Ryan Placchetti, WEbooker of the WEek, Does Not Fight Bears

If you’ve been paying close attention to WEbook in the past few weeks, you may have
noticed this guy, Ryan_Placchetti,
going around writing about how
to fight a bear
. Well, it turns out
that Ryan has never
actually fought a bear. He says so right
here in the first sentence of his submission to 101
Things Every Man Should Know How to Do
“I'm going to preface this article by pointing out that I have never
actually fought a bear.” That’s right. Ryan is not a superhuman
bear-wrestling machine. I’m not sure
he’s even ever seen a bear. Sorry to
disappoint you.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Ryan writes a mean
sentence, an even meaner paragraph, and a downright vicious article. His poetry
isn’t too cuddly, either. I first
noticed Ryan over at
Things Every Man Should Know How to Do
. He also has his own project, a collection of 20-29
from writers ages 20-29ish, and you’ll find him all over WEbook, helping other writers refine their
work with his insightful feedback.

“Wait a second, Melissa. You’re saying he’s never fought a bear, and he’s a poet – and now he’s insightful, too?”

Yep, that’s what I’m saying. But don’t jump to conclusions. Ryan is no ivory tower
lightweight. He just completed a six-year
stint in the Army as a signals intelligence analyst, including 12 months in Baghdad.  He’s 24 years old, and he’s about to head off
to West Chester University, where
he’ll study English and creative writing.

As of today, Ryan is the first recipient of the
soon-to-be-heralded title:  WEbooker of
the WEek. Props and benefits include a
new WEbook T-shirt, future public recognition
and esteem, and crazy bragging rights. If you find yourself in Philly, keep your eyes peeled for a prodigiously
talented young writer wearing a WEbook
T-shirt, and give that man a pat on the back.

In addition to his work on WEbook,
Ryan has a blog, Perish The Reason,
and he’s writing the second draft of a novel about a schizophrenic Army
Private, which he started when he was in Iraq. On the 101
Things Facebook Group
, he’s posted
dozens of things every man should know how to do after learning how
to fight a bear
. We’re looking
forward to his next WEbook submissions with

-- Melissa

How WEbook Grows Wings

As the WEbook content
manager, I get a lot of mail asking questions like:

Is WEbook interested in
publishing the memoirs of a 97-year-old champion tight-rope walker? An absurdist novel based on the life of Jimmy
Dean, country music star and father of the pre-made breakfast sausage?  A
history of manufactured adhesives and their effect on the American postal

Well, obviously, I’m deeply interested in the life of
Jimmy Dean
. But that’s not the
point. See, WEbook is different from traditional
publishers. We don’t base our decisions on
the opinion of one or two (or three or four or five) editors – we base them on
the opinion of the entire reader and writer community. In order to succeed, we need a community that is strong, vibrant, and
engaged enough to support quality publishing decisions.

That, my
, means you.

So consider this a call to arms. If you like the idea of a place where you can
write, read, and get published without running the gauntlet of the traditional
publishing machine or being forced to foot the bill to publish your own work, get
in there. Find projects you like – Active
is a great place to start – and submit your work.

Or start
your own project
, but don’t stop there! Check out top WEbooker
tahrasep’s guest blog entry
on how
to find WEbook collaborators on the web
, and visit this blog regularly for more
pointers from fellow WEbookers
on how to get the most out of the site. Above all, get involved! Give
feedback to other submissions, join the forums,
and find groups
of like-minded writers.

My tip of the day? Find a writer you like – there are some great ones in Ex-Pat Journal and 101
Things Every Man Should Know How to Do
– and leave feedback for their
work. Then visit their profile! Send them a message to say hello, and invite
them to read something of yours. Voila! Instant collaboration.

Feeling shy? Start
with me. Add me as a friend, and drop me a note to let
me know how your WEbook experience is

You and me, WEbookers
– let’s get this publishing revolution started.

-- Melissa



Top WEbookers Guest Blog

I’m pleased to announce the beginning of a new
tradition: Guest blog posts by top WEbookers! Every two weeks, you’ll get valuable tips and
tricks from the savviest writers,
reviewers, and editors amongst us, on
topics like writing a great project overview, setting a perfect scene, writing
good dialogue, and much more.

Today, WEbooker Tahrasep shares her tips on
using the Web
to get more people involved with your WEbook projects. Tahrasep has been a part of WEbook since April of last year, and besides participating in the novels Pandora and Xanthippe, she is working
on several WEbook anthologies, including
projects about travel,
, and relationships
– be sure to check
them all out



How to Find WEbook Collaborators on the Web

The internet is so integrated in our lives that for most of
us it's hard to imagine not having access to it. It's possible to do everything
on the web – and now you can participate in collaborative novels and
anthologies on WEbook. It's never been
easier to start a project – but once you start it, where can you find writers, reactors, and other collaborators?

First of all, it’s always fun to get your friends to participate. Whether they
end up writing with you or just give you feedback, WEbook is a great way to introduce your
friends to your writing passion. And who
knows? They may discover their inner writer as well. If you're looking to dip
into a wider pool of writers, the internet gives you access to millions of
people who have something to contribute. You can start by taking a look through
WEbook itself. If you want to do something
in the travel
genre, be on the lookout for other members who have participated in projects similar
to yours. If you send them a message, you can recruit current members to your
project, both to write and to give feedback.

Facebook, MySpace, and other social
networking sites are excellent places to track down people who have the same
interests as you. Discussing your project in groups and public forums will garner
interest and attract attention, and perhaps even bring new writers to your

Another place to look for WEbook
collaborators is the blogosphere. Google actually has a special search that
pertains only to blogs, at http://blogsearch.google.com.
If you wish to start a project about parenting, try searching terms like "kids,"
"children," and "parents." You’ll find bloggers who already
have writing experience in your area of interest. It's just a matter of
directing them to WEbook, where their
writing can be given a chance to be included in a published book.

As a project leader, of course, you don’t want only writers. You also want
readers who can think critically and put their opinions onto that feedback page
that's just begging to be filled. On blogs you can find people who may not want
to write, but wouldn't mind giving professional or experienced feedback on what
you're writing on. This input is invaluable, as sparkling accuracy gives
writing strength.


For other places to find writers, check out writing sites
and forums such as:




The internet is a virtuously inexhaustible resource, with enormous amounts of
untapped potential.  If you want to encourage involvement in your
project, don't wait for participation to come to you. Start clicking and find
it! And if you find any other gold mines in which you've met other writers
eager to develop their talent, let us know!


The Art of the Short Short Short Story

Nano_stories I know it’s unseemly to boast, WEbookers, so I hope you’ll forgive me: I bought a new iPod last month, and I’m awfully proud of myself. It’s not so much the iPod itself that’s got me swaggering, but my reason for buying it – I filled up my old 30 GB standby, all the way to the brim. That’s, like, 340 million days of music without hearing the same song twice. (Exaggeration, the younger half-cousin of boastfulness, is another of my numerous weaknesses, at least when it comes to my music collection.) So I went to the Apple store and upgraded to some completely unnecessary amount of memory, and ever since then I’ve been making myself giddy just looking at the little blue bar when I sync up with my laptop. Basically, I could listen to a constant stream of new music for the rest of my life. And I intend to live for a really, really long time.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering: Did Melissa lose a bet with Steve Jobs or something? The answer is, I did not. I’m using my iPod as an entry point – a metaphor of sorts – to talk about how I write short stories.

Actually, to say I write “short” stories at all is a bit misleading. On my best days, I like to think of myself as Alice Munro’s lesser known American step-niece. My stories are rarely short. I write long stories – really long stories. Like, the kind of story that starts when my main character’s great-great-great-great-grandfather learns to walk upright, and ends when her great-great-great-great granddaughter dies of old age, after establishing the first human colony in the Andromeda Nebula. I’m addicted to length, to digression, to back-story, to subplot, to complexity. (If you're still reading this blog entry, you know exactly what I mean.)  I write 150 GB stories.

A lot of this comes down to a simple inability to commit – to one plot thread, one mood, one point of view, one arc. I can’t seem to settle down with just one playlist, if you will.  Sometimes when I’m riding the subway I see a hip seƱorita with an iPod nano clipped to her collar, and I think: Wow. There is someone who knows what she likes, someone who leaves the house with a sense of purpose, armed with exactly the songs she wants to hear, while I’m walking around weighed down by five Tom Waits albums just in case I suddenly feel the need for some morose faux-vintage pre-rock.

Likewise, I have a certain amount of awe and admiration for folks who have mastered the art of the truly short story. To commit to just one beginning, middle, and end, and to write it with purpose and economy – without doubling back on yourself and introducing a whole new doomed love affair on page forty-five – is indeed a skill worth having. Do this in eight simple, elegant pages, and I applaud you. Do it in two paragraphs, and I worship at your feet.

And that, my friends, is exactly what’s going on over in WEbook’s Nano Stories project. True to its name, Nano Stories celebrates the art of the extremely brief. The 4 GB answer to my 150 GB conundrum, Nano Stories is a collection of very short stories – some fact, some fiction. As of today, there are 49 submissions. You can read, give feedback, and write your own – and, you can join in a forum discussion to talk about how (and why!) to write a short short story. What gives a short short story its charm? Do you have a favorite bit of flash fiction, short non-fiction, or prose poetry? (Personally, I’m fond of “In the Kitchen,” remarkable for having a beginning, middle, and end – complete with a surprise twist – in only 300 words.)

Take a moment to check out Nano Stories, and try your hand at writing a story in 5 to 500 words. When you’re done, drop by and let me know how it went. Was your experiment in brevity easier or more difficult than you imagined? Are you happy with the results? Will you be trading your bulky video iPod in for a nano? Leave a comment in this blog, and I’ll be sure to read your Nano Story. (Worshipping at your feet not guaranteed.)

Happy writing!



WEbook's Pandora: Available in Paperback, Online, and on Your Cell Phone!

Hooray! WEbook’s first ever community-sourced novel
is for sale! Here’s what the Pandora book
jacket has to say:

On the Upper West Side of
Manhattan, a man and a woman, each harboring a secret of global consequence,
have fallen in love. Pandora is an exotic beauty who teaches yoga, and Chris is
a Columbia grad student from Louisiana who is immersed in political science.
Cross-cultural love is tough enough, but when New York City is again attacked
by terrorists, the couple’s East-West love affair threatens to put the entire
United States in danger.

Sound exciting? It
is! I should know – I’m one of the 34
writers, editors, and other wordsmiths who contributed to the making of Pandora. (I write a mean Afghan cave-bunker. Buy the book if you don’t
believe me.) Other contributors include top
WEbookers ducktoes, Sarah, MHeinz, tahrasep, Kelly, and many more.

Before you buy, you can read the first eight chapters
of Pandora on the WEbook website. That’s pretty righteous, but not nearly as
righteous as reading the first four chapters on your cell phone. Just direct your mobile browser to www.WEbook.com/mobile/pandora.

Or, even
more righteous
, text “WEbook” to 41411.

right, people. A community-sourced novel
you can read via SMS. If that’s not the
wave of the future, I don’t know what is.


-- Melissa

How to Write a True Story on WEbook

You might have noticed all the amazing collections of true
stories at WEbook. We’ve got projects about living abroad, projects
about teaching, projects
about being a mom,
projects about being
a dude
, projects about food,
projects about – well, you get the idea. What do all these projects have in common? They bring together a broad range of voices,
telling stories about a shared interest. So, if I want to know what it
takes to be a real man
(and what woman doesn’t want to know that?), I don’t get
just one perspective – I hear from Dorothy, and TsungChi, and anemett, and more!

But here’s my dirty little secret, WEbookers. I’m a
fiction writer.
That’s right –
fiction. Sure, I tell the truth every
now and then. (Here’s me being honest
about a
particularly nasty habit
.) But
mostly I like to make stuff up, the way I did for Chapters 17 and 26 of Pandora. When it comes to collections of true stories,
I’m a little out of my depth.

So it seemed like a good idea to find out how the pros do
it. With that in mind, I headed off to downtown
Manhattan, to hear from writer and sometime WEbooker Daphne Uviller and her co-conspirator
Deborah Siegal on the art of
collecting true stories. After crying a
few tiny tears over the stunning array of stuff I couldn’t afford in the SoHo
boutiques, I found my way to the Mediabistro
offices, where I was joined by a handful of other would-be truth tellers and
truth collectors.  I knew right away that
I was in good hands: Daphne and Deborah
edited and wrote for the anthology Only
Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo
which consists basically of
a broad range of voices, telling stories about a shared interest. Just the way we like it at WEbook!

So what did I learn about true stories? A lot! The number one highlight was a list of seven things to think about
before you write your first word. Deborah kindly gave me permission to share that list with you – I’ve adapted
it a bit to suit what we do at WEbook. So here it is, folks: Seven questions to help you find your story
and choose the best way to write it. Not
every question will apply to every story, but it’s a great way to get the
juices flowing once you find that perfect WEbook project – or start your own!

1) In one sentence, what is the story about? If you met me in an elevator, and we were
only going down one floor, how would you describe the story? (Not that I would ever take the elevator down
only one floor!)

2) What’s your angle? If we were going down twelve flights in an elevator, and I picked a
fight with you about your story, what would you try to convince me of? (Not that I would ever pick a fight with you
in an elevator!)

3) What’s new about your story? How do you know the last guy I met in an
elevator didn’t tell me exactly the same story yesterday? (All right, all right, I’ll stop with the
elevator already.)

4) Why is now the time to tell your story? Is there something going on today that makes
your story extra relevant?

5) Why are you the best person to write this story?

6) Who’s going to read the story?

7) How will the story be organized? Will it have sections? Will you tell it chronologically, or will you
jump around in time? Will it have a beginning, middle, and end?

Hmm – good food for thought, right? But don’t feel like you have to answer every single
question before you get started at WEbook. Instead, jot down a few ideas, and write a
quick first draft. Then invite some
friends, new or old, WEbookers or non, to join in and give you feedback. You’ll get a lot of help figuring out the
best way to write your true story, and when you’re done, you’ll have a shot at
getting published!

Pretty nifty, right?

-- Melissa

P.S. Be sure to check out Deborah Siegel's blog, girlwithpen, where she "dispels popular myths concerning women's lives and offers tips for
those seeking to thoughtfully personalize or popularize their prose."  Right on!

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