May 22, 2017 § 16 Comments
By Sonya Huber
The typical literary reading presents an obstacle course for many people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. From finding transportation and parking to staying up late to navigating stairs and chairs, every decision involves stress and difficulty. My recent essay collection, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays From a Nervous System, deals with the twists and turns of living with chronic pain, and I knew that I needed to find ways to connect with people with chronic pain. I was surprised to find that an online reading was easy and fun, and I believe this is something other authors can easily do to extend their own audiences and make literary readings more accessible.
My first foray into online readings was through a Facebook Live Event. I hadn’t seen this done before so I kind of winged it, and in the end I think it turned out very well. I know that I will hardly ever in my life have 345 people watching me read at a bookstore, so even though I couldn’t see their faces, I could see little hearts and thumbs-up icons floating past the screen along with comments as I read. And within a few days after the reading, the video had been viewed over 1,200 times—a number that warms any creative writer’s heart. I believe that jumping into online “broadcast” can help to get ourselves out there and share our work with wider audiences, so here’s how I did it:
- Choose your platform. My options were Facebook or YouTube, and I chose Facebook because I have more contact with friends and followers there, but I think there are arguments for both platforms. The one argument against Instagram as a live video service is that it does not support captioning.
- I picked a day and time to host the “live” event and made a Facebook event for the reading. Since the reading was going to be on my personal page, I put a link to my personal page on the event itself along with information about what I would be reading from. I chose an afternoon time on a weekend because some groups of people with disabilities and chronic illness have their best energy before evening, so late events are usually not ideal.
- I worried that no one would come and that I was going to pioneer a new kind of bad idea on live video. I was grouchy with anticipatory embarrassment.
- I investigated how to caption a video and whether I could download this video. I learned that it seems complicated at first but then, once you become comfortable, it’s very possible and even easy. Captioning is important to allow access to people who want to engage with the reading but who are d/Deaf. Captioned video often comes with a separate text file called a SubRip or “srt” file, and I briefly dove into learning about that but then I learned that for basic applications like this, it’s not necessary to understand.
- I ran a test “live video” reading that was about half a minute on my Facebook profile so I could play around with the file (first learning that I couldn’t go live because of some browser preference, so that was good to know). After fixing my browser, I recorded a bit of me talking live by pressing the “Go Live” button. I learned that by clicking on the video itself so that it was the only thing on my screen, and then clicking the three dots in the upper right of the video, I could download the file as an mp4. Great! I also learned through extensive Googling that Facebook offers a new valuable service in which videos published to a Page (not a personal profile) would have an option to use automatic voice-recognition captioning. Yay! I have an author page, so I figured I’d upload the file and use the captioning in the Page itself to caption the video.
- I uploaded my “test” file (about 30 seconds of me talking) to my page. After I hit “Publish,” and the thing was uploaded and processed, I had the option to go back and “edit” the post. When I hit “edit,” there was a “captions” option that included a button to “Generate.” (I paused for a bit of joy because I was so excited.) I hit the button, and YES! Captions! I scrolled through and edited the captions where Facebook interpreted by nasal speech to nonsense, which was super-easy.
- The day of my reading, I was JUST AS NERVOUS as an in-person reading. That was interesting. Doing this also fulfilled a childhood fantasy of being a news anchor. I think many people might not have been nervous doing this as I was, but I am old-school enough that Skype and FaceTime both make me want to throw up for some reason (like… you can’t actually make eye contact with people.) Nevertheless this didn’t feel as weird as those platforms, and I happily couldn’t see anyone’s face beside my own. I read, and people watched, and then they typed questions in the comment field that I could answer. I answered some of them, and I sort of rushed those because I was self-conscious, but overall I think the whole thing went well, and I said, “I love you” a lot. The best part was feeling really immediately connected to a lot of friends. It was intense!
- I said goodbye and did a celebratory adrenaline lap around the house and ate some chocolate.
- Later after I’d calmed down, I downloaded the file and tried to upload it into my page to work on the captions. THERE WERE NO CAPTIONS, or rather, no option to generate them. This was super-annoying. After some more Googling, I learned that Facebook will only do captions (I think for longer files) for pages that are “verified.” I went on a tangent trying to prove that I am a real “business” and uploaded some tax forms and in general got frustrated. This part still hasn’t resolved yet, and I ended up getting rejected. I think you need an official listed phone number connected to your business, so universities would probably fit that bill. Anyway, whatever, Mark Zuckerberg.
- Then I turned to YouTube. It’s very worthwhile to set up your own YouTube account so you can upload content. YouTube saved the day. I uploaded the mp4 file to YouTube, and then I panicked because someone online had said that captioning was available, but once again it was not there.
- I paused for despair, but it turns out that this pause was functional. While I was despairing, YouTube was processing my file. The option for YouTube to generate captions doesn’t show up immediately, especially with a longer file. I went back to YouTube and after Googling some how-to’s, I figured out how to see the captions: go into the “Video Manager,” then edit the file, then click on the last option at the top menu bar, “Subtitles/CC.” The captions show up. If you click on “English (Automatic)” that is the rough version of your captions, and then you have to re-save your corrected version. Google a how-to if you’re nervous about this.
- I scrolled through the captions, correcting and punctuating. It was really easy. Then I published!
- I am inordinately proud of the captions that showed up beneath me, which you can see here (if the captions don’t show right away, hover over the bottom of the screen and click the CC button):
- That is completely and utterly it. Because I did this at home with wifi and my computer, the video quality is so much better than anytime I have been filmed giving a reading. I was actually surprised at how easy this was. Doing this can be considered literary citizenship work aimed at broadening and diversifying our audiences. If you are interested in other resources for making your literary and other events accessible, you can look at this collection-in-progress of accessibility resources gathered and curated by Action Together Southeastern Massachusetts.
- My son watched the first two seconds of the video and made fun of how much of a nerd I am, because really: who starts their online reading with “Woohooo!” and two index fingers in the air? Me, that’s who.
Sonya Huber is irrepressible. Additionally, she has written many wonderful books and also teaches at Fairfield University, where she directs the low-residency MFA program.
November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
From The Woven Tale Press Editor-in-Chief Sandra Tyler:
The Woven Tale Press is an interactive online literary and fine arts magazine, and our mission is to grow traffic to noteworthy writers, photographers, and artists across the World Wide Web. By growing this Web traffic, we aspire to garner the interest of galleries and literary agents who may turn to our pages seeking new talents. Today, WTP has a combined following of 9,000 and over 2,700 site hits per month.
Since its inception in 2013, The Woven Tale Press has been through quite an evolution. While I knew it would be Web-based, my initial focus was to feature noteworthy bloggers; I had been blogging for a couple of years, and was frustrated with how quickly posts were relegated to my archives, how my Web presence was largely obscured by the vastness of cybersphere.
This obscurity on the Web can seem analogous to that of the lone writer or the artist in his studio, and for me, to my own mother; growing up, I witnessed how she persevered through self-doubts and disappointments to hone her own unique statement as a visual artist, and quite literally, in the obscurity of our cellar—The only truly bright light was a reflective one, off of a canvas, fresh paint glistening in the dull glow of a single overhead lamp. That is how I remember my mother’s paintings, quite literally luminous in an otherwise dark space.
My mother’s years of painting in that cellar can serve as an apt metaphor for what we strive for at WTP: To bring to light works by writers and artists who otherwise may be toiling away in their own “cellars.” For every artist’s or writer’s website, there is that creative soul persevering in isolation, to hone his or her own unique statement, be it on a canvas, the page, or in any other medium. And it is a perseverance often plagued with doubts: Am I any good? Am I just wasting my time?
These are age-old questions with every new rejection, and for many, these questions may go unanswered. But validation in creative endeavors is much about being seen or heard; artists and writers long for an audience, and in this digital age, recognition in cybersphere is rivaling that in the brick and mortar world. As editor-in-chief of The Woven Tale Press, I am always seeking out others toiling away, to illuminate those talents hidden in the shadows across the World Wide Web.
Besides our magazine, we have much to offer on our site: features ranging from interviews and cutting-edge videos, to book, art reviews, and even website reviews. We also offer guidelines to how to get your own website up and running within an hour — this is a prerequisite for publication in our magazine; our way of nudging serious artists and writers to develop a Web presence if they haven’t already. A must in this digital era!
Your literary nonfiction is welcome, whether it be an excerpt from a memoir or a piece of short or flash nonfiction. Like the Brevity Blog, we would also love to publish your reviews or works about your own artistic process.
Take a look at our latest issues at www.thewoventalepress.net and consider submitting at http://www.thewoventalepress.net/how-to-submit/. Any questions can be directly to me at editor(at)thewoventalepress(dot)net.
July 25, 2016 § 15 Comments
A guest post by Ann V. Klotz
By late afternoon, I get a little itchy to get to a computer. I’m waiting for the “Recent Canvas Notifications” to appear in my inbox, with comments from my Creative Nonfiction Online Class on “Summary and Scene.” The sense of anticipation reminds me of a cross between Christmas and my birthday, though we are now in the middle of summer and both of those holidays occur in December. I want to get away from everyone and see what my group has to say about what I posted the day before. Walking up the hill from the lake, I muse about how addictive and satisfying this process is—write, get feedback, revise, post again, get more feedback. I’m in crush!
This online community exerts a powerful, private hold on me. I don’t know any of the people personally, but I know whose writing I admire, whose comments I like, whose feedback I crave, who seems kind, maybe irreverent and funny. I love our teacher, the formidable Joelle Fraser, whom I came to know in my online writing classes the previous summer.
Early last fall, still on a high from my first foray into this type of learning, I took a second online class, “Motherhood and Words,” with Kate Hopper, a teacher magical in her ability to create community in a virtual space. I was hooked. This online world, these new undemanding friends I’d never met, were answering a need that no one else in my daily life had time to meet. The people in my school and family don’t have time to agonize over word choice with me, to read twelve drafts of a story in order to help me decide on the one that works best. In another terrific class, offered by Mothers Always Write, several of my fellow students and I became Facebook pals after the course ended—they have crossed over into my everyday life, though we have not yet met in person. Perhaps someday we will…or not. Either way will be okay.
Online classes aren’t always utopian rainbows and butterflies, of course. Hoping to replicate this past summer’s euphoria during Cleveland’s unending winter, I signed up for a class I came to loathe. People were not generous in responding to one another’s pieces. The feedback from the teacher felt mean-spirited. I bristled when she suggested I needed to learn “to show, not tell.” Okay, forget bristle…I was furious. I’m an English teacher, for god’s sake. I try not to be that patronizing to my own 9th graders. So, I dropped out. I, professional “good girl,” quit, which—by itself—was liberating. I have a tough time with the concept of ever giving up on obligations, relationships, even on boring novels. Walking away felt dangerous and forbidden and great.
So, I entered this summer’s course with trepidation. I held my breath until I started reading the comments people offered one another. “Ahh,” I exhaled. “I’ve found them. My writing people—strangers all. I’m home.”
Ann V. Klotz is a teacher/writer/headmistress/mother. Her work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, The Legendary, Motherlode: An Anthology, and Independent School Magazine.