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1. Edging back to blogging

posted by Neil Gaiman
I really am out of the habit of blogging, aren't I? Some of it's from travelling too much, and most of it is probably from using Twitter and Facebook in places and ways that I would have blogged in the past.

Last year's social media sabbatical was really pleasant and rewarding, though, and I'm thinking about doing another, longer one, at the end of this year. Which will probably mean I'll return to blogging again then.

I'm writing this from a hotel in Dublin, where I was today receiving the James Joyce Award. Now off to the UK, where I'll be delivering the Douglas Adams memorial lecture, as a benefit for Save the Rhinos. (Almost all tickets are gone. A few VIP tickets are up on ebay.) The Lecture is called Immortality and Douglas Adams. I know that. Now I just have to write it.

A new book is out: it's called Trigger Warning: Short Stories and Disturbances.

I learned when Smoke and Mirrors came out what people say in reviews of short story collections, and learned it again when Fragile Things came out, a decade later. The reviews say "A good collection of stories, let down by (the weak stories) and redeemed by (the strong stories)" But nobody ever seems to agree on what the weak and the strong stories are, so I never feel I have learned very much from the reviews, but am always happy that people found stories that they did like in there.

So that's what most of the reviews say.

Then there's Frank Cottrell Boyce writing in the New Statesman, about Trigger Warning, short stories, what they are and how we read them, and it's an essay I'd love even if I weren't in there:

It is interesting that Saint Columba makes an appearance. Columba began his exile on Iona in penance for his part in the 6th-century Battle of the Book, a conflict that had its origin in his secret copying of Saint Finnian’s psalter: a kind of medieval illegal download. The subsequent ruling – “To every cow its calf, to every book its copy” – marks an important moment in the history of books. Were they beautiful, magical objects, to be carried into battle as charms (as the psalter was)? Or were they a means to disseminate information? Should their magic stay locked inside or should it be shared? Trigger Warning seems to grow out of a similar rift – the alternating currents of struggle and synergy that flow between the page and the electronic media.

I'm pleased that most readers seem to enjoy most of Trigger Warning, especially pleased and relieved that "Black Dog", the second of the American Gods stories of Shadow in the UK, seems to be well-received. I'm nervously caracoling towards the next novel, and suspect I'll start it in a few months, when the current giant jobs are done...

Amanda and I went to Sarasota to see my 97 year old cousin Helen, and seeing we were there and it was Valentine's Day, we did an event at the beautiful historic Tampa Theatre. This, at the end of a VERY long evening, is me singing "I Google You".



And the beautiful P. Craig Russell limited edition print we did for it is up for sale at Neverwear:

Ah. That was my return to blogging and it wasn't funny at all, was it? Bugger.





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2. 100 things I wouldn’t know

In honor of my 100th blog post, I want to share 100 things I wouldn’t know if I’d never become a children’s writer.

Collage by Vicky Lorencen

Collage by Vicky Lorencen

  1. Follow submission guidelines like you are assembling a nuclear warhead. No fudging.
  2. Trends are to be watched, not followed.
  3. Focus on what you’re doing well. Do more of that.
  4. A synopsis is as much for your benefit as it is the editor’s.
  5. Writing is reductive. Writing should be like a sale at the GAP–it should always be 20% off. (Mo Willems)
  6. Waiting for opportunities is fiddle faddle. Create them.
  7. Don’t ask too much of a first chapter. It’s an invitation to the reader and an opportunity to assure her you can be trusted. (Andrew Karre)
  8. Query letters are the most important and least read letter you’ll ever write.
  9. Show a character’s feelings through reactions.
  10. Just about everybody struggles with jealousy. I am jealous of those who don’t.
  11. Picture books are an art form unto themselves.
  12. Query letters need to sound like your real voice, not a superficial marketing pitch.
  13. Joining a critique group can be a game changer.
  14. Having a social media presence is important, but don’t let it infringe on your writing time.
  15. Always send thank you notes.
  16. Scene = Time + Place + One Change (Candace Fleming)
  17. Having beautiful file folders makes revision more funner. More fun, that is.
  18. Do not bother with Goodreads.
  19. Use index cards to map out scenes in a novel.
  20. For novels, ask–what is the job of this chapter?
  21. Facebook can really mess with your head.
  22. Follow-up with queries and submissions. You did the sending after all.
  23. Keep in touch with the editors, agents and participants you meet at conferences.
  24. Small workshops are often more worthwhile than big conferences.
  25. Back up your files and back up your back up files.
  26. Write what you know.
  27. Write what you wish you knew.
  28. Look for the seeds to resolving your story’s conflict within the story itself.
  29. Characters have been alive a long time before they introduced themselves to you.
  30. Writing costs money, time and energy. It’s worth it.
  31. If you feel stuck in your genre of choice, shake things up by writing in a different one.
  32. Everybody wants to quit at some point.
  33. Giving back doubles the investment you’ve made in your own writing.
  34. The journey to publication is not a race.
  35. Take thank you notes with you to conferences so you can thank people right away.
  36. Identifying (and eradicating) your crutch words can help to tighten your writing. Find/replace is your friend.
  37. Print out your entire novel in 8 pt. font, highlight the “solid” parts, then spread it out to see where the plot sags. (Thanks, Darcy Pattison)
  38. One carry-on bag is really all you need.
  39. Characters must undergo an inner and outer journey.
  40. Resist the urge to hide during conferences.
  41. Talk about your dreams and ambitions.
  42. Having a blog is fun work.
  43. You don’t have to start a novel with a big bang. Let the reader get to know the character before the inciting incident.
  44. Flying solo isn’t heroic. It’s nonsense.
  45. In a query letter, use quotes from the book to show character. (Christy Ottaviano)
  46. Your first idea is not unique. Twist it.
  47. Accept critiques with grace.
  48. Give critiques with humility.
  49. An editor’s job is to help clarify what your book is about.
  50. When you read, read like a writer.
  51. Give the same amount of care to world building/setting as you do to creating characters.
  52. A good cup of tea can fix a lot of things.
  53. Progress is the difference between finding time to write and making time to write.
  54. We write to re-write. And then to re-write what we re-wrote.
  55. Editors and agents are people too.
  56. Writing is an act of revelation. (Cynthia Leitich Smith)
  57. Use Find & Replace to weed out those just so very, very, very useless words.
  58. Your family may never grasp that staring off in space in part of the writing process.
  59. Writing will drive you to do otherwise loathsome tasks like cleaning the refrigerator (at your neighbor’s house because you’ve already cleaned yours. Oh, and organized your sock drawer. Twice.)
  60. Writing makes every life experience—from fixing a flat to flying in a helicopter–fodder for future writing.
  61. Disappointment is standard issue.
  62. You can always quit. No one is forcing you to write.
  63. Reading at open mic is a hoot. (I mean this.)
  64. Figure out a way to remember names (for when you go to conferences). You’re a word person. You can do this.
  65. There are two kinds of non-writing people—those who are in awe of you and those who think anyone can be a writer, especially for children. Don’t worry about either kind.
  66. Pretend to be confident. You may be a shy person, but that’s no one’s business but your own.
  67. Rejection sucks.
  68. There are three effective ways to make rejection suck less. I don’t know what those ways are.
  69. Readers bond with characters when we ask them to stretch. (Cynthia Leitich Smith)
  70. When you get stuck, stop. Move on to something new or take a nap. Let your mind wrestle with the knots a while before you go back.
  71. Writing is like wood carving. You go from larger to smaller, so don’t focus on details first.
  72. Most parents only get to name two, three, maybe four or so people. Writers get to name lots of people. Cool.
  73. Characters may push you. Let them.
  74. Grammar matters. At least know the rules before you snap them.
  75. Be respectful to everyone, even (and especially) on social media.
  76. Stories must balance between the specific and the universal.
  77. It’s important not to have a sense of preciousness with your work. (Shaun Tan)
  78. In writing, the author is the third wheel. You’re in the way. No one wants you there. You need to be invisible. (Mo Willems)
  79. Laughing at your own writing is a great feeling, so long as you were intending to be funny.
  80. A main character’s problem must feel organic to the story.Writers cannot emotionally protect themselves. (Coe Booth)
  81. It’s important to love my secondary characters as much as my main characters.
  82. Reinvention is the dark chocolate in the writer’s life. (Jane Yolen)
  83. Secondary characters can’t just exist to serve the main character’s story.
  84. Don’t let details overwhelm or derail a story.
  85. Before you begin drafting a novel, create character sketches by interviewing each character.
  86. Stay out of a character’s head as long as possible. (Andrew Karre)
  87. Invest in your friendships with other writers. It will always, always be worth it.
  88. Pay attention to what kids do, enjoy and worry about now. Some things never change, but not everything.
  89. No one wears a T-shirt with their favorite plot on it. Readers fall in love with characters.
  90. A writer’s validation has to come from what her work means to a reader and not from reviews or awards. (Ed Spicer)
  91. Reliable WiFi and a laptop with a light up keyboard are splendid things.
  92. Create a room in your own in your home (or at least a zone) that’s for writing only.
  93. The feel of book pitch needs to match the tone of the story.
  94. Something as ordinary as weather can be used to impact the mood of a story. [Cue the thunder-clap.]
  95. To learn about my characters, I need to ask where am “I” in my writing. (Coe Booth)
  96. You can write an entire novel without once using a semi-colon.
  97. Ultimately, the purpose of storytelling is to remind us of something ordinary or familiar. (Shaun Tan)
  98. Generally speaking, chocolate will not fill plot holes. But it can’t hurt to try.
  99. Brilliance strikes two seconds after you hit send on a submission.
  100. Everything takes longer than you think it will. Even reading lists.

The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis. ~ Umberto Eco


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3. Blogging- Does Anyone Read What You Write?

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) has an interesting article on blogging without getting the results you want. Without any one bother to read what you write. It explains that while there are tons of articles focused on how to write a quality article, there’s not much on distribution strategies. The article lists seven tips on creating and implementing a ‘smart’ distribution plan. The first

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4. Create and Publish an Optimized Blog Post to WordPress

I have a few Slideshare presentations under my belt now. Slideshare is a great way to create a 'video' without the 'video necessary' tech stuff. The way I create a Slideshare presentation is to first create a PowerPoint presentation. Once that's complete, I simply upload it to Slideshare. It's so easy and quick. My newest presentation is on creating and publishing a WordPress blog post. Since

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5. Your 2015 Blogging Roadmap

Blogging for Writers by Robin HoughtonThinking of starting a blog in 2015 to build your writer platform and gain a readership for your work? All the best journeys start with a bit of planning. Even if you’re not one for planning and would rather dive in right away, bear with me! In this exclusive excerpt from Blogging for Writers, Robin Houghton asks six crucial questions about your blogging goals, audience, and plan. Be honest with the answers as you write them down—they’ll serve as good reminders and motivators later on. When you’re finished, you’ll have the beginnings of a blogging roadmap that will assist you throughout 2015 and beyond.

1. Why do you want a blog?

What appeals to you about blogging? Is it something you can see yourself getting into, enjoying, and looking forward to doing? What do you want to get out of it? Promotion? Community? Sales?

It’s important to have goals for your blog, and those goals should be linked to your goals as a writer. All the same, the more open you are to seeing the fun in blogging, the more likely you are to stick with it and have it work for you.

2. Who do you want to read it? 

An interesting question, and linked closely to your blogging goals. It’s no good saying, “I want the whole world to read it!” Of course there are ways to go viral or hijack an audience, but the most successful bloggers are in it for the long term and are interested in becoming notable rather than notorious.

So, who is your audience? Your readers and fans (actual or potential)? Your peers? Industry influencers? Prospective publishers, agents, editors, gatekeepers? Perhaps, if you write for children, it’s the parents of your readers. Perhaps you write for two different markets with very different readers. The reason for this question is to get you thinking about what your blog will be about, what it will look like, the tone of voice you will adopt, and so on.

3. What are you prepared to put into it? 

Sorry to sound harsh, but the vast majority of blogs are abandoned within the first year. Don’t let that be yours! You can blog for free, but there will be costs associated with it—some financial, but mostly in terms of your time and effort.

Do your research—check out other writers’ blogs, especially (but not exclusively) those in your genre or niche. Look at the top industry blogs and websites—the annual Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers is a great place to start. Not only will you draw inspiration from them, but by subscribing to other blogs you’re starting the process of connecting with the blogosphere. It’s never too soon to start commenting, sharing, and engaging with other bloggers. When your blog is up and running, it’s just as important to keep engaging with others as well as nurturing your own blog community.

4. What’s your blogging persona?

A blog is unmediated—it’s you talking directly to people—so it’s worth thinking about your “persona,” or the face you present to your blog readers and anyone else who may come across your blog. Here are some considerations:

  • Professional vs. Personal: Let’s say you are approaching blogging primarily as a business tool—for example, your goals might be to network with influential industry people, demonstrate your authority/ability/talent, or promote yourself to an audience of readers or potential readers. In this situation, you are presenting yourself and your work as a brand, and your blog will reflect that, both in how it looks and in the nature of its content. But this is a blog, not your author publicity page. Take advantage of that and inject your personality into it, too.
  • Transparency and Consistency: Will you talk about both your successes and your failures? Not everyone wants to lay themselves bare by mentioning rejections, spats, loss of motivation, or other negative aspects of their writing life. Others revel in it and find visitor numbers and comments increase when their blog posts are at their most raw and honest.

5. What will you name your blog? 

What will your blog be called? An obvious choice might be your name, writer name, or something that incorporates your name, such as “Seth’s Blog” or “Neil Gaiman’s Journal.”

You might prefer your blog’s name to say something about the content, or its purpose, so that it’s separate from your name. This could work well if it’s not your only blog, or if you’ve already got a website with your name associated with it and the blog is in addition to that, or if you are planning to have regular guest bloggers or contributors.

Your blog’s given name or title doesn’t necessarily have to be its domain name (the address that appears in the browser bar). You may choose to register your writer name as your domain name, then call your blog something different. As a rule, you should try to register both your writer name and your blog name (if different) as domain names, even if you’re not sure you will use them right away.

6. What blogging platform will you use? 

A blog platform refers to the software that powers a blog. You could think of it as the underlying construction, like a house—is it timber-framed or brick-built? Once the house is built, you may not be able to tell. Most blog platforms do pretty much the same job. But it’s worth understanding the key differences—the choices you make at this stage will affect what you can do with your blog further down the line, so it’s worth taking the time.

The most popular blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger, and Blogging for Writers goes into both of these in depth. Do your research and make a decision based on your needs, comfort level, and personal preferences.

BloggingPlan

Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton is available here.


Rachel Randall is the managing editor for Writer’s Digest Books.

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6. Winter Recess

The six of us will be celebrating holidays, recharging our batteries, and coming up with more posts to share with this incredible community of teachers and writers for the next two weeks. In the meantime, we have lots to keep you going over winter break.

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7. Calling oral history bloggers – again!

Last April, we asked you to help us out with ideas for the Oral History Review’s blog. We got some great responses, and now we’re back to beg for more! We want to use our social media platforms to encourage discussion within the broad community oral historians, from professional historians to hobbyists. Part of encouraging that discussion is asking you all to contribute your thoughts and experiences.

retro microphone Whether you have a follow up to your presentation at the Oral History Association Annual Meeting, a new project you want to share, an essay on your experiences doing oral history, or something completely different, we’d love to hear from you.

We are currently looking for posts between 500-800 words or 15-20 minutes of audio or video. These are rough guidelines, however, so we are open to negotiation in terms of media and format. We should also stress that while we welcome posts that showcase a particular project, we can’t serve as landing page for anyone’s kickstarter.

Please direct any questions, pitches or submissions to the social media coordinator, Andrew Shaffer, at ohreview[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also message us on Twitter (@oralhistreview) or Facebook.

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Image credits: (1) A row of colorful telephones stands in Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station. Photo by Mark Fischer. CC BY-SA 2.0 via fischerfotos Flickr. (2) Retro Microphone. © Kohlerphoto via iStockphoto.

The post Calling oral history bloggers – again! appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Get Traffic to Your Website with Inbound Marketing - New eClass

It’ll soon be a new year and with that I’ll be offering a NEW online marketing e-class through WOW! Women on Writing. As valued readers and visitors to this website, I want to keep you in the loop. Just like the marketing arena is ever changing, so are my classes. The reason is to keep up with all those changes. Beginning January 5, 2015, I’m offering a new 4-week e-class: GET TRAFFIC TO

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9. To Blog or Not to Blog...Is Anyone Reading?


The awesome co-hosts for the December 3 posting of the IWSG will be T. Drecker from Kidbits, Eva E. Solar at Lilicasplace, and Patsy Collins!


"To Blog or Not to Blog...Is Anyone Reading?" 

by Donna McDine

With another year coming to a rapid end and reflecting on 2014 and that I've been blogging since 2007, it's mind-boggling to me seven years have flown by since my first blog post and three months since I've joined #IWSG. Yikes, where has the time gone!

From early on in my writing career I have read about the importance of building one's platform through various methods with blogging being an essential part of those efforts. The central focus of my blog is the children's publishing world, whether it be about my journey or that of my colleagues. 

Overall, I am Snoopy dance
pleased with my traffic stats...averaging 475-625 visitors per day, but I'm always disappointed on the lack of comments. 



I am in awe of fellow bloggers who achieve high comment numbers and often wonder how they do it. 




I know one of the key parts is commenting on other blogs, which I need to get back into the groove of doing. As of late, I've been focusing more on my W-I-P than surfing blogs and commenting. It's definitely a balance I'm striving for, but without finishing my W-I-P what's the point of blogging in the first place?

If you visited and read this far, I'd like your advice on how to engage and promote one's blog. 

Be sure to leave your blog URL so I can visit and comment at your blog. 

Thanks a bunch for visiting and hopefully commenting. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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10. 10 Must-Know Tips on Creating a Search Engine Optimized Website

There needs to be at least 10 of me to keep up with all the great information online. I just read an infographic from QuickSprout.com on structuring a search engine optimized website. Having been affected by both Google Penguin and Panda, I look out for SEO strategies from reliable sources. So, here’s a breakdown of Neil Patel’s post: 1. Your URL matters. I’ve known this for a while, but

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11. Content Marketing - Are Long Sentences in Your Blog Posts Good or Bad for Your Rankings?

I’ve been getting more involved in my website analytics lately. Due to this, I found an interesting ranking element I didn’t know about – sentence length. I know about sentence length in regard to writing for children, but had no idea it was a ranking element for your website. Apparently, long sentence reduce content clarity. This has me thinking and editing as I’m writing – adding more

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12. 3 Power-Packed Elements to SEO Ready Content

There is much to know about SEO ready content. The most important thing is to create content that search engines will find valuable enough to use as the results of a search query. Below are three power-packed elements needed to create this type of content. 1. Create ‘shareable’ and keyword optimized content. The ‘old’ SEO involved optimizing keywords that search engines would find,

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13. Blogging with External Links - More Value to the Reader and More Ranking Power

There are so many tips, tricks, and strategies to blogging ‘effectively.’ Anyone can blog. It’s simple - you just type away, publish the post, and share it. But, to blog effectively, you need to pay attention to lots and lots of blogging strategies to make the post more valuable to the reader and make it search engine friendly. One technique to add a power-punch to your blog posts is to

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14. Did You Write a Book? Sell It Through Your Blog

How to Sell Books Through Blogs Guest Post by Kim Staflund In today's digital environment, selling books through blogs is viable and preferable for many authors. Here's more information on how to sell your published books through blogs. • Interest: You need an audience that has an interest in your book. A series of blogs can help to not just develop, but engage that audience. Let them know

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15. I don’t THINK anyone is trying to hunt me down

heathers01 I dont THINK anyone is trying to hunt me downLast weekend my friend Lori was in town and we took the dogs for a walk in the schoolyard across the street. Three tween girls were hanging out on the jungle gym and as we passed they started whispering ostentatiously in our direction and laughing meanly. ‘Girls that age” said Lori, a middle-school math teacher in the Bronx, “are the worst.”

That encounter stayed with me as I started exploring the saga of YA author Kathleen Hale and the Goodreads troll, which Hale described at great, great length in the Guardian. What did the editors think to let her go on for 5000 words? Perhaps they are part of the great catfishing* conspiracy erected to oppress Ms. Hale, because while you begin the essay thinking “poor her,” as Hale unravels you start to smile nervously and look for an exit. It’s far away.

Then I went to a blog that Hale cited as an ally in her fight against the Dark, Stop the GR [Goodreads] Bullies, which I thought would be, I don’t know, some kind of manifesto about maintaining decency in book discussion. Instead I soon felt like Jennifer Connelly discovering Russell Crowe’s crazypants chalkboard diagrams as pages of scans and proofs and links and trolls and catfish whirled about each other with manic glee. Here, as in Hale’s confessional, I saw no victims, just bullies on all sides.

I know it’s unlikely–or NOT, he adds, as the madness infects him–that any of the participants in this circus are twelve-year-old girls, but watching the accusations fly and the drama being whipped up reminded me of those kids at the school, a big helping of attention-seeking with a side of hostility. I’ve avoided Goodreads only because it was too much like work, but it always seemed like such a nice place. Now it looks to me like those spy novels I love, where the apparent placidity of daily life  and ordinary citizens is completely at the mercy of the puppet masters. If you want me, I’m in hiding.

*as Liz Burns points out, that word does not mean what Hale thinks it does.

 

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16. Content Marketing- 5 Powerful Traffic-Generating Strategies

The greatest way to drive traffic to your website is through content marketing. If you’re not sure what content marketing is, it’s simply a marketing strategy using content to create inbound traffic to you and your website. It’s also the strategy of using effective copywriting techniques to motivate your readers to take a desirable action. Content marketing includes copywriting, SEO writing,

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17. Celebrating Eleven Years

Today marks eleven years of this little old blog. Where has the time gone? It certainly doesn’t seem like I have been at this for eleven years which means it must be fun otherwise I wouldn’t keep at it. So how appropriate was a sort of celebration Bookman and I did yesterday: Bikeworm.

Bikeworm was the first of what I hope will be many, sponsored rides for bookish folk. The Twin Cities Book Festival was yesterday at the State Fairgrounds, the ride, advertised for those who had a hard time deciding between a book or a bike, started at the downtown Minneapolis Central Library. We got a little backpack with a snack, a bike map of the Twin Cities, a bumper sticker that says “Make Your Next Stop the Library,” a bookmark, some discount coupons for booths at the festival, and a raffle ticket to win $500 worth of bike gear. The ride was limited to 100 people and I believe we ended up with 97. At 9:15 we got on our bikes and rode together along the Dinkytown Greenway, a newly completed off road bike only route that took us most of the way to the fairgrounds. It was an easy and pleasant, though chilly, 6.5 mile ride. Bookman and I have never been on a group ride like this before and we had a blast.

We even had two authors riding with us, poet and musician Ben Weaver who, at the conclusion of the ride, read us a wonderful poem he had composed for the occasion about bicycling. The other author was Terry Kerber who has just published Major Taylor. Taylor was a black cyclist and in his day the fastest man on a bike in the US.

Bookman and I locked up our bikes and went in to the festival exhibit area and wandered around to all the tables, browsing books and sometimes chatting with authors or publishers. I suck at this kind of chatting so it was really me looking interested and nodding my head a lot while Bookman did the talking. He is so good at this kind of thing I marvel to watch it. We managed to slink by the Dianetics booth without any of the Scientologists there trying to lure us over with some kind of stress test. The man in front of us wasn’t so lucky. One of the publishers had a book judging poets by the weight of their beards. I flipped through it giggling. There were no bearded female poets in the book, though if there were it would have been even more interesting.

Did I buy any books? Why yes, yes I did. At the Coffee House booth I bought a copy of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

by Eimear McBride. I’ve heard the beginning of the book is particularly perplexing so I opened the pages and read the first paragraph. Yes, perplexing, but in a delightful way. The Coffee House person at the booth, thinking, perhaps, that I would be turned off like so many other people are by experimental writing and difficult books, started trying to sell the book to me and assured me that after the first ten pages or so it would start to make sense. She was a bit surprised when I told her I knew all about it and loved this kind of thing, here’s my credit card.

At the Graywolf Press booth I got sucked into buying two more books, The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter and The Art of Daring: Risk Restlessness, Imagination by Carl Phillips. Baxter’s book discusses subtext in fiction. Phillips, a poet, takes on poetry and “its capacity for making a space for possibility and inquiry.” They are slim books and are targeted at writers which explains why the person at the Loft Writing Center table who saw me buy them tried to get me to sign up for writing classes. The books may be aimed at writers, but I am always of the mind that there are plenty of things readers can get out of them too. Writing and reading are feedback loops in a way. Reading teaches one about writing and writing teaches one about reading. There were a few other tempting books but remembering I came to the festival on a bicycle, I figured three books was enough.

Katha Pollitt was scheduled to speak at 12:30 and I really wanted to stay for that, but my cold is lingering and by 11:30 my energy was beginning to flag. Bookman reminded me we had to ride home, so I gave in and we headed out to our bikes. Our return trip included a woman named Cathy who had signed up for the group ride but had driven in from the burbs and missed the group, riding over alone and not really knowing where she was going. So she asked if she could tag along with us. Of course. She was really nice and grateful for the company. Back at the library we parted ways. Bookman and I rode to the metro train station a block away and hopped on with our bikes, got off at the station closest to our house and rode the rest of the way home. I then collapsed on my reading chaise for the rest of the day, much more tired than I should have been. But it was a fun day. The ride was a success and I suspect it will happen again next year. I hope it does anyway!

Now, to also celebrate eleven years of blogging I thought it might be fun to open up my Donny and Marie diary from 1979 when I was eleven years old. Turns out I didn’t have much to say that year because the only month filled in is January, but oh, what a laugh those 31 days are. Here are some samples with all the misspelling intact.

January 3, 1979
Today we were playing a game Cat’s Eye. I was playing with Alicia and my sister Cindy. Cindy was cheating! I’ve started to write 3 storys but, I still haven’t finished yet!

January 8, 1979
Today Sha came over and Cindy got mad. She told my mom of course. Now my mom said next time I write a story it has to be what a good sister is.

January 10, 1979
Today we went to room 16 only the 5th graders. We had to do mouth to mouth on resea Andy. that was the manican’s name. I did it and it was awful hard to pinch a rubber nose.

January 16, 1979
Today it was cold but it did not rain. I got a letter from Tricia today. I’m going to write her back as soon as I can. We are having chille for dinner. I don’t like chille.

January 17, 1979
Today at school we saw Iland of the blue dolphins. It rained and Cindy and I are playing school we are pretending to be freshmen.

January 27, 1979
We made a hop scotch out on the patio. We walked to the store with mom.

And there is a glimpse into the ever eventful life of me when I was eleven. I have no recollection of the “storys” I refer to nor do I remember not liking “chille” because I like it just fine now. I like to think in the intervening years both my writing and my spelling have improved. Perhaps one of these days I will go back in the archives and check out some of my first blog posts. But then maybe not. It is easier to forgive my eleven year-old self for being silly than it is to be kind myself from eleven years ago.

But now I’m just rambling. Blame the cold medicine.

Thank you all for visiting this little corner of cyberspace. The internet is such a big place and you could be anywhere else but here. I do so appreciate you stopping by. Each one of you are part of what has made this blogging thing so much fun and I am ever so grateful.


Filed under: Blogging, Books

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18. A Checklist to "See" Race/Culture in Kid/YA Books

I was honored to present at the Kidlitosphere's 8th Annual Convention in Sacramento, California, where I shared ten tips for adults interested in messages about race and culture that might go unnoticed "under the waterline" in books for children and young adults. I've offered these in other contexts, but here they are for bloggers and reviewers. As always, I welcome questions, corrections, and clarifications.
  1. Look for overused tropes like an older magical negro or a noble savage.
  2. Notice a smart/good peer of color whose only role is to serve as a foil for a flawed hero. 
  3. Check the cover art for whitewashing or overexoticization.
  4. Pay attention to when and how race is defined, if at all.
  5. Notice if the setting, plot, and characters are in charge of the casting.
  6. Pay attention to how beauty is defined.
  7. Notice outsider “bridge” characters and generic versus specific cultures.
  8. Check for a “single story” that underlines a stereotype about another culture.
  9. See who has the power to make change and who has the power to be changed.
  10. Ask questions about the storyteller’s authenticity, privilege, and power. 

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19. WordPressers Making a Splash

We might think of the end of summer as a slow news season. Not so for the authors and bloggers we feature today, who’ve been hard at work on some exciting projects recently.

Rebecca Hains

princess problemWriter, professor, and media scholar Rebecca Hains often shares thoughtful posts on her blog, especially on topics revolving around gender and discrimination. Earlier this month, she celebrated the release of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years (Sourcebooks), her most recent book. A critique of popular culture and the messages it sends to young girls, the book has already earned rave reviews, including from Brenda Chapman, writer and director of Disney’s Brave.

Broken Light: A Photography Collective

broken light

Danielle Hark founded Broken Light Collective, a community for photographers coping with mental health issues, more than two years ago. We’ve been following that project for a while (and mentioned it in a mental health-focused roundup earlier this year), so it was nice to see Danielle, and Broken Light Collective as a whole, receive the attention they deserve in a New York Times profile. It was published to coincide with the Collective‘s first group gallery show, which closed in New York in August.

Hungry Sofia

cuban table

Ana Sofía Peláez‘s site has showcased the colorful, mouthwatering delights of Caribbean cuisine for more than five years, mixing in great storytelling with beautiful food photography. Next month,  Ana Sofía will see her book, The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History (St. Martin’s Press), hit bookstores (and kitchens) everywhere. A labor of love on which she collaborated with photographer Ellen Silverman, the book chronicles Cuban food cultures from Havana to Miami to New York.

Notches

Anyone interested in engaging, wide-ranging discussions on the history of sexuality will enjoy Notches, a blog that has tackled topics like Medieval love magic and the origins of “Born This Way” politics.

Jack the Ripper

Earlier this week, Notches editor Julia Laite, a lecturer at the University of London, wrote a thought-provoking article in The Guardian on another fascinating topic: our decades-long obsession with Jack the Ripper.

Ever Upward

ever upward

Justine Brooks Froelker, the blogger behind Ever Upward, has been chronicling her journey through infertility, loss, and acceptance in posts that are at once unflinching and moving. Now, Justine is preparing for the release of her book, also named Ever Upward, in early October (it’ll also be available on Amazon starting February). You can get a taste of Justine’s writing in this excerpt from the book’s opening chapter.

Are you publishing a book soon? Has your blog made the news? Leave us a comment — we’d love to know.


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20. No, Freelance Writers, You DON’T Need a Blog

blogfaceSay you’re a new freelance writer. (Sound familiar?) You ask someone with more experience whether you should start a blog to help attract clients and let you use blog posts as clips.

Chances are, the other writer will tell you it’s absolutely, totally imperative that you have a blog. I even heard one freelance writer tell a poor newbie, “You only have a website? But that’s so STATIC!”

I’m here to tell you that if you’re asking whether you should start a blog, the answer is No.

And if you’re wondering what topic to start you blog on, the answer is that you shouldn’t.

If you start a blog, it need to be because you already have something you really, really want to say. Something you’re so passionate about that you can’t hold it back. Something that you can envision yourself writing about regularly for the indefinite future.

For example, Diana and I have written over 1,000 posts since 2006! That’s the kind of commitment you need. If you don’t feel inclined to write 1,000 posts on a particular topic, a blog may not be right for you.

Blogs are not an easy clip. If you start a blog, you will need to keep it updated, because nothing looks sadder to prospective clients than a blog that hasn’t been updated in six months.

Also, you’ll need to promote your blog if you want to get comments — so you don’t feel like you’re just writing to yourself all the time. Blogs are meant to be read.

And…what happens when you start getting some real published clips and no longer need the blog? Will you just let it die? Will all that work be for nothing?

It’s way easier to just start pitching clients based on your experience — for example, if you have a foodservice background you would pitch businesses in that industry — or to do a free assignment or two just to get the samples.

And don’t forget that your (static!) website works as a clip. If you have some kick-ass copy on there, prospects will be able to see you can write.

There is the issue that fresh content will push your website up in the search engine results, and blogs are of course perfect for that. But you can get a similar effect by updating your portfolio as you garner new clips.

If you have plans to monetize your blog and a topic you’re passionate about, go for it. And if you want to offer blogging as one of your services, you’ll want to show prospects that you can do that. But if you feel you need to blog just for the clip — there are better, easier ways to do that. Ways that won’t have you on the hook for the rest of your working career.

How about you: Have you wrestled with whether to start a blog? How did it end up? Or did you start a blog for the clips and later felt burdened with it? Let us know in the Comments below!

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21. Content Marketing – Add Screenshots to Your Blog Posts to Increase Reader Engagement and Understanding

Visuals convert. And, the purpose of your content marketing efforts is to do just that: Convert attention to interest, visitors to readers, readers to subscribers, subscribers to customers. Think of screenshots as an image on steroids. The screenshot not only provides a visual which is engaging to readers, but it also provides clarity. It’s laser-focused to enhance the reader’s understanding

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22. Content Marketing - 10 Simple Steps and 5 Powerful Benefits to Content Curation

Content curation is the process of using the content of bloggers with authority on your own site. BUT, you don’t simply reprint it with their byline (which not all bloggers allow anyway), you write your own lead-in to the curated content and then link to the source. The 10 step process is easy. 1. You read an interesting and/or helpful article on another blog (preferably a blog with authority

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23. Surviving a Stroke at 33 (and Blogging About It)

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee suffered a stroke when she was 33, and she has written about her experience in an inspiring personal essay for BuzzFeed.

Before that, she was using a pseudonym on WordPress.com to blog about her experiences, share details about her life, and practice her writing. In 2007, shortly after New Year’s Day, Lee wrote the following in a blog post:

something in my brain burped. most of what i want to do is just out of my grasp. i feel like i know how to do them, but then when i go to do them, i just…CAN’T. day by day, i’m regaining my abilities, so i hope this is just temporary.

Lee’s commenters urged her to see a doctor, and the next day, she responded to them from a hospital bed: “I had a stroke! Will be better.”

I spoke with Lee about her experience, and what she has learned about herself and her writing.

* * *

christine-lee-crop

It’s amazing that you could go through something so profound health-wise and chart a new path for yourself coming out of it. What’s the response been to your essay?

I’ve been blown away. As life-changing as my stroke was, the response, too, will probably go down in my life history as a turning point.

I had a blog — and I’ve been blogging since before it was called “blogging,” back when it was called “web journaling,” back in the days when Justin Hall was on links.net and when I wrote my posts in HTML. But before I spun up my anonymous blog, I was asked to stop blogging by a few family members. I was putting them at risk, they said, I was not to make myself so public.

Bottom line, I didn’t want to stop blogging, so I started up a blog under a pseudonym. I never told them about the blog. A few months later, I had my stroke.

The blog was one of the first places to which I turned when I had my stroke, before I knew I’d had a stroke. I wrote in my journal, too — but I turned to my blog in the wake of my stroke, which for me was a largely isolating event. I made some great friends. Got support that way. It was my village, for a time.

Also, my blog has always been a place to do some “low-stakes writing” — writing without the intention of publication, writing that is more therapeutic. That said, blogging has always been a venue for me to refine my writing voice — because after all, it is still a public space with readers.

What are the odds that a person could suffer a stroke at 33?

According to the New York Times, about 10 to 15 percent of strokes happen to people under the age of 45. That’s supposed to be about 1 in 1,000. And oftentimes, young people who have had a stroke are misdiagnosed and sent home.

I was the youngest person in the DCU (aka “stroke unit”) in the hospital by about 30 years during my stay. Most doctors were astonished by my age. They certainly didn’t suspect I’d had a stroke until they saw the MRI and its uncontested results. I could see how I could have been sent home and had to shoulder a mysterious ailment. I was lucky in that they figured it out and I got the care I needed to ensure the recovery I eventually had.

Can you talk about some specific posts that led you on a path both during and after your stroke?

Definitely, the post during which readers told me to go to the hospital!

I’m not sure where I found my voice after the stroke, really. I think there were people out in the internet reading — Carolyn Kellogg, who writes for the LA Times, had a blog called Pinky’s Paperhaus at the time, and she linked to me as a writer recovering from stroke. So there was definitely interest in my story and situation.

I really don’t think I found my voice regarding my stroke until years later. I wasn’t able to write about it until my post for Nova Ren Suma, who did a Turning Point series on her blog, to which I contributed with a reference to my stroke.

Not only has blogging my stroke experience refined my voice, it was also life-saving. And anonymity provided sanctuary.

What is your life like now?

It is as normal as I imagine it to be. It’s, honestly, better than my life pre-stroke. I’m following my dreams and choosing very carefully what it is I want to do each day, each month, each year. While in recovery, I had very limited energy, and had to be particular about my priorities; I decided to keep doing that, go forward.

And what about your writing?

Once you go through something like that, when so many of your abilities are taken away, your life is pared down to what it is you really want to get back.

I went through a very dark place at some point in my recovery — and although I don’t look upon that phase with fondness, I did learn what was most important to me, and what it is I most desired out of my life. And my writing became a front-and-center goal. I’d always known writing was important to me, but after the stroke, I knew I would channel everything I had to get back to writing.

Now that I’m writing again, I’ve more a sense of structure with regard to my writing projects; in fact, I’m obsessed with structure, because recovery is so much about stages and regaining structure. Because my brain was injured, I understood how writing happens, in my brain at least — that stories are modular, that I need quiet, that layers come with each retelling.


Filed under: Community, Reading, WordPress.com

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24. Promo Friday: To Blog Or Not To Blog

I've been blogging for twelve years. As far as I'm concerned, there is no question as to whether or not I'm going to blog. I do have doubts as to whether new writers should start blogging now, though.

When I started, I found six children's literature blogs on-line. Now, between review sites and children's/YA authors, I'm guessing there are thousands. Just look at the litbloggers who have registered with Kidlitosphere Central. And the writer bloggers who have registered with it. Oh, and here are some more bloggers with Kidlitosphere Central. And how many children's lit blogs of all kinds are out there who haven't heard of Kidlitosphere Central? Yet we're all competing with one another for readers.

The number of blogs has escalated. The number of readers, not so much. Many blogs that have been around a while have seen a decrease in activity. Blogging is like publishing. You hear about bloggers with readership that skyrocketed in just a few months. But then there are all the others.

Kirsten Cappy of Curious City, which does "theme-based marketing for children’s authors, illustrators, and publishers,"  is well-known in New England, if not the country. She is definitely a fan of blogging for writers. In her blog post, SCBWI Whisper Pines, she answers questions from participants in last winter's Whispering Pines Retreat. Over and over again, she says things like, "Gosh, my answer is always to blog" and "I hate to sound like a broken record, but I guess if you have very limited time and have to focus on one thing, it would be blogging deeper."

Actually, she's kind of encouraging, making points that a blog post has the potential of reaching more people than a public appearance and is out there waiting for people to find it while an appearance is done and over. I don't know how often that happens, but right this minute I'm kind of pumped up.
 

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25. Content Marketing – 7 Powerful Benefits of the WordPress Content Management System

Before the benefits are listed, you may want to know what a content management system (CMS) is. The CMS is what allows you to manage the content on your website. According to Small Business.Yahoo, “It stores all of your documents, images, videos, and any other type of online content in an organized way.” Another feature of the CMS is it allows you to have more than one administrator or editor.

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