Writers’ Roundup: August 13

It’s Friday the 13th! Lucky, right?

Have a great weekend!

To whoever Googled “best travel memoirs by women…”

… and landed on my blog, you made my day. Thank you!

Best women’s travel memoir comin’ right up.

This photo may have been taken when I was in high school, but it's how I feel right now.

And the winner of The Art of Solo Travel Giveaway is…

Melanie at So Very Vienna! Congrats!

Let’s get in touch about the prize from Indie Travel Media: a copy of Stephanie Lee’s e-book, The Art of Solo Travel.

What makes a good head shot?

Before I launched my Facebook page for Socialexis, I sent the link to my sister and my best friend, asking them to look it over. Both came back with the same criticism: I needed a more professional photo.

I knew they were right. Not only did I need one to promote my new business, I also needed a professional head shot for this blog and hopefully, at some point, to promote my book.

Andrea of Servidone Studios sets up a backdrop.

But I hate getting my head shot taken. I never like how they come out! People often tell me I’m photogenic, but apparently that doesn’t apply to posed photos, because I find something wrong with every one: my smile looks fake, my arms look fat, my hair looks greasy. I thought about using my photo from my days as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, but it was several years old and, let’s face it, I never loved it anyhow.

So I called a photographer friend, Andrea of Servidone Studios, who was nice enough to truck her equipment, including a large white backdrop, to my house. While she took what seemed like hundreds of shots, she gave me some tips on how to take a good head shot.

Andrea’s tips:

Wear a brightly colored shirt. White doesn’t do well with a flash, and it can wash you out if you’ve got light skin. Black causes problems too; it is slimming, but doesn’t show up well on camera. You’ll see below that I followed Andrea’s advice and wore a bright blue shirt. Red or green or any other bright color works, too.

Avoid patterns. A solid shirt is best, rather than one with a busy pattern. “It’s about you,” Andrea said. Don’t let your shirt steal the show.

Ladies, pick a v-neck or cardigan. Unless you work in finance, collared shorts can look stuffy. Wear a shirt that shows some neck. But only a little bit of neck! Modest is good, too.

Don’t sit facing the camera. Instead, sit with your body to one side. Leave your feet planted and turn your upper body and head to face the camera.

Tilt your chin down. And look up at the camera. This feels kind of awkward, but it works well for the photo. And that’s what we really care about, right?

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Writers’ Roundup: August 6

You know the drill… Time for links!

  • Should you write for free? (I say no.) The Traveling Philosopher weighs in on what he calls the devaluation of words at the Huffington Post.
  • If you’re still not sure you should use Twitter (haven’t I convinced you already?), literary agent Janet Reid offers yet another reason. I nag, I know. Because I want you to succeed!
  • Author Mary Carroll Moore blogs about writing retreats and what happens when you’re alone with your creativity.

On a side note, I’m running my first-ever social media giveaway for a client this month. And it’s a damn good giveaway, which is why I’m telling you about it — a trip to Iceland! To enter, simply “like” Overland Experts’ Facebook page or follow us on Twitter and RT our giveaway tweet. Enter, travel friends! Here are the contest details.

Have a great weekend!

Platform vs. online presence = one and the same?

I hate all the emphasis in the publishing world on “platform.” I even hate the word itself. I think it takes away from what writers should be focusing on: writing.

But the reality is, platform is important. I get that. I get that platform is vital to selling books.

Yet I wonder if we’re all confused about what platform really is. Or maybe I’m the one who’s confused. Whenever I hear writers talking about platform, they’re saying how many followers they have on Twitter or how many comments they get on their blog or how many friends they have on Facebook. All of the emphasis is on social networking. And we seem to be striving for quantity, rather than quality… but that’s another post.

I see platform as more than cultivating an online presence. In my mind, platform requires branding yourself as an expert in something and having a means through which to reach potential readers to share that expertise. Creating a platform is far more difficult than creating an online presence.

But maybe I’m overlooking something here. What do y’all think? How much of platform is online presence? Are platform and online presence one and the same? Is it possible to have a platform nowadays without an online presence?

Q&A with Indie author Stephanie Lee: solo travel & e-books

Not only do we have an awesome Q&A today with a traveler and writer, we also have my first-ever giveaway! A copy of The Art of Solo Travel. I’ll explain how to enter after the interview.

Stephanie Lee's new book.

The author of that book, Stephanie Lee, is here to share advice on traveling solo and tell us about her experience publishing an e-book.

Stephanie’s a life-long traveler; she grew up in Kuala Lumpur and San Francisco, then studied architecture in Sydney. After six years of working at architectural firms, she left everything behind for an around-the-world trip. When she returned to Sydney, where she now runs a private architectural practice and sells eco-friendly homewares, she wrote her first book, The Art of Solo Travel.

SoloFriendly.com reviewed the book, and Stephanie recently launched a Facebook page for fans.

Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! Can you start by telling us about your travels? Where’d you go? How did you fund your big trip? Why’d you decide to go solo?

Author and traveler Stephanie Lee

To date I have travelled to over 100 cities spread over 30 countries and four continents. Travelling solo was something I had always wanted to do but I was constantly sidetracked by something or other — long architectural studies, relationships, career, the usual expected milestones in life. After obtaining those things, I felt in limbo and began to think about my dreams of solo travel again. In the end I decided that I would really regret it if I never did it, so I needed to live that dream. To do that I needed to let go of my conventional life, so gave everything up to wander the globe with a free mind and spirit.

In terms of funds, I prepared and saved for almost 11 months in order to have enough money to travel without worrying about looking for work. I understand most people would not be in the position to do this, but I only managed it because I started late (30) and by that time I had enough disposable income to travel how I wanted to.

Why’d you decide to turn those experiences into a book?

As any solo traveller will tell you, it gets really lonely and boring at times. Keeping a travel blog and documenting all my new experiences and sensations really helped with combating both loneliness and boredom. In the middle of my trip I thought it would be fun to write more stories and tips about my travels, and approached Indie Travel Podcast with some pitches. They graciously accepted me and I started writing monthly articles for them. At the end of my travels, I realized that there were so many new things I learned that could benefit other aspiring solo travellers. These slowly developed into a manuscript. After months of pro bono contributions to ITP, I pitched my book manuscript to them, and they were keen to work together publishing it. The rest is history as they say.

So is it more of a how-to book or a memoir of your experiences — or both?

It’s more of a how-to book, or a guide to inspire and help other to-be solo female travellers.

What are your top three tips for women traveling solo?

1. Be organized. There are many logistics involved with solo travel, especially transport and accommodation. It’s a good idea to plan at least two weeks ahead when it comes to accommodation. If you’re not sure where you want to stay until you get to a new place, at least have the details of two hostels/hotels just in case.

2. Pack light. When you’re alone, the last thing you want to do is worry about lots of luggage. As discussed in my ebook, keep it to one bag only, preferably 15kg or under. I managed to stick to this weight while travelling for well over nine months by sticking to my tight packing list (which still allows for an acceptable level of hygiene and comfort, so don’t worry, there’s no need to dry yourself with a t-shirt). You’ll be able to access the full list in my ebook.

3. Keep an open mind and heart. You’ll meet lots of people and encounter many situations on solo travel. There will be good and bad times. The important thing is to remember that these experiences will stay with you forever, so stay positive and embrace any possibilities.

What would you tell women who are looking to travel alone but worry about their safety?

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