#AmReading: My Grandmother's Hands View in browser
Li Yun Alvarado
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In This Newsletter

    Save the Date
    Sunday, July 26 at 3-4pm PST / 6-7pm EST

    Place, Body and Memory 
    2x2 Reading and Q&A
    Zoom Link Coming Soon

    Host: Dana Johnson

    Li Yun Alvarado, Caitlin Scarano, Dennis James Sweeney, and Douglas Manuel.


    My Grandmother’s Hands:
    Racialized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending our Hearts and Bodies

    by Resmaa Menakem 

    Several trusted friends highly recommended this book. I joined a yearlong online book study in order to do this trauma healing work slowly and in community. Our first meeting was excellent. You can learn more about that group and join the waitlist here.

      Mistake #2 Using the Word "Platform"

      Welcome Back !

      If you missed the email discussing Mistake #1, click here to access it.

      Mistake #2 is simple: you’re using the wrong word.

      Huh? Doesn’t the name of this email series include the phrase “Author Platforms”?

      Well, yes. But I just used that word to get your attention. Now I’m ready to show you why thinking about building a “platform” might be counterproductive.

      Ask yourself: what is a “platform”?

      It’s a raised stage from which you shout your message. It’s basically your soapbox. 

      If you’re focused on building a “platform,” you’re focused on drawing a bunch of people to your stage and having all eyes on you

      When you do that, you set yourself up to be “on” all the time. You also set yourself up for top down relationships with your readers:

      You -> Your Readers
      You Entertain: Performer -> Spectators
      You Inspire: Leader ->  Followers
      You Educate: Teacher -> Students
      You Sell: Creator -> Consumer

      I want to challenge you to leave “Platform Building” behind and reframe your objective as “Cultivating Community.”

      When you cultivate community, you step off the stage and commune with others around shared interests, shared values, and, most importantly, a shared love of reading.

      When you reframe in this way, your relationships with your readers change as well:

      You <-> Your Readers
      You’re Entertained Together: Readers
      You’re Inspired Together: CoCreators
      You’re Educated Together: Learners
      You Share with Each Other: Community Members

      All of a sudden, instead of having to preach from on high, you’re in community. Your readers may still "look up" to you, but you function as a facilitator: you ask questions, connect members, share information, and ultimately build a thriving reading community together.

      Tackling Mistake #2

      Tackling mistake number two is all about shifting your mindset away from one of “building a platform” and “seeking followers” towards one of “cultivating community.”

      One way to help make this shift is to understand the many benefits to this approach:

      1. You’re Probably Already in Community.
      When I talk about cultivating community, I don't mean start and manage a Facebook Group (though that may be a great strategy for some of you). 

      Instead I mean:

      • (1) assess what communities you're already active in.
      • (2) decide how and where you might grow your communities further.
      • (3) commit to cultivating strong relationships with the folks already in your networks and spheres of influence.

      Some examples of cultivating community include:

      • attending your writing group or local readings
      • sending upcoming residency and grant opportunities to your email subscribers
      • blogging book recommendations — bonus if you spotlight the works of folks in your communities
      • Click here for additional examples

      As you can see, there are many creative ways to cultivate community by starting where you are and growing engaged networks over time.

        2. It’s not all about you — you get to share the spotlight!
        So many writers I know hate the idea of Platform Building because they hate self-promotion. Cultivating community shifts the spotlight away from “me me me” self-promotion, and focuses it on others and on topics of shared interest instead. 

        For example, if you’re building your “platform,” you might feel like your job is to talk about your books all the time because people are there for you, right?

        On the other hand, if you’re “cultivating community” then you can shift to discussing books (including but not limited to your own) that might be of interest to your people.

        What does sharing the spotlight look like?

        • Spotlighting other writers on your FB page
        • Having guest writers on your blog or emails
        • Organizing a book club of other people’s books
        • Asking readers questions to foster communication

        Once you realize your efforts don’t have to be all about you, it becomes easy to hand the mic and the spotlight over to others (both inside and outside of your community). All of a sudden you’re in conversation with your people and facilitating conversations between your people. You also become known as someone who is generous and is good at making connections across communities: win win!

        3. Communities are more fun!
        Look, I love being on stage. Surprising no one who knows me, I was a theater geek in High School. Even more than being on stage though, I loved interacting with the audience after a show. And yes, I’m an extrovert, but I know introverts also value thoughtful interpersonal connections just as much, maybe even more, than us extroverts. Cultivating community means you get to focus on those meaningful connections.

        Final Thoughts

        What I’m saying is don’t just grow “followers.” Instead find and connect with people you’d actually like to hang out with to discuss books and reading.

        People who love reading the kind of work you’re writing. People who have interesting perspectives they want to share with you. People who are interested in the perspectives you’re sharing. People with whom you’d like to share snapshots of your life. And, yes, people who will eventually buy your books and tell everyone they know to buy your books too.

        If you take a community cultivating approach, your number of “followers” might not be that impressive when you get started, but the quality of the relationships you build will make for a more rewarding and sustainable experience over the long haul.

        This community approach can also help you connect with those people who Kevin Kelly calls your "1,000 True Fans" and David Gaughran calls "Superfans": the people who will support all your creative efforts and share your work with all of their networks too. (Read more about these two fan frameworks on the resources page).

        And if you already have a large following (yay!), it’s not too late to think about how you can “cultivate community” and develop relationships with your people that are even more meaningful and long lasting.

        Reflection Questions

        • Are you already a member of any communities (workshops, MFA, residencies, writing groups)? How might you cultivate community even further in those spaces?
        • What might being in community with your readers (and potential readers) look like for you? Where might you gather (virtually and IRL)? How might you communicate?
        • How might you show up differently, and in community, with those who already “follow” you?
        • Who would you love to have in your community? What do they love to read? How do they move in the world? What do they care about? What can you learn from them? What can they learn from you? What values do you share? How can you change the world together?
        • What’s one thing you can do today to grow or support your community of readers?
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        P.S. To access additional resources and all the "5 Mistakes" emails as they become available, click here.

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