Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Interest in Pinterest

Debbie Millman
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Back in March, we had Glenn Miller (not the "In the Mood" composer) as a guest on Jungle Reds, discussing “Social Media Profiles for Writers.” His post was about authors and bloggers using social media — namely Google+, Goodreads, and Amazon — to promote their work.

But what about the social media we do simply because we enjoy them? I like Facebook and come around to Twitter — but one social media platform I adore is Pinterest. Now, I don’t think I’m reaching all that many people — and I certainly don’t think I’m selling any books there.

No, Pinterest is just for me. (See my boards here, if you'd like.) 

And as the writer of the Maggie Hope historical mysteries, set during World War II, it's been invaluable.

Gosia Herba
First, I love being able to post all sorts of different pictures to a board. I have one board per novel, and when I find a particularly inspiring photograph, I pin it. Later, when looking for inspiration, or just to immerse myself in that world, it’s wonderful to have the images (of maps, flags, ephemera, drawings, photographs, you name it) all in one place. 

Susan Elia MacNeal
One image, a door knocker that I snapped a photo of in Berlin, was instrumental in inspiring a lot of the cat and mouse imagery I used in Maggie Hope #3, HIS MAJESTY'S HOPE. 

Here's the whole board.)

To the left is a photograph I took in Scotland of Arisaig House, where the real World War II SOE spies trained before being dropped by parachute in Europe. It's the setting for much of Maggie Hope #4, THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT. 
Robert Heindel

And this is a photograph of a ballet dancer I felt expressed the beauty and eeriness of the two ballerinas  whose murders Maggie Hope investigates in the novel. (My board for upcoming THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT here.)

White House Christmas Tree Lighting 1941

Since my work-in-progress, Maggie Hope #5, MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE, takes place in Washington, D.C. during the 1941 holiday season, this image has become something of a touchstone for me — the 1941 White House Christmas Card. 

I also love this sketch of the Mayflower Hotel (where some of Churchill's staff stayed):

Ingrid Thompson

Here's shot I took of a detail of the floor of the lobby of the Willard Hotel:


Also inspiring is the original Wonder Woman, who made her debut in 1941. (Entire board is here.)

H.G. Peter

Amber Interior Design
I also like the other boards, that have nothing to do with writing. Home décor has been useful. With the addition of the Kiddo and now Miss Edna moving in, we’ve been redoing rooms. Pinning different images has helped me figure out what exactly I like and how to research it. 

Lupita Nyong'o
And I have a board for fashion which is a bit of a joke (I'm happiest in sweats and tee-shirts) — but I love it because it's not the images fashion magazines are trying to sell me, but photos I find personally inspiring. 
Zandra Rhodes

And, of course, I have 
a board for Books, which includes favorites, amazing covers (many out-of-print), and images of readers, bookstores, and libraries. 

And the Art board is my favorite. This discovery was surprising to 
Olaf Hajek
me — I started by simply pinning images that caught me eye. But, in time, themes emerged: Women swimming, "outsider art," ravens, surrealism, hearts, eyes, hands, books, dancers, street art, installations, illustrations, the Virgin Mary, cocktails, foxes, mice, cats, white rabbits, Alice in Wonderland… 

What does it mean?

I don’t know what — if anything. Except now I’m more aware of themes and motifs that attract me and their possible meanings — fragments of dreams I might not recognize otherwise.

And so Reds and lovely readers, do you use Pinterest? 

Are there any themes you think might emerge for you? 

Would creating a board of images (online or a literal collection of photos and clippings) help your writing? Your life?

Tell us what you think!


  1. I am woefully ignorant regarding things like Pinterest so, no, I don’t use it. But your boards are amazing . . . .

  2. I have a Pinterest account, and I try to link up to my reviews on there. But I don't think I really get it.

  3. Roberta has nice food pictures that are fun.

  4. Yes I love Pinterest too Susan! I will have to click over to see all those boards you described.

    I too have a board for each book, plus several for Key West (the most popular is called Key West, the character, and it traces lots of the places and iconic people in KW who are important to the books.)

    And boards for books, and holidays, and Jungle Reds and Mystery lovers kitchen...and cats!

  5. Susan, I love your blog today and realize why I like Pinterest so much. I relate to pictures. For a long time, for years I had so much trouble writing I started taking photos to try and record my feelings and somehow get my thoughts out, and down.

    First I did it just for myself and was very private about it. Then I discovered Facebook and used that, and still do, because it was so easy. My journal became more public but didn't change much, because it was mostly pictures. People started joining in a little and commenting. I work through a lot of emotions with my pictures, but I don't know how much of that anyone sees. I try to ignore that part of it most of the time. Other times it seems perfectly natural to have people commenting on my journal.

    I love Pinterest. Yesterday I started putting some of my photos from my journal on a board of their own. I started the board because people have been buying prints and had become insistent that I put a collection up that would be easier to view. What I discovered last night was that Pinterest made space for the journal I had originally wanted to create.

    I had thought I would outgrow the need for a personal photo journal as my condition improved. I was wrong. The more I take pictures and use them to record what I see and feel, the more I develop ways of saying these things visually that I would never be able to do with words.

    So… yes, I love Pinterest.

  6. I use Pinterest like I use Twitter--not at all for long swaths of time, and then in a frenzy. I, too, have boards for each of my books, and since I'm talking about racing, I love that I can collect web images, my own photos, and even in-car videos of laps, all in one place. I use a board as a working tool while I'm writing and then try to beef it up when the book is done, with the book cover at least, in case anyone cares to see the images.

    But I've also found it useful for collecting fan photos--and before that sounds too ego-maniacal, I'll explain that I have racing shirts for my fictional driver, and I've given them away to a bunch of race fans who then wear them to different racetracks. They/we take photos with other fans and racing celebrities.

    So I've got a great collection of "Team Kate" with racing VIPs, and Pinterest is a great way to share that with one link. (My boards are at if anyone's curious about my use of them.)

  7. I haven't ventured into Pinterest yet for myself, but I do love to view the boards of others. It is such a fun way to see the interests of others.

    And I can only imagine how helpful it must be when writing a book. To be able to go to one source and immerse yourself in that world to set the mood for the work ahead. Great idea!

  8. You know, I'm tempted by it, and I do have some about red dresses, and one about books tours and a few more. but I'm not quite comfortable with it yet. SOmehow the interface isn;t easy for me . ANd I'm not quite sure how people connect with it.

    But every time I try it, I have fun.

    Maybe I'll mosey on over later today...if you guys like it, I'll like it!

    MY new book TRUTH BE TOLD is about empty houses..hmm.

  9. I do not use Pinterest, but I love the idea, and your boards convince me of its merit -- not as social media but as a sort of sandbox for the creative mind. By the way, my new novel has Josephine Baker in a banana skirt!

    Really great blog post, Susan!

  10. Thanks, guys! Lucy/Roberta, I'm glad I'm not the only Red who does it! Reine, I'm so glad images could be such a comfort to you. And Tammy, yes, I dn't use it all the time, either, just go through phases... Hank, empty houses and red dresses -- I'll go check that out! Hallie — Josephine Baker in a banana skirt is a great image!

    Yes, it's my sandbox -- that's a good way of putting it. : )

  11. Wait, did someone (Jack) say Roberta has food pictures?

  12. I keep hearing about Pinterest, but until this post I never really saw the point. Now as I'm juggling social media, trying to find my niche and beef up my presence/activity with a debut book launch looming (yikes!), I have one more ball to toss into the air...

  13. Oh, dear. Here I have been using every bit of restraint I own trying to stay away from Pinterest and now you've cracked it wide open.

    " . . sandbox for the creative mind" is a perfect way of expressing it!

    I think once I start playing in this particular sandbox, I'll never get out! I relate and react very strongly to images and what I have seen on other peoples' boards enchants me.

  14. Susan, your boards are gorgeous (especially Books; I could get lost there). I applaud you for finding a platform that inspires and expresses, all at the same time.

    But I wouldn’t be so quick to assert that you’re not selling any books there. These days, pinterest drives more traffic than any social site except facebook. More than twitter, YouTube, reddit, google+, or any of the rest. And it’s still growing.

    If you pinned images from your own website (or even from here on Jungle Red), you could measure that traffic. And I predict that it would surprise you.

  15. Facebook is my "family and friend" connection, although I do have an author page. I love Twitter and have met a lot of industry/writer people there.

    I have a Pinterest account, but I'm very sporadic. I have a board for books I've read and enjoyed. I have a board for my middle-grade series - just pictures I relate to stories. I have a board I call "character closets" - clothes I think my characters would wear - and "Yummy treats" - food/drink they'd enjoy. There's one for the Laurel Highlands in Fayette County (where my police procedural is set). And one of "pretty places" - just nature photos I think are really pretty.

    I don't spend a lot of time there, and like you, sure I'm not really selling books, but when I am there, I like looking at all the images.

    Hmm, maybe I need to visit Pinterest today...

  16. I do a lot of searching through Google images, and have often been taken to a Pinterest board. I use the images for writing inspiration as well as for projects like my Sunday school class. I am going to look at Pinterest today as a place to put things together!
    Thank you for this post.

  17. Pinterest, unlike Facebook and Twitter, can be as sporadic or as consistent as you want. I feel, personally, that for Twitter to "work," you need to be regular and interact with people. Pinterest is whenever/wherever, and it's not as much about interaction (although I've "met" people whose boards I just love. So it's pretty low-key. Sometimes I'll flip through images if I'm in a store in line for something....

  18. Hmmm, I've not gone to Pinterest yet, Susan. I can see how it would be helpful for someone like Roberta with the food in her books or Nancy Martin with the vintage fashion in hers, but I could never see how it could be much use to those of us who didn't have books with graphic/image-heavy content. However, when you and Hallie call it a "creative sandbox," I can see how it could be useful in the process of creating a book, if not in promoting it. Now, I gather photos and other images, along with lots of other research stuff, for my books in folders on my computer, but it sounds as if you could have it all together online in Pinterest.

    Unfortunately, like Hank, I've not found its interface to be easy to use. Maybe I'll try again.

  19. First of all, Susan, that image of Wonder Woman is awesome!!

    I love Pinterest. And like you I use it mostly for me. I keep recipes there, have boards for different aspects of novel research, and have boards just for things like fashion that I love but can't afford. I'm always fascinated by who stumbles across my boards and what they pin. Usually, when someone pins something of mine, I find that they have a board with the same interest. There's no pressure, unlike what I sometimes feel with FB and Twitter. It's solely indulgent.

    Must now go and follow your boards!!

  20. I can't remember if I have a Pinterest account. (I also can't remember where I put my car keys last night. Anyone?) But I have this fantasy about creating a new table setting every day and posting the photos someplace. I own over 100 tablecloths (yes, I know I have a problem) and have inherited several sets of china, so I could do it. But then, I'd never do anything else, so that's probably what's stopping me.

    Now I'm going to investigate your Pinterest boards, Susan, because they look like fun!

  21. Susan, I do love Pinterest and currently have 10,043 pins and lots of boards with some straight foward names like authors, doors & windows, England, mermaids, and then I have some less than straight forward names like Scottish fetish, creepy cool, bridging the gap, and time will tell. My page is heavy with book boards--reading women, reading men, bookends, books & reading, bookmarks, literary tripping, kids/kids' reading, favorite books read, and more. I've recently started boards for individual authors, which is a work in progress (as is the whole idea of Pinterest). Goats Galore is a favorite of mine, as is Highland Coo. That's the big attraction for me with Pinterest, that you can give voice or picture to all your quirky interests and share them. I have borrowed from Roberta's boards on Key West, and I now have a Key West board featuring pictues of one of my favorite places, including the food she posts from there. Pinning pictures to England and Scottish Fetish allows me to earmark places I want to visit. And, of course there are the food boards, from the simple board of food to Let them eat cake. I'm rather fascinated with tattoos, although too chicken to get one yet (said I was going to get a small book tattoo when I turned 60, and I turned in Feb.). I have a board for tattoos in general and one just for literary tattoos.

    I, too, am rather sporadic in my Pinterest activity. It seems when I start on there, two hours pass without me being able to stop. Of course, now that we're talking about it, I'll have to pin some today. I have a "pin it" button readily accessible at the top of my Internet page, so it's easy to pin from different sources.

    My page can be found at I plan on exploring your boards, Susan, and others who have mentioned theirs here today. I follow lots of other pinners, which gives me the page with lots of suggestions from a wide variety of sources. I encourage those of you who haven't ventured into the Pinterest arena to do so, but I caution you that it is highly addictive and may cause you to lose track of large periods of time.

  22. Susan, I have an account but haven't really used it. It's one of the things I really want to take advantage of in writing the next book, and you have so inspired me!

    I'm very visual, and use Facebook mostly in a visual way. I think that's one of the reasons I like it better than Twitter. And the books I write and the London images are perfect candidates. AND it sounds like FUN! Love the "creative sandbox of the mind."

    Glenn, fascinating that Pinterest is getting so much social media traffic. Thanks for the tip!

  23. I love the idea of Pinterest -- and I love fashion and design and all that wonderful stuff too. But, I already sink too much time on Facebook.

    Thing is, I'm a visual person so you'd think I'd be into it. (Photography is my thing after writing.)

    Here's my question about Pinterest: how do you find the images? I don't actually browse the Internet much, so I don't see how I'd fill up the boards.

  24. Debs and Kaye--as visual people, I think you guys would love using Pinterest.

    Another way I've used it is to help with publisher cover conferences. When my editor says what ideas do you have for next cover, I send her the link where I've been collecting images.

    Just be careful about pinning copyrighted stuff--as you would on any website. And as Glenn suggests, you can look at stats if you pin from your own website.

  25. Borrowing from Susan, I created boards for each of my books (well, the ones that are out). And I just created a "Travel Bucket List" for all the beautiful pictures of places I will (most likely) never visit, but would love to.

    I think Pinterest clarified their TOS regarding copyright issues.

    And Lisa Alber, you can repin from other people's boards. For example, I did a search on "Ireland" right in Pinterest and repinned a bunch of stuff this morning.

  26. At last, I understand how to use Pinterest! Very good blog today. And I'll be looking at everyone's suggestions

  27. I love Pinterest!!! I consider it like reading magazines--lots of pretty things to look at, and it's helped me redefine what I want for my own style and home decorating. I also found what is now my boyfriend's favorite recipe via Pinterest I will check out the links you posted about Susan :). Happy Pinning!!!

  28. Ack! Susan, you've killed me! I never really figured out what to DO with Pinterest until this post - now I can't stop! LOL

  29. Grerat blog post, Susan! I love Pinterest best of any "social media" for all the reasons stated. You don't have the pressure of interacting unless you want to comment on a picture, though I have made a few Pin Pals and always look forward to seeing what my favorite people will pin next!

    Also, you can now have an unlimited amount of Secret Boards, which are kept private unless and until you decide to share them. For me that's a great way to organize things first, and not bore my "followers" with tons of images that may not appeal to anyone but me.

    Lisa, you can use the Search box in Pinterest to find specific images, besides using the Pin It button on your taskbar to pin images from any site that allows it, and just "grab" an image. Easy peasy.

    Roberta/Lucy is one of the writers I faithfully follow, and find out blog topics where she posts on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, another blog I adore.

    I have a lot of boards on various things of interest to me, heavy on art, books and travel. I use the images in my writing and artwork; some have specific titles such as Storyboard or Story Images, others I group together and like to browse for inspiration. I do love the sandbox description, so perfect!

    I'll be checking everyone's boards today! And if anyone is interested, here's mine:

  30. Uh oh ... I might be adding a new social media time sink to my repertoire. :-)

  31. Oh, you guys all have such great boards!

  32. Pinterest gives you the BEST personal"magazine" ever. It's beautiful eye candy, organization, instructional, inspiring, and soothing. I love it. My boards range from various art categories, to rug hooking, to antiquities, historical dress, knitting, days gone by, people, counties I love the mos, travel, name it...if I love I, I have a board on it. Wonderful time spent on Pinterest. If anyone is interested, my username is dhg805.