What I Learned as a Participant in an Online Writing Panel

I was honored to be a panelist in the “Writing for the Web” forum at the recent Write on Bowen Festival on Bowen Island, British Columbia. It was so much fun, in fact, I wish I’d signed up to teach a blogging workshop! I love answering questions about my passions: writing and blogging.

Here are a few online writing or blogging tips that were highlighted – plus what I learned about being a panelist in a writing conference….

Online Writing or Blogging Tips

Remember that monetizing your blog takes time. I’m earning slightly under a thousand dollars a month from my Quips and Tips blogs and my online writing at Suite101 (where I’ve been the Psychology Feature Writer since October, 2006). I’m happy with what I’m earning as a blogger, and I hope to double that within a year! It’s been a sharp learning curve, and I’ve put in a ton of time and effort — but I love it.

Research your online writing opportunities. Do you want to write for an online journalism or magazine website?  Suite101 and Orato are both online magazines that are recruiting writers, but they operate very differently. Suite, for instance, has an application process and fairly strict formatting requirements. Orato is a citizen journalism site that welcomes new reporters – no application needed (Lisa Manfield, the Managing Editor of Orato, was also on this panel). If you want to be an online writer but don’t have a blog, make sure you research your options.

Use specific key phrases and keywords. The biggest thing that writers transitioning from print to online writing need to learn is the importance of being specific. Don’t write about “relationships” – write about overcoming alcoholism in a 20 year marriage. The more specific you get (without writing about topics nobody cares about), the more readers you’ll attract. I’ve been writing for the web for almost three years now, and I’m still learning this!

What I Learned About Being a Panelist

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Ask for the schedule in advance. Our panel moderator — the lovely, organized Alison Bate — sent us her plans for the panel (we introduce ourselves, share our biggest online writing tip, answer questions from the audience, and be prepared to share more online writing tips if people don’t ask questions). Knowing what the moderator plans is key to feeling comfortable as a panelist.

Stay focused when you’re answering questions. I could’ve talked for hours about how I created and promote my blogs, but that diverged from our topic of online writing and takes time away from other panelists. If you’re participating in a panel or any type of media interview, make sure you stay on topic.

Bring your business cards, books, swag. People often come up and ask questions after panels or workshops; it’s a perfect time to spread your word with business cards! If you’ve written books or created something, make sure you have it handy for when the pane is over.

Brush up on your public speaking skills. I attended the panel before mine, and couldn’t hear one panelist in particular. She spoke too softly. Sit tall and speak up, my friends! Project your voice to the back of the room, and focus on what you want to say (and don’t worry about what you think the audience is thinking).

Befriend the other panelists. Talking to the other experts in your field is a great way to network, which can lead to new writing opportunities and connections. Whether you’re attending a writer’s conference as a “student” or expert, make it your goal to meet at least three new people in each panel or workshop.

Participate in the writing contest. Many writer’s conferences include a writing contest, and some allow the conference experts to submit their pieces. The Write on Bowen festival had a fiction writing contest, which I didn’t participate in. I did, on the other hand, submit my Learning to Write Without Fear and Trembling piece to the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. Even if you don’t win the contest, writing for a specific reason can help you improve your skills.

If you have any questions or thoughts on panels, writers’ conferences, or writing for the web, please comment below!

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8 thoughts on “What I Learned as a Participant in an Online Writing Panel

  • Laurie PK

    Okay, I went ahead and changed my WordPress theme. I like this one better: it loads faster, and it’s much neater, cleaner, and more professional looking!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post…13 Tips for Easy Halloween Costumes, Parties, and Pets =-.

  • Laurie PK

    Hi MissDazey,

    Great to hear from you!

    The last 2 panels I participated in were open to anyone who was willing to pay (as audience members, not panelists. Panelists don’t pay!). New and professional writers alike were in the audience — it was great. Often, panels are part of a longer event, such as a writer’s retreat or conference. Then, the cost of the panel would be included in the total cost of the retreat or conference.

    About making money blogging: you better believe I’ve written about monetizing your blog! 🙂

    Click on How to Make Money Blogging for Writers — it’s good starting point. There are other links in that article.

    No, I don’t think the opportunities for new writers and bloggers are gone — not by a long shot! But, there’s definitely alot of competition. Like with any career or job, being lucky — and being in the right place at the right time — is huge. I think the online opportunities (such as those listed on Craig’s List or other journalism boards) are very, very competitive. Thousands of writers are trolling those boards and applying for those jobs!

    I’ve never had a job as a blogger (outside of my own blogs), but I’m pretty sure the pay won’t knock your socks off. Same with writing — until you can build your portfolio and reputation. Places like Suite101, Orato, About.com offer solid writing opportunities.

    Now I have a question for you, MissDazey! It’s about this website, The Adventurous Writer. It seems to take a long time to load on my computer….do you find that, too? That is, is it a little slower than the other websites you visit? I’m thinking of switching to a simpler WordPress theme, which will load faster.

    Thanks for your thoughts — and your questions! 🙂

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post…14 Tips for Successful Magazine Writers =-.

  • MissDazey

    I would love to go to a gathering where you are a panelist. Are these usually only opened for professional writers. 2 questions- 1) I’m assuming you have written on how to monetize a blog, where would I find that? 2) Is the opportunties for new bloggers and writer almost gone? It seems everyone is blogging.

    .-= MissDazey´s last blog post…Dear Senator Kennedy =-.

  • Laurie PK

    Thanks Ali, I appreciate that you stopped by — and you did a wonderful job as moderator!

    Because of my experience on the panel at the Bowen Island Writer’s Festival, I’ve been asked to sit on another online writer’s panel. This one is Saturday, August 15, that the BC Association of Magazine Publishers is putting together. I’m thrilled and honored to attend — I LOVE sitting on and listening to panel discussions. You learn so much.

    Happy writing,
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post…3 Tips for Joining an Online Writing Group =-.

  • Alison Bate

    Hi laurie

    Some great advice here..i think it would be neat if you did a blogging workshop….Ali
    .-= Alison Bate´s last blogpost…Online tips at Bowen Island writing festival =-.

  • Alexis Grant

    Ah, I need to learn more about monetizing my blog… Gotta put that on my to-do list!
    .-= Alexis Grant´s last blogpost…Start your Monday with a Kick in the Butt =-.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    The Surrey International Writer’s Conference is one of my favorites; it’s in October every year. This time, I’m volunteering there…and I hope one day to present a workshop or be on a panel!

    Thanks for dropping, Jane.