The Salonniere: Where To, She Writes?
Written by
The Salonniere
March 2010
Written by
The Salonniere
March 2010
In my Salonniere column (an homage to my role in the salon of women writers that gave rise to She Writes), I will be talking about the growing intersection between creativity and community. How do social media tools impact writers? And what are the challenges and opportunities these intersections present? But before I do that, I am going to do a series of posts focused on this community right here: our growing community of women writers. It's been about eight months since Debbie and I flipped the "on" switch for this network, and our approach up to now has mostly consisted of observing the activity here (sometimes with delighted incredulity, sometimes with concern) and responding to questions and issues as they've come up. By now, however, certain clear themes have emerged, and it is high-time that I invited all of you to participate in the conversation I'm starting today—Where To, She Writes? To kick things off, I am going to list what Debbie and I see as the primary issues/topics at hand. Please comment, add, or otherwise weigh in, and next week (or maybe sooner, not sure I will adhere to the once-a-week thing, founder's privilege), I will refer to your feedback as I formulate my take on the matter. ONE: The Great Self-Promotion Debate. What constitutes "good behavior" on She Writes, and where does promoting one's writing fit in here? What is the line between self-promotion and sharing good news? What do we mean by "self-promotion" exactly, and—very important, I think, as I care deeply about the success of the writers assembled here—does it work, and if not, what does? Finally, what should the "rules of the road" be for our community when it comes to comments, e-mail, "friending" and otherwise participating in the site? TWO: The Man Question. How do you feel about the presence of men on She Writes? I am all for it, for the reasons I gave in our "About" section, but I know not everyone agrees. Why not? What do you think our policy should be about having male members on She Writes? And why the "She" in She Writes in the first place? (If I had a nickel for every journalist who's asked me that I would have...about fifty cents. I have not been interviewed by that many journalists.) And to the men who are here: what do you think? What drew you to She Writes? THREE: "Emerging" and "Established" Writers—Do We All Belong In the Same Place? (And How Do We Know Who's Who?) A few weeks ago, I gave a talk to an extremely elite group of women novelists. So elite I was glad that I did not know all of their names until after they'd already asked me a raft of smart, sharp and challenging questions about how She Writes might fit into their writing lives. One concern was that if they joined a network like She Writes, they'd simply be expected to give—their knowledge, their contacts, their blurbs, etc.—without being clear about what they'd get. The "emerging" and "established" question raises another issue, too: can She Writes meaningfully serve writers who fall into both categories? Can our community, our services and our platform give both new writers and writers with ten critically acclaimed novels what they need? FOUR: Communications. How Often Do You Want To Hear From Us? What Do You Want To Hear About? This is a tough one for us, especially as we grow, as it's unlikely that any two She Writers would have the exact same answer to this question, much less nearly eight thousand. Some of you really dislike seeing "She Writes" in your inbox, some of you like it a lot. Each and every time we message all of you, we agonize quite a bit, afraid of spending good will, but equally afraid that the amazing content and relevant goings-on here aren't being as well-explained or clearly communicated as they ought to be. In this post I'll also add some practical how-to guides for setting your She Writes e-mail settings, privacy controls, and opting out, or in, of our communications with you. FIVE: Where To, She Writes? Sometimes I think of She Writes like a house—we built it, and you came. (Thank you!!) Lately, however, I have been thinking of She Writes less like a destination, and more as transportation—something that can take us into the future of publishing. This is the part where I get out my crystal ball, and would love to know what you see when you look in yours, too. Where is publishing headed, and how will She Writes, and its sister network She Reads (not yet launched, but always part of the plan), fit in? I hope this provides food for thought, and that these questions resonate with you, too. Next week I will dive into the first one: The Great Self-Promotion Debate. Should be a doozy.

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  • Mary Keating

    Quick comments concerning questions #3 and #4.

    Number 3 - Emerging and Established Writers. All writers need to have a mentor, a role model and an advocate. The three areas are not necessarily part and parcel to a new writer. Sometimes we teach and others times we learn. Often when in the teaching mode, we learn. When in the learning mode, we often teach. Although well published (without a novel), many think of me as established - I for one have plenty to learn and many words to pen and am still very much emerging.

    As parent volunteer to an elementary school newspaper. I learn even when I am teaching groups of 4th - 6th graders. I love that SW has many levels of writer - both emerging and accomplished. And, I thank the accomplished writers for sharing, supporting and guiding and I thank the emerging writers for their enthusiasm and zest.

    #4 Communication: As a newbie to SW, I am anxious to hear from you and from everyone. I have much to learn from the talented women (and men) on this site. I look forward to communicating, sharing and learning. Any advice, thoughts and ways to tackle this new platform will be appreciated. As for the deeper question, I think communication in the beginning would be more valuable and helpful as I, for one, am just breaching the social media world.

  • Renate Stendhal

    The wonderful sign-post on the photo says it all -- it's hilarious. How can 7000 women come together and not feel lost in the crowd? Rhetorical question. Feeling often lost and disoriented and overwhelmed by it all, I appreciate every bit of guidance and direction, funneling and channeling that you, Kamy and the marvelous TEAM can provide. Your posts often feel like you are the beacon, the officer in the middle to the traffic chaos at La Concorde in Paris, where one can get a vertigo on one's own! Bon courage for helping us navigate and warmest thanks.

  • Shelly Holder

    I would like to agree with the previous post from Marilyn Yalom:

    "My emphatic response to the gender question is that you should stick with women only. Why? Because there are so many other places where men and women interact on line and only one for women writers"

    SheWrites provides a very distinct service that in my mind should be preserved. If there are men that are interested in joining, an alternative might be a 'sister' company that is based on the same principle-- HeWrites, in effect. The point of SheWrites should not be to keep men OUT, but rather to draw women TOGETHER.

    And just to put this out there because it has not been explicitly addressed and we are already on the topic of gender, admission should rather be based on female identification rather than the female "gender" so that we can accommodate all that wish to participate. SheWrites discusses the various issues that come from writing, publishing, etc from the female viewpoint, so all experiences that fall under that broad definition should be represented. I am not sure what the current policy is, but I have privately wondered and thought I might mention it here. Forgive my clumsiness if there are any objections to my language.

    (I'm from Virginia. In like of certain recent political events, I thought it would be pertinent to point this all out. Legally and ethically, these are important considerations for the future of SheWrites.)

    Just some thoughts. By no means complete, or perfect in logic.

  • Marilyn Yalom

    Dear Kamy,

    What you have done in the past eight months is awesome; I use that overused word because it does imply a measure of fear as well as respect. This is certainly time to take stock and ask where shewrites is going. My emphatic response to the gender question is that you should stick with women only. Why? Because there are so many other places where men and women interact on line and only one for women writers. Shewrites is a cozy niche, where you feel comfortable to converse with other women. . . most of whom you don't know personally. I've heard from old friends and acquaintances and made new ones. I like the interaction between young and old, popular writers and academics, and have been glad to share whatever wisdom I have at my advanced age with younger women and newcomers to the Bay area. Tell those elite women writers that they are missing a great deal if they close the door to younger, less experienced writers. I learned, while directing the Stanford Institute for Research on Women, that sharing knowledge with other women and similar centers had a snowball effect, from which we all profited. So, good luck in this new stage!


  • Sandi Johnson

    Sign me up a for a tshirt! lol That is a cool idea.

  • Julie Polk

    I'd buy a She Writes / A Room of Her Own Just Got Bigger t-shirt in a heartbeat.

    And Shelly, I love your story about self-promotion. Sounds like a great example of the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats.

  • Wow. I feel like I need to print out every one of these comments and fasten them to my inspiration wall. Thank you for your contributions and your wise advice about communicating via this medium. Like a lot of writers I came to it very slowly and somewhat reluctantly, but when I think about the possibilities it presents to open the floor to unheard voices, and change the landscape for women writers forever, I also can't contain my excitement. :) More soon...

  • Shelly Holder

    As a random side note, I would be interested in a tshirt that says "A Room of Her Own Just Got Bigger." Is there such a thing? Would someday there be such a thing. I think a SheWrites store might be a fun idea, if you wanted to expand in that way. Think of all the notebooks, stationary, pens, etc. that us school-supply-obessed writers would buy.

  • Shelly Holder

    I would like to comment on #1: Self Promotion.

    Today I posted on the General Members News with a recent poem that got published. I read a few under me. I clicked on an author, read her work, and found out that she's an editor of such and such magazine. I checked out said magazine, and now I have two whole new journals to submit to, in genres that I have been actively looking for, and I know that I would have never been able to click through and discover them for myself without someone else's self-promotion. I hope that my own blurb with get another SheWrites member interested in the journal that I write for, and that the entire cycle will expand and expand. Maybe there is an arguable need for limits, but self-promotion somewhat conversely builds awareness as well.

  • Julie Jeffs

    Whew ... Okay, I think we've got and understanding now, that it was mostly a misunderstanding. Did I take it personally and get my feelings hurt? You bet I did, because that is what I do. It gives that inner critic, who is already annoyingly obnoxious just a little more power to beat me senseless and convince me I may never make it here amongst you writers. It was not just the discussion here but several things that had put me in that state of mind to attack when my buttons were pushed. And Kamy will be thrilled to know that I fired off a rather snarky e-mail to her as well about several issues, but was at least level headed enough to put it in the drafts folder and let it sit for a day. On a much brighter day I realized I need not send it at all, it wasn't really what I wanted to say or how I truly felt, just some emotional blathering. (Of course I much appreciate and will go with Sandi's description of me as passionate ... sounds so much better than nuts.) I am more than willing to agree that it may have been misunderstanding or even agree that Julie P and I might agree to disagree but thats okay too.

    What I really want to know is how come Jenne' is so good at saying what is in my head? That just seems completely unfair that I become completely unable to communicate clearly and then she writes just what I was thinking or at least just what I wanted to be thinking. Thank you Jenne'.

    And finally, just to fire you all up one more time ... Hey Kamy, I think all 7000 of us getting together would be a wonderful idea. I think it should be a plan for 2011, a She Writes/She Reads convention. I mean hey, they have bloggers conventions, writers conventions, publishers conventions and conventions for Star Trek aficionados for goodness sakes (no offense to you Star Trek fans ... live long and prosper). So why not a convention of women writers, seminars, classes, readings, some face to face discussions about the issues that are important to us as a community, and maybe a little press to remind the world (especially those white dudes who seem to pick the award winners) we are here, and ready to be recognized!

    I do look forward to Kamy's more expanded response as to where she would like to see She Writes go next.

  • Dawn Potter

    Julie Polk, I don't think your original comment came across as insensitive at all. I think everyone is trying to work something out and, as Kamy says, we don't have smiles and body language to help us.

  • Julie Polk

    Oh, dear. I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but Julie, I do want to offer my apologies. I promise I read your and Jenne’s posts quite carefully and that my comment was a good faith attempt to understand and respond to the issue as I thought you saw it, but clearly my understanding was off base. I didn’t in any way mean to offend you; I hope you’ll take this, as Sandi so gracefully put it, as a misunderstanding.

    Kamy, I hate the idea that I’ve contributed to your concern that posting these thoughts might have been a mistake! Please keep going. I think bumps in the road are definitely par for the course, and ultimately a good thing - though I’ll do my best not to make any from here on in :)

    Finally, it occurs to me that my thoughts about ways to approach the emerging-established question (having a forum that’s read-only unless you meet certain criteria, and/or a regularly scheduled established author chat) could be read as proposals to segregate members entirely. I’d like to be clear that I’m thinking of these features as add-ons to the existing community, not as instead-ofs. So everyone would be members with equal footing as they are now, but there would also be structured ways in which to foster interaction between emerging and established writers that would help set everyone’s expectations. (And after further thought, I’m not even sure that the read-only forum is a good idea – but I think everything should be on the table.)

    Thanks, all. Apologies again for the feather-ruffling.

  • Sandi Johnson

    Kamy, I don't think you made a mistake at all by bringing up these issues they way you did & letting us all have a voice. Things aren't always peachy-keen in any community & I think discussion is the best way to resolve any issue, preferably before it becomes a dividing issue. I'd be more worried if everyone agreed all the time & no one ever voiced a differing view or took offense to anything. By bringing up the issues this way, you have an opportunity to gain insight on individual issues as they relate to the whole - the big picture of where She Writes should go from here. Some issues may need additional, more in-depth discussions. Some won't.

    Now, as for the difficulties with this type of medium, I agree in that it is hard to feel out what someone else might mean when you don't have cues like tone of voice or body language. In the absence of cues, I've always found it best to view other's comments with the idea that they're not trying to offend or upset anyone; that they mean no harm or ill will. It's kept me from getting my feathers ruffled on numerous issues that are near and dear to me. (And believe me, there are some that will get me flying off at the mouth with a quickness!)

    Obvioulsy, there are various topics that trigger all of us to hop on our soapboxes from time to time. That's a good thing. I think open discussions & even open, heated debates are a healthy way to define the beliefs of a community as a whole. You can have heated debates, you can have misinterpretations, and still come together as a community to build something good for everyone involved.

    As women, we are a passionate bunch. We're just built that way. We rally and defend our hot button issues like we would our own children. But at the same time, we tend to get our feelings hurt easier too. Combined hurt feelings and hot button issues, and sometimes it can be like waving a red flag in front of a charging bull. (Heaven knows, I've been guilty of that myself...more than once.)

    What matters is that we're all working towards the same goal - building a community of women writers who want to support each other, guide each other, celebrate with each other, cry in our coffee together, and muddle our way through the life we have chosen as writers. Regardless of our resumes, our background, our lifestyles, we all came here for the same reason - to find other writers who need/want to be around other writers. The publishing world isn't usually very kind or sympathetic to any of us. It's a hard business. All the more reason to be gentle with each other.

    I'm sure the Julies would have had a much different conversation had they been sitting across from each other. I'm sure neither of you guys meant to ruffle the other's feathers. It's a touchy subject & everyone has their own take on it. Doesn't mean we can't all still play nice. (Not that you guys aren't playing nice. I just hear the feathers ruffling & hope no one is really getting their feelings hurt. I don't think either one of you intended to, so hopefully you both will take it for what it is - just a simple misunderstanding.)

    And Kamy, I think you're right that She Writes can be a good place for both established and emerging writers. But all 7000 of us in one place? Yikes! That just sounds like a planning nightmare. lol.

  • Just read the article posted about She Writes on The Novelette and am so happy with it -- I also think it is very apropos here and helps explain the way Debbie and I have always envisioned She Writes as a home for all women writers, regardless of their experience level:

  • Reading this exchange, I wonder if I made a mistake by throwing these topics out there for discussion, in thumbnail sketches, rather than treating each of them fully and explaining my perspective. (And Julie Polk, I do think you misread Julie Jeffs, which doesn't diminish the thoughtfulness of your response.) I've actually given this a good deal of thought and (if it wasn't already obvious) feel sure that the answer is yes, She Writes can be a place for emerging and established writers. I also believe that those categories are becoming more and more fluid as the publishing industry changes. I think it's also *really* important to note that for eight months, She Writes has been a place where women in every stage of their writing careers have found support and resources without almost no issues arising from the "somebody" "nobody" divide (and believe me, 99% writers remain "nobody" whether they have published or not, as I can attest), but I also think it's really important to consider how these issues might change as we continue to grow, and how we want to intentionally, conscientiously anticipate them.

    That being said -- dang I wish we were all in a room together talking! This kind of communication leaves so little room for the kinds of messages we all send through our body language, etc., and leaves so much room for error. I often feel it would be much easier to be face-to-face...except for the part about actually getting 7000 women from all fifty states and 30+ countries together into one physical location, which would be tricky to say the least. :)

  • Julie Jeffs

    Julie Polk,

    Wow, how did what I say get to where you went? I'm not asking for anything nor do I expect any writer to provide anything necessarily for free or at all. What I am concerned about is the way She Writes which started out as a community of women writers from all accross the spectrum who joined in many ways to be part of the community as a whole and now seemingly is changing into a class system where if you are an "established writer" you are separated from the rest of the group. Sorry to have offended you so. If you read my post I never asked any writer to provide blurbs or any such thing, I was just saying that it isn't just on She Writes that many established writers will have people asking them for such things, to me such is the life of a known author. In fact if you read what I wrote I am all in favor of anyone who in any way crosses the boundary of being polite and considerate of any other member, maybe they don't belong here. I am happy for you that you don't have any negative feelings about yourself, but I for one do begin to feel less than important when I realize that because i am not amongst the group of what someone has deemed established writers I no longer count in the same way.

    I'm not looking for anything, Kamy asked for opinions and I am just as able to have one as you. But you may be right, possibly what I need and want from a community I will find somewhere else.

  • Julie Polk

    Julie Jeffs and Jenne --

    I'm a little confused by your posts. What specifically would you be looking for from more established writers? I'm solidly in the emerging writer category along with you guys (I've had one essay published online and wrote and performed a solo show in the NY Fringe festival like, eight years ago, and that's it) but I strongly disagree that just because someone is widely published, they owe anybody -- well, anything, when you get right down to it. It takes a practically inhuman level of work to get published and to maintain a writing career, and as Dawn Potter pointed out below, it very often still doesn't pay the bills, so there's that to deal with. There are many wonderful resources available to starting writers that have tons of information just there for the taking. (Great place to start? Poets and Writers, online at Go there, click the "Tools for Writers" tab, and you'll find a wealth of info on their FAQ.)

    Julie Jeffs, it sounds like what you're asking is that the established writers be available to provide blurbs and offer agent/editor/publisher introductions. If that's the case, I promise that those things are neither easy nor uncomplicated, and that they cause many established writers difficulty, including amongst people they know personally. Here's a great post from the very established, very generous John Scalzi explaining why he doesn't take blurb requests even from friends. I think it may help clarify things:

    I worry a little, too, that your point of view seems more divisive than I hope you intend. I certainly don't think of myself as a nobody or a second-class citizen because I haven't been widely published (and I definitely haven't gotten that feeling here!), and I would never consider asking a thoughtful question that I'd looked and couldn't find an answer for elsewhere as bothering anyone. But I think that's quite different from conflating the idea that there is value in communal exchange with the idea that some people in that community automatically owe the others something. I don't mean to start a dustup here, I'm just confused as to what you're looking for.

    On that note, another solution might be to hold weekly or monthly chats, where an established writer opens up the floor to any and all questions for an hour or so. I'm still pretty new to the site and don't get her as often as I'd like, so maybe I missed this and it exists already, but I think that would be a great thing.


  • Thank you so much for all this feedback! I will definitely refer to it as I write my upcoming posts on each of these topics. As always, thorough and thought-provoking, two things I love about the women of She Writes.

  • Julie Jeffs

    I have been mulling over these questions since you posted them Kamy and fortunately for me Jenne just posted a few minutes ago some thougths that explains much of my feelings about Emerging vs. Established writers. One of the things I loved (and still love) about She Writes is the inclusiveness and that I am not made to feel like a second class citizen because I am not published. I agree with Jenne, it begins to sound like the "i'm too important for you little people". If those established writers don't want to be bothered with us "little people" why are they here on She Writes? Is it then just for self promotion? That doesn't say much for their sense of community. I certainly understand that an established writer, best selling author etc., has a full plate of things they have to do to continue writing, promoting their own work and other things that famous people do. I am thrilled to feel that those people are "kind of" accessible to me, although I work very hard to not bother, harrass, annoy any of them. I get I'm a nobody and they have reached the "somebody" status. I think that if any of those established writers are being unnecessarily bothered by a She Writes member that could be cause to be banned from She Writes .... kind of the "if you can't be polite, follow our rules and play nicely we'll ask you not to play at all". I would assume though, things like being asked for blurbs, being asked for agent and editor and publisher introductions, being asked for well almost anything that goes with the publishing a book world doesn't just happen on She Writes. Isn't that really just one of the things that goes along with becoming known for your work?

    Self-promotion? I think we are all here somewhat for that, I mean don't we all want to believe that when we finally have something to promote we can turn to our friends here on She Writes? I figure that is one of the things we are here for. But, having said that, I'm more than able to look around, read people's posts, read the member news etc., and figure out what things I choose to purchase/read/promote. I don't want a sales pitch necessarily, considering that we have over 7000 members that is a lot of sales pitches.

    Men ... although I have nothing against them I wonder why they would want to join a site clearly meant for women. Most that I have seen here are here solely for self-promotion, the are editors or work at or own publishing houses or work for vanity presses etc. I think what they offer may be valuable to our members but I also think that we may have some members who come to She Writes to feel safe amongst a community of women. It seems that possibly Ning and She Writes could give the men limited access to the site, to allow the women members freedom to write and say whatever they need to write or say but still make the services offered by these men available to the members.

    I don't have an opinion about communication, I'm able to set my settings such that I can already decide what I want to get e-mails about and what I don't.

    Truly my biggest issues is the idea of setting apart those writers that "someone" considers established ... smacks of elitism to me and I don't really want to play that game here. I am certain that I can learn a lot from those members here who are not "established" but one of the reasons for being part of this community is its diversity, writers from the entire spectrum from those just starting out to those that have found great success, sometimes repeatedly. It seems many of the established writers here also teach, run workshops and certainly would like us all to buy their books, if they are using she writes to further their own careers and agenda shouldn't they be giving back a little too, maybe by being accessible somewhat to this community they have chosen to join?

    Sorry to go on so, you seem to have hit a nerve.

  • Michelle Maisto

    I haven't got any great answers for these great questions — but I had to chime in and say thanks for being so transparent and for stirring up so many smart considerations. This site brings together such an amazing collection of talents and brains — I have no doubts that SW will find all the right roads to head down!

  • Dawn Potter

    Well, Jenne, it does occasionally happen, but what happens more often is that I beat myself up about the interaction. The point is, I guess, that exchanges can be wonderful or distressing . . . and not always predictably one or the other.

  • Dawn Potter

    Kamy, I know that you and I have already had some conversation about question 3, and I still see no good, clear answer. As other commenters have pointed out, the interchange between established and emerging writers can be good for both sides. But the time demands are real, as is the urge to be generous with services, as is the urge to pay for groceries (which is not a given for many established writers: literature doesn't necessarily pay the bills). When one tries to balance those items, to explain the conflicts, feelings get hurt, and the balancer feels like a bitch. And occasionally gets treated like one. Clearly this is a difficult situation to parse.

  • Sandi Johnson

    Ooops...I've got typos too. See what happens when you don't edit before submitting? lol

  • Sandi Johnson

    Wow - running a site like SheWrites take a great deal of behind-the-scenes mental work, doesn't it?

    It must feel like trying to read everyone's mind at once sometimes.

    Here's my perspective...keep in mind, I'm new to SheWrites, but not to writing and participating in online communities.

    One - I love being able to rally around those who have a reason to toot their own horn. It's part of what makes a community like this valuable - being able to encourage each other, celebrate each others' triumphs, and commiserate our failures. That's what makes a community. However, leave the buying decisions to me, thank you.

    I don't have a problem with someone posting information about their services, etc. But I don't want it shoved down my throat. If you offer something I might be interested in, wonderful! Let me know where it is & I'll have a look-see. But don't beat me over the head with it. I think commercial-type announcements should have their place. If someone is looking for something, make the information available - a service directory page, a book catalog page, that sort of thing - easy to find, but not obnoxious. Leave it out of the every day conversations, though.

    Two - Men are fine. I'm not so sure I get why a guy would want to be a part of a community focused on women, but that's not for me to decide. That's the guys choice & they should have the freedom to choose.

    Three - Hmmm. I get the "lets not suck the life out of someone just because they've been published" thing. I do. But the idea of community gets lost when you start dividing and segmenting. In my experience, it tends to breed the "us vs. them" mentality. I would like to think that each of us has enough sense not to lean so heavily on a fellow writer just because they've been published. (Yeah, I know. I want to live in Utopia.)

    Four - I don't really have a preference on the communications thing. I manage what my inbox via Outlook and have rules set up for various organizations. Everything I get from SheWrites automatically goes into its own folder. When I have time, I go sift through it. So I don't really have an opinion there.

    Five - oh boy! What a big question. I think ebooks and self-publishing are going to continue to grow and become more "mainstream." Just look at what has happened in the last few years! Wow! Throw in new marketing avenues like social media networking & the whole Internet affect? Who knows where we might be in 5-10 years.

    I think networks like SheWrites are going to become increasingly more popular with new writers trying to break into the publishing community. That's great as a support system for us writers, but what about the audience? What about the people we write for? What kind of changes are they going to be willing to make? That's what really counts. I think this is where networks like SheWrites can be a huge asset to writers. Help us understand the mindset of our audiences - the readers. Help us learn how to better reach them, involve them, connect with them.

    So there you 2 cents...worth what you paid for it. :)

  • Julie Polk

    PS: Eeep, typos! Please forgive any you see. I was writing fast.