Happy New Year! What’s new in the Garden?

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Happy New Year, Gardeners!  It’s a great time to be in the Writer Zen Garden.

Inside this blog:

  1. Prompt Circles are back – next one is Jan 21st from 2-4 at Open Books
  2. Walking In This World online workshop, Jan 22nd through April 22nd
  3. F.E.A.R.S. Workshop – Finish, Edit, Analyze, Research and Submit, Feb 5th to Mar 4th
  4. Dialog – Who Says What To Whom, March 12th to March 25th
  5. A to Z Blog Challenge is coming in April
  6. Camp NaNoWriMo is coming in April

Check it out:

The Prompt Circles are back!  After a longer than expected hiatus, we’re excited to report that we are ready to start these up again.  Our venue is Open Books, an awesome place centrally located downtown near parking, transit, Metra, and those blue bicycle things.  Not that you’d want to bike in the dead of winter, but hey.  They’re there if you want ’em.  It’s on Saturday, January 21st from 2-4.

We have several online offerings, all of which are free but require a membership on the forum.  How do you get to the forum, you ask?  Visit here!

Did you know that the Writer Zen Garden has a calendar?  If you prefer getting your information visually, click over to Our Calendar and check it out.

On the Artist’s Way track: Walking In This World.  This is a 13-week workshop running from Sunday, Jan 22nd, through Saturday, April 22nd.  You will need a copy of the book by Julia Cameron, Walking In This World, which is available from your favorite bookseller or public library.  This is a participant-led workshop facilitated by A. Catherine Noon; if you’d like to lead a week’s discussion, please let me know.

The workshop will be conducted online through thewww.writerzengarden.com/forums website; you will need a user account to participate. There is no cost to join.

On the Author track: F.E.A.R.S. Online Workshop – Finish, Edit, Analyze, Research, and Submit.  Join author Tina Holland for her popular F.E.A.R.S. workshop, where she will help you Finish your manuscript, Edit it, Analyze it for its best fit in the marketplace, Research homes for it – traditional publishing? digital-first/small press? indie? blog?, and Submit.

It will run for four weeks starting Sunday, February 5th and concluding Saturday, March 4th.

Tina is past President of RWA Online Chapter #136 and author of ten romance novels. She is a sought-after speaker at regional writing conferences and a founding Board Member of Writer Zen Garden. We are super stoked to have her present for us and for her to offer her popular workshop for free to WZG members.

You need to be a member of the Writer Zen Garden online forum.  Membership is free.

For more information about Tina Holland, please visit her website. While you’re there, check out her popular author interview series (and authors, sign up to be interviewed!).

On the Writer track:  Online workshop – Dialog, Who Says What to Whom, March 12th through March 25th.

Join A. Catherine Noon and Tina Holland for a free online two-week workshop on dialog. We will have examples, discuss proper punctuation, (where DOES that pesky comma go? or is it a period?), and have lots and lots of practice exercises. Think of it as the March boot camp to get in shape for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z Blog Challenge.

You will need a free account on the Writer Zen Garden Forum.

April is a busy month in the Garden: We have not one but TWO web-based events for you.

April is the month for the international A to Z Blog Challenge! Find out more, and sign up on the main website.

We’re looking for Writer Zen Gardeners to participate on our blog this year, so if you’re interested, please contact your organizers A. Catherine Noon or Tina Holland.

Also, April is Camp NaNoWriMo!  From the folks that bring you National Novel Writing Month in November comes a fun event called Camp NaNoWriMo. You can set your own word count goal; it doesn’t have to be the full 50,000 like in November. Participants are arranged in cabins for mutual support and encouragement.

Find out more, and sign up, at the website.

If you haven’t joined the discussion on Facebook, you’re missing out.  Click over to the Writer Zen Garden Facebook Group and check it out.

Wiley Wednesday—Custom Facebook Fan Pages

One thing I always admire about the bigger-name authors is their beautiful custom designs–Twitter backgrounds, websites, Facebook pages…things I didn’t think the averaged e-published author could afford.

I was SO wrong.
Let me tell you about the company ShortStack. They’re new, hip, and with it. The FREE version of the program would allow you endless ways to customize your Facebook fan page. And it’s fairly simple to use–just click and drag the elements you want added to a new tab (y’know those things along the left column under your picture? Those are the tab elements) and then connect your account to Facebook. POOF! You have a new tab! (For an example, look at Skylar Kade’s page–thought it’s on the edge of NSFW)
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This is what the tab composer in ShortStack looks like. While I’m sure you’ll enjoy exploring on your own, I’d like to highlight ten elements of the program that you should know.

1. Your composition tabs: design (where you put the elements together), CSS (where, if you know this coding language, you can make your tabs look even more slick), and PUBLISH, where you apply the Facebook tab you’ve just created to your Facebook page. The image below shows the PUBLISH tab, and there are two very important things to change before you officially publish your page. First, change your tab name to something descriptive, like “Welcome”
or “Contest”, otherwise it will default to “Tab 1”. Second, if you want this to be the first thing that your visitor sees, you should change it to the “Default landing tab”.
2. Tab name: like I mentioned above in the Publish tab, also change the name here to match.
3. Add widgets: These are the different elements you can add to your page.
4. Basic tools: You can add elements for pictures, slideshows, text, links, and a shopping cart, though I primarily stick to the pictures and text (NOTE: there is also a text element at the bottom of the widget column; this is for HTML text. The top text element is more like a word processor that allows you to choose font, color, style, etc)
5. Promotions: from left to right, the widgets are Promotion, Voting, and Entry Count. Note that if you are running a promotion there’s extra work involved because you have to create the promotion information and entry form–but it’s well-worth it. What I prefer to do is create two tabs–a “Welcome” tab with basic information, and a link to my “Contest” tab. (NOTE: while you can’t create two tabs at a time, the free version of Short Stack does allow you multiple tabs)
6. MailChimp widget: Have a newsletter or thinking about sending one out? You can add a MailChimp sign-up widget to your Facebook tab. I love MailChimp as much as I love ShortStack–and it’s equally free.
7. Integrations: YouTube videos (for those book trailers), twitter streams, and RSS feeds–all can be added to your tab. To keep things from being crowded, consider creating an additional tab for your RSS and twitter feeds.
8. Forms and Promos: This is where you’ll be directed if you add the promotion widget (#5)
9. Edit Widgets: This is where you drop any element you want added to your tab. To rearrange their order, grab the top left corner and move the element. The pencil allows you to edit the widget–definitely explore all the options available to you there. The teal button at the bottom, “show titles and borders” is something I usually unclick. Otherwise, each widget will be boxed and titled on your Facebook page.
10. Live Preview: This is what your page will look like to a visitor. Note the three options: A key (what the page administrator would see), A thumbs up (what a fan would see) and a red-lined thumbs up (what a non-fan would see). If you look back to #9, each widget has these similar images below them so you can determine who sees what. This is useful for what is called “fan-gating,” where you show exclusive content only to your fans. So, for example, you could have a promotion widget that is set to fan-only (click the thumbs up at the bottom of the widget box) and a visitor would have to “like” your page before seeing the contest information. (NOTE: in place of the key, the Edit Widgets area uses two people to represent what EVERY visitor sees)
11. Status: This will show you whether your tab is Unpublished or Published.
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I know this is sounds complicated, but play around with it–if there’s something you don’t like, you can always edit it.
Feel free to direct any questions at me (@caseylynnmms) or at Jim from Short Stack (@shortstacklab)–they’re really good about helping their customers.
Happy Fan Paging!