Today, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Rebecca Barray, writer/photographer, blogger and active “groupie”. I first met this lovely and talented lady several years ago. Since then, I’ve remained amazed at her creativity, persistence, and support to fellow writers.
Please join me in welcoming Rebecca to our Working Writer’s gallery of inspiring individuals.
Claudette: You’ve got a lot going on in your life, Rebecca. You’re a mother and wife, a working photographer and writer, and actively involved with writers groups. And those are just pursuits that are obvious on the public side of your side of your life. How do you manage to juggle so many demands on your 24 hour day?
Rebeca: Honestly, it’s really tough. I almost never get through everything I want to do each day. I just have to prioritize. Some days, I’m running the kids around nonstop. I have a teenager in a high school marching band. It’s a huge time commitment. Then, I have two kids in elementary school. One does dance all through the school year and both play t-ball in the spring.
I have to squeeze writing, reading, and photography into the cracks, along with laundry, cooking, gardening, and any other chores that need done. Some days, I have made tough choices, like which pair of dirty jeans are the least dirty so my kids don’t have to go to school naked. 😉
Claudette: <<chuckles>> I can relate to that, and I haven’t had kids. So tell me, how long had you been writing when you became a founding member of Wordsmith Studio; and also, how involved have you been in the group since you became a founding member?
Rebecca: I’ve been writing my whole life. I have a folder of poems and short stories I wrote for school, as early as 7th grade. It’s actually funny to look at them. When we first created the group that would later become Wordsmith Studio, I think I’d been professionally writing only a year or so.
I’ve always been very involved in the group; I was actually the one who created the group in the first place. A few of us doing Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge on his blog My Name Is Not Bob, discussed in the comments how creating a Facebook group might make it easier to support each other, ask questions, and just be fun. And since I had known how to do it…I did. 😉
Claudette: We certainly all had plenty to say back then about our trials with platforms, didn’t we? Could you explain how did you come to publish what amounts to a weekly newspaper for the group? Do you know how many subscribers it has now?
Rebecca: We have the public WS page for members to post/link to anything they want to share, but it’s easy to forget to do that when you’re sharing a blog post across various social media sites. So the WAG wanted to create a newsletter that contained what the various members were up to. We explored a few options and found that the free version of Paper.li best suited our needs.
We only have 18 subscribers that get the newsletter delivered to their email every week, but I consistently have people sharing the link across social media and get around a 100 views a week.
Claudette: That’s really pretty good since it gets so little promotion. Could you tell us how you developed the Wordsmith Studio publication and how it publishes itself? That was certainly news to me and I’m a member.
Rebecca: I looked at a few different free online newspapers. Paper.li was the one that best fit our needs. The setup was pretty simple; I just had to define the sources of relevant news and how often I wanted the paper to be published. Sources can be Twitter feeds, Google+ feeds, rss feeds, and YouTube channel feeds.
If you find feeds confusing, you can add sources by searching keywords and there’s even a bookmarklet you can add to your favorites list. When you are on a website that you think has valuable content you’d like to add to your newsletter, you click on the bookmarklet and a little menu pops up that list all the feeds available on that page and you can choose which one you want to add to your paper.
For the Wordsmith Studio paper sources, I added the blog feeds of our members that have blogs and the feed for a twitter list of all of our members’ Twitter accounts. After that, paper.li is fully automatic. It collects new information (posts and links) from the sources every week and publishes it in the newspaper every Monday morning.
Claudette: Did you get help from other writers or experienced publishers as you were feeling your way through the initial stages? In other words, who did you go to for answers to your questions?
Rebecca: The process was pretty easy on the Paper.li site. There are tutorials and step by step instructions.
Claudette: That would make it an option for anyone who wanted to do something for their website to help keep their subscribers coming back for more. Hmm, I may have to think about that one myself. Away from the group, and back in your real life, tell us about what are you working on now.
Rebecca: This past spring, I formed a writing partnership with a very good friend, Tobi Doyle Macbrayne, and in June, we signed a contract to publish our first team-written book with Boroughs Publishing Group! We are both very excited. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in December.
Claudette: That’s fantastic. Congratulations. You’ve won an award for your flash fiction, and your photography is published in many venues, including newspapers. You have plenty to say about both. Do these two loves of yours aid each other or compete for your time?
Rebecca: Probably both, lol. Some of my flash fiction was actually inspired by pictures I’d taken. And I love coming up with images for all my stories, as well. Unfortunately, I can’t write and take pictures at the same time …
Claudette: Taking stories and poems from images is its own reward, I think. Now, I know you read fantasy and romance. You like YA and adult books. Have you ever thought of using your writing/photography to create a newsletter centered on those two categories to add to your blog? And if you chose to do that, would you approach it the same way as with the one for Wordsmith Studio or develop a different format?
Rebecca: I never really considered making a newspaper for my blog. It sounds like a great idea though. I’d probably use the same strategy of hand-picking my favorite sources of relevant information. If I could only find the time to do it …
Claudette: I’ll bet you make the time, Rebecca. You have talents that many would envy, internet savvy gal that you are. Have you ever thought of offering classes or workshops to people who want to learn how to use their hobbies or working experience to connect with others with similar interests?
Rebecca: My original profession (before becoming a mother for the second time and rediscovering my love of writing) was teaching. I’ve always loved teaching, and I actually taught an online class on setting up a free WordPress blog a few times last year. Being a terminal introvert, I’m not so great at self-promotion, and interest in the class fizzled out. I’ve thought a lot about putting together a short introduction to photography course, and I’d really love to do it. But my social anxiety has kept me from actually doing it. Maybe someday …
Claudette: You’ve given us some terrific insights into your life, Rebecca. Only one last query. What are your dreams for your future now? What horizons do you have in your sights?
Rebecca: Right now, I’m staying busy writing with Tobi. Besides the book under contract with Boroughs, we have a novel in the final stages of editing, one that we’re about halfway through writing and a novella for a Christmas anthology about halfway through the editing process. And after those are finished, we have three or four ideas for novels lined up.
So I guess the horizon in my sights right now is my name on the cover of that book in December. And my dreams for the future would be to line up a few of those on my shelf.
Claudette: Thank you, Rebecca, for gracing us with your time and your thoughts about your personal journey down the writer’s path. You’ve given us all a few things to think about, not least of which is the fact that a busy life doesn’t have to mean an unbalanced one. I’m looking forward to seeing your first novel come out and getting my hands on it. Keep me posted on its progress, please.
For those who’d like to explore Wordsmith Studio, please do so. The Studio is always open to new members and interested spectators. Members also have weekly tweet chats to keep abreast of member doings, industry changes/issues, and other writerly subjects.