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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #349

Blessing or a Curse?

I was thinking about the internet the other day, and in particular the social media sites.

To begin with, a full confession: I love Facebook. I don’t have the time to go down the rabbit holes of the other social media sites, but I do spend time on Facebook, and it fascinates me and gives me pleasure. It has been a marvelous tool which provides me with a means of reaching long-lost friends, and it has given me the opportunity to meet and get to know people from around the world, and that is truly a gift . . .

But . . .

It’s also a home for crazies, and I apologize for using that word, but it seems so appropriate. Social media sites have provided a platform for all manner of strange, unhinged, radical individuals. It has provided a soap box for anyone with a theory or just a bad hangover. It has opened a door of information and misinformation, inviting to all, but some people never emerge from it, never learn the real from the unreal, and joyfully drink the snake oil, and that’s frightening.

A blessing or a curse? Perhaps both? I just think, in this age of instant information, it’s more important than ever to do research and seek out reliable sources. Bob Whozit may have a nice blog, but who is Bob, really?

Hey, I’m going to remain on Facebook because, well, I find the Bob Whozits of the world terribly entertaining.

We have very few questions this week, but the ones we do have are dandies, so let’s get to them.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Poetry Anthology

From John: “I mentioned in the comments on your last mailbag that I had a question for you, so here it is:

“A few people have suggested that I should combine the poems from my Poems From the Porch series into a book. That isn't such a bad idea and is probably something a bit unique to have a book of poetry on topics/titles suggested by other people.

“The problem is I have no idea how to approach it. Should I sort the poems into categories such as 'nature,' 'the human condition,' 'inspirational,' 'humour,' etc. or place them chronologically say "Poems From the Porch Jan 2020 to Mar 2021" as it is still ongoing and could be more than one book. As most people have requested more than one poem, maybe I could combine all their requests together under their name? I am not sure how many poems should be in a book but am guessing maybe 100 would be ok.

“Another problem is that I don't really like every poem I have written 'on request' but I have never knocked back anyone's suggestion. Would it be fair to leave any out of a book?

“Also, in the Poems From the Porch articles I always show the person's prompt followed by the poem I wrote for them. Should I do the same in a book, or just write a list of the names of contributors at the end. The concern is here..would it detract from the general public buying it? A number of my readers/friends at HubPages have said they would buy it if I published a book, and honestly, I would be happy if just those people bought it.

“Anyway, it's all just ideas swirling in my head at the moment and thought I'd put it to you for your thoughts.”

There is a lot to cover here, John! These are all good questions, so let’s get to them.

There is no right or wrong way to do an anthology. There is no right or wrong length of an anthology. As I mentioned earlier, in an earlier Mailbag, the average length of a market paperback is about 60,000 words. If you want to use that as a guide when compiling your anthology, go for it, but that it not etched in stone.

I, personally, would organize it chronologically, for the reason you gave. It may be an ongoing series, and that just seems to me to be the easiest way to organize it. It’s going to be one of those books people thumb through at their leisure, opening to a random page and reading, so I wouldn’t get too carried away with organization.

To avoid any potential legal problems, I would not use the names of the people who contributed. If you feel strongly about including names, then you’ll have to get the permission of every one of them before you mention them or include their writing prompts. Just something to keep in mind . . .

You mention a concern about the general buying public. I wouldn’t give that any thought, John. Looking at this in a very realistic way, you need to do this for you and for the HP community who will buy it. That is your market. Random people on Amazon, not so much. Poetry anthologies by unknown poets is not a hot segment of Amazon sales, and that’s putting it mildly.

Despite the talent of the poet, and you are talented, it is not a segment of the book world which performs well.

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I hope I covered everything you asked.

Follow your own path on your anthology

Follow your own path on your anthology

Save Your Work

From Mr. Happy: “This is as much of a warning for writers as it is a question: what would You do if You lost six-months worth of (daily) writing on your computer because You did not save it properly and You fumbled with the keyboard? It happened to my father today. It's been about five hours and he's gone through: outrage, anger, confusion, defeat, sadness, despair ... not sure at what stage he's at right now but writers beware: save your work in multiple places and under different names. Just my two cents and I'm not even a professional writer.”

This is such a valuable and important reminder, my friends. Save your work! If you are working on a novel, make a copy of your work after every writing session. That may seem like overkill, but it won’t seem that way if you lose everything. It has happened to me. It has happened to several friends I have.

Make a file, copy your novel after every writing session, and put that copy in the file, or send it to the cloud, whatever, just make sure you do this. It is a sickening feeling to watch six months of work disappear.

Toby loves rabbit holes

Toby loves rabbit holes

The Rabbit Hole

My dog Toby loves rabbit holes. He’ll stick his snout in them, dig furiously into them, never catching his quarry but having a blast trying . . . but on occasion, the rabbit hole isn’t a rabbit hole, instead the home of some not-so-docile creature, as Toby found out one day, yelping and crying, blood trickling down his snout, the result of an encounter Toby never planned for.

Is there any advice in that rabbit hole story? I’m just a simple storyteller. What do I know about advice? I have raised rabbits, however, so if you want me to share my knowledge about rabbits, I’ll be happy to do so.

Hey, if you have a question for the Mailbag, either include it in the comments below, or email it to me at And if you need a writing coach, for one month or several, drop me an email. I work cheap and I will dedicate myself to making you a better writer.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 28, 2021:

Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by.

BBYCGN from Uninhabited Regions on February 27, 2021:

Great site, Billy! Thank you for this resource.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 25, 2021:

Zulma, I don't know what the hell bit him. No way was I reaching my hand down the hole to find out. He's okay now, a bit wiser, hopefully.

Pat on the head delivered, and Toby say thank you!

Have a great weekend, Zulma! Stay safe!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 25, 2021:

You beat us, MizB. We only got 18 inches of snow, but three days later it was 50 degrees and all gone. Such is winter in the Pacific Northwest, as unpredictable as women were, to me, when I was in my 20's. lol

I hope this finds you well, my friend. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for the tranquility of spring. I need the tranquility of spring!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on February 25, 2021:

Hi Bill.

Poor little Toby! What did he find? They're like toddlers, aren't they? Turn your back for one second and they get up to all sorts of nonsense. I hope he didn't suffer too badly. I'd like to think this will cure him of sticking his nose where it don't belong, but I highly doubt that.

Have a great day, Bill, and give Toby a pat on the head for me.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 24, 2021:

Bill, again, better late than never. Maybe someday my world will slow down. Maybe. Hey, I agree 100% with your advice to John (Jodah), but who am I to disagree. I'm not a poet and I know it.

I'd like to add one caution to the advice you gave to Mr. Happy's sad question because I learned it the hard way. Get an external drive or use a memory stick of some kind, but save a copy of your work externally, especially if you use a Mac. After my last update to Big Sur, I noticed some files that look like trash on my computer. I couldn't figure out what they were, so I deleted several. Come to find out, that idiot new program turned some of my files to code, and I trashed several files that were vital to me. I hope I can recover them but even cloud files that go to trash have a lifespan. Boo hoo.

Hey, we were so busy with our blizzard in Arkansas that I didn't see whether Washington got any of it. Night temps fell to -3 degrees and we got 20 inches of snow in the Little Rock area. We couldn't dig out on our hilltop for several days, and my poor cats ran out of food. They had to eat some old stale food with bugs in it that I found in the storeroom. Ugh! The bugs looked like moths, and didn't hurt them. I have never been in that deep a snow, not even in Kansas years ago. I hope we've seen the last of snow for the year. BTW, one week later, we've had temps of 73 degrees yesterday and today. Whoda thunkit?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

MG, thank you for that compliment. I have a conversational style of writing; I think that helps. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Great question, Mary. Thank you for it. I'll try to have a good answer for you on Monday. Until then, take care.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Thank you very much, Devika! I hope this finds you well and healthy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Thanks Mel! Interesting comment about old friends, and very true. I think I'll just remain a detached introvert and not expect too much from social media.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Thank you for your thoughts, Nithya! You are appreciated. Stay safe and well, my friend.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 24, 2021:

I must compliment you on your art of making ordinary topics so interesting. This was worth a read and very captivating.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Thank you Alyssa! I'm going to start a movement demanding that you do a yoga video on YouTube.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

You betcha, John!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Yes it is, Linda. Thank you! I hope you are looking forward to spring. It's getting close, even in Vancouver. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Good advice, Flourish! I could go either way, but I like your advice. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Well, Bill, there are worse places to spend February. Enjoy the sunshine!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Mr. Happy, thanks my friend. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and your advice about saving work. Evidently it resonated with quite a few of the Mailbag followers.

Gotta run today, so this will be short. I do appreciate you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2021:

Manatita, thank you for your thoughts on all of that. Solid advice, as always. I'm sure John appreciates the advice from such a distinguished and talented writer.

Blessings to you always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Sha, I have no idea what was down there, but it bit Toby and I had no desire to find out myself. lol All is well, though; dogs have to learn hard lessons just like us humans.

Happy Tuesday, Sha! Enjoy that sunshine!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Thanks Peggy! Happy week ahead to you as well and yes, Toby is okay. A little tender around the snout, but he's fine.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

I think, Denise, that all poets should self-publish. It may not be a bestseller, but poetry deserves its day in the sun.

Blessings always


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Linda, we survived our soggy Monday. I gotta tell ya, I looked like a drowned rat after walking the dogs yesterday. Thank God I can see blue sky today. It gives me hope.

I have so much to do outside, but I'm not motivated to do any of it when it's raining and 45 degrees.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Thank you, Rasma, and I hope your week is a good one as well. Yes, Toby is fine. Lesson learned!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Ann, I make so many mistakes now, I don't have time to look for mistakes from others. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Toby is find, Brenda. It was a good lesson for him. He's a tough boy and learned that lesson very quickly.

Happy Tuesday, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

That is so weird, John, that Australian news problem. I'm sure they will sort it all out soon, but until then, how weird!

Technology left me in the dust, I'm afraid. I don't understand any of it. I just hope I do enough correctly to get my articles published on HP. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 23, 2021:

Heidi, I love social media too, and why people don't save their work is beyond me, but hopefully this article will spur them on to do just that.

Happy Tuesday my friend. Good luck with that thaw. Now that we've had our snow, I'm ready to plant the garden. lol

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 23, 2021:

What a lesson Toby has for me. I often put my snout into someone else's hole and get hurt. Still, holes still attract me. Bill, I sometimes wonder if there is a number of characters to use in a novel, a number that a normal reader is able to absorb easily. What's your rule on this?

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 23, 2021:

Hi Bill this is informative about Facebook and everything to do with writing and detail. Well-advised about Facebook, and interesting about Toby. Another mailbag with a lot of learning points.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 23, 2021:

You know, I am almost afraid to post my stuff on Facebook anymore because there is always going to be some angry social justice warrior who is going to take what I have written the wrong way. You are correct, it is a spot to reconnect with old friends, but this also leads you to the realization that you can't relive the past, your old buddies change, and maybe it's time to move on, find new friends. A blessing and a curse indeed. I always enjoy your Monday mailbag, even on a Tuesday.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 22, 2021:

Facebook is a blessing and a curse-so true. Thank God I am not addicted to it. Great advice on the poetry anthology, one should follow one's own path and make a decision. Great mailbag bill, thank you for sharing and I hope Toby is okay.

Alyssa from Ohio on February 22, 2021:

You had me laughing with your line about the Bob Whozits of the world being terribly entertaining. I feel the same way.

Another wonderful mailbag this week! It's always a good idea to save your work -- a reminder I'm sure we all need now and then.

Good luck to John on his poetry anthology!

Have a wonderful week Bill!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 22, 2021:

Thank everyone who offered advice on my question. I appreciate it and will take it all on board.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 22, 2021:

I share your feelings about Facebook, Bill. It has good and bad points. Mr. Happy's reminder is very important.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 22, 2021:

With the poems, I'd arrange the poems by topic rather than chronologically, publish only the best ones, and leave the names out. Just my take. Focus on the audience -- existing readers of the series or some other group?

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on February 22, 2021:

Hi Bill. Still here in Florida. Looks like it will be awhile before we can head back to Mass. I’ll try to send some warm and sunny weather your way.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on February 22, 2021:

There it is. I was thinking for a second that I will not find your piece in the feed but it's here!

"anyone with a theory or just a bad hangover" - That is so very true but I don't particularly find that calling out the misguiding comments (to put it at best) is somehow a final judgement on someone. Most of us have always been misguided, here or there. It happens. Staying quiet is what does not help, in my opinion because silence is often seen as agreement.

"Bob Whozit" - I was like: "Who's Bob Whozit?!?" LOL

"To avoid any potential legal problems, I would not use the names of the people who contributed." - Very, very good advice. I once wrote a story in high-school and I used actual names. The story was true and it was wild in many ways so, when the mother of one of my friends got her hands on a copy at the time, with everyone's names including my own ... LOLOL Ya, that ended the use of real names very quickly lmao What a lesson that was!

"My dog Toby loves rabbit holes" - Ya, that sounds like a Terrier. My Airedale Terrier had hunting stuck in her brain. She killed neighbor's ducks back in Romania. She killed a lot of rats in Bucharest (yes Bucharest has rats - big ones lol). And here in Canada she killed a racoon, a few skunks ... it never ends with Terriers if You're not watching them like little kids. It's what they do: hunt. And they generally love to swim too: hence the killing of ducks. Sigh ...

Well, thanks for passing-on the warning for saving one's work. It's taken my father almost a week to get over it, partially.

Best of luck to everyone and stay sane and safe!

manatita44 from london on February 22, 2021:

What you say about Facebook is so real! I wouldn't hold back any punches! Again, this good old-fashioned common sense! So important! People over read and that includes the negatives, unfortunately. Some seem to have a penchant for it, as much as those who like dishing it out.

If I was John, I would not mention anyone as he does in the current format. He can use the Intro or preface, where we usually give credit and mention names - with permission - including how the series all started going. He can also use the very last page as a sort of Index, covering any essentials he feels are important. Again, post chat with poets.

Personally, I will go for my stronger poems. I also like the idea of 'themes', if he has enough poems that are similar. The people who requested have already seen their dreams fulfilled and again it would be a shame to do 100 poems, without some thought of reaching a wider audience.

It is a golden rule to offer the reader - as much as one understands - of what the reader would find engaging. Peace.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 22, 2021:

Great mailbag this week, Bill! I love your advice to John and Linda added a bit of wisdom to him in her comment, as well.

So, what was in the rabbit hole that snagged Toby's nose? I take it it wasn't a rabbit hole at all. Perhaps a snake hole? I hope he's feeling better.

Take care and stay warm, my friend!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2021:

Oh, poor Toby! That bad encounter probably won't stop him from exploring the next rabbit hole, however.

FB has just as many crazies on it like other media sources. I simply scroll down the page and skip past those, as I do on this site. Often one can tell from the title or photo, the bias of the person writing it. It is a hit-or-miss thing with me. Often I go days without looking at that site. I am certainly not addicted.

I wish John good luck if he decides to publish his book. He can tackle just about any subject with his poetry and does a good job.

Have a good week ahead, Bill.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 22, 2021:

I agree that FB is a vast wasteland that has some interesting elements and friends that keep us coming back. I'm glad I'm not addicted to it as I know some are. I get on there for a few minutes and then I'm off to the next project. Great ideas about the poetry book. I know you are right about the genre not being as popular and lucrative as it should be but I'd love the see the book published myself. Sounds fun.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Thank you Rosina. Follow those interests, my friend. Facebook will be here when you want it. Happy Monday to you!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Bill, I'm with you about Facebook. It's a blessing and a curse. I love being able to stay in touch with old friends/family, and I've found some new friends in the process. HOWEVER, there are some real lulus out there. I read everything with a generous helping of skepticism and often have to shake my head and say (sometimes out loud) "how could anyone believe this crap?" (But then I remind myself of the outcome of past elections in this country....)

Yes, yes, do save. Save often. In the Carb Diva home, we now have everything automatically saved to the cloud. Where that cloud is, I have no idea (perhaps Tukwila?)

Your advice to John was spot-on and I'll give him my 2 cents worth here. "Leave out the names, provide the query that prompted the poem, and arrange them in order. Omit the ones you don't like and include the ones you are happy with. It's your book and your friends here on HP will adore it (and you)."

Thanks for the Mailbag and happy Monday to you. It's gonna be a soggy one.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Thank you Pamela. I love that my friends look forward to the Mailbag on Mondays. I hope I'm able to continue it for twenty more years. :) Happy Monday to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Thank you Dora, and may your week be filled with the bounty of happiness.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Thank you Bill! Are you still in Florida? I am jealous if you are. It is raining hard today, all day, and I'm absolutely dreading walking the dogs today. Sigh!

Have a wonderful and safe week, buddy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Happy Monday Chitrangada Sharan ,and thank you for spending part of your Monday with me. I hope this finds you well and healthy. Have a wonderful week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Ann, you make me smile. A mad Monday and a whacky week? I shall try, but it is currently raining cats and dogs, and I'm afraid today's dog walk will be a soaking one. Oh how I wish for spring to appear soon!!!

Thank you always! Stay safe, my friend. Brighter days are ahead for all of us.


Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 22, 2021:

You always give great advice. I am sorry about Toby and I hope he'll be OK. I always save up my work and I have many folders which after a while I go through and then I see what is still usable and what might be rewritten to publish again, I hope you have a great new week.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 22, 2021:

Sorry! That should have read 'great picture of TOBY in the snow'! I should know the difference by now and, after all, you have actually told us it's him - der!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on February 22, 2021:


Great advice for John. It would be difficult to get permission from everyone & quite time consuming.

I fear losing my work as I write alot on my phone. I guess i need to put it in more places.

Sorry to hear about Tobi. I hope he is okay.

Have a good week.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 22, 2021:

Bill, thank you so much for answering my questions. That really helped and simplified things for me. I agree with Mr Happy, to save work and save it again. I have lost work before, but never again.

Don’t talk to me about Facebook at the moment. Australian news stories or any posts with links to them are blocked. The trouble is there is a problem with the way they are monitoring it and any links I try to share there are blocked even to my poetry on HubPages. Australian News? I think not. Other than I am Australian.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on February 22, 2021:

Happy Monday!

Re: Facebook. The crazies sure do hang out on FB. But I've found my tribe there and ignore the nonsense. The same could be said for Twitter (OMG, talk about craziness), TikTok (which I love), Instagram (one of the most civil IMO, but that might be just the amazing people I connect with there). I love social media and all the wonderful people I've met there. It's really just a reflection of society at large.

Re: Save Your Work. I saw a similar question pop up in an author forum just in the last week. Why oh why are people not saving their work... in 2021? Save on your computer AND save to a cloud backup in case your hardware fails or you want to access from some other device. Google Docs is free, while Carbonite, Dropbox, Box, etc. have various pricing tiers.

Anyway, we're thawing a bit over the next couple of days. But that means water on top of ice. Baby steps... literally. Take care and have a great week!

Rosina S Khan on February 22, 2021:

A good mailbag with interesting topics which I enjoyed and learned. I do have a personal Facebook account and also a Facebook page but don't spend much time there. My interest lies elsewhere. Thank you, Bill, for this wonderful mailbag and Happy Monday to you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2021:

I absolutely agree a about saving work. I think it would be good for John to publish his poem from the porch. I like your advice and I agree that putting them in chronological order is a good idea.

As for Facebook, I also go on to see if family and friends have posted anything interesting. I don't spend much time there however.

This is another good mailbag. I look forward to reading it on Mondays. Thanks, Bill, and have a great week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 22, 2021:

I like and agree with your answer to John. I believe that all those who suggested titles would buy the book. Thanks to Mr. Happy for that important reminder. Thanks to you, Bill for bringing all this together. Have a happy week!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on February 22, 2021:

I have a love/hate relationship with FB. I find it extremely entertaining reading what some people post. I also get some great travel ideas and I find it’s a great way to stay in touch with extended family and friends. But, sometimes I am horrified at what some people post and I definitely didn’t like all of the mean political rhetoric over the last few years. Guess I take the good with the bad.

Great suggestions for John with regard to a poetry book, I hope he does it. As for saving work, I have learned that the hard way as I fear most of us have at some point. Have a great week, Bill.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 22, 2021:

Happy Monday Bill!

As I have mentioned it earlier too, Mondays are wonderful because we get to read your mailbag.

Regarding Facebook— Yes, I also enjoy Facebook, a place to meet friends, to connect with the family— share joys and happiness.

Liked the question by John and your answer to it.

Wish you a happy week and thank you for sharing.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 22, 2021:

Excellent answer about saving work. I'm paranoid about losing any of mine. I have a huge separate hard drive, on which I store my photos. I also have all my published hubs copied into relevant sections, as well as drafts of ideas etc. It saves a lot of heartache, as John pointed out.

Great picture of Maggie in the snow. My dogs used to go mad in the snow, burrowing with their noses and jumping straight up in the air and back, like a jack-in-a-box! Mind you, they were pretty skittish anyway! What's more they were black and the contrast with the snow was magic.

Another great Monday mailbag, bill! Do keep on posting them. Am trying to think of a wizard question that hasn't been asked but it gets more and more difficult!

It's sunny here and we're going for a walk. Have a mad Monday and a whacky week!


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