Andromeda: Ivey, Knapp and Rearden Teach Us How and Why They Tweet

Jonathan Franzen thinks Twitter is “unspeakably irritating.” Margaret Atwood, an avid Tweeter,
thinks it’s just an extension of something humans have always been doing, an
analog to tribal drumming or the telegram, or even a new way of “performing
ourselves” in an era when class-coded clothing doesn’t say as much as it once
did. (Several interesting “Big Think” video clips here, including “How to Tweet
Like Margaret Atwood” as well as non-tech literary topics.)
I’ve dipped a toe into Twitter (@romanolax), and am less philosophically opposed to
micro-blogging if it means I can spend less
doing macro-blogging at my own author website, for example. But I’ve
been slow at figuring out how to make Twitter really work for me. When it comes to getting advice, I prefer to hear from my fellow Alaska authors, who share appreciation both for distraction-free solitude and literary community.

three Alaskans who seem able to balance time for writing and nurturing purposefully crafted lives with the need to be digitally connected: Eowyn Ivey, author of the
internationally bestselling Snow Child and
Pulitzer finalist (who still finds time to tweet); Lorena Knapp, freelance writer, recent TEDX
speaker, and emerging platform expert; and Don Rearden, author of The Raven’s Gift as well as a teacher of
creative writing at UAA.

EOWYN IVEY @EowynIvey: as of this
June 27, 2,007 tweets, 576 following,
Recent tweet: Love it! So, when
Willa Cather on US dollar? MT @SwanMountain
@randomhouse Jane Austen
May Appear on £10 Note:


LORENA KNAPP: @bigstatebiglife: 3,544 tweets, 2,816 following, 3,115

Recent tweet: How Authenticity and Compartmentalization Can Co-Exist.

DON REARDEN @donrearden: 4,870 tweets, 1,198 following, 1,333 followers.

Recent tweet: Case of Spam
purchased! Officially ready for Alaskan style launch for Raven’s Gift tonight! @PintailBooks @penguinusa

1. Most of my tweets are…
EOWYN: About books, reading and
writing, life in Alaska. When I’m on tour, I tweet about where I am signing or
doing events, and about the place I’m visiting. I also like to link to
interesting articles and blog posts from the book world. I did notice recently,
though, that I might tweet about the weather too often.
LORENA: sharing useful blog posts
I’ve read mixed with some of my own blog posts.
DON: Most of my tweets are 138.5
characters, extremely witty, and probably the most important 138.5 characters
you’ll read that day or ever, until you read my next tweet, which will be even
more witty and will probably be retweeted by the Dalai Lama. #justkidding In
all seriousness my tweets are a combination of my attempt to share important
and/or mundane tidbits about life in Alaska or the writing life.
2.  The best thing (or two) an
Alaska writer can use tweeting for.

 EOWYN: Having fun. The only way I
am comfortable being on Twitter is if I’m enjoying it. And as Alaskan writers,
I think we can help support each other and cheer each other on. We can laugh
and share good stories.

LORENA: Getting the attention of
individuals that don’t live in the state.
DON: Twitter can connect Alaskan
writers with writers, readers, and booksellers, but it can also connect you
with people who might enjoy your perspective or work and become advocates on
your behalf. Sharing some of your writing and voice through tweeting is a great
way to simply establish relationships that you couldn’t otherwise do living
where we live.
3. Biggest tweet mistake or faux pas for writers.

EOWYN: Tweeting mostly about
their own blog posts or book information. Of course we all are going to do it
sometimes, and that’s part of the role of Twitter for an author. But I also want
to be engaged. It’s kind of like being at a party – I don’t want to be spouting
off about myself for hours on end and shoving my business card in people’s
faces. I want to learn about other people and have some good conversations.
LORENA: Only tweeting about
themselves and not promoting others.
DON: The worst thing you can do
on Twitter is tweet a naked body part to complete strangers. Unless you’re a
politician, then that apparently is fine. I see so many writers that only tweet
famous quotes or just constantly tweet links to their book on Amazon. I’ve
never ordered a book from tweeted link, and I doubt others have. A link to a
glowing review from the NYT or something, to me is different. I’ve clicked on
those links and purchased a book or three that way. Really, the worst thing you
might do is never tweet. You won’t make any faux pas that way, but you won’t
ever know the impact your tweets might have had on your career either!
4. Best thing that’s happened to me, because of tweeting.

EOWYN: I feel a part of a larger writing
community. I joked once that Twitter is like office banter for those of us who
are the solitary reader/writer sorts. It’s nice to have a bit of that camaraderie,
that back-and-forth joking and sharing that happens among coworkers.
LORENA: I’ve landed some
freelance writing gigs and made great friends.
DON: Easy. Friendships I would
have never otherwise had have happened because of twitter. Rockstars, actors,
authors, and artists I respect and admire have become great friends via
twitter. These friends have read my book, sent copies to friends and family, and
posted their own unsolicited tweets about my work. I have new lifelong friends,
not just virtual friends, but real friends, through tweets.
5. Tweeting’s biggest down-side.

EOWYN: The benefit is also its
down-side. Twitter engages me in the publishing, marketing, writerly world
outside of myself. And sometimes that’s not where I want to be. Sometimes I
don’t want to be thinking about reviews of my book or ebook sales or publishing
trends. I want to be in the moment, fully involved with my family and my
LORENA: You definitely need a way
to filter through the noise- I use Twitter lists to pay attention to the tweets
of those that I find most useful and relevant.
DON: I’m sure I’ve written a
novel worth of tweets and spent far too much time often crafting more than one
clever sentence for a tweet, but really authors are expected to engage their
audience through social media, and Twitter is one of the easiest ways to do
that.  The downside is every moment on
Twitter is a moment away from my real characters, not the 140 that may or may
not ever be read or appreciated.
6. Frequency: I tweet…

EOWYN: At least a few times a
week, but sometimes more often if I have the time and interest.
LORENA: I usually tweet four or
five times a day on the weekdays but I schedule all my tweets during one a
twenty minute Twitter session in the morning.
DON: Several times a day I’ll
tweet something. Perhaps a photo shot with my phone of a raven siting on my
deck, or a mad momma moose blocking a trail, or a word of thanks to a fan who
has posted a kind review of my novel. I don’t spend more than ten or fifteen
minutes daily usually, and those few minutes are spread throughout an entire day.
7. Twitter apps or tools I recommend.

EOWYN: None. Just getting into
Facebooking, tweeting, and blogging is enough for me.
LORENA: Hootsuite is my current
favorite. I also like Buffer.
DON: I’ve tried a few apps, but
mostly just stick with the boring old Twitter app.
8. Writer role models I’ve followed to learn to use Twitter effectively.

EOWYN: I see a lot of Alaskan
authors making Twitter their own. John Straley tweets wonderful poems,
sometimes sweet, sometimes quirky and surprising. Don Rearden has some really
funny tweets, and he’s so linked in to current events up here. I also recently
came across blogger Nasugraq R. Hopson ‏(@Nasugraq) and her tweets are a
fantastic look into her life in Anaktuvuk Pass. I think it’s important to be
yourself, and Alaskans are doing a great job of it.
LORENA: I love Alexis Grant
( She has a great Twitter Power User course and gives lots of
great tips for targeting specific people you want to notice you, Twitter
etiquette, and shares tips for managing your time and energy so Twitter doesn’t
become one more thing on your to-do list. 
DON: I think one of the best is
Margaret Atwood. She rules Twitter. She establishes a nice balance between a
little promotion of events she’s attending and social justice. 
9. If I weren’t tweeting I’d be …

EOWYN: a little less connected to
the writers and readers of the world, and I’d have maybe an extra five minutes
a day.
LORENA: finding other ways to
interact with people and create connections.
DON: chopping wood, working on
the next novel or screenplay, or sitting on my deck listening to baby ravens in
the next above our house — oh wait, I can do all that and while tweeting!
Andromeda Romano-Lax is a
co-founder of 49 Writers and author of
Spanish Bow and The Detour. She
teaches in the low-residency MFA program at University of Alaska Anchorage. At
present, she has only 155 Twitter followers (@Romanolax) and hopes to increase
that number by at least two or three after she learns more about the proper use
of hashtags and tinyurls from Eowyn, Don, Lorena, and all of the other friends
of 49 Writers who tweet. (Leave your comments and your Twitter handle here.)

4 thoughts on “Andromeda: Ivey, Knapp and Rearden Teach Us How and Why They Tweet”

  1. Greetings Andromeda and fellow 49ers,

    Since I joined Twitter a long time ago, I have posted more than 21,000 tweets, which is surely more than 500,000 words by now. Believe it or not, I think that’s been worthwhile, and so has the considerable time I spend reading what other people tweet.

    Well, not all of it, of course. At first I suffered from the well-known “Somebody is wrong on the internet; I must enlighten him” syndrome and fell into some tar pits of unproductive argument. Twitter also serves as an attractive way to procrastinate, but I don’t hold that against it because I know I’d easily find another way to avoid working if it wasn’t there.

    I joined Twitter more than six years ago when it was new and I was a media executive regularly communicating with more than 4,000 editorial employees. Relatively few of them were on Twitter at the time but many of the more vigorous voices in the “future of news” debate were, and it was a great learning experience.

    Since I’ve become an author solo practitioner ( I use it even more.

    It is a good way to promote your work, if you’ve invested time tending the garden before you intend to harvest it. I promoted a free Kindle giveaway of my Alaska journalism memoir Write Hard, Die Free ( almost entirely on Twitter and Facebook, which led to more than 4,000 downloads in 48 hours. (The story of how that affected paid sales later is a less inspirational tale.)

    To keep this comment from getting even longer, let me list just a few benefits Twitter brings me:

    * It helps me define my image to people who won’t otherwise encounter me, whether I am talking about my writing, politics, rock and roll or telling jokes. I try to be authentic in all these;

    * I can help promote friends who have new books or other worthwhile activities to publicize;

    * I learn a lot. Twitter exposes me to connections and events I wouldn’t find on my own. (I try, with modest success, to make sure I follow a number of folks I don’t agree with to help provide range);

    * It is simply a great news tip service. I often encounter news for the first time on Twitter and can then chase down reporting I trust to learn more;

    * The best curators on Twitter (@acarvin of NPR is my prototype) do something you just can’t find elsewhere by collecting, sorting and repackaging a huge range of information in near realtime;

    * It’s fun. I follow delightful wits, outrageous commentators, funny observers and warm, lovable people—the vast majority of whom I haven’t met.

    I noticed at the Northwords symposium in Skagway last month how few of the writers there were using Twitter and was delighted to see this post and so much good advice.

    Tweet on,


  2. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Howard — you're an ideal person to add more meaningful content to this conversation! I, too, was surprised how few people at North Words were tweeting. It's mainly because we don't know how to do it productively and creatively, I think. Your free download experiment is a great example of how to find more readers via social media. Thanks again. P.S. 21,000 tweets. Holy cow!

  3. Like others, I consider Twitter to be my water cooler, where I gain helpful information but also hang out and chat with people. I couldn't imagine being without it. @lynnlovegreen

  4. Andromeda (and Don and Lorena and Eowyn), thanks for a great discussion. And Howard, geez, 21K! You all inspire me. The first part I have to learn is how to enjoy it (Not there yet)…

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