How to Find a Writing Group

Join a writer's group to share your workWe writers can work anywhere with a horizontal surface on which to rest our laptops or pads of paper. But, the process of turning what we imagine into text is a singularly solitary effort. We know what we want and mean to write. We clearly see it in our mind’s eye. Yet our mind is a tricky place. It tends to fill in the blanks we left on the page resulting in under developed characters and unresolved plot lines.

Joining a writing group is one way to fill in those blanks.  Not only can a group make your writing more of a collegial experience, but a group of like-minded writers can also help you meet your writing goals, work out the kinks in your plot lines, and point out any inconsistencies in your work.

So where do you find these mythical people? Here are a few places to look:

1. Local writing centers and communities

The first place to start is the internet. A quick search using your city name and “Writing Group” will get you started. If you get too many results, include the genre in which you write to narrow down the list. Once you find a promising group, send a message to the group leader or attend a public meeting / class to determine if the group is a good fit for you.

2. Conferences and Retreats

While you are at it, search for any local writing conferences or retreats to attend. Sharing your contact information with other writers at these local gatherings is the best way to make contact with authors who can recommend or introduce you to an existing group.

3. Bulletin boards

Despite living in the digital age, that old school means of finding like-minded people can still be effective. If you are interested in starting a writing group post a notice at your local public library, coffee house, or arts center. You can even post a notice on your city’s Craigslist > Community > Groups section.

4. Writing associations

Professional associations such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America have chapters throughout the country. Check their sites for directories to find members in your local area.

Lulu Joining a writing group

5. People you already know

We all have one good book inside of us – or so we would like to think. So, why not build a writing group from your friends and acquaintances. Most of us don’t live among authors and poets, but that’s not the point. The key is establishing a routine for a regular exchange of work. A word of caution may be needed here. Remember, criticism – even constructive criticism hurts. So choose carefully from those friends who will welcome your suggestions – and vice verse.

6. Online critique groups

Multiple online services are available and are often set up as an exchange: you must critique others’ work to have your own critiqued. Though they are often free, you may need to pay for full access or pay for an unlimited number of critiques. Some groups to to check out: Critique Circle, Review Fuse, Scribophile and Ladies Who Critique. One thing to keep in mind is that the readers in each group may or may not be your target audience and may not be a fan of the genre in which you work.

Meetups are a great place to share your writing

7. Meetup.com

This online service connects local people with similar interests ranging from Spanish literature to Scrabble. If there isn’t a writing group in your city, for a small fee you can start your own – or hold virtual meetings and exchange work via email.

8. Social media

Social media is now the most common way to connect with like-minded individuals and to find potential writing group members. Try these to get started: LinkedIn Groups for Writers, Facebook Groups for Writers, Goodreads Writing Groups and Twitter Lists for Writers.

Another options to just put out a call on your own social networks that you’re starting a writing group. You might be surprised who responds!

As you can see, finding a writing group takes time but it is well worth it to have the support, feedback and encouragement a group provides. Are you part of a writing group, or do you have tips of your own on finding people to share your work with? Let us know in the comments!

5 More Apps Every Writer Needs

5 Apps For Every Writer

Your writing time is precious. Last year we gave you five apps that every writer needs to check out. We’re back with five more apps to help you stay organized, stay on track, and make writing that much easier. Or maybe they’ll help make your life easier. Either way, you’ll thank us.

1. Evernote

We’ve talked before about the importance of using the cloud in your writing, and we called out Evernote in particular. Whether you’re using it for writing, note-taking, or research, Evernote is great at pulling everything together. You can save websites for quick reference, snap photos, and even chat with someone if you’re collaborating.

Best of all, Evernote syncs between every device it’s installed on. So type on your phone while you’re on the go and take a quick picture, and it’ll be at you laptop when you get back home. When you don’t have to worry about where you’re writing, it makes it a lot easier to actually get to writing!

Available on Android, iOS, and desktop.

2. Simple Pomodoro

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 1980s as a time management system, named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The basic idea is that you focus for 25 minutes at a time, punctuated by 3-5 minute breaks.

The good news is that you don’t need a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (after which the method is named), because you can time yourself from your phone or tablet. One of the best is Simple Pomodoro; like the name implies, it’s simple and straightforward. Tap to start the countdown, and when time’s up your break will start automatically count down, too. You’ll be amazed at how your time management improves once you get into a rhythm.

Available on Android.

3. Trello

Sometimes getting things done isn’t the problem – it’s keeping track of everything that gives you a headache! A little management can go a long way in keeping tasks straight. Trello is a project management system, but it works just as well for writers.

At its most basic, Trello works like this: you have boards for big projects, lists for groups or related tasks, and cards for individual tasks. This will let you break up your writing process however you wish: by chapter, by theme, by characters, and so on.  Once you get organized and don’t have to worry about figuring out where you left off, you can get past the planning and onto the writing.

Available on Android, iOS, and browsers.

4. Coffitivity

You have an issue: you have trouble working when things are too quiet, but turning on music or the television distracts you. What you really need is the perfect amount of background noise to keep you grounded. After all, studies have shown that ambient noise can spur creativity. Try Coffitivity as an easy way to keep those creative juices flowing.

Coffitivity lets you use the mild hustle and bustle of a coffee shop to keep you on track. Choose from ‘Morning Murmur,’ ‘Lunchtime Lounge,’ or ‘University Undertones’ and start listening. It’s that easy! Give it a try and see if it helps you get over that bout of writer’s block.

Available on Android, iOS, and web browsers.

5. IF

Ever wish you could automate the little things in your life? IF, the app from IFTTT (If This Then That), lets you connect the other apps in your life to try to make things a little easier.

The way it works is all in the name: “if something happens, then do something else.” You define the “somethings.” For example, if you favorite a tweet, then save it to Evernote. Or if you miss a call, then respond with an automated text. There are tons of supported apps and devices, from Facebook to Fitbit, and crossing even a few things off of your to-do list with automation will save you a lot of time in the end.

Available on Android and iOS.

Have you used any of these apps? What do you think of them? Do you have any favorites of your own that you think help make your life and writing a bit easier? Share your experiences in the comments below!

7,473 Volumes at 700 Pages Each: Meet Print Wikipedia

Wikipedia contributor appendices; check out the full gallery of images on Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikipedia contributor appendices; check out the full gallery of images on Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

“Addition: To watch the artist speak about this project, you can view a video here: https://vimeo.com/133172929.”

After six years of work, a residency in the Canadian Rockies, endless debugging, and more than a little help from my friends, I have made Print Wikipedia: a new artwork in which custom software transforms the entirety of the English-language Wikipedia into 7,473 volumes and uploads them for print-on-demand. I’m excited to have this project in a solo exhibition, From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!, at Denny Gallery in the Lower East Side of New York City, on view now through July 2nd.

The two-week exhibition at Denny Gallery is structured around the upload process of Print Wikipedia to Lulu.com and the display of a selection of volumes from the project. The upload process will take between eleven and fourteen days, starting at ! and ending at ℧. There will be two channels for watching this process: a projection of Lulu.com in a web browser that is automated by the software, and a computer monitor with the command line updates showing the dialogue between the code and the site. If you aren’t able to visit the gallery in person, you can follow the process on Twitter; we will post to the @PrintWikipedia Twitter account after it finishes each volume.

Individual volumes and the entirety of Print Wikipedia, Wikipedia Table of Contents, and Wikipedia Contributor Appendix will be available for sale. All of the volumes will be available on Lulu.com as they are uploaded, so by the end of the upload/exhibition all of the volumes will be available on for individual purchase. Each of the 7,473 volumes is made up of 700 pages, for a total of 5,244,11 pages. The Wikipedia Table of Contents is comprised of 63,372 pages in 91 volumes. The Wikipedia Contributor Appendix contains all 7,488,091 contributors to the English-language Wikipedia (nearly 7.5 Million).

It is important to note that I have not printed out all of the books for this exhibition, nor do I personally have any intention of doing so—unless someone paid the $500,000 to fabricate a full set. There are 106 volumes in the exhibition, which are really helpful for visualizing the scope of the work. It isn’t necessary to print them all out: our imaginations can complete what’s missing.

Wikipedia has been printed. Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikipedia has been printed. Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Books are microcosms of the world. To make an intervention into an encyclopedia is to intervene in the ordering systems of the world. If books are a reduced version of the universe, this is the most expanded version we as humans have ever seen. For better or for worse, it reflects ourselves and our societies, with 7,473 volumes about life, the universe, and everything. An entry for an film or music album will pop up every few pages, and the entry for humanism will be located in a volume that begins with “Hulk (Aqua Teen Hunger Force)” and ends with “Humanitarianism in Africa” and the names of battles will fill the 28 volumes with entries that start with “BAT.” It’s big data that’s small enough that we can understand it, but big enough that no human will know all of it. It is small enough that I can process it on a desktop computer, though big enough that each round of calculations, such as unpacking the database into a MySQL database, takes up to two weeks to complete, and the whole build cycle takes over a month. As we become increasingly dependent on information what does this relative accessibility of its vastness mean.

Print Wikipedia is a both a utilitarian visualization of the largest accumulation of human knowledge and a poetic gesture towards the futility of the scale of big data. Built on what is likely the largest appropriation ever made, it is also a work of found poetry that draws attention to the sheer size of the encyclopedia’s content and the impossibility of rendering Wikipedia as a material object in fixed form: once a volume is printed, it is already out of date.

My practice as an artist is focused around online interventions, working inside of existing technical or logical systems and turning them inside out. I make poetic yet functional meditations that provoke an examination of art in a non-art space and a deeper consideration of the Internet as a tool for radically re-defining communication systems. For example, I sold all of my possessions online in the year-long performance and e-commerce website Shop Mandiberg (2001), and made perfect copies of copies on AfterSherrieLevine.com (2001), complete with certificates of authenticity to be signed by the user themselves. I made the first works to use the web browser plug-in as a platform for creating artworks: The Real Costs (2007), a browser plug-in that inserts carbon footprints into airplane travel websites, and Oil Standard (2006), a browser plug-in that converts all prices on any web page in their equivalent value in barrels of oil.

Mandiberg (left) with assistant Jonathan Kiritharan. Photo by Tilman Bayer, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Mandiberg (left) with assistant Jonathan Kiritharan. Photo by Tilman Bayer, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

This was not a solitary endeavor. I was grateful to work with several programmers and designers, including Denis Lunev, Jonathan Kiritharan, Kenny Lozowski, Patrick Davison, and Colin Elliot. I was also supported by a great group of people at Lulu.com who went above and beyond to support this wild and quite unwieldy project.

If you’re in New York, I hope can come see the show. For those of you far away, you can follow the upload process at PrintWikipedia.com and on Twitter.

Wikipedia contributor appendix, volume 1. Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikipedia contributor appendix, volume 1. Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

About the Artist

Michael Mandiberg is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. He received his M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts and his B.A. from Brown University. His work traces the lines of political and symbolic power online, working on the Internet in order to comment on and intercede in the real flows of information. He sold all of his possessions online on Shop Mandiberg, made perfect copies of copies on AfterSherrieLevine.com, and created Firefox plugins that highlight the real environmental costs of a global economy on TheRealCosts.com. He is co-author of Digital Foundations and Collaborative Futures and the editor of The Social Media Reader. A recipient of residencies and commissions from Eyebeam, Rhizome.org, and Turbulence.org, his work has been exhibited at the New Museum, Ars Electronica, ZKM, and Transmediale. A former Senior Fellow at Eyebeam, he is currently Director of the New York Arts Practicum, a co-founder of the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, Associate Professor at the College of Staten Island/CUNY, and a member of the Doctoral Faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. His work has previously been exhibited at Denny Gallery in the exhibition Share This! Appropriation After Cynicism. He has also exhibited at Postmasters Gallery, The New Museum for Contemporary Art, the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Jen Beckman Gallery, Parsons’ Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, and the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center. His work has been written about in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Berliner Zeitung, Wired, the Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Hyperallergic, ARTNews, MOMUS, Flash Art and Artforum.

7 Simple Grammar Mistakes You Should Never Make

Don't make these grammar mistakes

There’s no easier way to lose readers – and sales – than by publishing a book full of simple mistakes. After all, if you don’t care enough to catch basic errors, why should readers care about your book? Spellcheck can go a long way, but it won’t always save you from grammar mistakes that might go overlooked.

A good editor is never a bad thing if you’re serious about building your audience. But whether you’re hiring an editor or striking out on your own, you can make life easier by making sure these simple mistakes don’t pop up in your book.

Your vs You're

Your vs You’re

Your is possessive – as in, “That’s your dog.” You’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Its vs It’s

Along the same lines, its is possessive, and it’s is a contraction of “it is” (or “it has”).

Who’s vs Whose

Whose is possessive. Who’s is a contraction of “who is” or “who has.” Are you sensing a trend?

There vs their vs they're

Their vs They’re vs There

Ready to throw in a third option? Their is possessive, and they’re is a contraction of “they are.” There will cover pretty much everything else, from “There goes the bus” to “Put that box over there” to “There aren’t any cookies here.” (Note: pirates may be inclined to throw in “thar.”)

Lose vs loose

Lose vs Loose

This is best with a few examples. You can lose your dog if he gets loose from his leash. Your clothes will be loose if you lose a lot of weight. If you have loose change in your pocket, you might lose it. If all else fails, read your sentence aloud; if the word sounds like it ends with a ‘z’ then it’s lose; if it sounds like an ‘s’ then it’s loose.

Compliment vs Complement

The only difference is an ‘i’ and an ‘e’. So what’s the real difference? Compliment – with an ‘i’ – means you’re saying something nice to someone. Or, as an easy way to remember, “I am saying something nice to someone.” If you complement something, you’re adding to or improving it.

Farther vs Further

Farther refers to a physical distance – long distances are always far. “His house is farther away than mine.” Further is more figurative and means an extent of time or degree, as in “Tom wanted to talk further about the plan.” Farther and further are more readily accepted as being interchangeable than other examples in this list.

Do you have your own grammar pet peeves, or any tricks you use to keep words straight? Share them in the comments below!

3 Reasons Why You Should be Writing in the Cloud

Tips for writing in the cloud

Imagine: you’re an author hard at work to independently publish your book (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). You finally have time to write but…you’re at your work laptop instead of your personal one. Or you only have your phone or tablet on you. Or you’re waiting on someone’s feedback about a crucial detail that you need to continue. The list goes on.

In short, it can be a hassle to keep track of your in-progress work when you want to sneak in some writing time or show your book to someone. That’s where “the cloud” comes in.

You might have heard of the cloud and thought of it as an overused business term. To some extent, you’re right. But it can also be a valuable tool for any writer. The cloud lets you access and edit your work from anywhere, and there are programs out there specifically for writing.

What program should I use?

First things first: if you’re going to write in the cloud, you’ll need to decide where you’ll be doing it. A lot of this will come down to personal preference; what meets your needs, what you’re comfortable using, and even what platform is the most aesthetically pleasing all play a big role.

Google Drive is a good place to start. Most people have a Google account that they use for Gmail and other services, and using Drive is free to use. The convenience makes at least giving it a shot a low-effort task, and it’s straightforward enough to be very easy to use.

There’s also Evernote, a popular choice in its own right – so popular, in fact, that it surpassed 100 million users last year. You can pay a little extra for bells and whistles, but the basic program is free and more than enough for most writers.

Again, there are a lot of choices out there, but both Google Drive and Evernote have features that every writer can use (and will be discussed below), and they’re available on computers and mobile devices so they’ll never be out of reach. Play around until you find something you’re comfortable with!

Regardless what where you write, here are three ways the cloud will help make your writing efforts that much smoother.

Take your work anywhere

Do you save files to USB thumbdrives? It’s hard to believe we ever did such things, isn’t it? If you’re writing in the cloud, though, this all goes the way of carrying around CDs or floppy disks or – gasp! – even folders and binders full of printouts. Today, you can start writing, have it saved automatically, and pick it up whenever and wherever you want.

“But that’s not a problem,” you say. “I write on my laptop, and that’s portable. I can already take that anywhere!”

Sure you can – assuming you have that laptop. What if inspiration strikes while you’re in bed with your tablet, or while you’re waiting at the airport and only have your phone to tap away on?

That’s the beauty of the cloud: wherever you are, that’s where your work is, too.

Collaboration

Writing is often thought of as a solitary endeavor, but we know better, don’t we?

Maybe you have a small group of people with whom you’re collaborating on your textbook. Or you have experts and thought leaders double-checking your work. You might have people proofreading for you, whether it’s a professional editor or friends and family you’ve enlisted to give your book a once-over.

Regardless of your circumstances, you’ll never run short of reasons to share your writing with a lot of people before you even get the first hard copy published, and working in the cloud makes that process that much easier.

In the cloud, you can give anyone you’d like access to your work. Services like Google Drive and Evernote come with chat functions, allowing you to discuss changes and brainstorm on the fly. You’ll never be out of touch with those you’re working with, removing a huge barrier to the old way of writing.

Research

Research is a key part of any book. Whether you’re writing a textbook full of facts and figures or you want to make sure you’ve got your indigenous plant life straight for your post-apocalypse novel, you never want to be called out for misinformation.

It’s important to get things right, and the Internet has revolutionized they way we find information. Since you’re working in the cloud, integrating your research into your writing is seamless. Take Google Drive: you’re already using Google for most of your information-gathering, right? Well, click on a word or a phrase in your document and get Google search results instantly, including the option to cite results in the format of your choice. Footnotes have never been easier!

Or maybe you’re using Evernote. Did you know that it comes with a web clipper tool, letting you save articles and websites right in Evernote for easy access and reference? Or how about that you can link related notes to keep track of everything? Or, for you non-fiction authors, store things like business cards and recipes? All the information you could want is at your fingertips, and you never have to leave your writing.

A new way to work

You might have noticed that these tactics go together hand-in-hand: collaboration is a lot easier because you can take your work anywhere, and research is simple when you can have other people make notes and suggestions in an instant. They fit together like pieces of a writing puzzle. And that’s why using cloud-based tools to write makes so much sense.

There’s something to be said for old habits, like sitting down at a notebook or a typewriter, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace new and innovative ways to do things. After all, you’ve seen the benefits of self-publishing over going through the old, outdated publishing process. If you’re in the market for convenience, speed, and ease of use, there might be something in the cloud for you.

Educators Tackle Publishing at Textbook and Academic Authoring Conference

Lulu at TAA Conference

Summer is in full swing now. School’s out and families are getting ready to pile into their minivans to start their vacations to the beach, the mountains, or to visit family.

Lulu is no different! Okay, so maybe we aren’t going to the beach, but we’re still off to a lot of fun places, whether it’s showing up in person to meet authors or sponsoring events on topics that are near and dear to our hearts. In short, we’re spending our summer vacation spreading the joy of independent publishing to readers and writers everywhere. One that we’re really excited about is the 28th Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference taking place June 19-20 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Textbook and Academic Authoring Conference

At Lulu, we believe that one of the greatest benefits of self-publishing is that every expert can spread their knowledge and transform the way people approach learning and education. The TAA community is one of the premier groups when it comes to textbooks, journals, and other academic texts, and their annual conference is a one-stop shop for tips on handling the evolving publishing landscape, meeting fellow authors, and learning from industry veterans.

Health Informatics by Robert Hoyt

It’s a very cool event, and to make it even better, a Lulu author will be one of the speakers at TAA! Robert Hoyt, M.D., whose book Health Informatics: Practical Guide for Healthcare and Information Technology Professionals is in its sixth edition, is presenting on something we’re big fans of: Why You Should Consider “Self-Publishing” and “Publish-on-Demand”.

Dr. Hoyt created the Medical Informatics program at the University of West Florida, so he knows the challenges facing educators today, especially those who need to publish. In his presentation, he’ll touch on the advantages to self-publishing, the challenges he overcame, and more. There’s nothing more valuable than advice from someone who has been through it all before, and we have a feeling that Dr. Hoyt’s talk will be a hit.

Keep an eye out for Lulu at more events, shows, and conferences as the summer goes on, and feel free to share where your own summer vacation will take you! Any big signings or events you’re headed to? Or maybe you’re hitting a getaway that really inspires your writing. Let us know in the comments!

10 Quotes to Spark Your Writing

10 Quotes to Inspire Authors

Writing can often feel like a solitary endeavor: you sit down at your computer or notepad, take a sip of your coffee, and do your best to shut out the rest of the world as you put words to paper.

But you’re not alone! Some of the most successful authors in history know the struggle you’re going through and have persevered. Check out these quotes to make you smile, think, and get inspired as you get ready to write this weekend.


 

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” – Jane Yolen

 

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

 

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner

 

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

 

“Don’t be a writer; be writing.” – William Faulkner

 

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.” – A. A. Milne

 

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

 

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” – C. J. Cherryh


 

Have some of your own favorite quotes on writing? Share them in the comments!