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26. The Day We Fight Back: Protest NSA Surveillance on Your Blog

Today, a broad coalition of interest groups, websites, and people around the world are joining together to fight back against government surveillance. We’re supporting the “Day We Fight Back” on WordPress.com and have created a banner that you can easily add to your WordPress.com blog to get involved, too.

The “Stop NSA Surveillance” banner shows support for this important cause and provides a link to a page of resources to help visitors to contact members of the US Congress to support much needed anti-surveillance legislation. For more information, please visit thedaywefightback.org.

How to add the banner to your site

Here’s how to add the banner to your site in three steps:

  1. In your WordPress.com dashboard, go to Settings  Protest NSA Surveillance.
  2. Click on the checkbox labelled Protest Enabled.
  3. Click on the Save Changes button for the change to take effect.

The banner will remain on your site until midnight on your blog’s time zone. Here’s what it will look like:

no-nsa


Filed under: Community, Privacy

10 Comments on The Day We Fight Back: Protest NSA Surveillance on Your Blog, last added: 2/11/2014
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27. Around the World in Eight Posts (and Four Photos)

The WordPress.com community is a truly global phenomenon. With bloggers spread across every corner of the world, the stories we encounter daily in the Reader give us an unfiltered snapshot of the world we share.

Today, we offer you a free round-the-world ticket — through the personal perspectives of people with deep connections to the places that feature in their blogs. From Antarctica to Wisconsin, these eight posts and four photos will give you a taste of each locale’s uniqueness and complexity.

Vienna, Austria. Image by Yuki Iwaoka at Picturize.

We start our tour in San Francisco, California, where the tech boom that’s made blogs and social networks possible is also leaving entire communities struggling and forgotten. In Where No Google Buses Go, the journalist behind Pueblo Lands gives us a sobering look at the rising inequality in the prosperous Bay Area.

Jumping to the other side of the world, Heather Mason, the blogger at 2Summersrecently led readers on a bike tour of Soweto, the South African township. As it just happened to be the weekend of Nelson Mandela’s passing, we were treated to a first-hand experience of the bittersweet celebration of the life of a national icon.

Tacloban, Philippines. Image from A Walk with My Camera.

Deep in the Estonian wilderness, writer Julie Riso takes us on a spellbinding hike through Europe’s largest bog in Soomaa National Park. Surrounded by nothing but mud and silence, her writing channels the ominous, strange beauty of the landscape, and her photography lets us experience this place with our own eyes.

Sue, the blogger behind Brick House, uses humor to cope with some of the coldest weather ever recorded in her home state of Wisconsin. In Ten Advantages to Living in the Frozen Tundra, she celebrates the absence of hurricanes, spiders, and volcanoes from those frigid regions recently hit by a polar vortex.

On the southwest coast of Africa, Namibia-based food lover Christie Keulder introduces readers to the tensions between life in a traditional culinary culture and her passion for modernist, boundary-pushing cooking. In Time for Something New, a visually striking post, she suggests that tradition and innovation can coexist, and sometimes even feed off off each other.

Dan, a foreign kindergarten teacher in Korea, shares anecdotes at once universal and highly local on his site, Das Bloggen. Recounting his misadventures in his school’s restrooms, where privacy is minimal, we share with him a comical moment of culture shock at its most mortifying — and heartwarming.

Street art in Santiago, Chile. Image by Bob Ramsak at piran café

Documenting what is by now a ritualized cycle of protest and violence, the photographer at Architecture, Urbanism, and Conflict gives an unrelenting and unflinching view of everyday life in Palestine. In a recent photo essay, he follows the pre-scripted stages of a weekly violent clash between protesters and Israeli soldiers, from hurled stones to teargas canisters.

Seemingly far away from all the world’s troubles, Antarctica seems like the final frontier of wild, uninhabited nature. On her second trip to the continent, writer Siv shares its beauty and feeling of absolute remoteness on her blog, Ever the Wayfarer. Her accounts are full of longing for a place she’s about to leave, a landscape that “gets into your soul and stays there.”

You can discover more stories from around the world by entering the names of places that intrigue you — whether around the corner or on the other side of the planet — in the Reader’s search box. You might also consider activating Geotagging on your own blog. You’ll be helping people from your own community (and those who wish to learn about it) seek out your take on the world around you. It’s one more way to make the blogging world and the world-world come together.

If you’re interested in keeping up with what’s abuzz in the community — from a collection of top reads to publishing news and bloggers in the spotlight — subscribe to WordPress.com Weekend Reads, which we’ll deliver right to your inbox.


Filed under: Community, Freshly Pressed, International, WordPress.com

10 Comments on Around the World in Eight Posts (and Four Photos), last added: 1/28/2014
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28. I’m Published in Somerset Studio!

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I got the best birthday present the other day. A precopy of Somerset Studio magazine.

 

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What’s this? I had just submitted an essay a month or two ago and hadn’t heard a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy cows! What a fabulous and important gift from the Universe/God/Angels. I am beyond thrilled and a great way to start the new year.

It’s available now – January 1st – at most Barnes and Noble’s and Michael’s shops. And yup, national magazine and one of my favorites! Hope you like it and especially, hope you like the message in the essay.


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29. Editors’ Picks of the Year: The Best of WordPress.com in 2013

This week, our editors dove into the archives to find and rediscover notable posts published this year on WordPress.com, from nonfiction to poetry, and photography to illustration. These posts have been especially resonant to us and the community, and represent the diversity of voices of our users all over the world.

An Open Letter to the Girl I Pretended to Have a Crush On in Eighth Grade at Rottin’ in Denmark

You were the first girl I pretended to have a crush on so no one would know I was gay. I didn’t intend for it to happen, for it to be you, for it to be so easy. But it did, and it was.

From the opening lines of his epic open letter to Tracy Dolan, Michael Hobbes at Rottin’ in Denmark mesmerizes readers with his sharp and thoughtful storytelling, describing his strategy for surviving adolescence as a gay teenager. At 5,787 words, Hobbes’ letter is a longer piece to savor, and captures what it’s like to grow up, to fit in, and to ultimately find yourself. A favorite on WordPress.com this year, the post was well-received elsewhere on the web, including Longreads.

When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland at tressiemc

She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.

Scholar Tressie McMillan Cottom caught our attention this year with her incisive, critical think-pieces on race and class, and her commentary on black female bodies as amusements parks for white people — in the context of Miley Cyrus’ carnival-like performance at the MTV Video Music Awards — is worth reading. We recommend tressiemc for thought-provoking discussions on culture and sociology, period.

Collaborating With a 4-Year-Old at The Busy Mockingbird

The whimsical collaborations of Mica Angela Hendricks and her four-year-old daughter at The Busy Mockingbird were a huge hit this year: think snail and mermaid-like creatures with oversized human heads, or the tie-wearing manimal in the forest, above. Looking at these illustrations, you can’t help but smile.

The Pixar Theory by Jon Negroni

Every Pixar movie is connected. I explain how, and possibly why.

Jon Negroni’s wildly popular post detailing the Pixar Theory is completely entertaining and imaginative: he lays out a working narrative that connects all of Pixar’s movies into one cohesive timeline. From Brave to WALL-E to A Bug’s Life, he weaves a grand theory involving this animated universe’s key characters, and the result is a fun journey for both die-hard Pixar enthusiasts and film lovers alike. (We chatted with Jon this fall about this post’s popularity and the growth of his blog — check it out.)

Reporting for Duty, Sir at Paving the Road Back

Even as he displayed that puckish smile over and again, he also displayed a certain resolve, a certain protector-warrior sense, even if only in glimpses, that reminded us all — that reminded him — that he was still ready for duty, ready to assume a role that he loved, ready to face again, if necessary, a violence that would perhaps destroy him, but that would not — would not — destroy those whom he loved.

Rod Deaton is a psychiatrist with an extensive background working with military troops and combat veterans. His blog, Paving the Road Back, offers a glimpse into the work he does, as well as the lives of the brave men and women who’ve served the US military. Always crafted with care, his stories are poignant, like this post on “Ethan,” who became hooked on opiates after suffering a traumatic brain injury while serving in the Middle East.

Documenting Syria by Russell Chapman

Earlier this year, freelance journalist and photographer Russell Chapman spent time in Syria, talking to people from political, military, and humanitarian wings of the new Syrian opposition about what’s happening in the region. Russell’s photographs offer a glimpse into this war-torn landscape; the image above features FSA fighters in Aleppo.

27 Nights at What Happens to Us

I read your journal, she finally said.

I read the part where you questioned whether you had chosen the right twin? Where you wondered if we made love in the same way?

In this contemporary tale of dating and relationships, David at What Happens to Us writes about a man torn between two twin sisters, Kara and Kendra. While we don’t want to give anything away, we’ll say David has a strong, original voice, and he keeps us glued ’til the end. It’s an intriguing introduction to his fiction — we can’t wait for chapter two.

My Penis Girl by Gendermom

“Mom, I think something went wrong when I was in your tummy, because I was supposed to be born a girl, but I was born a boy instead.” He wanted me to put him back in the womb to right the wrong. He was sobbing.

Gendermom chronicles the joys and challenges of raising M., her five-year-old transgender daughter. In “My Penis Girl,” Gendermom recounts how M. knew early on that she was a girl, and describes her initial concerns as a parent before finally “letting her boy go.” Her site is an inspiring example of how bloggers can build supportive communities and an outlet for those rearing a transgender child.

On Geek Versus Nerd at Slackpropagation

Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them.

Popular culture, statistics, and social science intersect in scientist and software engineer Burr Settles’ discussion of “geek” versus “nerd.” From analyzing Twitter data and PMI statistics, he explains how these two terms — often viewed as synonyms — are different. Are you a geek or a nerd? Read it to find out.

Vintage Social Networking at Wrong Hands

Canadian cartoonist John Atkinson created this light-hearted cartoon commenting on social media, online publishing, and the internet of today. It’s well-done and spot-on (and we love seeing WordPress right in the middle, among all these social tools).

It’s Just Sex, Dammit! by Dorkdaddy

There are a thousand things necessary for a successful day and a successful life. Balancing the checkbook. Reading to the kids. Visiting your parents. Maintenance on the house. Laughing. Resting. Playing. Growing. Learning. These are the things of life. These are the things that determine whether we are fulfilled, whether we are successful in life. None of them require intercourse. And yet still we venerate sex as the ultimate goal in life, as if everything else is just a way of occupying time between sexual interludes.

At Dorkdaddy, a father documents his misadventures in raising three children, as well as interests in pop and geek culture, from superheroes to games to fun in all shapes and sizes. We love this candid discussion about our fascination and obsession with sex, and the pleasures and troubles it brings.

Western Desert Journey, Egypt by Quintin Lake

Photographer Quintin Lake wowed us with his stunning images from Egypt’s Western Desert. From the surreal tent formations in the White Desert to the ripples captured in sand dunes, Quintin’s snapshots are truly jaw-dropping. His passion for architecture inspires his work, which lends an artistic, geometric feel to some of his travel photography.

Sorry Sylvia (Plath) by Simon Kindt

Could you imagine this Sylvia?
That this is what we would do to you?

That high school teachers
would keep dragging you out of the ground,
and laying your bones out for inspection,
looking for symptom,
and signifier,
pretending like we could ever know
what you looked like on the inside of your skin.

Simon Kindt‘s poem on Sylvia Plath touched many readers, conjuring many images and thoughts: young minds learning to read poetry, piecing together a life from the words one has left — so precious, yet not enough. As you read, you might also feel pain or misunderstanding, or perhaps feel that spot within yourself that only poetry can touch.

The Knuckle Sandwich Epiphany at How the light gets in

It was in that moment that I finally recognised my childhood ambitions for the fantasies they were. I had never been cut out to save the world through passive resistance.

The Sydney-based writer and illustrator at How the light gets in will win you over with quirky stories and drawings; we enjoyed this offbeat yet charming post about coming of age in the 1980s, and all the awkwardness and uncertainty that accompanied it. From an original point of view to visual narratives, this blogger has the elements to tell great stories.

Tracks at Without an H

Photographer Jon Sanwell documents daily life in Southeast Asia on his blog, Without an H. His portraits of people, urban and street shots, and countryside landscapes from Vietnam and beyond are lively and full of vibrant colors. We love all of his photo collections, and especially enjoyed these images from a Hanoi neighborhood that lies along the train tracks.

We’re thrilled that so many talented writers, artists, and photographers call WordPress.com their online home, and that all of you use this platform to express yourselves, far and wide, across the globe. We look forward to reading you in 2014 and hope you continue to share your ideas and stories with us, wherever you are.

Want to read more editors’ picks of 2013? Dive in now. If you love reading the freshest picks and most-recommended reads on WordPress.com, sign up for Weekend Reads, which we’ll deliver to your inbox monthly.


Filed under: Community, WordPress.com, Writing

11 Comments on Editors’ Picks of the Year: The Best of WordPress.com in 2013, last added: 12/21/2013
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30. Session Recap: Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back

KidlitCon2013Last weekend at KidLitCon13, Sarah Stevenson and I presented on Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back. In this post, I'll recap our session, with emphasis on the strategies that we came up with for overcoming burnout. 

It has been our observation that anyone who has been blogging for a while experiences periodic bouts of burnout (or blogging blahs, or blog angst, or "the Blahgs", or whatever you would like to call it). I was struggling with this myself earlier this fall, after being sidelined by illness, when I ran across a post that Sarah wrote about her struggles to rekindle her love for blogging. A number of long-time bloggers responded in the comments of Sarah's post, with useful suggestions. Sarah shared some of these and her response to them in a follow-up post.

Reading these suggestions, and just knowing that I wasn't alone in my situation, helped me to get my own blogging groove back. I wrote about this in some detail in this post, with particular thanks to Melissa Wiley, Gail Gauthier, and Adrienne Furness for their motivational suggestions. I received lots of additional suggestions and general encouragement in the comments of that post, for which I am also grateful. But essentially, for me, getting my groove back boiled down to two things:

  1. Returning to my blogging roots, the central passion under which I started my blog in the first place (growing bookworms); and 
  2. Taking steps to remove (mostly self-imposed) pressure wherever possible. 

For Sarah, who is still working on this, thinking about the issues and why she's struggling, and reading everyone else's feedback, helped her to realize this:

"If I am writing about what I find important and enjoyable and special, then it will be different (from other blogs) simply because it reflects my perspective. It won't be a mouthpiece for marketing or a regurgitation of information I can find anywhere else." 

Which is a pretty important start to recovering from the blogging blahs.

So when it came time to think about sessions for KidLitCon, Sarah and I thought that perhaps in sharing our experiences, we might be able to help other bloggers. We brainstormed together, and came up with a list of reasons why we think that book bloggers (specifically children's and YA book bloggers) experience burnout. For each of these, we scoured the comments in our posts, and other sources (like the results from a recent survey of book bloggers), to come up with concrete strategies for responding. 

Sarah then turned this content into a pretty one-page handout, which we are hoping to eventually turn into an Infographic. But for now, I'll just share our thoughts here. I've also added a few extra suggestions that came up during the session, though we were too busy to take very many notes. 

Reason 1: I feel burned out because blogging feels like an unpaid job, like something I "have to do." This can be especially true for authors, who are told to blog to maintain a public face. 

Strategies:

  • Take a break. In a recent survey of 310 book bloggers (not just children's and YA books), 24% said that they take a break from blogging when they feel burned out. 
  • Cut back: Give yourself permission not to do the parts that feel most like work. For me (Jen), this has always included blog tours and interviews. But interestingly, Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books said that blog tours help her, by giving her a deadline. It's all about figuring out what works for you
  • Self-examination: Have your reasons for blogging changed?
  • Change things up: Try cycling in guest posts or re-posting favorite older posts.
  • Start something new: Try a new feature to rekindle your interest.

Reason 2: I feel burned out because I receive too many books and too many requests for reviews, and I have too little time.

Strategies:

  • Give yourself permission not to do things, not to review everything. Here audience member Paula Wiley said that she's talking about books more on GoodReads, and only reviewing the ones about which she really has something to say. Maureen Kearney is doing something similar with LibraryThing. 
  • Set boundaries: use a review policy. For instance, after discussions with other bloggers, I (Jen) recently altered my review policy to say that I wouldn't necessarily respond at all to review requests. This was freeing (though controversial among audience members.)
  • Stop accepting ARCs. Blog backlist or library titles instead. Audience members mentioned that digital ARCs are particularly stressful because they expire on a certain date (possibly when one is still in the middle of reading them). We say, try saying no to these for a while, and see how you feel. 
  • Take a break from reviewing for a while, or stop reviewing altogether.
  • What's your favorite category of books to read? Stop reviewing those for a while, and just read for enjoyment.
  • And an additional suggestion from someone in the audience, clear your shelves, and get rid of the books that you aren't ever going to read. This can be very freeing. November/December is a good time for this, because many organizations are conducting book drives. 

Reason 3: I feel burned out because nobody's commenting, and/or I don't feel like I'm reaching enough people. (Many audience members agreed that comments and stats have been down in recent months, and that there's often a feeling like we are only reaching each other.)

Strategies:

  • Give comments to get comments.
  • Find new places to put the word out: Facebook, Pinterest, topic niches (i.e. parenting blogs).
  • Reach out to blogs that seem similar to yours. Comment, share posts. Strive for real connection. 
  • Set your blog up so it's easy for readers to share posts. For instance, I (Jen) often send a post out on a Tweet instead of commenting. If you don't have a visible Twitter ID that I can include, you won't know this.
  • Try posting book lists instead of (or as well as) individual reviews. Lists are often distributed more widely than other types of posts. The audience also agreed that individual reviews are among the posts that receive the least comments. 

Reason 4: I feel burned out because I'm too busy. I don't have time or energy for blogging. Other things in my life may take precedence for a while (new job, new baby, etc.). 

Strategies: 

  • Put the word out and let people know. Your loyal readers will understand and be there when you get back. Or, as I (Jen) put it during the session, the people who read your blog probably like you. 
  • Use the time to reassess. Do you miss it? Do you want to come back? Do you want to do something else?

Reason 5: I feel burned out because blogging just doesn't feel as rewarding anymore.

  • Start a "FeelGood" folder for storing supportive comments or emails. Refer to this folder from time to time. 
  • Get back to your blogging roots. Blog your passion.
  • Share your struggle. Knowing that you are not alone can help. 
  • Try something new. Someone in the audience mentioned here that it's ok to blog about other topics if you like, apart from your core blog mission, and that sometimes such posts generate excellent responses. 

In summary, a more general plan for fighting burnout:

Pinpoint the specific reasons YOU are feeling burned out. It may sound obvious, but once you starting thinking about it, you may find a deeper reason than you anticipated. You may THINK you're depressed because your posts don't go viral, but stop to consider: was that your original aim, to be viral? If not, then maybe that's somebody else's priority, not yours-and the real issue is that you feel pressures that you didn't feel before, concerning somebody else's definition of blogging success. Go back to the beginning, and get in touch with why you blog-ask yourself the important questions about why you're doing it.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Why am I blogging in the first place? If you don't know, it's well worth spending some time to figure that out.
  • Who do I want my audience to be? Parents, teachers, kids, other bloggers?
  • What is it that gets me fired up about blogging? What am I excited to share?

Our thanks to everyone who helped us to think these things through before KidLitCon, and to everyone who participated during our session. Blogging can feel like a lonely thing. You sit in front of your computer typing up posts to which people may or may not respond at all. Attending KidLitCon was a reminder that we are NOT alone. Those of us who blog about children's and young adult books have formed a community of like-minded individuals. We are kindred spirits, who share a passion for connecting kids with books. And when times get tough, we are there for one another. That is what community is all about. 

Thanks for listening! -- Jen and Sarah

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page and Sarah Jamila Stevenson. All rights reserved. 

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31. NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

It’s just a few days until November, and you know what that means: National Novel Writing Month, better known ’round these parts as NaNoWriMo, is near. Have you always wanted to write a novel? We know some of you have been waiting all year for this month! For those of …

14 Comments on NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?, last added: 10/28/2013
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32. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild: Peter Brown

Book: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Author: Peter Brown (@itspeterbrown)
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-6

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is vintage Peter Brown (see my review of The Curious Garden). It's about how one person, by being true to himself, can make a difference, but also about the way that we all need to be part of a community. Pretty heady stuff for a picture book about a tiger heading out into the wilderness. 

Here's how it begins:

"Everyone was perfectly fine
with the way things were.

Everyone but Mr. Tiger.

Mr. Tiger was bored with always being so proper."

We see Mr. Tiger bored with his proper life, and his proper, tea-drinking neighbors. Gradually, Mr. Tiger starts to get a little wild. And then a little more wild. And just as he's starting to feel a bit lonely, he learns that his individualism has actually rubbed off a little bit. And everyone is better off. 

Brown's spare text pairs well with his ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations. His color palette starts out muted, with the small, orange tiger standing out as the sole splash of color against a regimented backdrop. Gradually the tiger gets bigger, and the other colors get greener. The pictures when the tiger is out in the wilderness are reminiscent of the lush later pictures in The Curious Garden, full of plants, fish, birds, and waterfalls.  

Brown dedicates this book "for tigers everywhere", and it really is a book that will encourage people to let loose a bit of their inner wildness. There's a great scene in which Mr. Tiger leaps across the rooftops of a series of row houses. The text says, "His friends did not know what to think." But while some of them are thinking "Peculiar" and "UNACCEPTABLE!", others are thinking "Hmm" and "Wow". You can see him expanding people's viewpoints, though he doesn't realize this until the end of the book. 

I doubt that my three year old will get the larger point at all. But I still think that she'll laugh at the notion of the conservative Mr. Tiger busting out and becoming wild. As for me, I love the expressive faces of the other animals, the deadpan text, and, I must admit, the happy ending. Highly recommended, and sure to do well. 

Publisher:  Little, Brown (@LBKids)
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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33. WordPress.com News and Numbers: The September 2013 Hot List

After a red-hot August of publishing news and impressive numbers, we wondered what was next for the WordPress.com community. Here’s a snapshot of September: You blew up the internet. Again. Month after month, we’re blown away by what you publish. Talk show host Matt Walsh‘s post, “Dear parents, you need …

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34. Conversations About Community in 3rd Grade

A big theme in our Social Studies curriculum is Community.  I kicked off the study this week, I introduced the idea of community and the idea of learning community as an introduction to this yearlong study.  I wanted to have these conversations and this thinking started before we move into the content of local government, community resources, etc.  When we started our conversation, kids shared all they knew about community. I want them to understand the citizenship part of community--that everyone does his/her part and everyone works toward community goals while individuals still have more personal goals.  At the beginning of the conversation, kids seemed to know the content stuff of community (neighborhoods, parks, people, rules and laws) at a basic level which gave us a great start to our conversation.  Then we moved on.

I shared two pieces with the students that first day.  I wanted them to reframe their thinking a bit to think about what made a community work.  I told them I was going to share two pieces as part of our discussion about community and then we'd talk about how those tied in. I wanted them to use these as ways to add to their understanding of what makes a community.  These two pieces provided an amazing conversation about community and what it means to be part of a community.


Following this video conversation, I read the picture book The Little Hummingbird (Ann Marie) by Michael Nicoll Yahgulhanaas.  (Thanks Ann Marie Corgill for this recommendation!) This is a powerful story about a little hummingbird doing his part in the community.


These two pieces provided just the right stories for a great beginning conversation to add new thinking about their understandings of community.

The next day, we read What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick. This was a quick read that reminds us why we have rules by taking readers into different settings, thinking about not following a rule, and asking, "What if everybody did that?"  We then talked about all of the communities we are a part of and how each had their own goals, rules, etc. Kids mentioned school, sports teams, churches, neighborhoods, our city, etc.




On Day 3 of our conversation, I paired 2 other videos to share with students. I wanted to really focus on the idea of a Learning Community and how members of a community support one another.  This conversation also included goal setting.



We watched this amazing video from Pernille Ripp's 5th grade classroom: My Students' Classroom Vision. At the end of the clip, one of my students said, "I loved that video. It was the best." It was very powerful for them. We followed up with a conversation about being brave, being part of a learning community, individual goals, and community goals. I shared my own experiences--about how it was easy for me to meet a reading goal, as it was easy for me and I loved to read. But it was brave of me to set a running goal and to put myself out there when running was something I had to work hard at.  How the book I am writing is something that has been hard for me lately and it takes some brave to not just quit.  How when we know each others' goals (as in any community) it is easier to help each other meet them.   It was all very informal but thoughtful.  

I followed up with a clip of Kristin Chenoweth which I loved (I used the one with Kellee instead but like this one better.)


We talked about how Kristen Chenoweth was so good and how she celebrated this guest who was amazing. She cheered for her and was so happy that she was so amazing. How that says a lot about Kristen--she loves seeing others do well. Kids immediately talked about ways they support others and cheer them on when they are successful. They were as interested in Kristen as they were in the friends who must have been filming and wooohoooing throughout.

Finally, on Thursday I shared The Butterfly Video.  Thanks to Steve Peterson who shared this clip with me in a blog comment last week! It is brilliant and it fit in perfectly with the week's conversations.  Again, kids were glued.

Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work - Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

My favorite part of the follow-up conversation was the mention that, "Mrs. Christine, our art teacher would love this clip. Has she seen it?  I wonder if she has to do more than one draft? Does she get things right on the first try?"  We decided to email her the link to the video and our question right then. Of course she emailed back to let us know that, yes, she does many drafts for lots of things, even as an art teacher:-)

This week's conversations around community were really important for many reasons. I think the kids will understand the bigger communities of city, state, world, etc. because they have thought so much about their own communities. They understand that people make up a community and that our classroom is a community, a learning community.  They have a role to play in the community--for themselves and for the good of the group.

I can already tell that these videos and books have made an impact.  They keep coming up in conversation and I imagine they will continue to. Just like Caine's arcade, I imagine a few will become anchors for the year. Glad we began our conversation like this and am looking forward to the way the conversation evolves over the next eight months.






3 Comments on Conversations About Community in 3rd Grade, last added: 9/17/2013
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35. Designing Principle #4: Community

DP 2_Community

Some stories are not about a single protagonist. Sometimes a group or community becomes the larger focus. Using a community as a designing principle is the fourth category in this series.

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Struasser explores the complexity of a school shooting and could have been told from POV of the shooter, or a friend of the shooter, or a teacher. Instead Struasser lets an entire community tell this story: friends, parents, teachers, students, etc. In so doing, a portrait of the shooters and the events is constructed by the reader through snippets, interviews, and emails. The structure unveils the fragmentation and chaos of the event itself, and how hard it is to find a single truth of an event or person.

Helen Frost’s verse novel Keesha’s House also creates a portrait of a community, but in a different way. The story follows eight protagonists who become homeless.  Each character has his or her own arc, and is given one poem per chapter with which to tell his or her story. Frost’s creates unity between these eight individual stories with the use of a wheel chapter structure. At the core of each chapter is a theme, for example: “Why I can’t live at home,” and each poem of that chapter touches upon the theme in a way that is specific to each character. This structure unites an entire community of abandoned children.

Is your story about a community or ensemble of people? How might you use this to influence the structure of your story?

Up Next: Designing Principle #5 – Parallel Stories and Myth

Want to know more about designing principles? Try these links:


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36. Blogger Award

Recently my blogging buddy, Cecelia Lester, passed along to me and a few other bloggers the Liebster Award. I am such a forget ninny sometimes that I forgot the thank her for that. So, A BIG THANK YOU! to Cecelia for honoring me as one of her favorite bloggers. You can read Cecelia's beautiful, sincere devotionals at her blog, Following My King. Her heartfelt words often reach out across

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37. Introducing Anassa Publications, LLC


I have been a busy little writer and have now added publisher to my growing list of titles. I am the proud co-founder of Anassa Publications, LLC!
It all started with a desire to give the Rocky Mountain Women Writers the opportunity to become published in a compilation. I wanted to give back to the hard-working, dedicated writers who make an effort to help our fellow members and writing community. The idea to put together a collection for the RMWW had been brewing for years, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to piece it all together.
After self-publishing a book for my son, I was inspired to go ahead and begin with the process of creating an anthology that would showcase the works of the Rocky Mountain Women Writers. I teamed up with my good friend, fellow author and RMWW member,Diana Dolan, and together we made it happen!
Diana and I had a vision for a company that would help communities thrive and give writers an authentic publication experience  - thus, Anassa Publications, LLC was born!
We are currently accepting submissions for our first project titled,  Anything Prose…and Poetry, too!an anthology that will give special recognition to the Rocky Mountain Women Writers. If you are interested in contributing a story, (or two!), please check out our SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
The submission deadline for theAnything Prose anthology is September 30th. I hope that you’ll consider sharing your stories with us!
Be sure to check out our website www.AnassaPublications.com, as we will be announcing exciting news and projects in the coming months.
Happy Writing!


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38. Vintage Ayres {2007}: The Heart of It All

I’m smiling at the phrase Vintage Ayres. It’s a little bit of a smirk because, really, am I old enough to qualify as vintage? Maybe not. But definitely so in blog years. I… Read More

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39. Personalize Your Online Home with a Custom Domain

A domain name is a name used to identify a website on the Internet. Your blog’s domain name is like your mailing address: it lets people know where to find you — and all the cool content you create!

At WordPress.com, every site has an example.wordpress.com address, which is the default address you get when you sign up. But you may notice that some sites have custom domains, such as example.com, instead of example.wordpress.com.

Did you know you can get a unique web address for your blog?

Is a custom domain right for you? Consider these questions:

  • Are you interested in using your blog to promote your work, brand, or organization?
  • Would you like to print your blog address on items like business cards?
  • Do you plan to have multiple email addresses on the same domain?
  • You may already customize your theme, colors, and fonts — so, why not your URL?

Owning your domain name personalizes your own cozy corner of the Internet, helps to build your presence across the web, and distinguishes your work within your niche, field, or industry.

So, how do you select a domain name?

Think about and choose a domain name that best reflects your content. Below, we’ve gathered tips and examples of sites on WordPress.com to inspire you.

Keep it simple. At My Hands Made It, DIY blogger and bridal gown designer Veronica shares wedding projects and crafty tutorials. Her name includes a simple phrase and evokes actions that reflect her content. In general, avoid names that are too long — more than four words may be a mouthful.

Zoom in and be specific. My Travel Blog. All About Baking. Thoughts on Writing. On Politics. We have a basic idea of what these blogs are about, but the names are general and don’t really intrigue the reader.

Include words that are essential to your focus. Gavin, the blogger at Make a Powerful Point, is obsessed with PowerPoint and uses it to communicate and instruct. The word “point” in his name refers not only to PowerPoint, but his consulting work in marketing and business strategy.

Combine words that encapsulate you. Cathy at Mathbabe focuses on mathematics and statistics. The artist and mother behind Doodlemum combines illustrations and sketches with posts on her family. The folks at Salt Gypsy showcase cool, handmade products for female surfers. All of these names fuse or invent words that describe what these blogs are about.

(You may notice that the custom domain Mathbabe ends in .org. You can register and map a domain ending in .com, .org, .net, or .me through WordPress.com.)

Use common phrases…with a twist. Play around with well-known expressions. Swap words with one another. Kiss My Spatula, a well-designed blog about food, is a playful take on a familiar phrase.

Consider literary devices. Remember when your English professor taught you about consonance, which is the repetition of consonant sounds? The “s” sound in Kiss My Spatula sounds swell, doesn’t it? And what about alliteration, or the repetition of a particular letter at the beginning of words? Raising My Rainbow, a blog about a gender-nonconforming five-year-old, is appropriate and easy to remember.

Celebrate double meanings. My blog’s name, Writing Through the Fog, refers not just to my city, foggy San Francisco, but also my interests in elusive themes of memory, home, and adulthood — all of which put me in a haze.

Make us curious. The incompleteness of the blog name An Afternoon With… is brilliant! In each post, Michael photographs a different person in their own space, among their own things. The added ellipsis (in his header only) is also effective; it builds anticipation in readers who are visiting the blog for the first time.

Finally (and most importantly), confirm your spelling. When you register and purchase a domain name, you are purchasing that exact domain name with that exact spelling. If you make a mistake, you can cancel a domain within 48 hours of purchase, but it’s best to be extra careful from the start to avoid the headache of a misspelled domain altogether.

But what if the domain name I want to use is not available?

New York City-based photographer Matt shares his passion for abandoned architecture at his blog, After the Final Curtain. Matt’s blog on America’s grand, bygone theaters is focused and specific, but the evocative name attracts more than just people who visit for his images of ruins. If you have been to the theater, or have watched film or TV scenes set on a stage, the closed curtain at the end of a performance is a familiar motif. His blog name not only reflects his content — it’s memorable, too.

But when Matt began the process of choosing a domain name, his first choice wasn’t available. He wanted his name to have a theatrical term in the title, but the first domain name he wanted, “Curtain Call,” was already taken. A friend then suggested “Final Curtain,” and he added the rest.

So, just because your blog’s current address is mysite.wordpress.com doesn’t mean the domain mysite.com (or mysite.org, mysite.net, or mysite.me) will be available. Check to see if your domain name is taken.

Curious to hear how other WordPress.com bloggers chose their domain names? We also talked to Sarah at Where’s My Toothbrush? and C.J.’s Mom at Raising My Rainbow about how their names came about — head on over to their Q&A on The Daily PostChoosing the Perfect Blog Name: Two WordPressers Share Their Secrets, for more insights and tips on the process.

Ready for your own unique web address?

There are two steps required to use a custom domain, and you can take care of both steps at WordPress.com:

  1. Register the domain to establish your ownership of the domain.
  2. Map the domain to link the domain to your WordPress.com site.

In step one, you register and purchase the address example.com. In step two, you tell example.com to point to your WordPress.com site. Your old address at example.wordpress.com will still work, but we’ll automatically redirect traffic from your old address to your new one.

Registering and mapping a .com, .org, or .net domain through WordPress.com starts at $18.00 per domain and per year, or $25.00 per domain and per year for a .me domain. For $8.00 more, you can make the domain registration private.

You can also use a domain you’ve registered elsewhere (through a site like GoDaddy or Network Solutions) with your site here at WordPress.com. Mapping a domain you’ve registered elsewhere costs $13.00 per domain, per year.

For more details, read our Domains page on our support site.

When you’re ready to purchase, visit our Custom Domains upgrade page in our WordPress.com Store and click Get a Domain to get started.

If you’re looking to supercharge your blog in one step and purchase all of our upgrades at once — a custom domain, HD video uploading, font and color customization, no ads, and extra storage space — take a peek at our Pro Bundle upgrade.



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40. Illustrators on WordPress.com

November was a busy month! Not only did bloggers and writers churn out pages for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but illustrators and artists also took part in NaNoDrawMo, which challenged participants to produce a minimum of 50 new works between November 1 and 30.

In honor of NaNoDrawMo, we’ve highlighted some illustrators and sketchers in our community. Take a look:

Photo courtesy of Pete Scully.

Pete Scully

Currently in Northern California, Pete Scully sketches the world as he sees it — and his visions are unique, intricate, and oh-so-fresh. (His sketches above prove this, don’t you think?) We love Pete’s style, as seen in his drawings of pubs, bookstores, and urban neighborhoods. Browse his sketchbook images of San Francisco, London, and more; and be sure to follow along on his NaNoDrawMo journey. His black-and-white header adds a personal touch, and his substantial blogroll of fellow artists is worth checking out.

Pete’s blog uses Twenty Twelve, an elegant, readable theme that’s fully responsive — content looks great on any device. If you’re curious to see how other artists use this theme, check out cartoonist Chuck Cottrell’s blog Sketches from Memory and follow along on his Sketch a Day series. (He’s also participating in NaNoWriMo. That’s dedication!)

Paula Knight

You’ll find art projects, sketchbook pages, and works in progress on Paula Knight’s blog. What we love best is that we get the sense of an artist at work — series of sketches, quick doodles in spiral notebooks, commentaries on older drawings, and personal reflections. Be sure to check out her comics, which comment on fertility and childlessness. Also a writer, Paula has published children’s books and is currently working on a graphic novel for adults called The Facts of Life.

Paula’s blog uses Twenty Eleven, the third most popular theme on WordPress.com (and our default theme in 2011). Versatile and full of features, Twenty Eleven is a tried-and-true theme on which you can experiment with various post formats, a light or dark color scheme, and different layouts. For more inspiration, check out how cartoonist and writer Ulises Farinas uses Twenty Eleven as well — the Brooklyn-based artist creates imaginative, super-detailed worlds of heroes and beasts. 

Our Process

For a dose of politics, current events, education, and culture with your artwork, don’t miss the comicsportraits, and maps of Aaron Guile. Aaron’s visual style is very distinct, and his commentary is sharp. Unlike the other illustrators in this list, Aaron doesn’t use much color. He eschews color for bold, black on white illustrations that convey potent ideas.

Aaron’s blog uses Forever, a simple and modern theme originally created with weddings in mind. But, as you can see, Forever works with different kinds of content — it’s really up to you to transform a theme into something that works for you!

The Town Mouse

Avid drawer and architectural historian Joanna Moore compiles drawings created on location — if you’re in London, you may find her sketching frantically on a street corner. Check out her mixed media drawings of Gothic cathedrals and sketches of castles, or browse her category archives at the top of her front page.

Joanna’s blog uses Imbalance 2, a modern, sophisticated theme that can easily turn your blog into a professional portfolio or online magazine. Imbalance 2 is also appropriate for collaborative projects — check out Illo Confidential, a group blog of about 20 illustrators.

Hotcharchitpotch

Gareth Cotter serves up wonderful sketches, illustrations, and comics that show his passion for architecture. His drawings inspired by a fall trip to Gdansk, Poland, are worth noting, as well as this comic/graphic story about a “cyclical city.” We’re waiting to see what whimsical little world he’ll illustrate next.

Gareth’s blog uses Blogum, a clean and minimalist theme — with a touch of modern — that lets you focus on your content. Its simplicity allows for images and illustrations to take center stage. 

Easily Emused

How can you not enjoy the drawings at Easily Emused? They’re colorful and quirky, and complement the blogger’s musings perfectly. (Read “Earring Aids,” a recent post about piercing one’s ears — it’s a nice mix of storytelling and illustration.)

This blog uses Balloons, a lighthearted theme that effortlessly creates a playful mood.

Creative Stuff

Photographer and student Jessie Vittoria loves to draw, and she uses Creative Stuff to compile her illustrations, greeting card designs, comics, and doodles. Her artwork is airy and playful — you can see this right away in her blog’s header image. We like how she keeps it simple and makes her different types of artwork easy to find, and how she uses built-in features to add color and draw visitors to her popular content.

Jessie’s blog uses Yoko, a theme that’s simple and elegant, yet customizable. We asked Jessie about the features she uses.

Talk a bit about the features you use to make your blog look the way it does.

The full-size images in my posts allow viewers to see my art without having to click another link, while the slideshows present smaller, less prominent images. For example, I use the slideshow to quickly give an idea of a certain type of drawing. I really like the images in my sidebar; I am a very visual person, and for an illustration blog, it makes sense for users to click on images — rather than text — to navigate the site.

Why did you choose Yoko as your blog’s theme? What features do you like in general?

I was looking for a simple way to display my art with easy navigation, and Yoko seemed to have everything I was looking for. The sidebar makes it easy to find specific pages. I can display my work in the header to immediately show visitors what I do as an artist — even before they click on my posts. I also like the scroll-and-load feature – you don’t have to click “next” to view older posts. Overall, I like how clean the theme is, which doesn’t take away from the art itself.

Want more?

Looking for more advice on how best to showcase your art on your blog? Head on over to The Daily Post for our Q&A with two illustratorsThomas James and Mark Armstrong — who share their design tips.


14 Comments on Illustrators on WordPress.com, last added: 12/6/2012
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41. Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks for November, Part I

Smart and timely commentaries from events in the Middle East to Hurricane Sandy. Honest, beautifully written reflections on life, culture, and one’s place within it. Original photography and stunning photo essays, from one’s neighborhood to another’s faraway travels. Simply put, November’s Freshly Pressed posts impressed us. Here are some standouts:

Okay, so I noticed the conflict . . .

I don’t believe all nonviolent options for peace are exhausted, and I don’t accept that the killing of Hamas operatives is ever so imperative that targeting errors resulting in the death of innocent civilians should be tolerated.

Image from Circles in the Sky

Nora, a graduate student in Haifa, Israel, writes about her work and experiences in the Middle East at Circles in the Sky. Her commentary, original photography, and on-the-ground observations from an afternoon of demonstrations in Jerusalem’s Old City caught our attention.

Moms Don’t Forget

My punishment was her face. The hurt in her eyes. That moment when I knew that I was no better than any of them because the first time I had the opportunity to be shitty to someone else to fit in, I took it. Even though I knew it was wrong.

“Even after twenty years, her mom ignored my friend request.” This opening line of Rachelle’s post, “Moms Don’t Forget,” pulls us in. In this coming-of-age piece, she recounts a time at a summer cheerleading camp when she helps play a joke on another girl — just to become a “mean girl” for a day. We love Rachelle’s strong voice, and the very relatable story she tells.

Himachal Pradesh — The Final Images

Nomad RussRuss Taylor’s photo essay of Himachal Pradesh, India, really moved us, and we know you’ll enjoy his full-size images documenting daily life in the Ropa Valley. We’re especially drawn to the vibrant wall colors and details in each shot and the warm, welcoming faces captured in his portraits. What a treat to see life through his lens!

Interested in more photography? Be sure to also check out Jenna Pope’s powerful photo essay of the Breezy Point neighborhood in New York City. She compiles images of the devastated area 15 days after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast. 

Conformity’s Critical “Eye”

“I want to belong,” pleads a woman whose face is swathed in bandages. “I want to be like everybody.”

Nearly all of us do at one time or other. The desire to fit in can exert a seemingly irresistible force. “Conform or be cast out,” Geddy Lee sings in the Rush song ”Subdivisions.” The question is, how far will we go to do so? What will it cost us? And what happens if we fail?

We read a variety of entertainment reviews and analyses — for books, movies, TV shows, and the like. Paul’s focus on “The Eye of the Beholder,” an episode of The Twilight Zone, has it all: a recap with just the right amount of detail, and his own commentary seamlessly weaved in. The tightly focused post comments on something larger and universal: the desire to fit in, “to live a life in which you are merely an interchangeable cog in a vast wheel.” In short, this Shadow & Substance post is smart pop culture commentary.

Dating in the Dark

Even nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy unleashed her fury, the Garden State is still struggling to recover. And let me tell you: Living without power for that long will quickly make you appreciate the little things.

Ruth RutherfordAt I Kissed My Date Goodnight, Ruth shares her thoughts on faith and chronicles her experiences in the 30-something dating scene. In this post, she spends time with her family in the dark, without electricity, and ponders things in life that have become too complicated, like dating. “Grab a lantern and meet during a power outage,” she suggests. Engaging and entertaining, “Dating in the Dark” is a nice introduction to Ruth’s writing.

On Thursday, we’ll highlight more notable picks from the Freshly Pressed bunch in November. 

In the meantime, read the latest Freshly Pressed picks; check out our writing challengesphoto challenges, and other blogging tips and inspiration at The Daily Post; visit our Recommended Blogs; and browse the most popular topics in the Reader.

For editorial guidelines for Freshly Pressed, read: So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed.


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42. "moon and stars"

... was the title of The Arts Center's entry in the local Christmas Parade this year. Every year it comes together beautifully in the end, what a lot of fun!



it rolled part of the way, and "floated" the rest. Hey, that's me...

"geodesic sphere" made entirely of recycled newspaper and masking tape

all ready to go!

decorated with tinsel and glow sticks, filled with balloons.
 Some of them popped en route and sounded like firecrackers.



0 Comments on "moon and stars" as of 12/7/2012 8:09:00 PM
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43. Freshly Pressed: Four Friday Faves

No more of this “waiting until the end of the month” nonsense to see what was hot on Freshly Pressed! To keep our Freshly Pressed editors’ picks, um, fresh, we’ll highlight a few of our (and your) favorite posts here every Friday.

If One More Woman Complains About the Size of Her Body . . .

Caitlin Kelly’s post on Broadside hit a nerve with hundreds of you.

Whining about weight teaches the girls in our lives, who look to us their role models, that this is just what women do, that focusing miserably and endlessly on our individual body size and shape is our most pressing issue as women — instead of political and economic issues that affect us all, size 00s to 24s,  like paid maternity leave or better domestic violence protection or access to birth control and abortion.

Caitlin’s post racked up the Likes, but also spawned some fascinating conversation in her comments section. We loved seeing your responses as much as we enjoyed reading this no-holds-barred post in the first place.

My Life, Plan B (or what to do when life doesn’t go as planned)

Photo from http://callmeshebear.wordpress.com

Mama Bear, the blogger behind Call Me She Bear, is almost 40 years old, and coming to terms with the fact that her life hasn’t turned out quite the way she’d been planning.

(I’m sure none of us can relate, right?)

What’s Mama Bear’s Plan B? Actually:

“Plan B is not a plan at all. It’s more of an intention. It’s an intention to let go of the tight grip on my big expectations, take things one day at a time, do what’s in front of me to the best of my ability, and trust that the blur coming up for me on the horizon will become clear to me and worthwhile when I get there.”

The gorgeous photos accompanying the post pushed it over the top. We can’t wait to read about how Plan B works out.

“I’m Spiritual, Not Religious”

We had a feeling some great conversation would come out of this post, and we weren’t wrong. After all, it’s hard to imagine that a bunch of opinionated bloggers wouldn’t have something to say about this:

To claim to be spiritual and not religious is like claiming to have taken a swim without getting wet. Anyone who embarks on anything spiritual will either receive the religious tradition from which it comes, or create their own religious tradition in the attempt to understand and practice it.

Not everyone agreed with blogger Eric’s take, but the discussion was both thought-provoking and civil — the very best of what the WordPress.com community is about.

Hanging Up the Tutu

Becca at 25toFly had quite the cheering squad among fellow bloggers this week, and when we read this post about her journey to find her life’s passion and re-define herself after leaving a career in dance, we understood why.

I had become the one thing that I had almost forgotten I’d sworn not to be, Miss play-it-safe.  Sure, I’d find a job. That job would pay well enough for me to live as comfortably as I always have. People would see me as “successful,” but I wouldn’t stop thinking, “Is this it?” I would eventually become that forty-year-old woman still bragging about how many pirouettes she could do twenty years ago while shamefully dodging conversation about her soul draining day job.

Her new direction? Writing. You think it’s a good choice, and so do we.

Thanks to everyone who sent us recommendations this week — you introduced us to a bunch of great bloggers, some of whom have since been featured on Freshly Pressed. Keep it up! You can tweet links you love to us @freshly_pressed. (And be sure to follow @freshly_pressed to see all your fellow bloggers’ picks, even those that don’t make it to the Freshly Pressed page.)


13 Comments on Freshly Pressed: Four Friday Faves, last added: 12/15/2012
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44. A national tragedy impacts all of us.

I don’t want to imagine receiving an automated phone call from my child’s school telling me there has been a shooting there.  That’s what happened today in Newtown, CT after a gunman entered… Read More

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45. 365 Days, 52 Weeks: A Look at Blogging in 2012

At the end of November, we gave shout-outs to bloggers and artists who participated in month-long projects like NaBloPoMo and NaNoDrawMo. As 2012 comes to a close, we also want to highlight writers and photographers who challenged themselves all year — who posted each day or each week, or have established an ongoing project on their sites.

These bloggers caught our attention:

Jump For Joy!

Jump For Joy!

JUMP FOR JOY! Photo Project

An inspiring international project focused on play, fun, and the positive in our lives, JUMP FOR JOY! presents Eyoälha Baker’s vision of a world united by our expression of joy. Eyoälha has taken nearly all the images on her blog — with the exception of the photos of her. Her jumping subjects are captured in locations around the world: at the beach in Kauaiat a park in Vancouver, or even between city skyscrapers . . . while holding a ninja sword! We love how she showcases the beauty of the human spirit — in mid-air.

A Year of Reading the World

In 2012, writer and editor Ann Morgan planned to read her way around as many of the globe’s 196 independent countries as she could, sampling one book from every nation. The result? Her thoughtful, sophisticated blog, A Year of Reading the WorldIn each post, she focuses on a particular book and digs into the country’s history and culture. Recent places included EthiopiaGuinea-Bissau, and the Maldives.

Hope Street

Hope Street

Hope Street

Kurt Blumenau’s grandfather kept month-to-month calendars — 15 years’ worth! — on which he recorded significant events that affected him, such as the flight of Apollo 17.

These calendars remain in Kurt’s family, and each Monday on his blog, Hope Street, Kurt picks an interesting calendar entry and writes something about it. ”It might be a reflection on my grandfather’s life,” writes Kurt, “or my family’s history and tradition . . . or American life of the 1960s and 1970s . . . or my own life today.”

The blog celebrates his grandfather and family and is a unique, thoughtful project of personal and American history.

Sketches From Memory

We admire the sketch-a-day regimen of comic artist Chuck Cottrell. Chuck posts simple sketches to mini comic strips, mostly in black and white (with some random yet effective bursts of color). We recommend you dive in, as he lets readers in to his personal world — including sharing stories of married life — in a fun, candid way.

Ian Spagnolo Photography

Outdoor landscapes. Dramatic long exposure shots of the sea. Light painting sessions. Follow photographer Ian Spagnolo‘s “365 Project” to sample his work, especially if you enjoy seeing a photographer play around with exposure, light, and other elements. Ian is from Coffs Harbour, a coastal city in New South Wales, Australia, which means he certainly won’t run out of stunning subject matter to shoot.

52 Brand New

52 Brand New

52 Brand New

For 2012, the personable blogger behind 52 Brand New promised to try 52 new experiences with her children, from tasting new cuisines to attending a family yoga class to collecting rocks. In each “new experience,” she includes playful Polaroid-style images and links to other experiences her family has undertaken, as well as external resources offering ideas for family activities. 52 Brand New is a fresh, creative take on a parenting blog.

Instamatic Gratification

A daily photoblog, Instamatic Gratification succeeds because of its simple and focused approach: one image per day. (We also love the daily quotes that accompany each photograph.) In January 2010, Caryn launched the blog and successfully posted 365 images in that first year. In 2011, she wasn’t quite as diligent, so this year, she decided to challenge herself once again. She writes: “I’ve come to realize that, for me anyway, quantity (or rather the consistency of daily practice) is the surest and most direct route to quality.” We totally agree!

Dar’s 52 Mondays Blog

Dar’s “52 Mondays” project compiles photographs as well as her thoughts on nature, art, education, creativity, and more — a space in which she can share her ideas in one place. We appreciate her weekly dedication to “make Mondays more marvelous,” and think her approach is inspiring.

Since the New Year is just around the corner, we encourage you to start your own 365-day or 52-week project in January. If you have big, exciting plans for your site in 2013, let us know in the comments.

Happy New Year!


11 Comments on 365 Days, 52 Weeks: A Look at Blogging in 2012, last added: 12/31/2012
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46. Living Well in the Classroom

Last week I found myself reading through The Community Review, which is the Jewish newspaper for Greater Harrisburg. Rabbi Akiva Males of Kesher Israel Congregation wrote a tribute to teacher Victoria Soto who… Read More

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47. Our first ever Penguin Chat with Beautiful Creatures authors!

On Sunday 27th January 2013, we launched the first Penguin Chat (#PenguinChats) with Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, authors of the fabulous Beautiful Creatures series. #PenguinChats was launched to offer the chance to get an author's undivided attention on Twitter - to ask them any burning questions you just needed to get off your chest.

The Beautiful Creatures Penguin Chat lasted 30 minutes, and so many of you participated that Margaret and Kami couldn't even answer all the questions in time! We really wanted to share some of the questions and answers for you, so we created a Storify to capture just some of the conversation.

PenguinChats with Beautiful Creatures authors  Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia  with tweets  · PenguinUKBooks · Storify

 

Watch this space for more #PenguinChats coming soon - we'll annouce the latest over on the #PenguinChats blog page, so do keep checking back.

In the meantime, did you take part in the Beautiful Creatures Penguin Chat? We'd love to hear what you thought. And, if you have any suggestions for who you'd like to have a Penguin Chat with, let us know in the comments below.  

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48. Writers' Associations

State-by-state listing of writing groups. 

http://www.squidoo.com/localwritersassociationsbystate

0 Comments on Writers' Associations as of 3/22/2013 9:54:00 AM
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49. Penguin celebrates Independent's Day!

Who doesn't love moseying around bookshops? Perusing shelves packed with books, resting your weary limbs in the nearest and squishiest armchair, then leaving laden down with beautiful tomes to pore over when you get home. We're getting misty eyed at the thought of it.

Anyway, if you didn't know, today is July 4th. To many, it's Independence Day. To us, it's INDEPENDENT'S DAY (admire the subtlety of what we've done there folks. To read more about Independent Booksellers Week, head here.) We've taken a moment to praise the independent bookshop, and below are three examples of our favourites.

If you have a suggestion or would like to contribute to the blog, please tweet us or comment below. Tell us about your favourites, we want to hear about bookshops in farflung places, tiny bookshops that few people know about, or simply a bookshop you love to while away the hours in, wherever it may be. 

 

The Slightly Foxed Bookshop

123 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4TE

020 7370 3503 | www.foxedbooks.com | @FoxedQuarterly

Slightlyfoxed1

After walking down Gloucester Road, I can’t imagine a sight more welcome than the dusty blue of the Slightly Foxed awning. If Gloucester Road is a cultural desert (and it is), then the Slightly Foxed Bookshop is an oasis.

Slightly Foxed published the first issue of their quarterly literary magazine in 2003, and in 2009 they took over the Gloucester Road bookshop. It’s an extension of the sensibilities of the magazine – they stock an eclectic selection of new releases, and all manner of second hand books. It feels as though they might operate nightclub style one in, one out policy – there aren’t shelves full of the latest bestsellers, but there’s one each of the new Pulp the Classics editions, and they sit in the window above Caitlin Moran, a James Bond novel, and Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines. Sure, it’s a motley crew, but one that completely makes sense. It reads like the rest of the collection; intelligent, witty, and clearly curated by people who love the books they stock. There’s a shelf full of Slightly Foxed hardbacks – searingly bright wibbalin encases some great writing. And with only 2000 of each title printed, they’re collectable as well as covetable.

Slightlyfoxed2

And downstairs! Oh, downstairs. If you’re a self-indulgent Penguin employee (and I definitely am) it’s well worth sitting at the bottom of the steps and looking through all the Penguin Paperbacks. Beyond that – as if you could need more – there are shelves and shelves of second hand and antique books – art books, biographies, travel and food writing. It’s all there, and it’s an abundance of quality and quantity.

I spent about half an hour at Slightly Foxed, just browsing. It was only when I left that I realised that the two people who worked there hadn’t interrupted once – I don’t think they cared at all whether we bought anything; they were just pleased to see people paying their books so much attention.

Slightly Foxed pitch their magazine as ‘the real reader’s quarterly’. The Slightly Foxed Bookshop is the real reader’s bookshop.

By Kirsty Taylor, Acting Assistant Editor | @EditorialGirls

 

Book & Kitchen

31 All Saints Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 1HE

07508 030 742 | http://bookandkitchen.com/ | @BookandKitchen

I only recently discovered Book & Kitchen whilst wandering around the streets just off Portobello Road one weekend. I have just moved into a new flat there and was trying to scope out the charms of the local area – not exactly challenging in Notting Hill, you’ll agree (yep, I’m already a smug West Londoner).

The store has a strange but balanced composite of aesthetics; bright contemporary colours and modishly upholstered armchairs share space with a fully functioning vintage typewriter and record player whose needle wobbles and crackles over an old vinyl.

Bookandkitchen1

The spirit and energy is immediately evident, not only from the décor, but the staff as well. Book & Kitchen’s owner and front of house, Muna Khogali, is super friendly and passionate about what she’s doing and could no doubt hand sell every book in the store with her enthusiasm. Plus she’ll also make you a coffee and a slice of cake downstairs! When was the last time that happened when you were browsing in [name redacted for legal reasons]. That’s the ‘kitchen’ bit in the name by the way, just in case, you know, you were thinking they also sold splash backs and graphite worktops.

What I like most is that the books are allowed to showcase themselves. There are no shouty sales promotions or merchandising that makes you immediately aware of the publishers (yes, I fully realise the hypocrisy here). It is assumed that you know what you are looking for, and if not, you are given as much time as you need to discover something new. 31 All Saints Rd, W11. Be about it.

By Joe Yule, Marketing Executive | @Joe_Christmas

 

Pages of Hackney

70 Lower Clapton Road, Hackney, London E5 0RN

020 8525 1452 | http://pagesofhackney.co.uk/ | @pagesofhackney

A little like Joe (see above), when I first moved to the part of London I now call home, I spent (and still spend) an inordinate amount of time wandering about the place, often lost. It was on one of these adventures that I stumbled across Pages of Hackney. Attractive exterior: check. Local notices in the window: check. Wonderful assortment of books, old and new, plus small dog: check. It is a proper book shop.

Pages front

If, like me, you're interested in London's history, especially the local stuff, there is so much to sink your teeth into. The history books are right in front of you when you go in, and you can find pretty much everything there. I recently bought a great little book on Blake's London by Iain Sinclair, and a copy of Craig Taylor's brilliant Londoners for a friend. There are lots of more obscure titles too, but I won't bore you with them all, you'll have to go and check the selection out yourself.

Finally, get thee to the basement (a treasure trove of vast proportions) and hats off if you can resist the lure of classic Penguin books and vintage Marvel comics. They run great events in there too. Before I descend into even more hyperbole, here's why Pages gets my vote:

1. It smells right. New and old book smell = nice.

2. It's quiet, calming and no-one bothers you if you just want to get your head down and browse (but people are friendly and suitably informed if you fancy a chat).

3. Did I mention Merlin the dog?

Merlin14

By Natalie Williams, Digital Marketing Executive | @natalie_rw

It would be remiss to talk about independent bookshops without mentioning the Paris institution that is Shakespeare and Company. Here's a post on our On the Strand blog from last year that you may find interesting.

Finally, for our London followers, here's a handy map to the great and good of London's independent bookstores. Enjoy, and happy Independents Day! #independentsday

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50. Designing Principle #4: Community

DP 2_Community

Some stories are not about a single protagonist. Sometimes a group or community becomes the larger focus. Using a community as a designing principle is the fourth category in this series.

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Struasser explores the complexity of a school shooting and could have been told from POV of the shooter, or a friend of the shooter, or a teacher. Instead Struasser lets an entire community tell this story: friends, parents, teachers, students, etc. In so doing, a portrait of the shooters and the events is constructed by the reader through snippets, interviews, and emails. The structure unveils the fragmentation and chaos of the event itself, and how hard it is to find a single truth of an event or person.

Helen Frost’s verse novel Keesha’s House also creates a portrait of a community, but in a different way. The story follows eight protagonists who become homeless.  Each character has his or her own arc, and is given one poem per chapter with which to tell his or her story. Frost’s creates unity between these eight individual stories with the use of a wheel chapter structure. At the core of each chapter is a theme, for example: “Why I can’t live at home,” and each poem of that chapter touches upon the theme in a way that is specific to each character. This structure unites an entire community of abandoned children.

Is your story about a community or ensemble of people? How might you use this to influence the structure of your story?

Up Next: Designing Principle #5 – Parallel Stories and Myth

Want to know more about designing principles? Try these links:


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