA, continuing education certification program or individual workshops – try to think about which program will best help you work towards your goals, in a format that works for you. You might also want to consider if you’ll get access to instructors whose work you appreciate, are interested in, and find challenges you and your writing in some way. 

If you decide to apply to the University of Guelph MFA program: this program is mostly interested in your writing sample, so I’d suggest you think through what you are doing with the writing that you submit, why are you submitting it, and what it is doing with language. 

Lastly, if you are an emerging writer looking for a place to read your writing, the Emerging Writers Reading Series (where I am a cohost) has an upcoming call for submissions: https://linktr.ee/ewreadingseries 

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BWS 13.07:22: In case you missed it!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our July 13th event featuring Wayne Ng, Joelle Barron, Elizabeth Allua Vaah, Sheilah Madonna Mortel Salvador, and guest speaker Anna Lee-Popham, who spoke to us about her experience in a Creative Writing MFA, titled “Which Creative Writing Program and Why?: One Writer’s Perspective on MFAs, Continuing Education Certificates, and Private Workshops.”

Links from Anna’s talk:

https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/cwmfa

https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/cwmfa/apply

https://www.uoguelph.ca/arts/cwmfa/financial/funding/

https://www.uoguelph.ca/registrar/studentfinance/fees/guelph_gr

https://linktr.ee/ewreadingseries

Stay tuned for our next event on Wednesday, September 14th at 6:30pm!

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Brockton Writers Series 13.07.22: Elizabeth Allua Vaah

Elizabeth Allua Vaah, author of Maame, grew up in Bakanta, Western Ghana and moved to Canada in 2010. Allua calls herself a Maternal Health Migrant. She is co-founder of a Maternal Health advocacy group, an advocate of girl-child education and a strong environmentalist. She lives in Brampton with her family.

A Conversation with Allua Vaah on Maame

Tell us about the book and why did you decided to write. 

I loved reading and writing growing up. As one of the few who could read the local Nzema language in elementary school, I read at church and at events. I competed in easy competitions and wrote letters to the editor in high school. As I moved to the city, and later outside my home country Ghana, I felt the need to tell the stories of the incredible women of my village, especially as my grandmothers and even my mothers’ generations have started to die off and things are beginning to change. 

In fact, I would have done it earlier but as we say, life got in the way.  So, about five years ago, my GO Train home was delayed and we were stuck on the train tracks somewhere between Weston and Etobicoke in the GTA. That was when I opened the notes app on my phone and started writing.   

It was like I never left. The characters started pouring out.  

Was it a challenge to write? 

Not really. There was a lot of nostalgia to some extent. It felt like I was going down memory lane both from what my grandmother told me and what I saw growing up with those generations of women. I have a lot of fond memories of my childhood in my village. The carefreeness, community, belonging. 

The village where the book is set – why did you choose it? 

I grew up in paradise, although it will take me years of living away from home to realize it. Aakonu is beside the sea (Gulf of Guinea, off the Atlantic Ocean) and the river Amanzule. A shimmering beach on one side and rich, beautiful, green mangroves and the fresh river on the other. For the formative years of my life, it was all I knew. Even now most of the time when I fall asleep that is where I find myself.  

It was bound to be the right setting for a book about rural women. 

The characters, what are they about?  

Each of the Characters in Maame I chose to celebrate and reflect the strength and resilience of the women of Aakonu, and by extrapolation the women of rural West Africa. 

Nana 

Represents strength & sacrifice. She steps in to care for her deceased sister’s children and she does it without hesitation, becoming a pillar of strength for them even in their adulthood. 

Ahu 

 A young, widowed mother. She pulls herself together when she had had enough and drives her children to go for more than she could. Even then, her focus wasn’t just them, but how they can impact her community as well. Ahu represents the many women in rural West African communities who wouldn’t hesitate to sell the cloth on their backs to see their children get educat[ed], something many never had. 

Ebela 

Ebela’s character reflects the dilemma of many young women everywhere, especially in close-knit, community-oriented settings: should she follow her heart or should she be a good daughter and marry her family’s choice of man? 

Aso 

Aso is a hardworking, enterprising woman, but how does she navigate a superstitious system that does not favour women with no children, and a husband bent on doing whatever he wants? 

Bomo 

Bomo represents those from these communities who become the first in their families to leave the safety of the community in order to seek education and a better life. They don’t only have to navigate the unfamiliar, and they also have to continually fend off the pressure to come home and get married.   

In addition, there are powerful women in special roles that make them revered by everyone, even the men.  

Women like Priestess Yaba, Queenmother Ekeleba and Traditional Birth Attendants like Mozuma. These women transcend gender barriers and are revered by both men and women. 

What excites you about the book? 

My publisher will tell you how emotional I was when I first held Maame in my hands. I am excited to share these stories of strength, resilience, heartache, and triumph seeped in Nzema culture with the world. I want people to get to know this place and [be able to] picture it. I want them to learn the songs and some of the proverbs in there as well.  

Why did you choose the title Maame? 

Maame is an endearing word for mother. It is used by most Akan people in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. This is a book about women and motherhood, which makes it an apt name for it. I had considered the unique Nzema word for mother, ɔmɔ. However, I had to abandon it due to the special characters in it. 

What is your vision for the book? 

Schools: I see Maame in the hands of every high school student in West Africa, Canada, US, and Europe. I see this book on the shelves of libraries and as supplementary reader for gender and women’s studies programs. 

For travellers and those involved in humanitarian activities in rural West Africa. 

For people generally interested in learning about other people, and for a mosaic-like place like Canada where the world is virtually here, I’ll say it’s worth a read.  

I am glad to say that Brampton Library carried Maame as one of the books for its 2021 Local Author Showcase collection. 

I see documentaries made with the stories in Maame. Even a movie. Heck, why not?  

For first generation Ghanaian immigrants like myself, whose Canadian children may not understand why certain demands are made of them from home, it is a good conversation starter between us and our kids. 

What do you want people to take away from the book? 

 I want readers to get to know the rural African woman. A picture of resilience, sacrifice, and strength. Her loves, laughs, her culture, and her aspirations. She is versatile, adaptable, nurturing, and she makes it work no matter what. 

Where can someone buy the book? 

In Brampton – Knowledge Bookstore, and major book retailers. Online: Mawenzi House website, Amazon, Indigo Chapters websites. 

Reach me: 

elizabeth@alluavaah.com; lizvaah@yahoo.com 

Social media: @lizvaah; @alluaVaah 

www.alluavaah.com 

First discussed during the launch of Maame at this link: Maame Book Launch 

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Brockton Writers Series 13.07.22: Joelle Barron

Joelle Barron is a poet who lives on the Traditional Territory of the Anishinaabeg of Treaty 3 and the Métis people (Fort Frances, ON). Their first poetry collection, Ritual Lights, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. In 2019, Barron was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers. 

I’ve written a lot of poetry about tragedy, grief, and injustice, and the ability to write about those things has kept me alive. At this point in my life, I’m interested in learning what it means to write about joy, love, and pleasure. I’ve been working on a book of poems about queer love and how it was often purposely hidden away throughout history. I’ve also been writing poems about love as it manifests in my own life, as someone who is queer and autistic, and just generally has a lot of feelings. This is one such poem.  

CHANGELINGS 

Fixed Hierophant, you don’t have to ask; obedience 

is already leaving my body, entering yours  

/

like smoke. You point to the mountain, its peak  

shedding trapped cloud like shards of cotton, mutable  

/

godstuff. I see clearly your ability to become. Pull me 

to you, untangle slick frogs from my hair who made  

/

a home there when I stood with one foot in the next  

world. I know you because you are coated with that same  

/

dust, and when I mirror you, I am still myself,  

this particular kind of human. Your knife makes  

/

its subtle rip through delicate strings of life and the meat  

that bears them; you know how it really is to be the body 

/

and the blood. Fatal misunderstandings of our childhood 

religion have led us here, made us holy in ways 

/

undreamed of. Like how you are both the river  

and the low branch bisecting it, so I can wade into you.  

/

I can hold on.  

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Brockton Writers Series 13.07.22: Sheilah Madonna Salvador

Sheilah Madonna Mortel Salvador is a writer and spoken word artist whose work focuses on cultural pride, healing, and self-love. Born in the Philippines, she is grateful and honoured to currently be living in Toronto, the place in the water where the trees are standing. Her work has been featured in the Minerva and the Town Crier-Puritan literary magazines, as well as FeelWays: A Scarborough Anthology. She is currently doing her Master’s at OISE in Adult Education and is working on a book about her family history and the Massacre of Manila.

Listen to Sheilah speak in the podcast Write in the Neighbourhood, episode 1.4: Scarborough with Feel Ways, in connection to the anthology of the same name, to which she contributed.

https://writeintheneighbourhood.libsyn.com/scarborough-with-feel-ways-0?fbclid=IwAR1km_-ukN2hvabpOPef30a5S1xknv14VRwetzH14BqQEwBpxOUPuwWbTW4

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Brockton Writers Series 13.07.22: Wayne Ng

Wayne Ng was born in downtown Toronto to Chinese immigrants who fed him a steady diet of bitter melons and kung fu movies. He is still a Torontonian at heart, learning to skate at Nathan Phillips Square and receiving his undergraduate degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formally Ryerson University). He remains a die-hard Leafs, Jays, and Raptors fan. Ng moved to Ottawa to attend Carleton University, graduating with an MSW, and now works as a social worker with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. He lives to write, travel, eat, and play – preferably all at the same time. He is an award-winning author and travel writer who continues to push his boundaries from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Author of Letters from JohnnyThe Family Code (2023), and Finding the Way: A Novel of Lao Tzu. Connect with Wayne at WayneNgWrites.com.

Hello Brockton Writers Series fans and participants. I’m so pleased to be part of this and am really looking forward to connecting with readers and writers, and talking about my latest novel, Letters From Johnny. Watch the Book Trailer for Letters From Johnny.

(Q&A reproduced with permission from LiterASAIN 2022)

Letters From Johnny and Finding the Way: A Novel of Lao Tzu are two very different books. Your third book, The Family Code, also sounds unlike your previous works. How did you approach each piece of writing? 

This sounds like a cliché, but every project has been an emotional itch needing to be scratched. Writing had never been something that required external validation. It has always been self-affirming. As I reflect on the genesis of my novels, I’d say each served a purpose in my growth as a person and as a writer spiritually, personally and professionally. Each work is wildly divergent from one other but they reflect a continuous journey of discovery that I’ve been on. Let’s break this down:

FINDING THE WAY: A NOVEL OF LAO TZU. Awe and curiosity. That’s what I felt when I read about the legendary Lao Tzu who, nearing death, was stopped by a border guard who recognized the venerable philosopher. The guard refused to let him pass until Lao let him record his life story. What would drive him to such an end? Other than a philosophical take-down with Confucius in the royal court, there’s not much we can authenticate, so I had a blank slate. I was intrigued with the notion of a figure of epic proportions wandering off to die. Yet as I researched his philosophy and reflected on his influence, I saw how much of it informed my own upbringing. Lao sees our thirst for sanity and simplicity as a quest that transcends culture and time. And he evokes the natural rhythms and energy around us as a force to be reckoned with, respected and balanced. Imagine Yoda discovering the Force and you’ll get what I mean.

This stayed with me as I wrote the book and re-discovered Taoism. I also wanted people to better appreciate eastern history. That much of the world has an appalling lack of knowledge and understanding of it, is short-sighted and Euro-centric, like almost all historical fiction in the west. 

LETTERS FROM JOHNNY, winner of the Best Crime Novella at the 2022 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence, is a work of fiction that channelled the scrappy kid I once was. It turned out to be fun and unexpectedly therapeutic. This was a classic example of pantsing—writing by the seat of your pants intuitively. I didn’t mean for it to turn out that way. It almost feels like it wrote itself, like a primal scream from a previous life. But once I got going, the words poured out and waves of nostalgia engulfed me. It helped that, for decades, I’d been working with and hanging around children personally and professionally, so capturing their voices and mentality came easily. Bonus points that I could turn my poor grammar and erratic sentencing into useful dramatic devices. Double bonus points that I am currently working on its sequel, the second book in a trilogy, where Johnny is now a teenager writing to Bruce Lee instead of Dave Keon. 

It will become a patrilineal saga about repressed Asian male rage and silence, where emotionally remote parenting, overachievement, and invisibility can be psychologically crippling to them and those around them. I hadn’t anticipated this direction when I began LFJ. But I couldn’t talk about family without describing the emotional detachment and the repression of deeper intimacy I grew up with. As actor Jon Cho said on the podcast, They call us Bruce,  every Asian man has at one point, walked around with a balled up fist in his pocket, ready to explode. Turns out this is central to the typecasting of Asian males but has not been explored or fully realized in literature.

I see Johnny as one of my contributions to mainstream our work, to universalize our experiences, and to broaden our community so that we’re part of something beyond a margin. To me, these stories are essential to making us more visible and to combating anti-Asian hatred. 

The Family Code (coming spring 2023), which was shortlisted for the 2021 Guernica Prize, is an intense tale of the troubled and chaotic life of a young, single mom dogged by the brutality of past traumas, unhealed wounds, and a code of silence that she must break in order to be free. This novel is not like anything I’ve ever written, or even read before. But it’s the reality of many of the brave lives who have touched me as a social worker for over 30 years. I really wanted to honour, authenticate, represent and respect their experiences.

Authenticity is really important for me as I interviewed over thirty people including: parents, a deputy chief of police, a truck driver, a family lawyer, a child welfare worker, and other community professionals. 

That means I didn’t hold back so the story is unabashedly in your face, edgy, and real. This is the first novel I’ve completed where the protagonist isn’t Asian and male because I wanted to create something very close to me without reinforcing the idea that I was only a racialized writer, who only wrote stories of racialized people. I fundamentally try to write about the human experience.

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Brockton Writers Series 13.07.22 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Wayne Ng

Joelle Barron

Elizabeth Vaah

Sheilah Salvador

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted on the Brockton Writers Series YouTube channel! Please log in at 6:30.

The reading is PWYC (suggested $3-$5) and features a Q&A with the writers afterward. Books are available for sale.

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

 —

GUEST SPEAKER

“Which Creative Writing Program and Why?: One Writer’s Perspective on MFAs, Continuing Education Certificates, and Private Workshops

Anna Lee-Popham is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph, and a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education Creative Writing Certificate, where she received the Janice Colbert Poetry Award. Anna co-hosts the Emerging Writers Reading Series.

READERS

Wayne Ng was born in downtown Toronto to Chinese immigrants who fed him a steady diet of bitter melons and kung fu movies. Ng works as a school social worker in Ottawa but lives to write, travel, eat, and play – preferably all at the same time. He is an award-winning author and travel writer who continues to push his boundaries from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Author of Letters from Johnny, The Family Code (2023), and Finding the Way: A Novel of Lao Tzu

Joelle Barron is a poet who lives on the Traditional Territory of the Anishinaabeg of Treaty 3 and the Métis people (Fort Frances, ON). Their first poetry collection, Ritual Lights, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. In 2019, Barron was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers. 

Elizabeth Allua Vaah, author of Maame, grew up in Bakanta, Western Ghana and moved to Canada in 2010. Allua calls herself a Maternal Health Migrant. She is co-founder of a Maternal Health advocacy group, an advocate of girl-child education and a strong environmentalist. She lives in Brampton with her family.

Sheilah Madonna Mortel Salvador is a writer and spoken word artist whose work focuses on cultural pride, healing, and self-love. Born in the Philippines, she is grateful and honoured to currently be living in Toronto, the place in the water where the trees are standing. Her work has been featured in the Minerva and the Town Crier-Puritan literary magazines, as well as FeelWays: A Scarborough Anthology. She is currently doing her Master’s at OISE in Adult Education and is working on a book about her family history and the Massacre of Manila.

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BWS 11.05.22 report: “Social Media 101 for Authors” with Caroline from ECW Press

Caroline from ECW Press is a marketing manager, graphic designer, and photographer. She currently works at ECW Press in Toronto.

Social media can definitely be daunting for all of us (even me!), but it can be a great tool for connecting your work with a much larger audience. It has made our worlds much bigger than most of us had ever imagined— in an instant, you can click “post” and your writing is sent to people millions of miles away. With so many outlets, it can be hard to know where to start and what to do. It takes a while to adjust to any new environment but, rest assured, you’ll get your sea legs soon.

An Overview of the Most Popular Social Media Platforms

Let’s start by going over the main social media platforms, what they’re typically used for, and how you might use them as writer. This talk is about day-to-day posting on social media so I’m going to skip talking about Instagram Lives, IGTVs, and Facebook Lives but if you’re into doing talks or long-form videos, those are great for you to look into.

First up, there’s Twitter. Twitter is a great platform for writers because it’s primarily text-based. You can also share photos and videos, but those 280-character-or-less Tweets are the bread and butter of the website. As a writer, you might use Twitter for two things: sharing short jokes/thoughts/commentary or promoting your work and events. If you’re a poet, maybe you’ll tweet out a couple lines of poetry. If you’re writing a novel, you can chime in when you see people talking about something related to the subject matter. Twitter is about connecting with other people in a massive conversation about timely topics. Some of our best performing tweets have been ones that commented on worldwide events (like the time a bunch of social media networks went down at once). And Twitter has a reputation as a news-sharing website so if you have updates (such as event updates or media coverage of your writing), this is a great place to share them.

Next there’s Instagram. Instagram used to be primarily a photo-sharing app but now it’s also begun promoting short videos as well, Instagram Reels. Instagram is a lot more polished than Twitter because posts are easily visible on your profile for much longer so people usually put more thought into them before posting. When you see people say that social media only shows people on their best day, they’re talking about Instagram. As a writer, this is a great place to connect with your readers because the book community is huge here (a.k.a. bookstagram). If you’re a poet, images of poems are also really popular here — Rupi Kaur’s work first took off on Instagram. If you need a way to turn quotes from your work into pretty graphics, Canva is a free, easy-to-use website for beginner designers.

TikTok is the newest of the popular social media platforms and it’s entirely video based. It really took off during the pandemic— which is when Instagram revealed their rival update, Instagram Reels. As of March 2022, TikTok videos can be a maximum of 10 minutes long but most of the popular videos on the app are shorter, from 15 seconds to 1 minute long. They’re often set to music or sound clips from popular movies, tv shows, or other videos. Tok is a super creative platform so you’ll want to spend a while watching videos before you try making your own. As a writer, this is a good place to connect with fellow writers and with readers who are looking for book recommendations using the hashtags #BookTok and #AuthorsOfTikTok.

On Facebook you can post longer passages of text, photos, or videos, but the website has been weaning in popularity, especially with the younger crowd. It’s still a good place to set up event pages so you can have all your event info in one place and you can share the event with others, update them if any of the details change, and get a sense of how many people are coming.

LinkedIn is mostly a business networking site for people looking to get jobs and connect with others in their industry for work-related opportunities. Unless your writing is related to that sort of subject, you can skip this one, at least when it comes to book promotion.

Tips, Advice, and ECW Press’s Approach to Social Media

Now that you have an overview of the main platforms and how they’re used from a writer’s point of view, I’m going to give you some tips that I put to use when I’m doing ECW Press’s social media.

How Often Should You Post? What Should You Post?

My biggest piece of advice is that you should use social media for fun, not just for self promotion. At ECW, I knew that we didn’t have the privilege of being followed just because of our name, like Penguin Random House is. I needed to give people a good reason to follow us so I started being funnier on Twitter and offering people jokes about books, publishing, and our co-workers. Sometimes I gather photos of Ben Affleck and compare his outfits to our different book covers. Sometimes I post memes based on whatever’s popular at the moment (last year it was Squid Game). It has worked really well— people are engaging with our posts more than ever— and now when I have information to share about our books, events, and authors, our audience is more inclined to listen to us. And— this is pretty important— our posts are more likely to be seen by our followers because they’ve interacted with our previous posts. Social media websites use algorithms that determine what posts they prioritize showing each person on the website. If you interact with a lot of book-related Instagram posts, it will start to show you more.

For all of these reasons, you don’t want to be posting constant self-promotion. Think about the content you enjoy seeing and what it brings to your day. Try to offer the same to your followers. Getting personal is always what gets the most engagement— show people the person behind the writing. Show them a photo of your writing desk, tell them a funny behind-the-scenes story about a character or piece you worked on, talk about the other writers whose work you love. The goal is to connect with other people— not just by clicking “connect,” but by being truly relatable. If you approach social media with the goal of creating interesting content and talking to other people in the writing community, you’ll have a lot more success than if you go into it only with the goal of showing off your own work. If you give people a reason to want to get to know you, you’ll be giving them a reason to read your writing.

With all of that said, only take on the amount of apps you can handle. If you’re awful at taking photos, then just skip Instagram and focus on Twitter. If you love making videos, try TikTok and Instagram. It’s great if you’re able to use them all but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that it feels like work. It should ultimately be fun and another creative outlet for you to enjoy.

Hashtags

There’s often a lot of confusion for those new to social media about how hashtags work but it’s very simple! On Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, putting a # before a phrase or word creates a hashtag. Make sure you don’t accidentally break the hashtag by using punctuation or spaces. When you click on that hashtag or search for it in the search bar, it will show you all of the posts that use that hashtag. If you see a trending hashtag (like #BookLook, where people do their makeup to match a book cover) and you’d like to participate, add the hashtag to your post so people can find it.

Think of it as keyword that makes searching for information easier. They’re also used to let the algorithm (especially on Instagram and TikTok) know what your post is about and whether to recommend it to others. If you watch a lot of videos with the hashtag #TimotheeChalamet, Instagram will start recommending you more videos that use this hashtag. I know this from experience.

You don’t want to just turn random phrases into hashtags (like #HavingAGreatDayTodayYay) because no one else is using them so they won’t help you. You also want to avoid using too many super vague hashtags (like #summer or #books) because there are so many

posts associated with such general hashtags that your post is likely to get lost among the rest. A good way to find hashtags to look for big accounts with a similar focus to yours and see what hashtags they’ve used on their posts.

Remember, hashtags aren’t just for fun, they have a use: searchability and increasing views on your posts. Keep that in mind when you use them!

Accessibility

Finally, I just want to give a few notes on accessibility so you can make your posts enjoyable to as big an audience as possible. Firstly, if you’re ever doing a video, either use auto-captioning or type out what you’ve said. It’s super easy to implement this and it helps people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It also helps people who can’t turn their sound on at the moment, for whatever reason. There’s really no downside to doing this!

And if you are posting photos anywhere, there is usually an option to add Alt Text (a.k.a. Alternative Text). You can read more about it online and find guidelines on best practices, but basically Alt Text is meant to describe an image to someone who can’t see it. It is not the same as a caption, which is used to complement an image. Alt Text is played out loud to people who use screen readers when browsing social media and it is also displayed if the image fails to load. Be specific and brief when writing Alt Text, and I really recommend reading a quick article to get an idea of how to best write it.

Social media is whatever you make of it so don’t be afraid to experiment with different platforms and types of posts. You’ll eventually get the hang of things! This is, hopefully, a good starting point so you can figure out where social media fits into your life as a writer.

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BWS 11:05:22: In case you missed it!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our May 11th event featuring Khashayar “Kess” Mohammdi, Gavin Barrett, H. Nigel Thomas, Victoria Mbabazi and guest speaker Caroline from ECW Press who gave us tips with “Social Media 101 for Authors.”

Stay tuned for our next event on Wednesday, July 13th at 6:30pm!

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Brockton Writers Series 11.05.22: Victoria Mbabazi

Victoria Mbabazi’s work can be found in several literary magazines including Rejection Letters, Minola Review and No Contact Mag. Their chapbook “chapbook” is available with Anstruther Press and their chapbook “FLIP” is forthcoming this spring with Knife Fork Books. They’re currently living in Brooklyn, New York.

Lately, I’ve noticed a big theme in my poems is home. I’m a big fan and a student of astrology and I’ve been studying the houses more. I decided to write zodiac house poems and I realized through writing them that the common thread is the urge to tear them down. I moved from my hometown to New York this year and this series reflects my urge to destroy my foundations to build one that I feel comfortable standing on. I am a Pisces and they rule the 12th house. This is the first poem I wrote in this series of poems.

THE SIREN FROM THE TWELFTH HOUSE

truthfully I can only tell you what’s missing

if love is oxygen it’s done nothing but die here

it’s yet to acclimate to my home’s density

but truth can exist without intimacy

I’ll try it out I won’t lie if you can guess

what I’m feeling in a round of charades

or hangman the rope tied around my neck

and I know I shouldn’t make this a game

but how else are you supposed to know

I’m someone worth losing I’ve decided

on Russian roulette you go first new rules

aim straight all the ammunition boomerangs

and when you shoot hope that bullet

doesn’t come back to haunt you I’m sorry

I know it’s hard to have fun while drowning

but it’s not my fault you decided to follow a siren

into the ocean I’m sorry—when you pulled the trigger

the impact muffled no one heard the gun go off

fire is timid underwater but I know you felt it

I know you’re going to tell me it didn’t hurt you’re spilling

out misery tints the water red it’s my turn but we’re

out of bullets and even if we weren’t I can’t see

clearly your heart keeps getting between us

Victoria Mbabazi visits Brockton Writers Series via our YouTube channel on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 starting at 6:30pm alongside Khashayar “Kess” Mohammdi, Gavin Barrett, and H. Nigel Thomas . Our guest speaker Caroline from ECW Press will help us with “Social Media 101 for Authors.

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