Google+ for You?

In November, I presented at this conference called the Blogworld & New Media Expo.  They have what is called a virtual ticket, and I’m working my way through some of the sessions and taking notes.

Google+ Torgerson

Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki did a presentation on Google+, a social media platform (is that what you call it?) that I’ve largely ignored until now. I set up my profile. I know a couple of good friends are on there.  I check in to see what they’ve posted lately.  That was about it.

Guy says Facebook is for friends and family and Google+ is for those who share your passion.  He says the first thing I ought to do is to search for key words that describe my passion.  Okay, item learned #1:  I can search for key words on Google+.  I can’t do that on Facebook, right?  So I try searching by “writing” and “teaching” and what do I find?  TENURE-TRACK POSITION IN CREATIVE WRITING (FICTION) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA.  It was the second post.  I hadn’t thought about job openings being on Google+.  It would be a certain kind of writer and teacher to find such a post on Google+ as opposed to the pages of The Writer’s Chronicle, right?  Some universities would never post on Google+ and some would most want to find future teachers and writers there.  That’s my guess.  Got an opinion?

Chris says you can click into your circles and just see posts from that circle.  So I could have a “writing” circle and a “basketball coach” circle and take only a look at those things when I want to.  He also says to try  FindPeopleOnPlus.Com.  There, you could not only search by someone’s name–William Torgerson–but also by key words such as “writer.”  Chris says he found 87 farmers.  He plays Texas Hold’em with his dad on Google+.

There’s something called Hangout where you can get together online via video.  I can see possibilities for writing groups or classes to meet virtually. Okay, I’m convinced to do more on Google+.  Maybe tonight I’ll take a look at organizing my circles.

You can read more about Guy Kawasaki here.

And Chris Brogan here. 

Are you on Google+?  If you are, what do you do there?

Write With Me Wednesdays: Orient Your Reader to a Place

A writer has a lot of choices when writing and an example of those choices can be seen in all the ways a writer might choose to open a piece of writing.  In the coming weeks, I invite you to experiment with opening sentences as a way to not only generate new material, but also as means to begin the habit of looking for the choices writers make as they work.

This week’s experiment asks you to open your text by orienting your readers to a specific place.  Because most of the comments I’ve received come from those working on blog posts, essays, or short stories, I’m giving examples from those sorts of texts.

Before we look at the examples of writers orienting readers to place, try to think of a text you would write that might open by orienting readers in this way.  If you need help getting ideas for your writing, you can check out my post on developing your writing territories.

Here are some examples of writers who open texts by (among other things) orienting their readers to a place:

William Torgerson Write With Me Wednesdays digital book club social media

Moustafa Bayoumi's How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

“Sade and four of his twenty-something friends are at a hookah café almost underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn.”

From Moustafa Bayoumi’s How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America.  Notice also the specifics of the name of a bridge and a borough of NYC.  Is it appropriate for you to include these sorts of details? 


“Well, a couple weeks ago Stingray and I were prancing up S. Congress Ave after having anointed ourselves with hipster fumes at Jo’s, when this wacked out hipster kid comes careening toward us, chanting nonsense.”

Appeared on   The word choice is interesting too with words such as “Stingray,” “hipster fumes,” and “careening.”

“On the flatlands of South Los Angeles, blacks and Latinos share neighborhoods of neat houses and broken institutions, a hospital shut down by federal regulators, a community college that has lost its accreditation, police districts where gang crimes fill the blotter.”

by Robert Suro in the Carnegie Reporter.  Not only do we get details, we get relevant details.  The shut down hospital has a lot to do with what the article will be about. 

William Torgerson Love is a Mix Tape Rob Sheffield Write With Me Wednesdays digital book club iTunes

Rob Sheffield's love is a mix tape


The playback:  late night, Brooklyn, a pot of coffee, and a chair by the window.  I’m listening to a mix tape from 1993.  Nobody can hear it but me.  The neighbors are asleep.  The skater kids who sit on my front steps, drink beer, and blast Polish hip-hop—they’re gone for the night.

From Rob Sheffield’s Love is a Mix Tape.  I haven’t lived in Brooklyn, but I have lived in Indiana, Georgia, and North Carolina.  What details would I give (in the spirit of Sheffield here) that would allow my readers to visit a specific spot in a place I’ve lived or am making up for a story? 

  • Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to write a piece that begins by orienting a reader to a specific place.  I’ve given examples from blogs, scholarly articles from journals, and creative nonfiction.  So it’s a way of opening that can work for all sorts of texts.
  • Once you write a text, feel free to leave a comment on this post with your link, so we can all see what you wrote when it came to orienting a reader to place.
  • Thanks for participating!  I’d love to hear from you.  You can find me on iTunes by going to the store and typing “digital book club.”

Not My God (a draft of fiction)

A note about the assignment:

The class is with Joshua Henkin.  He directs the MFA program at Brooklyn College, and right before coming to the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference, I bought his book Matrimony.  Glancing over the opening pages, it looks promising.

Home of the Wesleyan Writers Conference

The first sentence of the piece below isn’t mine.  We were given eight first sentences (some of which Josh says he made up and some of which he took from stories) and we were told to evaluate them and then choose one of them and try an opening.

Here are the two paragraphs I wrote in response to the prompt:

My daughter Josie said she’d found God in New Mexico.  Said she met Jesus after drinking some Ayahuasca.  I looked the concoction up on the internet, and I’ll tell you this:  I can’t see how my Josie met any God I ever believed in.  As far as I’m concerned, the whole thing is just another excuse to get blown out of your gord on drugs, that’s what it is.  She was supposed to be down in Santa Fe teaching drama to middle school students.  She was supposed to be staying under her aunt’s supervision.  What a crock.

My wife’s sister hasn’t got an ounce of work ethic or discipline on her little hippy body.  From what I can tell, she mostly sits around listening to The Dead while she dabs paint on a canvas.  Now Josie says she isn’t coming back up here to French Lick, but that’s where she’s wrong.  She’s only nineteen and there’s no way my little girl is going to go down that path, not if there’s anything I can do about it.  I’m going down there to get her, and I’m leaving first thing in the morning.


I think I usually resist writing exercises, but the possible conflict between the father and daughter could be interesting to explore via a story or novel.