Tag Archives: writing

Starting A Blog

I was recently asked to put together and deliver a presentation on “Blogging Basics” for the library where I work. I certainly don’t see myself as a blogging expert, but I do enjoy putting together and delivering presentations, and I would consider myself pretty knowledgeable in the field of social media endeavors, marketing, and web 2.0 and library 2.0 kinds of things. I agreed… then I forgot about it and procrastinated until the day before.

I think I did all right. #Nailedit

Without further ado, here is said presentation:

http://prezi.com/6755ts3bxpw8/so-you-want-to-be-a-blogger/

 

I really enjoyed this, though I had a small crowd. For one thing, I always enjoy presenting much more than I think I will. For another thing, organizing my thoughts this way helped me sort of review my own blog and renew my passion to write and share my stuff.

Getting Started

What will your blog be?

1. Pick a topic or niche for your blog. Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to write about?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What blogs do you enjoy reading?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What do you want your audience to know?

2. Pick a name or title for your blog. Ask yourself:

  • What describes your blog?
  • Is your potential name memorable and catchy?
  • What are similar blogs called?
  • What are keywords your audience might search for?
  • What does your potential name look like on screen and sound like aloud?

3. Pick a platform for your blog. Ask yourself:

  • Are you willing to pay for hosting?
  • How much flexibility, customization, plug-ins do you want?
  • Do you want to host, install, and configure on your own, or rely on a service to do that for you?
  • Do you want to monetize? (Keep in mind monetizing isn’t easy with some blogging platforms)

Some popular blogging platforms include…

WordPress: WordPress is available for free with limitations or pay for a full-on experience and tons more options. It is extremely customizable, plug-ins are available (if you pay for the service), there are more than 1,000 themes. WordPress is one of the most popular blog and website creation services.

Blogger: Blogger is a Google service and is available for free. Several templates and backgrounds are available. While there isn’t as much freedom as far as customization it is easier to monetize with Blogger, using Google’s AdSense service.

Tumblr: Tumblr is a free social network that allows users to share content and create original posts. Tumblr is sort of a mix between Twitter and Facebook, and could be considered a form of micro-blogging.

Medium: Medium is a free platform that allows users to focus on writing. There are no plug-ins, sidebars, ads, etc. The focus is truly on writing, and the idea is that users will share their own stories and ideas and read others’ as well.

Marketing Your Blog

Get the word (your words!) out there!

1. Write good content.

  • Use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Write what you know and be confident in what you’re writing about.
  • Be original and interesting.
  • Use quality images, videos, and other sources. Many of your readers are visual consumers.
  • Let your readers get to know you.

2. Establish your blog.

  • Create a few good first posts. You want to have content (not an empty shell of a blog) when you start getting visitors.
  • Create an about page and determine how you will use your sidebars and menus.
  • Consider adding an email subscribe button or an RSS feed subscription button to your blog.
  • Consider creating a Facebook fan page and other social media network pages for your blog.
  • Always respond to questions and comments on your blog and emails you receive via your blog. You want to establish not just your writing, but also a relationship with your readers so they’ll keep coming back.

3. Share your blog.

  • Tell your friends and family you’ve started a blog. Ask for support.
  • Consider (again) creating fan pages or accounts through various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).
  • Share your content on both your fan pages and on your personal social media networks.
  • Tell people about your blog in-person if the opportunity arises naturally.
  • Don’t be annoying with any of the above. Don’t beg.

4. Take advantage of what’s popular.

  • Use popular hashtags and keywords when sharing content.
  • Blog about current events and other popular topics.
  • For blogging ideas Google “trending,” or check Twitter, Buzzfeed, and Yahoo for what topics are currently trending. Share these topical blog entries you’ve written soon, while that trending topic is still actually trending.
  • Consider being a devil’s advocate when blogging about what’s popular. It stirs the pot and gets attention.

5. Do some detective work.

  • Search for content creators and consumers that align with your blog’s niche.
  • Join Facebook groups, subreddits, and message boards that revolve around blogging and your blog’s nice.
  • Follow other bloggers and interact with them.
  • Search Google or other search engines for “[your blog’s topic] blogging groups.”

Maintain the Momentum

Don’t run out of gas!

1. Create and work to achieve blogging goals. Some goal ideas:

  • Write ## blog posts per week.
  • Increase your email/RSS subscribers by ## each month.
  • Update your blog’s Facebook fan page or your Twitter feed ## times each week.
  • Comment on other blogs or message boards ## times each week.
  • Link to ## other blogs each week.
  • Spend ## hours each week marketing, sharing content, and networking with other bloggers.

2. Do something your readers will remember. Try these ideas:

  • Create a series of posts (part 1, 2, 3, etc.) or numbered lists (i.e. “top ten canning recipes”).
  • Run a contest and offer a prize.
  • Flatter your readers by writing about them.
  • Guest post on other blogs, and invite other accomplished bloggers in your subject area to guest post on your blog.
  • Write about something popular or even controversial. Playing devil’s advocate always attracts attention.
  • Refer to or link back to your existing content. Try reviving old posts by creating a post about previous posts.

 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching ways to make my blog better. A few resources I used are:

Starting Your Blog: http://startbloggingonline.com/, http://www.ehow.com/how_2045008_start-blog.html, http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Blog, http://wordful.com/how-to-name-your-blog-what-makes-a-great-name/,

Blogging Platforms: http://mashable.com/2014/05/09/16-minimalist-blogging-platforms/, http://www.edudemic.com/minimalist-blogging-platforms/, https://blog.shareaholic.com/best-blogging-platform/, https://blog.shareaholic.com/best-blogging-platform/)

Marketing Your Blog: http://startbloggingonline.com/how-to-promote-your-blog-and-get-visitors/,

Blogging Goals: http://blog.osmosio.com/101-blogging-goals-grow-blog/, http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/blogging-goals-types-of-goals-to-set-for-your-blog/, http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/8-different-tips-for-promoting-your-blog/,

Monetize: http://www.comparebusinessproducts.com/fyi/101-ways-monetize-your-blog-without-irritating-your-readers

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Inherit the Dead: a Decent Book for a Great Cause

About a month ago I was chilling at the desk at work when an older gentleman handed me an audiobook and said “My wife said this book was really good. I’d like to get the print version of it, if it’s in, so I can read it please.” I found it for him and told my long-time mentor/friend/coworker/first boss what the guy had said. We both decided to take the book home; she took home another copy of the book and I took the audiobook, since it’s pretty much the closest I can come to guaranteeing to finish a book these days. The book was Inherit the Dead, and on the cover it said “Twenty thrilling writers, one chilling mystery.” Normally I steer clear of books by multiple authors; I feel like these stories tend to be disjointed and just not very entertaining to me. I can’t stay interested, but then I typically struggle with adult mysteries anyway, unless they lean on the thriller/horror side of things. I ended up taking home and finishing and enjoying Inherit the Dead, however, much to my surprise.

Inherit the Dead, edited by Jonathan Santlofer, was crime writer Linda Fairchild’s idea. She endeavored to call attention to Safe Horizon through the combined talent of other crime/legal/mystery bestselling authors Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, CJ Box, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Mary Higgins Clark, Marcia Clark, Max Allan Collins, John Connolly, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Charlaine Harris, Val McDermid, SJ Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger, and Sarah Weinman. In 1978 Safe Horizon was founded in New York to “provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.” The organization helps over 250,000 victims of crime every year and is the largest provider of services for victims of domestic violence in America. If the book is to support a cause like this I decided I had to read it and review it. And if you know me, you know a few things: (1) I don’t have much time to read, and therefore don’t do much of it these days, (2) I haven’t reviewed a book in a long, long time, but (3) I love reviewing books. So this has to mean something, right?

The book is about Perry (Pericles) Christo, former cop, current private investigator, and his newest case. Perry has been hired by the wealthy and well-known Julia Drusilla, whose adult daughter Angelina Loki is missing. But things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem at the surface. Angelina is about to inherit a fortune, but only if she is around to claim it on her birthday, and Julia doesn’t hide the fact that she and Angelina have had a bad relationship for awhile. Angelina’s father, Norman Loki, is a stoner, drunk, and former/non-practicing lawyer who lives large and isn’t much help, changing his demeanor and his claims like Jekyll and Hyde. Angelina’s boyfriends, a player mechanic and a politician hiding his relationship with Angelina, offer some insight and lead Perry to new information in his hunt for the missing girl, while Angelina’s debutante friend merely tries to seduce the private investigator. The book follows PI Perry back and forth from dreary Manhattan to the Hamptons as he tries to find out why Angel is missing and whether or not it’s by her own will. Eventually the story peaks and Perry -and the reader- find out what really happened.

What this novel has going for it is unfortunately also working against it. Each author adds his or her own flavor to the smorgasbord. Heather Graham’s chapter fittingly revolves around Angelina’s sultry seductress friend, while Charlaine Harris’s portion involves a humorous confrontation between Perry and another character that totally reminds me of Harris’s well-known Sookie Stackhouse character. Each author’s chapter is uniquely them, and while they managed to seamlessly move from chapter to chapter there are some characterizations that just don’t sit right with me. Norman Loki, for example, seems to be all over the place, and not really in a good way. The difference in descriptive language and pace is interesting and works for the story, though. Each author definitely had their time to shine and make the story their own; at times I wondered if the book was ever going to end… It probably could’ve been trimmed down a bit. It was fun looking forward to each new chapter, not necessarily due to any of the story’s suspense, but because I couldn’t wait to see how the next author would play off those previous.

Overall I enjoyed Inherit the Dead. I love multi-author books that have a cause, and the superstar writers do a decent job of making this books a good one. While I won’t read it again I will likely suggest it to many of the library customers that come in. I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

Guest Blog at A Nation of Moms

I wrote a guest piece for an awesome blog, A Nation of Moms.

Check it out here: http://anationofmoms.com/2014/03/reading-the-outdoors.html. Let me know what you think.

Writing this piece brought back a ton of memories for me. I had so much fun growing up; we always played outside and read a lot. My parents were and still are the greatest. I’ve been thinking a lot about the little house we first lived in. There’s a picture somewhere of me sitting on the grass as a toddler chewing on a wrench while Daddy worked on something. I loved our little life.

Anyway, check out A Nation of Moms. It’s a really great site, and I’m glad I got to share my thoughts over there.

A Nation of Moms

The Death of Epinions

My relationship with epinions began after I stumbled upon a review for magnesium citrate entitled That’s Not a Firehose, That’s My Butt. I wish I could remember what led me there but I just can’t. And really, does it matter? The website, or at least the part that involved me, is dying, and the content within that review is more memorable than the context that led me to it. When I looked into the website I realized these people were writing reviews for “income share.” Writing for money? Yes please…

I began writing for epinions.com in September of 2003, just after starting my sophomore year of college. Unlike most people, I actually liked my freshman composition class and felt like my writing skills really improved my first year of college. I wrote my first epinions reviews on a computer game, a restaurant, and then a book. They were pretty crappy, at least I think so when I read them now. The idea was that users would become a part of this writing community where we all wrote product reviews, then read each other’s reviews and rated them (not helpful, somewhat helpful, helpful, very helpful, and the rare most helpful) and commented. Highly rated reviews were more visible to the public. The more hits received the more income share a review earned. Being an avid reader I naturally began writing about what I knew: books. The books category had high expectations but the other review writers were so nice and encouraging. At the end of my first month I received a payout for $0.01. Yes, one penny. The next month, October 2003, I received $0.10. I received $10.76 that first year. Not even half a gas tank, but man was it fun.

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I learned on February 25 of this year that epinions, owned by eBay, was shutting down the community aspect of the website. All reviews are now owned by eBay (meaning though I still retain the rights to post them elsewhere, I can’t easily remove them from epinions). No more income share. No more rating each other’s writing skills. No more community.

To be honest, it doesn’t come as a shock. There have been database issues for years and other things. And really I hadn’t written since 2010. After having the kids and being eyebrow-deep in my master’s degree and work I just didn’t find the time. I kept thinking “I’ll get back to it. Just not today.” Each time I read a good book I’d think about what I would rate it and what the pros and cons were. How could I sell it to other people without ruining the story? Then I would smile, return the book to my shelf or the library and move on with life.

The money didn’t make or break me. I still maintain contact with the friends I made on the site. I still have ways to find good books and reviews on products. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little when I got that email. It just reminds me of how many times I’ve said “I’ll get around to it.”

So, part of this blog was my attempt to get back around to it. I like writing, and I feel like I’m decent at it. I like re-reading what I’ve written, recalling things I had forgotten I’d written about including the things that were going on when I read that book or watched this movie. I recently reread reviews I had written about baby toys from when Trent was younger. A Jägermeister review from my jäger days. The review about earbuds Nate bought me that somehow earned me four times as much money as they cost. My hope is that I will continue writing and enjoying it and recording memories. I plan to go through my old reviews and share some of them here periodically. I’m finding a new permanent home for most of them hopefully.

10 1/2 years, 242 reviews, 151,831 visits, $1,435.88. Twas fun, epinions.

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I had this fantastic idea…

…to start a blog. Actually, several of my friends had the fantastic idea and after tons of encouragement as well as the death of a website I’ve decided to take the plunge.

But dang, no one told me how hard it would be to choose a blog name.

First of all I am a Libra and thus am not equipped to make decisions. I couldn’t figure out what topic to focus on. After all, everything that I’m interested in is so thrilling that readers will want to hear everything I have to say about it. If I started out with a house and home blog (which I wouldn’t, because I don’t house and home) and then decided to start talking about the awesome book I’m reading or how difficult being a working mom can be or what I’m tackling today in Photoshop then I’d be straying from the topic too much, right? And hey, all-encompassing blogs aren’t a dime a dozen, right? I love writing. I love other things, too, and all equally. And I have a lot to say about everything and nothing, so this is my space to say a ton of that.

  • I’m a mother. I didn’t want to be one at one time, but I obtained an awesome child through marriage and decided to have two more awesome kids. My three boys are hilarious and beautiful and I love them.Me, Nicholas, Trent, and Atticus
  • I’m a wife to a dude that totally isn’t my typical type. I love him.

    Nate & Me

  • I’m a full-time working woman; a librarian and an IT manager. I recently finished a master’s degree just two months after delivering my youngest. What a doozy.
  • I love granola/hippy parenty mushy-gushy stuff, like babywearing, breastfeeding (yeah, ’til they’re 2 years old, too, isn’t that weird?), co-sleeping, not crying-it-out, giving birth and knowing what happens during labor, etc.IMG_2012
  • I love gardening and canning and preserving. I’m not good at any of it, but I love it.IMG_2016
  • I love reading (but do it slowly) and listening to bluegrass and Nine Inch Nails. IMG_2708
  • I love giving my opinion and telling it like it is but not if I can’t hide behind a keyboard.

So I guess you could say I’m a suburbanite. And you might also say this is my soapbox. Now step aside so I can get up on it.