MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 27-28, 2016: Historical Writers of America Conference Recap



[Inspired by my annual Virginia pilgrimage with the boys, this year’s series has focused on AmericanStudying interesting places in the Commonwealth. Leading up to this special weekend post on my presentation at the Historical Writers of America conference in Williamsburg!]
Last weekend I had the chance to present on “Building a Public Scholarly Career through Short-Form Online Writing” at the HWA Conference in Colonial Williamsburg. I didn’t get to attend as much of the conference as I would have liked (for a very good reason—touring Jamestown and Williamsburg with the boys!), but I did also get to hear one great session before my own. So here are three takeaways from that session and my own:
1)      Making Connections: The other session I attended was led by Shari Stauch, the creator and CEO of the website Where Writers Win. Shari’s talk focused on strategies for building readership through targeting what she calls industry influencers, and although she was talking specifically to authors of fiction, I found most of her suggestions highly relevant for my own books and public scholarly career. For example, Shari highlighted the role that the presidents of state Library Assocations play in contributing to the programs and activities at public libraries across a state, and thus suggested contacting those officials in order to help set up readings and talks; I’ll definitely be doing so when my next book comes out later this year. An audience member chimed in with a similar idea for state Humanities Councils, which have speaker bureaus that authors can apply to be part of. All ideas that any and all writers should consider as we work to reach audiences and enter conversations.
2)      The Varieties of Online Writing: I structured my talk around three sub-genres of short-form online writing with which I’ve worked in the last few years—personal scholarly blogging (duh), writing for scholarly sites such as We’re History, and writing for more public sites such as Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post. Preparing and giving the talk helped me really think through those different sites and sub-genres in a more analytical way than I previously had, and I was able to identify some interesting distinctions and their effects on my writing as a result. For example, for We’re History contributors are asked to minimize hyperlinks (combined to my heavy reliance on them in posts here), and that leads to a form of writing in which I include more info and contexts in the pieces themselves, rather than linking to such materials as I often do in this space. For another example, for the public sites I’m often asked to write shorter paragraphs than the 250-or-so-word ones in posts here, which leads to writing that hits key points while leaving sub-topics or supporting evidence more implied than explicitly addressed. All aspects of this gig about which I’ll keep thinking, aided by the HWA talk and my conversations with the audience members there.
3)      I Need You: Or, more exactly, your comments! At my talk, one of the audience members asked who comes to the blog, what draws them there, what they find, and the like, and I had to admit that I often am not sure. Blogger’s statistics give me a good sense of how many views I get, where around the world you all come from, and whether you arrive here through searches or other websites. But I’d sure love to hear more about who you are, what you’re looking for and/or finding here, and any thoughts or responses you’d share, whether on particular posts/series or on the blog as a whole. So if you have a chance to share any such thoughts in comments (or, if you prefer, by email), I’d very much appreciate them. Thanks!
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Lessons for online, historical, or other forms of writing you’d highlight? Or, one more time, care to say hi in comments?!

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