Monthly Archives: May 2013

Twitter For Teachers: Part 2


Screen shot 2013-05-28 at 6.26.30 PMSince summer  vacay is just a few weeks away, here’s a final post about how to use Twitter for professional development.

Twitter chats are a fun way to engage with teachers and find out what’s going on in other schools.  For  example, #edchat happens on Tuesdays at noon and 5pm EST. Teachers from all over the United States and world participate in this discussion about a topic.  I would suggest just tuning into an edchat first to see how it works.  All you have to do is type in #edchat and you’ll be able to follow any tweet with that hashtag.  Tweeters comment on a specific, pre-determined topic, like maybe technology or testing.  Retweet or favorite the tweets you like.  You’ll be giving compliments to the tweeters and you just might find yourself some new followers.  Once you feel comfy with how edchat flows, join the conversation. Here are tips for a successful edchat. There are plenty of other chats as well, so check out this fascinatingcalendar.

Don’t forget to make lists.  This is a simple way to organize tweets.  Sometimes I just want to see tweets from teachers I follow; other times, I just want to read tweet from writers I follow.   Here are some tips from Twitter on setting up a list and here’s a video.

So welcome to the Twitterverse!  Have fun and get connected! Please share any resources you find below.  There’s always something new to learn when it comes to social media.

Read An E-Book Without An E-Reader



A lot of people tell me they want to read my book but have to wait for the print version because they don’t have an e-reader.  Luckily for readers everywhere, you don’t have to have an e-reader to read an e-book.  There’s a simple solution: download the Nook or Kindle app for your smartphone, tablet or computer. The apps are free and easy-to-use.  You can modify the text size, font, and background color just as you would on an e-reader.

These apps will open up a new world for you as a reader. Not only can you now enjoy full-length books on your device, many authors are publishing electronic novellas and short stories, as well.  For example, Jonathan Maberry offers insight into his Joe Ledger series through shorter, and, therefore, lower-priced stories.   Steve Berry  writes novellas, as well.  And don’t forget the amazing Janet Evanovich. It’s a cool way to stay connected to a series between books or to enjoy a shorter, stand-alone story. In fact, I’m planning an e-novella about Cassidy Valeo’s backstory. Stay tuned!

Twitter For Teachers: Part 1


If you’re looking for up-to-date teaching ideas but don’t have hours to comb through websites, Twitter is your one-stop-shop.  Here are some tips to get you grooving into the Twitterverse.

1. Sign up for Twitter. It’s free and simple.  You have to choose a username; mine is @harlenwrites. You can use @yourname or @alias.  Just remember we’re teachers and we have to be especially responsible with our social media identities,  so something like @hot4teachrr or @ilovecoorslight aren’t your best choices.  Just sayin’.

2. Follow and read, don’t post—yet.  It took me a year to feel comfortable enough to send a tweet.  A Twitter-savvy friend told me she uses it for news, sports and pop culture but didn’t send tweets.  That was a safe place for me to start, so I followed some of the people she followed and didn’t do much but read. I encourage you to do the same.  Find out what people are saying, how they are saying it and become familiar with the lingo. Here are the basics:

  • Rt = retweet (You like what someone said, so you want to send it out to those who follow you, too.)
  • # = hashtag (a way of indexing conversation topics. More on that in #3.)
  • Favorite = press the star to say you really like what this person has to say and you want to remember it.  It’s like a virtual thumb’s up. Your Twitter account has a special area for your favorites, so you easily can find it later.  If you really, really like it, retweet and mark it as a favorite.

3.  Hashtags are #awesome and #important.  Hashtags serve different purposes.  One purpose is to give your tweets an audience. For example, if you are tweeting about a lesson, you could use #edchat or #edtech, depending on the type of lesson. People who search for this hashtag will read your tweet.

Another purpose of a hashtag is to give you something to search. For example, I search for #engchat when I want to see what’s going on with English teachers. There are tons of hashtags dealing with education. These are websites I reference frequently when I’m tweeting:

Cheat Sheet: Twitter For Teachers

Cybrary Man

Hashtags also allow you to participate in Twitter chats.  I’ll have more on that in Twitter For Teachers: Part 2, but in the meantime, you can check this out for more information: Utilizing Twitter Chats for Professional Development.

If you are ready to launch into the Twitterverse and want more info, you can simply search “twitter for teachers” or try these websites:

The Ultimate Twitter Guidebook for Teachers

Why Teachers Should Try Twitter

Northwestern Lehigh School District Wiki

Free Twitter Handbook For Teachers

Finally, here’s a great graphic with 11 tips for using Twitter effectively.

If you still aren’t totally sold on a personal Twitter account, a fabulous option is Tweet Chat.  You can type in a hashtag and see what people are talking about without having to sign up.

Twitter For Teachers Part 2 will cover chats and lists.

Be sure to follow me @harlenwrites.  Hope to retweet and favorite your great ideas soon!

My Mom’s Greatest Gift To Me

My Mom’s Greatest Gift To Me

My mom, Rosemary, has given me many things.  Hugs, kisses on the forehead, Cabbage Patch Kids, proof that kindness is important, quick pinches on the forearm when I was being a brat (I deserved them because, damn, I could be petulant), college tuition, and so many other things.

The most important, though, was the gift of reading.  Some of my favorite memories are going to the Hoyt Library with my mom.  We’d climb the squeaky, wooden steps to the second-floor children’s section and she’d let me pick whatever books I wanted, from biographies to Judy Blume to anything else that interested me.  We’d load bags up with picture and chapter books and bring them back the next week, ready to get another batch stamped by the librarian.  Those sounds –  open the book, stamp the due date and close it.  A short symphony.

She modeled reading for me herself. There was always a bookmarked Stephen King or Robin Cook book around the house.  Packages from book clubs she belonged to arrived consistently.  It was fun to see what would arrive, from novels to home remedy books.

So, thank you, Sweet Momma.  Without you, I never would have discovered Laura Ingalls’ cold, Minnesota winters or, most notoriously, what really was happening to my body (that was a shocker of a Christmas gift, thank you very much).  Without you, I never would have discovered so many new things. I love you.

Cape May, 2011

Cape May, 2011

Five Tips For New Writers Like Me

Five Tips For New Writers Like Me

The digital age is full of promise for new writers like me. It’s also full of so many options it’s ridiculously overwhelming. Here are the top things I’ve learned so far:

5. Wade In, Don’t Dive: On the advice of a friend, I signed up for a Twitter account and just got used to it. It took me a full year to actually post a tweet. How did people use it?  What do people tweet? What do I want to tweet?  Who will be my tweeps? (I just had to get the word “tweeps” in here somehow. I never actually use it. But I love it so.)

When I went to a teaching conference last summer, a facilitator asked us to live tweet him during his session and I did. And that was the impetus I needed to spin into the Twitterverse. Now, I’m connected to writers, teachers and other interesting people from all over the world. I’m grateful that I took time time to wade rather than dive in because I would have become really frustrated.

I also love Goodreads.  I’ve been using it as a way of remembering books I want to read and sharing books with friends for four years; now I have my own author’s page.  Goodreads is quite user-friendly and the smartphone app is great.

Tumblr? Instagram? Google +? I’ll wade into those eventually. I just need to figure out how and if I can use them effectively.

If you have any suggestions for worthwhile social media sites, comment away!

4. Dive In, Don’t Wade In: Once you are on social media, start connecting immediately. Be a shameless (but not annoying) promoter of your work.  “Like” writers and writing organizations on Facebook and Twitter.  Like, retweet and favorite away.  Read other writers’ blogs.  Get the word out about your book.  Get the word out about other books.

3.  Connect Face-To-Face:  Online connections are important in the Digital Age but nothing will ever replace the importance of meeting up with other writers. Find your local writing group, get a writing partner, go to readings and book signings.  Yes, the act of writing is solitary, but you need a village of allies and critical friends to make your manuscript come to life.  And sometimes you just need to get out from behind that laptop and talk to a human being.

2. Get Some Swag: Today, I met award-winning thriller/horror writer Jonathan Maberry at a signing at The Moravian Bookstore in Bethlehem, PA. He was a great blend writer, nice guy and salesman.  He was kind, engaging and easy-going. And he had immense confidence about his work. He was thrilled to be talking about it and his energy was contagious

If you can’t sell your writing, no one else can.  Yes, it’s terrifying to send out queries, promote your book, and – eek! – pitch your book. Don’t let that little Devil of Self-Doubt on your shoulder stifle you from telling the world and future readers about it. Which leads me to…

1. Be Yourself and Have Fun: Don’t try to fit into a mold.  Just do you.  Are you goofy, serious, a zombie fan, a goldfish lover, a runner, or a skateboarder?  Let that flag fly, baby.  And have a great time doing it.

Please leave your advice below.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about what you’ve learned.