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51. Planet Automattic: April 2014

One WordPress.com staffer challenged the others to a month-long blogging challenge... and you'll never guess what happened next! (Spoiler: we blogged a lot.)

10 Comments on Planet Automattic: April 2014, last added: 4/30/2014
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52. Virtual Town Hall

Hey YALSA members, I want to hear from you!

In recent years, the President and Board of Directors have held virtual town halls to hear great ideas, get feedback on activities, and talk through goal areas in YALSA’s mission. On May 7th at 2 pm EST, we’d like take the broad view and talk through your overall YALSA experience. Specifically, we’ll be covering the following four questions:

  • What is it about the organization that has earned your loyalty?
  • What does YALSA do that frustrates you?
  • What are three things that YALSA could do that would add the most professional value to the career of teen librarians?
  • What are your three biggest concerns or needs?

Your thoughts can help YALSA become an even more responsive and relevant organization, so please, speak up! We’ll be meeting via this Adobe Connect space. Chat and audio will be available, but virtual bonus points will be given to those with a microphone too! Feel free to log-in at anytime in the next week to test your device’s capability and setup.

Thanks and I look forward to talking with you.




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53. Celebrating Earth Day 2014

Ecologists and entomologists. Natural history buffs. Bloggers with green thumbs. We're among many WordPress.com users focused on nature and the environment. Today, let's celebrate the work of some of these bloggers.

12 Comments on Celebrating Earth Day 2014, last added: 4/22/2014
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54. more coming...

Just can't get enough...notice the bird has caught a fish!

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55. I'm over here!

...just powering through spring break, teaching art camp for kids ages 6-12. What an amazing group, it's never been this fun! The theme of the week is paper, and we've made our own, played with pulp, made some marionettes and today built a complete paperland. Here's a peek:


I'm so proud of these guys (and the ones I didn't show are great too), awesome job, and kind of inspiring...

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56. WordPress.com by the Numbers: The March Hot List

Another month is in the books! The WordPress.com community made March a month to remember with an avalanche of great achievements. Here's a look at some of the highlights.

10 Comments on WordPress.com by the Numbers: The March Hot List, last added: 4/2/2014
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57. Profile: Long Awkward Pause Is Anything But

Group blogs like Long Awkward Pause shine on WordPress.com -- and now you can say you knew this comedic confab before they hit the big time.

10 Comments on Profile: Long Awkward Pause Is Anything But, last added: 3/31/2014
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58. Around the World in 10 Moments

With millions of users around the world, we're an international community of writers, photographers, and more. Enjoy these recent snapshots and soundbites, from Moscow to Cairo.

13 Comments on Around the World in 10 Moments, last added: 3/27/2014
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59. On the World Around Us: A Sampling of Science Blogs

From thoughtful commentary on the history of science to an entertaining blend of science and humor, these blogs have very distinct approaches to science but have one thing in common: a driving curiosity about the world around us.

10 Comments on On the World Around Us: A Sampling of Science Blogs, last added: 3/19/2014
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60. Ask Us Anything! Join Our Reddit AMA (Mar 21, 2pm EDT)


On Friday, March 21 at 2 p.m. EDT, editors from our Ohio office will answer reader and community questions on Reddit. We’re conducting the “Ask Me Anything” session in /r/writing, Reddit’s writing-discussion-only community.

If you are already a redditor, you’ll likely know how this process works: We will announce our AMA on Twitter with a link to the Reddit post; registered users will be able to leave questions in our thread and editors from the magazine and website will be around to answer and address that commentary in real-time on Friday afternoon. You can ask us just about anything: questions about craft, marketing, publication, magazines, our magazine, books of all shapes and flavors … anything writing- or reading-related is welcome.

If you are not a Reddit user yet and you would like to participate, you will need to register and create an account

. It’s free and anonymous (you don’t even have to supply an email address). Once you’ve finished the 30-second process of creating an account, you can join discussions on thousands of topics with millions of people all over the world.

In the days between this post and the official beginning of our casual AMA, we recommend joining Reddit

and participating a bit to familiarize yourself with the site’s format and function. Some great subreddits we love are /r/books, /r/writing, /r/shutupandwrite, /r/WritersGroup, /r/WritingPrompts and /r/sixwordstories.

This post will be updated with a link to the event on Friday, March 21.

Please note that questions left on this post and directed to our Twitter feed are not part of the AMA and we can’t guarantee that they’ll be answered satisfactorily during the allotted time period. For in-depth answers, we recommend jointing the AMA; 140-character limits don’t allow for comprehensive feedback.

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61. WordPressers Making a Splash: March Edition

From behind the scenes at the TSA, to book deals, to captivating illustrations and fascinating musical analysis, WordPress.com bloggers are making their mark on the world.

4 Comments on WordPressers Making a Splash: March Edition, last added: 3/6/2014
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62. Planet Automattic: February 2014

No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find people working on WordPress.com: Developers deploying lines of code. Designers tinkering with themes. Engineers working one-on-one with users to help make their websites just so. (Want to join in? We’re hiring.)

One cool thing about Automatticians? We care about WordPress.com so much that we’re always thinking about ways to make it better, online and off. Here’s a glimpse at the 230 Automatticians around the globe — and things we’re working on and thinking about right now.

We blog about WordPress (naturally!)

At Automattic, we’re constantly communicating, breaking and fixing, and iterating and improving. Communication tools like the P2 theme, Skype, and IRC channels allow ideas and conversations to flow at all times, while our own blogs are spaces to reflect on and share the things we’ve learned.

In Moscow, Code Wrangler Konstantin Kovshenin works on the Dot Org Team, writing themes and plugins and contributing to WordPress Core. On his personal blog, he shares tips, code snippets, and even videos of his talks at WordCamps, like WordCamp Sofia 2013 in Bulgaria.

Meta engineer Nikolay Bachiyski, from Sofia, Bulgaria, chatting with others. (Image by Sheri Bigelow.)

Meta Engineer Nikolay Bachiyski chatting with others. (Image by Sheri Bigelow.)

Colorado-based Automattician Greg Brown works on search, natural language processing, and machine learning; his team wrangles data (and launched the Related Posts feature last November). On Greg’s blog, you can follow his recent posts on Elasticsearchindexing, and the future:

Humans express their dreams, opinions, and ideas in hundreds of languages. Bridging that gap between humans and computers — and ultimately between humans — is a noble endeavor that will subtly shape the next century. I’d like to see Elasticsearch be a force in democratizing the use of natural language processing and machine learning.

We blog about the web and technology

At Unencumbered By Facts, Code Wrangler (and Linux Geek) Jason Munro muses on a mix of topics, from programming to data, and even on moving from Wall Street to WordPress.

Over in Taipei, Taiwan, Growth Engineer Ben Thompson focuses on attracting new users to WordPress.com, and improving their experience, on Team Triton. Ben actively writes about technology from a strategic perspective at Stratecherylike his recent thoughts on messaging on mobile, and his follow-up piece on this week’s Facebook and WhatsApp deal.

On ebeab (or eight beats equals a byte), Marcus Kazmierczak publishes newsletters about trends around open source, web development, Linux, and more. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marcus works on Team Tinker — a team focused on creating new products — and covers more than just your usual technology news: his latest edition dives into the world of crypto-currency and Dogecoin, and past editions focus on productivity and hacking and security.

Over on the east coast of the US, Sheri Bigelow (who snapped the images you see in this post) is a New York-based photographer and designer who strives to make the WordPress.com theme and customization experience the best it can be, and shares techniques and ideas on her site, Design SimplyWe especially like her tips on photography workflows and themes.

Theme Team lead Ian Stewart. (Image by Sheri Bigelow.)

Theme Team Lead Ian Stewart. (Image by Sheri Bigelow.)

Likewise, it’s cool to read design ideas from Theme Team Lead Ian Stewart from Winnipeg, Manitoba, whose crew of wranglers launches the new themes you see in the Theme Showcase.

This week, Ian ponders the principles of good design, but he also writes on general best practices and other interests, like writing. If you’ve not seen it, Ian’s talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2013 resonates as an inspiring, big-picture, yet personal talk on themes and web design.

We blog about other stuff, too

Automatticians write about all sorts of topics — from tread desking to fatherhood to musings on love and life to gaming to reading and writing. And even if we’re not working on WordPress.com, we bring the same curiosity and motivation to our other passions — and find that much of what we do and enjoy here overlaps in side projects.

Isaac Keyet, a Product Designer living in Sweden and working on the Data Team, writes on a variety of subjects. In his recent post on light, color, work, and sleep, he talks about the types of light that affect our sleep/wake patterns (and recommends f.lux, an app that changes your screen temperature to best fit your location).

Tokyo-based Automattician Naoko Takano, from Team Global.

Tokyo-based Automattician Naoko Takano, from Team Global, engineering happiness. (Image by Sheri Bigelow.)

Karen Arnold, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and works on the Happiness Team, started a blogging class as an experiment for a homeschooling group. (Karen also led a workshop last fall at the Digital Family Summit to teach kids and their families how to get started blogging on WordPress.com.)

Further north in Quebec, Canada, Kathryn Presner, a member of the Theme Team, recaps her experience mentoring students at Ladies Learning Code. Being a Happiness Engineer and WordCamp speaker, educating others is nothing new to Kathryn — it’s a perfect example of open source education in action, and how the skills and passions of Automatticians aren’t restricted to “the workplace.”

Are you interested in working alongside these and many other talented folks? We’re hiring for numerous positions — consider applying!

Filed under: behind the scenes, Community, WordPress.com

10 Comments on Planet Automattic: February 2014, last added: 2/21/2014
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63. Three Ebooks to Spark Creativity and Grow Traffic

At WordPress.com our raison d’être is to do everything we can to help you make your blog the very best it can be. Over at The Daily Post we’ve got daily writing prompts to give your muse a friendly nudge, we publish articles on how to grow your traffic and community, as well as tips and advice on how to take great photos, no matter which gear you choose.

We’ve compiled a ton of great material into three new ebooks, made with love, for you. And, they’re free. They come in three fetching formats so we’ve got you covered no matter whether .pdf, .epub (iBooks), or .mobi (Kindle) is your jam.

365 Writing Prompts


So you want to write but you have trouble getting started? Writers’ block a perpetual, unwelcome guest? With 365 Writing Prompts we’ve got a different writing prompt to jumpstart your muse each and every day of the year. Looking for more writing inspiration and practice? Be sure to check out our weekly writing challenges.

Photography 101


Chock-full of inspiration, technical tips, and practical ideas you can apply right away, Photography 101: The basics of photography and the power of visual storytelling will help you take and make beautiful photographs and school you on post-processing so that your work can shine, no matter whether you’ve got a monster-sized DSLR or a trusty cameraphone in your pocket. If you’d like more practice with your camera, c’mon over to The Daily Post and participate in our weekly photo challenges. We provide the theme each week, you interpret it with your camera as you see fit.

Grow Your Traffic, Build Your Blog


Most of us write, shoot, and blog for the love of it, though it’s always a great feeling to get a Like or a comment, or participate in a great conversation with someone who shares your interests. If you’d like to attract more traffic and nurture a community around your site, take Grow Your Traffic, Build Your Blog: Tips and Tricks for the Tenacious Blogger for a spin.

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community

13 Comments on Three Ebooks to Spark Creativity and Grow Traffic, last added: 2/20/2014
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64. 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:


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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65. 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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66. I’m Published in Somerset Studio!



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




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













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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67. 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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68. 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. 


  • 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.


  • 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.)


  • 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.). 


  • 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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69. 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


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.


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.


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?


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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70. 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:

1 Comments on Designing Principle #4: Community, last added: 7/26/2013
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71. 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:

0 Comments on Designing Principle #4: Community as of 7/24/2013 1:48:00 PM
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72. 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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73. 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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74. 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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75. 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 …

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