Interview Transcripts

Tom Bedell

October 1009


Mary Rosenblum:† Tom Bedell has hundreds of  articles, interviews, and book reviews to his credit. His poetry has been published in literary magazines, and he has been a university writing instructor since 1984. He has also been president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and frequently serves on its board of directors.
      Mr. Bedell is a coauthor or contributor to, or an editor or ghostwriter of seven books, including Tools of the Writersí Trade (HarperCollins, 1990). He is currently closing in on his 700th published article in a career that has included writing on subjects of every variety for publications of every stripe, though in recent years he has come to specialize in writing about golf and golf travel, as well as the craft of brewing.  
And he's also a Long Ridge instructor!  
Tom, welcome!  It's great to have you here.  What an eclectic and successful career.  And of course, living in Oregon, the hotbed of craft brewing, Iím dying to hear about your articles on that topic. But first things first.  What got you started writing?  And what set you on the path that brought you here? 

Tom Bedell:† Thanks, Mary, and I'll try to touch on each of the topics posted at some point today.  But three quick answers to how I started out on the path of writing:
1) I've been an avid reader all my life.  And I believe that love of the page instilled in me some of the basics of what makes a decent sentence and a good narrative.
2) My education was important in strengthening some of my reading and writerly impulses.  In college, in particular, I started out as a psychology major.  But all my best marks came in English Lit classes.  Somewhere in my junior year I gave in to the inevitable and switched to an English Lit major, which required all sorts of writing, of course.  And in my senior year I began taking some creative writing courses; my first published works were in small poetry magazines.
3) I'm old enough to have been in the draft, and after I finished my military obligations in the '70s, it was time to look for a job.  There weren't many open positions for poets.  I was lucky to find a job on a weekly newspaper, where in about five years time I really honed my journalistic skills while climbing the ladder--when I left I was the editor.  But I had seen enough magazine and newspapers articles by that time to think that I could do as well or better.  I send out my first query letter and amazingly enough it was accepted.  And the rest is history.

Diane:† Hi, Tom!  I just wanted to say we are happy you're here.

Tom Bedell:† Thanks, Diane--Believe me, I'm happy I'm here, too.  Every morning!

Pam: Welcome to THE SITE. How long have you taught at LR? Thank you for your time this week.

Tom Bedell:† Thanks, Pam.  I've been teaching at LRWG for 15 years, and I still love the entire process.

Mary Rosenblum:So, Tom, I have a question.  Do you feel that teaching has helped you as a writer?  And if so, why? 

Tom Bedell:† Without question, teaching has helped me as a writer.  There are at least two reasons why.  One is that students do eventually teach the teacher.  I've seen things in students' work that were simply ideas or turns of phrasing or details about topics that I hadn't previously considered or known about.  You learn something everyday?  I absolutely believe it.
Having taught hundreds of students over my 15 years at LRWG, and in other teaching, you can also imagine that I've come to see certain patterns in writing, usually paths I try to steer students away from.  Yet I still sometimes go down these same paths in my initial drafts.  The good news for my own writing is that I then catch them quickly in my editing and polishing.
And if you're wondering what some of those patterns are, they're nothing mysterious.  Just the need for sharper details, a good sense of narrative in a piece and, usually, fewer words!
I have a few prejudices.  I've come to think that writing nonfiction in the second-person leads to wordiness.  Sure, it's useful sometimes.  But more often than not there are sharper ways to express oneself.
I see a lot of fiction written in the present tense.  Interestingly, it's more often from women than men.  I won't try to analyze that, and perhaps we can ascribe my prejudice in gender terms.  But I just don't think the present tense works as well in fiction as the simple past tense.  It sounds unnatural to me.  
However, I'm okay if a student uses the present tense, as long as she or he sticks with it.  Many has been the time I've seen a story start in the present tense, wander into the past tense, back to the present, and on and on.  Tense-switching makes readers dizzy, and who wants dizzy readers?

Dani: Do you know if any of your students eventually went on to have novels published?
Present tense fiction seems unnatural to me too.  I've wondered how much reading those who write fiction that way do.  When I was active in my ICL course, I noticed that some students wrote stories for children that way. 
Oh yes, Mary, you're probably wondering why I'm on here posting when I owe you an assignment.   Grin  I'm still getting settled into my house, but I'm getting there.  And issues with other family members have calmed down a bit.  So, I'm getting ready to get back to my Sydney stories and assignment 8.  Smiley  The good news is, the Steelers beat the formerly undefeated Vikings!  Go STEELERS!

Mary Rosenblum:Hey, Dani! Go Steelers (she and I are both Pittsburgh folk, although it's been some time since I lived here).  Glad you're getting back to Sydney.  :-)

Tom Bedell:† Yes, Dani, several students have published novels (some self-published), others have gone on to do nonfiction work.  I think my star student was a woman who began the course in her eighties, and went to write over 100 published articles.  And she's still at it in her nineties!
I don't mean to outright condemn writing fiction in the present tense.  I've seen it done well.  It's just usually not to my taste.  From a writing standpoint, I think it's harder to control than the past tense, and can sometimes create awkward constructions.  I usually counsel students to use the past tense, but it's always their choice.  Not a choice is, once you've chosen your tense, be consistent with it.

Pam:† I love the lady starting in her eighties and now in her nineties!

Tom Bedell:† She was (and still is) a runaway train--not to be denied!

Dani:† That's so inspiring!

Tom Bedell:† Well, it's even better, since Ethel (I'll leave her last name shrouded in anonymity) began the course with little writing experience.  She had a good brain, though, took my critiques well, and just really worked at it, using all the resources of the course to learn the art of putting together a good article.  Then she took the next step and went at the marketing aspect with tenacity.  
Then she sold a few pieces and got lucky--she found an editor who was willing to look at most things she suggested.  
Luck is not to be discounted in a writer's life.  But as Branch Rickey once said, "Luck is the residue of design." In trying to sell articles to magazines, that design takes the form of studying the marketplace, so you can increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time.

David:† Here is a question that I posted first elsewhere in post a note. Mary and one other person suggested I ask you.
How much researching is enough? How much research do I need to do before I actually start writing my block buster fictional story or non fiction article?  I could see it might be possible to continually research (there's always more to learn, right?) to the extent that one never actually starts writing the article or story!

Tom Bedell:† You've put your finger right on it, David.  It is possible to research too much.  One problem is that it becomes a stalling tactic.  You can't start (and therefore possibly fail) because you haven't finished your research.  Another problem is that one can have so much research material that you then have no clue how to burrow into the mountain.
In my early days I would research articles way beyond any point of reason.  And one reason for that was because I enjoy research so much--it's just following leads and one's own curiosity, after all.  But then I would have a real problem getting started with a piece, not knowing how to manage the material I'd gathered.
So, the flippant answer to your question about how much research is enough is: just enough.
The less flippant answer is that in doing a nonfiction piece, in any case, one should have done enough research to be at least a partial expert in the topic, or know where to find what one needs or whom to call.  But that has to weighed against the length of the article and the fee being paid.  There's no sensible point in doing encyclopedic research for a 700-word article.
For an article, in any case, first do just enough research to do a convincing and persuasive query.  Once you have the assignment, then go on to the next level of research.  (And by research I also mean interviews.)
It's great to have a lot of facts on hand from which the most pertinent can be selected for a piece.  But it's also possible, and usually necessary, to keep doing research and double-checking facts while the piece is underway.  Also, regarding interviews, they frequently prompt other avenues for research.  So interviewing should quickly become one of you first choices in research.  The telephone still beats the Internet for really diving in. (Although the net can give you good leads for contacts.)
Over time I've found I usually have an ah-ha! moment in my research, when a choice quote or salient detail reveals to me the essential focus and direction of a piece.  Then I can pretty much stop the research and get rolling on the piece, without worrying unduly that I haven't traced down every last dust mote of research.  If I need more as I go along, I do more.
Hope this helps.

Mary Rosenblum: So, Tom, we have students who really want to have a career in nonfiction.  What do you suggest?  What's the best way to get a foothold in the world of nonfiction publishing?  Not just to get something published, but to begin a career? 

Tom Bedell:† A short, but exceedingly difficult question to answer!  
As I mentioned in my introductory post, I began on a fairly low rung, working for a weekly suburban newspaper.  And I wasn't even writing at first, but doing paste-up of ads and the like.  But the editor there, a crusty old guy who nonetheless was an important mentor, knew I wanted to write, and he gradually gave me the opportunity, and guided me over my gaffes, of which there were plenty.  We do learn by our mistakes.
So I served an apprenticeship, and it works as well today as ever.  If you can get your foot in the door of publishing somehow, things can happen for the industrious.  But then the question regarding the question is--what kind of career is one looking to have, a staff job, or braving the world of freelancing?
I had a staff job, eventually becoming the editor myself, but I knew it wasn't quite what I wanted.  I wanted to write about things that interested me more.  While still employed I made my first freelance efforts, and succeeded, so freelance was the way I went, giving up the security of the staff job.
And to have a freelance career requires even more industriousness, for the simple fact that there's no steady paycheck.  
To break in is one thing, and a big thing.  But to create a freelance career means piling on one credit after another until you've amassed some solid credentials, adding weight to the queries sent to editors.  There's no quick way to do this, and frankly in the current publishing climate it's probably more difficult than ever.  But difficult is not impossible.
The short answer about the best way to get a foothold in the world of nonfiction is to make oneself indispensable to an editor or editors, with fresh and timely ideas delivered regularly and on time with consummate professionalism--all the things to be learned in the LRWG course!  And I'll try to address some other aspects of this in the other posts.

Diane:† Tom, how long did it take you (after you quit your job) before you were bringing in enough to live on and cover expenses?  

Tom Bedell:† Diane--My wife would probably tell you I've never brought in enough to live on!  But I was fortunate enough to sell some fairly high-profile pieces early in the game, and so I went full-time freelance only a few months after my first sale.  I've had some lean years, and the writing has never been wildly profitable for me, but with other part-time endeavors--editing, teaching and the like--it's kept me at it for a long time.

Pam:† What is the secret to a selling query letter?

Diane:† It was either this month's Writer mag. or last month's had an article in it about a writer who was complaining that his 150 articles a year wasn't enough to live on.  No matter how hard he tried he couldn't write more than that.  So, he came up with an idea to hire an assistant.  There are a couple of things with this idea that is bothering me.  First--that is a heck of a lot of writing!  How on earth is that not enough money?  And, how could anyone offset the price of an assistant (anyone worth their salt) if they aren't making enough money with 150 articles a month?  
What is your take on this?  Am I missing something?  It just doesn't seem realistic to me.

Dani:† How many articles it takes to live on is relative to how much you need to live and what you're willing to give up if you don't make enough money.  Maybe 150 articles a years wasn't enough for that writer to live on, but someone else could live quite comfortably.  Depending on where you live, the difference in housing expenses could be huge.

Tom Bedell:† The secret to a selling query letter is basically the thrust of the course from Assignment 7 on!  What lesson are you up to?
But, in brief, you need a fresh and timely idea, aimed at the right market, concisely expressed, with evidence of the writing talent to pull it off.  Easy, right?  On top of everything else, you need luck--the luck to hit the right editor at the right time. The depressing fact is that you can have a great query, but poor timing, if your intended market has recently run a similar piece or has already assigned something that trumps your idea.  The hopeful fact is that once you have a solid query in hand, you can send it out over and over (perhaps with minor tweaking) to as many markets as it takes to sell it.  Then all you need is persistence.

Dani and Diane--
Naturally, one writer's high living might be another's description of poverty.  That's relative.
But how many articles one needs to write each year to make a living depends entirely on the fees earned for those articles.  Writing 150 articles a year wouldn't be enough if the fees are miniscule.  If you're writing major features at $2 to $3 a word or more, fewer pieces will clearly suffice.  That's why in my marketing I would always aim at higher-paying markets first, and reluctantly work my way down the list if rejected   
Personally, I can't imagine anyone writing 150 articles a year.  My head would be spinning and my fingers would be worn down to the first knuckle!

Mary Rosenblum:† And that's a key question in NF...and fiction for that matter, I think.  Whom are you writing for?  We have a LOT of no pay or minor pay markets in small press and ezine land. So it's easy to say 'I published 150 articles' but if they're all for ezines at 5 bucks per sale...that's not a lot of money.  
Tom, have you seen any ill effect from the fact that so many major magazines are putting more content online?  Has it impacted you or do you write at all for the online component of magazines? 

Tom Bedell:† The ill effect from the online incursion into traditional publishing is when a magazine goes under.  I've had two steady clients shot out from under me in recent months.  But reputable magazines will pay as well for online material as print, and yes, I have written for the online component of magazines.  Others take a piece in print and adapt it for online, and pay an extra fee, as with this piece I did for Lexus Magazine (Great Drives in Vermont:
There's a paradigm shift at work, no doubt, and when we're right in the middle of it it's hard to say how it's going to play out.  Beginners will understandably be tempted to write for some online sites that offer little or no money now, with a hope that things will change as time goes on.  More often than not that temptation should probably be resisted.  If your words are good enough to print (or post), then they're good enough to be paid for.

Oceanscribe: Quote from: tombedell on October 27, 2009, 01:29:17 PM

Beginners will understandably be tempted to write for some online sites that offer little or no money now, with a hope that things will change as time goes on.  More often than not that temptation should probably be resisted.  If your words are good enough to print (or post), then they're good enough to be paid for.
Tom, Those are interesting comments to me because I initiated a post back in July ( on the topic of allowing one's fiction to be published for free and there were strong and varied opinions. Although the post focused on fiction, I did touch upon nonfiction--seems to be a controversial area, but not for the publishers and bloggers who can get writing for free.

Tom Bedell:† Oceanscribe--There are any number of reasons to publish for nothing, that's why it's tempting.  Few if any of the reasons advance the cause of professional writing.  Indeed, offering one's work for nothing usually sets a poor standard for the field, and gives publishers misguided notions--Well, if you won't do it for [these slave wages], there are plenty of other writers who will!
Imagine if there were no writers who would write for little or nothing?  What kind of market would it be then?  Whenever I hear that line, however, I say yes, there are plenty of writers out there.  But not plenty of good writers who can turn in a professional job.  That's what I like about LR--we're aiming high, at manuscripts that can hold their own at the top level.
There are exceptions to everything, of course.  (If there weren't, we'd never let any of those sentence fragments get by!)  In my case, the exception is my blog (  I do that for fun.  If I ever make a dime off it I'll be surprised (although I haven't given up all hope).  Mostly it serves as a spillover function for me.  But as some recent cases have shown (the blog that became the film "Julie and Julia"), blogs can take on lives of their own.

Oceanscribe:† Writing your own blog for free is fine with me and does attract fans. In fact, I followed Julie Powell's blog before she got her book contract. It was clever and funny and I couldn't wait to read her new postings--although, I don't feel the need to read her book because I know the content already.

Tom Bedell:† Well, I guess Julie can take it!

Oceanscribe:† Trade and niche journals and magazines seem to be among the easiest publications for newcomers to crack. 
Tom Bedell:† We all know that weíre supposed to be familiar with the content, style and past article topics of a publication before querying or writing on spec. But, itís expensive to subscribe to many of them and purchasing one or two sample copies doesnít really provide enough info. The editorial calendars and listings in market guides donít provide much info about past coverage either. Most libraries donít carry trade and niche titles, so how do you become familiar enough with magazines and journals when you really donít have inexpensive access to back issues?

You're right, it's not that easy to track down past issues of trade pubs.  But if there's some initial impulse that drove you to Bee Culture Magazine, say--perhaps a neighbor who keeps bees--maybe he or she could lend you a few copies.  Or the website, if there is one, might help.  (Actually, I just looked at the Bee Culture site, and the entire magazine is online, an increasingly common occurrence.)
But one of the reasons trades are easier to break into is that they're less inundated with queries than consumer mags.  So they're often open to a more direct approach.  In the e-mail era, you might consider a type of pre-query--simply asking whether the editors would be interested in seeing a fuller proposal on your particular idea.  If so, off you go.  If they've already covered the topic or aren't interested in the approach, you've saved some time.  
Market research can be done anywhere magazines are lying around, of course.  I always consider waiting time in doctors' or dentists' offices useful in finding titles I've never heard of.  Same with waiting to have the tires changed, the hair cut, or the line to move up in the supermarket queue.

Pam: The kids in Denver will be trick-or-treating alongside snow banks! We've been dumped on and I'm contemplating shoveling for the fifth time, or believing the weatherperson that the melting will start today. I'd rather write.
I am on assignment 10. I changed to fiction on assignment nine. I am trying to find markets for my class assignments and articles and the stories that spun off the assignments. It's hard to work 'backwards'.
My query question was also in reference to my manuscript that led me to take the BIP course after I became aware of my weaknesses in writing. I assume that part of the problem concerning no replies is that the query letter is not gripping enough. 
Any additional thoughts?

Tom Bedell:† Good luck with the snow, Pam.
No replies to queries?  How many queries, how long have they been out, to what kind of markets?
Different markets respond at different paces--some quickly, some weeks or even months down the line.  Months is pushing it, but if the market is an exceedingly popular one, inundated with queries, it may simply take that long.
Queries do sometimes go astray, or wander down to the bottom of a mail (or e-mail) stack.  But I think a month is ample time to rev up a polite inquiry as to whether your query was received, has the editor had a chance to look it over, and should you resend it?  This should prompt some kind of action.
Waiting for responses is no fun, but one way to lessen the suspense is to keep a lot of queries circulating.  While you're waiting for an answer for one, work on a new query and send that out.  Keep a lot of balls in the air, and it doesn't seem as painful when one falls by the wayside.
And when one does fall by the wayside, keep the angst to a minimum by sending it back out as quickly as possible.

Mary Rosenblum:† In your opinion, Tom, what's the best way to get established in nonfiction?  Is it better to write on any topic you can come up with and query dozens of different types of magazines?  Or is it better to pick a particular field of interest -- gardening, or aviation, or dogs, or wine -- and focus on selling to the magazines that focus on that topic?  

Tom Bedell:† Yes.
In a way, I'm not kidding, because clearly both methods can work, and the argument over generalization versus specialization is a never-ending one among writers.  So naturally there are pros and cons about each.
I began my freelance life as a generalist--I would write about anything and everything from science to sports to music to personality profiles to you name it.  I would indeed query (over time) as many magazines as it took until I sold the idea or finally decided that maybe it wasn't such a hot idea to begin with.  I think my record was sending out a proposal 13 times before finally getting a thumbs up--and from a well-paying market at that.
The good thing about being a generalist was the sheer fascinating variety of it, having different experiences, meeting different people, and the pleasure of being able to put on a lot of different research hats.  The down side was having to put on a new and different research hat with every new topic--basically starting from scratch.
Obviously, one of the pros of being a specialist is that you don't have to start from scratch every time.  By the time you've become conversant with a particular topic by writing about it so often, you're way ahead of the game when a new assignment comes along--and you may become known by editors as the go-to person in that particular field.
While I was still a generalist, I wrote my first piece about the then-emerging topic of micro-brewing.  But this article caught my fancy, and so did a wave of interest from editors.  I began writing about beer almost exclusively, and gradually became something of a beer expert, a skill I've spun off into leading tastings of fine beer.
One of the cons of specializing is that you may find yourself frequently going over similar territory.  I'll never forget one writing colleague of mine who said to me, "I'm sick of writing about health."   
I never did tire of writing about beer, but I did find some of my articles repeating themselves. Luckily, perhaps, I became re-addicted to golf, and thought I'd see if I could feed the habit by writing about it.  I could; for over a decade now I've been writing mainly about golf in all its manifestations, from golf travel to equipment, personalities, instruction and so on.
But I also came full circle, after a fashion, when I did a number of articles about beer not long ago--for golf magazines!
Naturally, there's no need to pigeonhole oneself.  I still feel perfectly capable of turning my hand to any topic if the interest or opportunity came along.  But by specializing, I am able to communicate more quickly and directly with editors who know what I normally do, another point in favor of specializing.

Oceanscribe:† Have you published any fiction? Do you think that writing fiction helps with writing nonfiction and vice versa?

Tom Bedell:† I did sell some experimental fiction many years ago, Oceanscribe, and I love fiction.  But writing nonfiction is clearly my niche.
Can writing one assist the other?  I'm not sure, but I don't think it can hurt, as long as you don't mix the two up, as has scandalously happened in the James Frey case and some other incidences.
To me, good writing is good writing, whatever the type.  Nonfiction needs a narrative pulse just as fiction does, and it works best with the same tools--good quotes (even better, dialogue), sharp details, and lean prose free of clutter.  (I'm a real Zinsser disciple in this regard.)  
Even a how-to piece needs to tell a story, and as with all our work, it's the human story.  How is "How to Build a Bird House" a human story?  Because it has its beginning, middle and end in human endeavor--Here's something you want to do but don't know how.  Here's how to do it.  And now you've done it successfully.  The piece may be about creating a thing, but the creating is done by the reader.  Now that's a plot!

Mary Rosenblum:† You know, it has to be hard to keep track of everything involved in a freelance career -- what query letters are where, what deadlines are facing you, expenses, supplies.... 
What's important and how do you handle it all?  

Tom Bedell:† All of those details are important, yes, but I don't really find it that difficult anymore, maybe because I've be at it for awhile.  I do have the vague memory that it was tougher in the pre-computer days.
What used to go in paper folders--mailed queries, a list of where ideas had been sent or where I thought I might send them next if rejected, expenses and so on--now are all pretty much on my computer.  (Which, and I speak from experience, you should all be backing up regularly!)
I now have one Word file marked $ where I put in all my income and expenses, my accounts receivable (with a note if I haven't yet billed for a fee), my assignments in hand and my potential assignments.  As the year goes on I also enter the expenses into an Excel file to make life easier at tax time.
My queries are in a separate file in my mailing program (Outlook in my case). Only my supply receipts and other expenses are still on paper, and these I keep in a small file box in case I'm ever audited (which hasn't happened yet, knock wood).
It probably sounds more organized than it is.  I also have a ton of scribbled notes, perplexing reminders, phone numbers to I-don't-know-what scribbled on envelope backs.  I've been searching my office for two days to find a particular reporter's notebook that is eluding me.  So I'm not an organizational guru.  
You do need some kind of tracking system.  It doesn't have to be super complicated as much as commonsensical. As long as it works.

Diane:† Tom, what system are you using to back up your computer?  I have Outlook, too.  Mine is 2000 and I haven't found a way to back that up.  I just end up transferring everything into Word.  Presently, I'm mailing everything to Hotmail, so I have an off-site safe spot.  With this new computer I haven't had time to figure out the CD recording software yet.  

Joe: A simple approach may be to pick up one of those uber-cheap 4GB USB memory sticks, and periodically copy all your writing files to it. I have two, and rotate them. My whole computer's not backed up, but the irreplaceable stuff is (though only every couple weeks 'cause I forget).

Tom Bedell:† Diane--
Joe's idea would certainly work. I use an external hard drive and on the first of each month back up any files that I've changed.  
Those Outlook e-mails are hard to find, but a search for *.dbx will usually turn them up.
And you can always print out hard copies of important e-mails!

Ladyrayne:† Diane,† Acronis True Image.
Acronis is a software program which allows you to back up onto an external hard drive.  It backs up everything including Outlook.
A friend of mine had a crash once and ended up having to re-download the entire system including his Windows XP.  Not fun.  He lost everything.
The next time he crashed he was ready.  Acronis allows you to reinstall your entire system with a few clicks.  It creates a mirror image in the external hard drive so everything is there, including the partitions (which would otherwise need to be manually re-set).
The Acronis worked beautifully.  After being witness to both "collisions" I will never be without Acronis.

Tom Bedell:† Yes, good call, ladyrayne.  I've used Acronis, too, and it does just what you say.  I had a dreadful hard drive crash one and needed professional geek help in retrieving my files.  Luckily, it worked, and then it was Acronis from then on.

Mary Rosenblum: Oh, thanks for the Acronis recommendation, Lady and Tom.  I've been shopping around for that sort of backup system.  Is it spendy to purchase?

Tom Bedell:† Fifty dollars from the Acronis website (, cheaper on discount sites or stores.

Mary Rosenblum: Wow, that is cheap, Tom! Thanks for the tip! 

Ladyrayne:† You might even find a better price on eBay.  We purchase a lot of software from eBay, such as WebRoot SpySweeper or just recently WebEasy (for creating web sites).  The WebEasy was running around $50 in stores; we bought it on eBay for $25 - New/ Sealed.

Pam:† Tom,  How important do you think Facebook and Twitter are to a writer; or reading blogs for that matter? I have resisted them so my computer screen time is focused. Is this a huge mistake?

Tom Bedell:† Not necessarily, Pam, because you're right, you're spending more time being focused.  And there's no question that the social media can be a little addicting, and lead to hours of wasted time.
I don't think the results are really in yet about how important Twitter and Facebook are to writers, although there are certainly some success stories out there, and people have found interesting and profitable ways to use them.
Right now, I'm thinking of both as additional tools that writers can use in terms of research and promotion.  Since you can target those interested in particular topics (such as golf and beer in my case), it's a way to prompt some quick and easy research.  I just sent this Tweet out tonight (which will then be posted on my Facebook page): "Leaving late Monday to arrive Wednesday in Thailand for six rounds of golf.  Open for beer/pub suggestions in Pattaya, Bangkok and Hua Hin."  This took no time at all, obviously, and if it turns up a good suggestion or two, all's well.
If a writer has something to promote, then ignoring Twitter and Facebook doesn't make any sense.  Whether the promotion actually prompts any kind of action--like sales--is open to question, but it would crazy not to try.

Mary Rosenblum:† Tom thanks for sharing with you.  It's been a pleasure to have you here.  

Tom Bedell:† The pleasure was mine.  Cheers all.

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