tooting your own horn as a writer

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Ever since I saw this tweet from Erin Adair-Hodges, I’ve kept an image of it on my desktop. I’m in love with how she shuts up the patriarchy and shouts that she got a starred review from Publishers Weekly. I keep it to remind myself that valuing ourselves (i.e. engaging in fierce self promotion for writers) can be an act of resistance.

Isn’t it just what we need? Bold writers standing on their desks shouting not only about the importance of making art but also about the importance of the tender things they themselves dared to create?

I spend a few hours a week volunteering for the Tupelo Press 30/30 writing project. It’s a gig in which I use Twitter (@TupeloPress3030) to celebrate other writers. Trust me when I say it’s such a joy to see poets find audiences for their work! I’m not the only one who craves this kind of light. Here’s what Emily Yoon says:

It’s not always easy to toot your own horn, but you must. You must. You must. You must. “These days,” said the old lady poet, “it’s one of the only ways to get your work out there.” You’re on social media scrolling and scrolling anyway, and you’re probably using it to praise other writers at least some of the time. Throw yourself a bone. Speak up about your own writing successes! Get to work on your own behalf.

Here, Morgan Parker celebrates the strength of her effort:

In the event that you’re ready to be super bad ass and stick it to the patriarchy right out of the gate, like Erin, or be like Morgan and market yourself like it’s your job (it really is your job), go for it. I’ll hold your beer. However, if you’re a little skittish, I offer some examples of other approaches below. May they inspire you!

(Note: Even though these samples are all tweets, you can, of course, be the boast-ess with the most-ess on Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else you like!)

1. Stick to the facts.

2. Share what others are saying about you.

For example, Heather Derr-Smith retweeted this praise from fellow poet Eileen Chong.

3. Post cover art.

4. Use a GIF. GIFs make everything less frightening.

5. Share the spotlight.

6. Allow yourself to be excited!

7. Show your work.

8. Express gratitude.

9. Cat pics.

10. Sell it.

Grab the approach that’s most comfortable for you and ready, set, GO! Better yet: get on the one that makes you most UNcomfortable. And you know what would be the bombogenesis of horn tooting? Use. Them. All.

And remember! You don’t have to celebrate acceptances only, as alluded to in the “tip” above about “show your work.” There are lots of ways to measure success: Do you feel like a successful poet? 7 ways to cope in the meantime.

Here’s where you can find (and follow) the writers included in this post: Erin Adair-Hodges, Morgan Parker, Chen Chen, Heather Derr-Smith, Eileen Chong, Hannah Cohen, Natalie Eilbert, Rachel Zucker, Kelli Russell Agodon, Jen Stewart Fueston, Sarah A. Chavez, Anthony Frame, Christine Hammer and Emari DiGiorgio.


  1. I love reading Tupelo’s 30/30 project. Robert Okaji used one of my suggested titles in his 30/30 and I love the poem he created. Cool to know you’re involved!

  2. Good advice, I think — not that we male poets necessarily need any more encouragement! I mean, I tend to think of myself as pretty low-key (ha!) but as I went through your list I was thinking, yup, I do that, I do that… I’m more active on Facebook than Twitter, but it’s ridiculous how happy people seem to be to help celebrate one’s accomplishments. Once in a while, they even buy a book, or so my publisher tells me.

    1. it’s good for all of us to see other people succeeding, to celebrate others & let them celebrate us. we have enough outrage for this lifetime. gotta balance it out! 🙂

  3. I’ve been thinking a lot along these lines lately too. I have always found myself uncomfortable promoting my own work, but Dave’s right, people seem to want to join the celebration, and we should be wanting to share when makes us want to celebrate and toot our horns a little as you say.

  4. Thanks for these great tips, Carolee! Actually, I do very little promoting of my own work on social media. My book, Swimming This, was published by a small press in May 2015, but right when it was published, I went on a month-long pilgrimage in Spain. I had one or two readings, and that was that. I did very little promotion. I will try to do more celebration of poetry I love and hopefully that will inspire me to “toot my own horn” as well. One more thing–I need to learn how to put Twitter posts into my blog posts :p

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