Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meet inspirational writer and communications specialist, Debra Eckerling, creator of Write On! Online and Write On Track LA

It's my pleasure today to feature writer and communications specialist, Debra Eckerling. Debra is the creator of Write On! Online, a community for writers and she recently expanded her online presence by creating Write On Track LA which is “personal training” for writers.

"Writing is exercise," Debra says. "I train authors, experts, and entrepreneurs, so they can organize, articulate, and complete their writing projects.”

I asked Debra to talk about her sites and explain some of the biggest barriers writers encounter as they strive to reach "The End." 

What prompted you to start working with writers?
I have been leading writers support groups for more than ten years. I was the Community Relations Coordinator at Barnes & Noble in Schaumburg, Illinois, and one day someone asked if I would start a writers support group. I thought it sounded like a good idea, and decided to try it out. I led that group until I moved to Los Angeles the end of 1997.

In 2002, I started a writers group in Santa Monica, California. Both groups focused on goal-setting, productivity, and accountability, along with networking and light critique. Write On! welcomes writers in all areas and levels of experience, since most writers create in more than one medium. Plus, all writers need people who understand them to cheer them on.

I launched the dedicated website – http://www.writeononline.com/ – two years ago, and it has grown tremendously, especially in the last year and a half. There is new content Monday through Friday – interviews, videos, reviews, expert columns, a monthly drawing for posting goals, regular contests, and more. The Facebook page  allows people to participate in writing discussions, share knowledge, and post links to their latest success.

We have writers from all over the world reading the website, posting goals, and entering the Write On! Challenges. Starting this month, the monthly meeting will be a Blog Talk Radio show, so everyone can listen.

What is your current Write On! Contest?

The September Challenge is to write a Short Fiction & Non-Fiction/Essay Query. There are prizes for 1st 2nd, and 3rd place. Just submit a one-page query to Debra@WriteOnOnline.com by September 30. Details are here: http://writeononline.com/2010/09/01/september-challenge/

The contests are designed to stretch the writer's creativity and/or help a writer take their work to the next level. I run Book and Screenplay Query Contests every spring, and, after popular request, decided to include a contest for those who write shorter pieces.

A query is something every writer needs to know how to create. This is great practice. Plus, they can win prizes ... a little extra motivation never hurts.

Why are goals so important for writers?
   Goals are important for everyone. If you want to achieve something, you have to know what you are striving. I believe it's also important to set personal goals in addition to professional ones, since resolving a personal goal - like "creating or finding a work space" or "getting out of a stressful job" - helps to accomplish a profession goal, such as "sending out article queries" or "writing a book." You also have to remember to look at your goals. It’s a very important step toward accomplishing them.

How did you come up with the idea for Write On Track LA?
It goes back to my philosophy that writing is exercise. The more you practice, the better you become. So it makes sense that writers need personal trainers just as much as athletes do; someone to guide them, come up with a plan, troubleshoot, and help them find their direction.

I specialize in motivation, project-management, and troubleshooting, I get such joy from helping writers find their voice and take their projects to the next level.
How does Write On Track LA work?    For my personal training clients, we start with a meeting via phone or Skype, which is a one-hour consultation/evaluation to come up with a Personal Workout Plan. That's where we create a mission statement, determine goals and benchmarks, and come up with a customized production schedule. The intro package includes a 20-minute follow-up session.

After that, we have 20-minute follow-ups weekly or twice a week, whatever the writer needs. This is when we touch base, figure out what is and isn't working for the writer or the project, and adjust if necessary. I also give insight on the art and craft or writing, whatever it takes to get the writer "back on track." Just like athletes who work out with their trainers once or twice a week, and do the rest of the work on their own.

In addition to ongoing training, I "coach" individuals on an hourly basis - editing, teaching blogging and social-media. I also speak at seminars and lead workshops on subjects such as breaking through writers block, blogging for business, and live and social networking.

There are lots of exciting projects coming soon like "Virtual Writing Workouts," which will start in the fall.

Do you only work with established writers?

No, I also work with experts and entrepreneurs, plus newbie or wannabe writers, who are just dipping their toe into the writing pool.

In this day and age, everyone needs an online presence through blogs, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. They are told to constantly create content to establish themselves as experts. If someone in business is not already a writer, he or she needs to become one.

What is the biggest problem new writers face?

Getting started. I think people who have not yet established themselves as writers - and even those who have - get overwhelmed by the prospect of a new project. They put off getting started and many never actually get to it.

What's your solution?

For any new writer, I recommend journaling. That will help with developing tone and voice. What differentiates a writer, especially a blogger, is background and personality ... and nothing sharpens those skills like writing what is going on in your life. After "practicing" through writing thoughts, ideas, and activities that are already present in your life, you are better skilled to write material that is more creative, research-driven, or out of your element.

Also, write 15 minutes a day. It can be journaling, brainstorming, or anything to do with a project. Just the practice of writing, along with keeping the idea in the forefront of your mind, will work wonders towards developing your writing practice. Ideally you want to write more than that, especially when you have a big project you want to accomplish. Start in small, reasonable bites of time and then work your way up. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you do not overwhelm yourself from the get-go.

Thank you so much, Deborah, for taking the time to tell readers about your sites. It's been really informative and inspirational!

Check out
Write On! Online, the Facebook Page, and follow Debra on Twitter (@WriteOnOnline).  For information on Debra's Personal Training for Writers, Cross Training (Blogging, Social Media, and Live Networking), and/or Group Writing Workouts, go to WriteOnTrackLA.com/personal-training/, email Debra@WriteOnOnline.com, or call 310.908.8980.


Throughout the month of September you can find out all kinds of useful information from a group of new and experienced authors as they go on virtual tour. You can find the schedule here. Check out tomorrow's post at Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog http://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com.


  1. Thank you Helena for posting this interesting post, I have learned quite a bit and hope to put some of these ideas into operation.

    Have a nice day.

  2. You're welcome, Yvonne. Pleased you could stop by!

  3. Fascinating interview! I enjoyed getting to know Debra. I love her philosophy. How wonderful the internet has made our world smaller so she can reach more writers.

    Best wishes,

  4. What an interesting interview. I plan to check out all the links. A writing coach makes such sense. Now I’m wondering if you could also start a Community Relations Coordinator class. Though I have run across a few who have been excellent - helpful and friendly - it seems to me like many are there simply to make authors grovel in their presence:)

  5. Thanks for featuring Debra today. She has so much to offer writers. The idea of letting yourself start small will help new writers get started. Another way to help new writers get the confidence they need to continue is to write for an article site like Helium or ezine.

  6. Great advice, Debra. And, your program sounds wonderful and a valuable tool for all writers. Writing coaches are a great help.

    It's so easy for new writers to feel overwhelmed. I always advise they take steps to learn the craft also.

  7. Great interview, Helena and Debra!
    Debra, you always offer great advice and inspiration. I've been enjoying you blog radio programs.

  8. Great interview. I think the concept of a writing coach is great. Too many writers fall by the wayside because they don't have anyone cheering them on and they don't know what to do next.

  9. Thanks, Helena, for hosting me. And thanks, everyone, for stopping by!

    Jane, would love to hear more about your idea. Let's connect off-line.

    Kathy, I do know people who have had success with Helium. Also, starting a blog is an essential way for writers to gain confidence and get their work out there.

    Karen, I absolutely agree with the importance of craft. I, however, frequently encounter writers who spend so much time on craft and research, they run out of time to do the actual writing!

    Darcia, so glad you like the "Dream It Then DO It" Blog Talk Radio Show. Next one is Wednesday. Feel free to post a question on the Facebook page.

    Happy Writing, everyone!


  10. Debra, Awesome interview! I love your Write On Online Facebook page. The work you are doing with writers is very much needed. Thank you for stepping up.

  11. Debra - I've enjoyed hosting you, you've been a very interactive guest! And thank you to everyone who stopped by to comment.

  12. Wonderful interview! Deb you never fail to inspire me! :)

  13. Great interview and lots of wonderful advice. Thanks you so much for having Debra as a guest on your blog and letting us get to know her and what she does.

  14. I think you're right about setting goal.I have to give myself goals & deadlines to stay motivated and get things done.