My friend Melanie finally lured me into joining Twitter Nation by bribing me with scones and tea.
"It's really easy, and it's great once you get the hang of it," she said as we buttered scones.
"Come on. I'll show you how to set up an account."
"Next, you'll be pressuring me into smoking cigarettes and trying Botox," I muttered, following her into the office, where she had already coerced another friend of ours, Anne, into Twitter Nation.
Melanie's rationale was simple: we're all writers. Writers must tweet if we're going to build name recognition.
"You're building your brand," she said.
"I'm not a cereal," I said, still muttering.
Melanie is a tech-savvy journalist currently working on a nonfiction book about the oil business as well as a novel. Anne writes historical fiction. And me? I work as a magazine writer and celebrity ghost writer; I just self-published a novel and sold another one to Penguin. All three of us are old enough to have launched (or ejected) our kids out of the house; I still have a young teen at home, but he's already taller than I am.
In other words, all three of us are aging moms and, in my case, a bonafide aging hippie mom. Examples: I marched on Washington for various causes throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s; I worked as a Vista Volunteer and I still prefer wearing natural cotton. Another example: I hate carrying a cell phone. In fact, most of the time I hate having a cell phone. Why would I want anyone to know where I am at all times? Why would I want to answer the phone when I am, say, walking on the beach or sipping tea with my aging hippie friends?
Yet, I followed Melanie into the thick, mysterious, shrieking Twitter jungle -- and guess what? I love this crazy busy place -- but not for the reasons she thought I would.
As a book marketing tool, Twitter is fairly useless. Maybe it's because I'm not one of those people who tweets all day long about my books -- I don't ever tweet great lines from my texts, I don't announce giveaways, I don't pester people with book reviews. Not because I think these things are necessarily a bad idea, but mainly because I don't find these kinds of tweets very interesting.
Instead, I delight in Twitter for other reasons:
1) I love checking in with Twitter as a ticker tape kind of news service. I receive updates from various news feeds -- yep, you guessed 'em, the New York Times, NPR, CNN and The Daily Beast are right at the top of my hippie news feeds.
2) I use Twitter to drive traffic to my blog posts on Huffington Post, Open Salon, and guest blogs.
3) I rely on Twitter to gain professional insights on the rapid upheavals in book publishing, mainly by following writers, publishers, business journals and book reviewers. Twitter leads me to all sorts of fascinating blogs and news articles, and has been enormously useful in helping me both think about my writing and decide where to sell it.
4) Most importantly, I use Twitter to support other writers -- and to be supported. In this way, I have discovered that writing doesn't have to be a lonely business, despite the fact that I work alone in a barn about eight hours every day (dressed in my hippie cotton pants and flannel shirts, a cup of tea at my elbow). In fact, through Twitter, I have made great new friendships, like the one with a mystery writer in Hawaii. This writer and I now exchange manuscripts for critique and chat on the phone. We hope to meet some day. Our friendship never would have been possible without Twitter (unless there's some kind of Match.com for women writers that I haven't found yet?)
I still wonder about those people on Twitter who have gazillions of followers. Where did they get all of those followers? Do they ever interact with them? Do they have interns who post tweets for them? Maybe they're outsourcing their tweets?
Another friend once suggested, as we were sitting in a restaurant with relatives, that I should get a better cell phone so that I could tweet from it. "Just think, you could be sitting here right now and tweeting about what we're having for lunch."
Really? And why would anyone care what I'm having for lunch? I'm not Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber. Thank God.
"You could even use a service that schedules your tweets," she added. "You know, write them all at once and then have them sent out on a regular basis to stay in constant contact with your followers."
No, thanks. I'll keep tweeting in real time, venturing into Twitter for a few spare minutes here and there during the day. I love Twitter -- especially for the friendships it has brought me.
Otherwise, you can find me alone in my barn, pondering sentences and sipping tea.