Category Archives: Twitter

Detoxing From Social Media


Over my school district’s winter break, I am taking a break from social media.  From December 24th through January 3rd, I am not checking Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  In the interest of transparency, I have logged into Facebook to check yoga class times and to see if anyone has posted anything wacky on my author page, but that’s it.

And it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to go cold turkey.

I’m a fan of social media, largely in part because I use generally use it for the Forces of Good: keep in touch with friends and family, share information, offer a high five or virtual hug and laugh at funny videos and memes.  I also wanted to be totally present with my husband over the holiday because starting a new job and finishing a book has made me candidate for #1 Slacker Wife 2015.

I also have a very sick family member and I am reflecting a lot on the preciousness of time.  If I get a terminal disease, I am not going to miss liking people’s statues or picture of flowers.  I will miss hugging  people and walking through the woods.

But I didn’t realize how automatic it has become to click on the blue and white F on my iPhone screen.  It was totally automatic.  It freaked me out.  And made me feel ashamed of being so connected to this computer in my hand.

My thoughts so far:

Day 1 (12/24) : This is great!  It’s fun to be so disconnected and to live like it’s 2006. Please text me your photos from Christmas Eve dinner because I’m detoxing from social media.  See, I have self control. Now give me one of those cookies…

Day 2 (12/25)  I want to see people’s Christmas photos!  But it’s so nice to be out of the loop. But I want to see your kids in their Christmas outfits!

Day 3 (12/26) : Periphery, Harlen. Social media is  all periphery.  You’ll be in touch with anyone who really matters. But what’s going on???  I had to text my husband a meme I made instead of posting it on his FB page.  It was an Omar Little meme and it was about ceviche – who wouldn’t want to see that? Oh well. It was just for him.

Day 4 (12/27):  I really want to tell everyone – the entire universe – how awesome Star Wars: The Force Awakes is!  I want to tweet J.J. Abrams and tell him I have officially forgiven him for the ending of Lost.  Instead, I will rave to my husband and the friends we watched it with.  I will text my sister-in-law back because she saw it today, too.  And I am good with that.

Day 4 (12/28):  I am reading REAL news sources more now.  I am actually going to The Washington Post app instead of my friends self-selecting for me.   It’s only been four days? I’m PROUD of myself for being off social media for four days. Proud?  That’s terrible.  Shameful.  Proud.  Wow. It’s a good thing I am taking a break.  I’m wondering what the outcome will be.







Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Best Practices Conference Resources

Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Best Practices Conference Resources


Here are some of the resources I mentioned today at the Penn State Lehigh Valley Best Practices Conference in my session about being a new writer in the digital age.  Please post any other writing resources you’d recommend in the comments.  Please keep in touch and celebrate your successes!


Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with my writing, find more resources, and learn about new writers.

If you are interested in guest blogging, please contact me.

Happy writing!

On Living The Writing Life:

30 Indispensable Writing Tips From 30 Famous Authors

National Writing Project

Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Project

Write Nights

Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group

Bethlehem Writers Group


Building Your Digital Author Platform:


Suzie Bichovsky’s Dear Universe


My take on Medium



Twitter For Teachers Part 1 (or for anyone who wants to know what “hashtag” means)

Twitter For Teachers Part 2 (or for anyone who wants to know more about Twitter)




Priming The Pump #2: The 100 Word Challenge

Priming The Pump #2: The 100 Word Challenge
0Our next installment of Priming The Pump comes from Joy Kirr. Joy and I connected via Twitter, which is a great way to find other people who enjoy writing. Joy currently teaches 7th grade language arts and literature in a suburb of Chicago. She was first a special education teacher who worked with deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and next became a reading specialist and National Board Certified teacher. She’s completed 18 years of teaching, but says it’s always like her first.  

The 100 Word Challenge
The 100 Word Challenge  is a weekly creative writing challenge for students under 16 that is easily adapted for writers of any age. At the 100 Word Challenge,  there is a weekly prompt, which can be a picture or a series of individual words. The challenge is that writers can only use up to 100 words to write something related to the prompt. One of the special things about 100WC is that those entering a piece are 3915529903_618b327387encouraged to visit other blogs and leave a constructive comment. The 100 Word Challenge website says, “by setting a limited word count with a focused theme and a guaranteed audience, we have far greater motivation for writing. Those who are reluctant writers feel safe with only 100 words to write, whilst those more advanced writers can really extend themselves with the word restriction.”
As adults, this can be done through setting up a blogging community of perhaps 3-10 adults where you will commit to the challenge, read each others’ posts, and then comment on them. Use the website for your prompt, or take turns creating them.  Peer ‘talking’ to peer is very powerful.  Above all – it’s fun!
If you have a writing exercise you’d love and would like to post, please contact me here.

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.

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!

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.