Mommy’s Little Writing Lies

February 14, 2020 § 24 Comments

Sandy Pic (1)By Sandra Ebejer

I was sitting on the floor of my too-cluttered office, flipping through magazines in the name of “research,” when my six-year-old walked into the room.

“What are you doing, Mommy?”

“I’m just looking at magazines.”

“Oh, right, so you can try to make them better.”

My son is enormously proud of my work. Despite having never read my writing, he is staunch in his conviction that my talent is unparalleled and it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

I will admit I’m an ace when it comes to bedtime stories. Our nightly routine involves him providing me with two characters, typically superheroes, and me conjuring up some tale of good overcoming evil. He makes these caped crusaders as ludicrous as possible (“The bad guy is Captain Singer, who sings horribly, and the good guy is Super Fish Man, who uses fish as his powers”), and is astounded when I instantly pull together a yarn that would make Dav Pilkey weep. (For the unfamiliar, Pilkey is the author of the Captain Underpants and Dog Man series, and perhaps the only writer my son feels could rival my artistry.)

When he leaves for school in the morning, he asks what I plan to write that day. When he returns home six hours later, he expects to find a newly-completed novel on the kitchen counter—printed, bound, and wrapped in a full-color cover with my photo on the back. So far, I’ve staved off his disappointment by telling him books take a really, really long time to write but once I’ve finished my novel, he’ll be the first to read it.

The truth, though—what I can’t bring myself to tell him—is that Mommy hasn’t started writing a book. In fact, Mommy may never start writing one because much of the time, she feels like a hack.

Most days, I rarely accomplish anything. I’m busy, but it’s an empty, hollow busy that doesn’t equate to a sense of fulfillment or achievement. I would love to share the reality of my career with my little one, but what could I possibly say?

“Honey, writing is challenging and the idea of tackling an entire book scares Mommy to death. See, Mommy has nearly 70 drafts of essays, articles, and short fiction saved on her computer, most of which will probably never be finished. While you’re reading fun chapter books at school, Mommy is spending her time submitting pitch after pitch to editors and then hitting refresh on her browser in the hopes that just one of them will respond. When they don’t, Mommy drowns her sorrows in chocolate and famous author rejection letters, telling herself that if J.K. Rowling could make it big after being snubbed hundreds of times, then dammit, she will too. Then Mommy pops on over to Twitter to share her newfound, albeit brief, spark of confidence with her fellow #WritingCommunity members, ignoring the irony of crafting a Tweet about perseverance as a way to avoid actual writing. Then Mommy repeats the process. So, see, honey? A book is a bit out of Mommy’s league right now.”

I don’t want to tell my son this is how I spend my time. I can’t tell him Mommy is racked with crippling self-doubt and a persistent fear that her work will never be published. At least not until he’s in third grade.

So, for now, I hide my truth. My son thinks Mommy is writing a book. He thinks Mommy is fixing the magazines. He thinks Mommy is, and I quote, “The best storyteller in the world.”

Why ruin that narrative? I’ll go on playing the role of full-time writer extraordinaire. I’ll continue imbuing his made-up characters with life and craft bedtime stories full of tension, rich descriptions, and as much of a narrative arc as I can muster, given the limitations of a fish-wielding superhero. I won’t shush him when he tells his friends and teachers that “Mommy’s writing is in all the newspapers,” and I’ll nod and smile when he asks how my book is coming along.

I’ll let him continue to think I’m a top-notch writer whose talents know no bounds.

Because maybe, slowly, his unconditional confidence in my abilities will rub off on me, and someday I’ll think these things, too.

Sandra Ebejer lives in upstate New York with her husband, son, and two cats who haven’t figured out how to get along. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, FLOOD Magazine, The Girlfriend from AARP, Motherfigure, Folks, 50-Word Stories, and Across the Margin. Read more of her work at

Building Your Twitter Following

February 12, 2019 § 11 Comments

Does Twitter help sell books? Nobody knows. Barnes & Noble customers rarely announce “I came in because of this tweet!” But being visible in the online writing community can be a source of support and inspiration, and enough agents and publishers look at follower numbers to make it worth growing your presence on Twitter.

Twitter basics are just like showing up at an enormous pool party already in progress: Watch conversations before interacting, interact kindly and pleasantly and avoid “fighting words” unless you’re doing it on purpose. Just like that party, you get to swim when you like and stay dry when you want: Twitter rewards occasional involvement throughout the day or week rather than constant checking.

We talked last week about “what the heck to post on Twitter.” But the early days often feel like speaking timidly into the void (647 following! 12 followers! Augh!). How can you organically grow an online community who share your interests and want to hear what you have to say?

The best way to get followers is to follow people, but not randomly. Who will you enjoy reading and who will follow you back?

  • Use Twitter follow-frenzies. Search your Facebook writing group for a post asking members to comment with their Twitter handles. Follow them all, and post yours as a clickable link. If you can’t find a follow-thread within the last six months, post one: “Hey, let’s follow each other on Twitter” plus your link will do just fine. It is polite to follow back everyone who follows you unless you actively dislike their bio/feed.
  • Go to users’ actual profiles. Hit “follow” and wait for a moment—Twitter will suggest more people you might like. Follow them, too.
  • Visit your favorite literary magazine or author’s profile. Add their followers. Use the “followers” list, because the “following” list is likely more famous and less motivated to follow back.
  • Follow other writers with low follower counts. Someone with 367 followers is more likely to follow back than someone who already has 70K.
  • Follow people who liked a tweet you also liked, or whose response you liked.
  • Search hashtags like #amwriting #writingcommunity #writerscommunity #amediting and #cnf (those are clickable links to those searches). Follow people who use those hashtags in tweets and/or their bios.
  • Use Lists. To keep track of the people you want to read in that blur of new tweets, assign people you follow to lists. For example, I made a list of “Agents” so I can read only tweets from literary agents I follow. You can also look at someone else’s list: Click on a profile, click Lists, and click on a list. For example, here’s all the AWP presenters for this year’s conference. If you’re attending—or want the conference buzz—subscribe to see those tweets. Then click List Members and follow everyone who seems interesting.
  • Unfollow people who don’t follow back after a few weeks unless you are specifically interested in what they have to say. (Michelle Obama is probably not going to follow me back.) Most of my non-mutual followers are news, politics, public figures, literary agents and publishing houses. You can use a tool like Tweepi (start with the free plan to see if it’s for you) to sort your list and easily unfollow non-followers, or just scroll down your Following list on Twitter—it’s in chronological order.
  • Don’t bother to follow back travel bloggers and business coaches with huge follower and low following numbers unless you’re really interested. They are using bots that will unfollow you after you follow them (this also happens on Instagram). Dudes with two first names (like ‘Robert Walter,’ ‘James Joseph’), very all-American profiles, and jobs that are military or military-connected in Africa or the Middle East are bots or scammers.

“But Allison,” you ask, “How can I engage meaningfully with the thousands of followers I’d like to have?”

You don’t have to. You’re not on Twitter to talk to anyone, you’re on Twitter to talk to everyone. It’s not like letting your best friend sit next to you at lunch—be part of a great conversation this minute, then move on. Support the people you know well or in person. Retweet writers and cool things to read. Post things you find funny, interesting or cool. Step back and engage meaningfully with the community as a whole, rather than focusing on individuals. Let Twitter wash over you like a wave—and get out of the pool when you need a break.


Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor. See you at AWP!

Will You Social Media Today?

February 5, 2019 § 8 Comments

Antique engraving of a white male writer thinking, an inkwell in front of him and pen in handYes, yes, we know. Build a platform big enough and the agents will beat a path to our door. What we really want to do—what we should actually do more than anything else—is write. Yet as memoirists, agents and publishers want to know: How many people can you reach with the news your book is out? How many of them are in the demographic likely to buy your book? How many will leave a glowing review, either because your book is great or because they love you and you write about what’s important to them?

Platform-building is a long haul, and it’s hard to know how to spend our time and focus day to day. What the heck are we supposed to put on social media anyway?


  • A new book you think is great.
  • Something you overheard that makes interesting dialogue.
  • An article you wrote or were involved in publishing: link the article and quote a couple of sentences that seem mildly inflammatory or counter-intuitive.
  • An article you liked about writing: link plus a quote and/or your opinion or contribution to the advice.
  • A writing meme
  • Encouragement to someone else
  • A fun poll
  • A serious poll
  • A retweet of someone else’s opinion with a comment agreeing or disagreeing or adding to the conversation.
  • A cartoon or quote that inspires you.

Most of us won’t ever get big enough that platform alone gets us published, but plenty of us have stories compelling enough that a nudge from platform might tip us over the edge from unpublished to published. Take a few moments, and build a little of yours today.


Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor.

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