Seven Ways to Make Your Blog a Success—#2 Will Surprise You

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toast(I was going to call this blog post “The Festival of Posts” but I went for click-bait instead.)

The Festival of Posts is a twist on an inside joke at our house: The Festival of Toast. When my husband wants to transform something boring, he calls it a festival. At least twice a week he’ll serve the kids breakfast he calls “The Festival of Toast.” It’s no festival. It’s just toast. Buttered toast. Peanut buttered toast. Toast with jelly. Voilà! Instant festival.

The idea here is that you could pledge to blog once a week and share it on Facebook. Or you could join one of those blog hops in which you and 10,000 other bloggers pledge to blog once a day for a month and read and comment on 10,000 blogs.

Or you could set your expectations really, really low, rope in some friends and call it a Festival.

Here’s what six writers from Write on Mamas have decided to do between February 15th and March 15th:

Step 1: Write a blog post
Step 2: Publish that blog post
Step 3: Share that blog post
Step 4: Read someone else’s blog post
Step 5: Comment on that blog post
Step 6: Share that blog post
Step 7: Rinse and repeat for each blogger

 

Voilà! Instant festival.

And here are the blog urls:

Emily Meyers: Happy Day You

Claire Hennessy: Crazy California Claire

Jilanne Hoffman

Megan Schultz: Musings from Megan

Vicki DeArmon: One Mother’s Edge

Cynthia Lehew-Nehrbass: Joy and Pathos

Y is for You

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YThis is what kills me. “You” are “you plural.” And no one knows how that happened. You were a cell. You divided. And now you have two noses and four arms and twenty toes.

One of you wakes at the slightest touch. The other of you can fall off the bed and stay asleep.

One of you likes baseball. The other of you likes to figure out what markings make which word.

One of you was born at a pound and a half.

One of you has lots of pictures from when you plural were in the hospital because you’d always open your eyes.

One of you just got your first bee sting.

One of you wants Italy to win the World Cup.

One of you is speedy quick. Unless we’re talking about baseball reflexes.

One of you is rolly and slow. Unless we’re talking about baseball reflexes.

Both of you can tell time better than your sister. Who is three years older.

One of you could live on plain pasta.

One of you likes radishes, guacamole, and prefers Sevillano olives to Niçoise.

And yet, you share the same DNA.

X is for eXposure

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XWhen I first started blogging, I had a purpose, a reason to disseminate information through a blog. I was pregnant with twins. Our odds were terrible (50/50 they’d survive the pregnancy without complications) and we wanted to keep our family informed without having to make 19 different phone calls to give the same information.

The blog was private. I blogged about the pregnancy, the birth, and the early NICU days. Then the idea to write a memoir about the experience was inserted into my head, probably during a middle-of-the-night alien abduction that involved some kind of nasal probe (to insert the idea, of course) and memory erasure (to protect the identity of the aliens, of course). Which meant that I needed to take the blog public and build a platform. I needed to get my name out there and get some exposure.

There is an ugly side to getting exposure. For example, one way to get a lot of views and shares is to write a post that goes viral. And one way to go viral is to piss people off so much that they want to share your affronts so that other people get pissed off. People like to share things that piss them off. (I suppose you could also write a particularly witty post, like this one here, but only if you are particularly witty.)

However, when total strangers are pissed off at you, they write really mean things. They stalk you on the Internet and post links to your Facebook profile that you thought was private. Suddenly something you thought was particularly witty (“Janine works at Keeping Her Toenails Shiny!”) is suddenly turned on its head and now strangers are congratulating each other on the cleverness of their insults.

So then the blog become private again.

But you still need a platform, because the aliens’ nasal probes have altered the neural connections in your frontal lobes (not to mention your hippocampus) and their plan for galactic domination by making people want to write memoirs is not deterred by Internet trolls.

So here we are. Blogging here and there, like trying to change the color of the ocean one drop of food coloring at a time but not wanting to make the sort of splash that wakes up the trolls.

W is for Writer’s Block

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WWhen April 26th rolled around I didn’t have a blog post ready because I was exhausted. The book launch, the parties (oh! the parties!), Easter and visiting family had squeezed out all my words and by the time we got to “W” I had nothing left.

And though I kept writing and working on my book project, I just couldn’t bring myself to go back and finish those four letters in the A-Z Blog Challenge.

But last week, in an impromptu meeting with some Write On Mamas during which we talked about platform-building, I made some goals for myself. One of which was to finish these last four letters. That and figure out my purpose in the blogosphere.

This morning it dawned on me that part of what I enjoy about writing my book is that the audience is so far away. Just as when I was on stage—the audience is waaaaaaaaaaay out there. They have no real input. They react, sure. But that’s at the end. After you’ve done all the work. Most importantly, you are under no obligation to respond to their response.

But a blog is a dialogue. People comment (or worse! Nobody comments!) and a good blogger responds to these comments. I don’t mind the dialogue that happens on Facebook. In fact, that’s what I love about Facebook. But then, the big difference there is that I know who I am talking to. It’s a friend. Not that I don’t mind responding to a commenter who is also a stranger. But if feels sort of fake. Particularly through the A-Z challenge, which is meant to drive traffic to your site and guide you to other blogs—more and more I just felt like I was commenting for the sake of leaving a comment and not because I had something meaningful to say.

Then I felt like I was following all these blogs for the sake of having followed them, because that’s how you build a platform, right? Like adding to the din instead of focusing on a message.

So I stopped blogging.

V is for Vicarious

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VSo. I didn’t write a post for today.

But luckily for you, someone else did. Last night was the first of many book launch parties. Here’s fellow WoM Claire Hennessy’s run-down of the night. And here’s WoM Lorrie Goldin’s account of the night as well as an eloquently written backstory behind getting shit done when you don’t feel like it. Or the way Lorrie puts it: “the alchemy of the collective transforms inertia and demoralization into something altogether different.”

 

U is for Unwanted

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UI have an entire collection of unwanted words. Paragraphs that are lovely out of context, but just don’t fit in the essay I’m working on. Or maybe they’re too complicated to fix.

So I post them on my other blog, the one that posts to Facebook but to which one cannot subscribe, the one that’s just for getting stuff out there. And they sit. “Adopted Darlings” I call them, a play on the misattributed quotes that encourages writers to murder what they love.

It works for me. The unwanted words get a home and a tag. By themselves they’re like clouds that float by. The kind that seem to serve no purpose.

S is for Social Media

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SSo I’m doing the A-Z blog challenge this month. Where for the month of April (excluding Sundays) you write on a different letter of the alphabet. You might have figured that out already, since today should be the 22nd of April.

Here’s how it works:

You officially enroll in the A-Z challenge (I have). You put up a badge saying you’ve enrolled (I haven’t) and in addition to blogging everyday (I have), you visit other blogs and comment on them in order to drive traffic to your blog (I haven’t).

And because I’ve signed up for the challenge for all the wrong reasons (to see if I can write 26 blog posts in one month, not to drive traffic to my blog), I’m always a little startled when someone does comment. Much the same way I’d be startled if I were talking to myself on the bus and someone answered one of my rhetorical questions.

I know who I’m talking to when I post to Facebook. I’m posting to actual people I know. Many of them I’ve known for a long time. We carpooled to ballet lessons together or we’re applying to the same writer’s conference or we just saw each other earlier in the day.

I used to know who I was talking to when I blogged. It was my mom and seven of my 400 Facebook friends who clicked on the link in my Facebook Feed. I think that’s why I don’t tweet. I don’t know who I’m talking to. How can I craft a message for a faceless audience? How would I even know what to say?

Or more precisely, I write something, get a comment and think, “Who are you?” I forget that I was broadcasting something.

It’s ok. You can say something. I probably won’t freak out.

Q is for Questionnaire

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The idea to have a questionnaire in the anthology came indirectly from my sister-in-law.Q

Ten years ago my parents retired as teachers. Between the two of them they had taught high school English for about seventy years. My sister-in-law sought to contact as many former students as possible (no small feat, as Facebook had not been invented yet) and asked them to write letters to their former teacher. We put the letters into a binder for my parents and presented it to them at their retirement party.

I thought I knew this side of our parents—nurturing teachers whose students would visit after graduation, even coming to the house for dinner. But I didn’t know the scope, the breadth and depth of the effect my parents had on their students that was so clearly remembered so many years later. Some former students had gone on to be English teachers themselves. A few even became writers like my father—citing him as their initial inspiration.

Later that summer, Matt and I were getting married and since everyone offers wedding advice to young, unmarried couples whether solicited or not, I thought I’d give our guests an official forum through which to dispense their wisdom. Our questionnaire asked married couples simple information such as where and when they’d gotten married as well as asking them to reflect on the best parts of the ceremony, reception, and honeymoon.

We learned that one aunt and uncle were married in Chicago the day after Kennedy’s assassination and that another had been married for 47 years—nonconsecutive. We learned that my brother was not the only groom to loose his wedding band on his honeymoon.

The responses were arranged into a reading for the ceremony. Totally recommend it for the next time you get married.

So picture this—the Editorial Group is at Bittersweet and we’re looking through our manuscript. It’s good. We like it. It’s a little short but more than short it feels incomplete. We’ve got a great thing going with the group. It’s special, but in a way that should be ordinary. So many of us shared similar struggles when we sat down to write or as we sent our writing into the world. Similar, yet unique.

We thought, why not ask our contributors, “What keeps you in the chair? What makes it difficult to prioritize writing? What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had?”

I can’t tell you the answers, of course, that would be cheating. You’ll just have to buy the book to find out for yourself.

(Plug, plug, shameless plug.)

N is for Necessary

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NSome days I spend all my time typing, crafting language, and composing efficient prose and none of that time writing. Today was a day like that. And now it’s the end of the day and I ask myself, what did I write?

Important stuff, it turns out. Bios, book descriptions, event coordination. It’s the sort of stuff you skim when you read which means that the flow of prose is just as important.

Here’s what I put together today. It’s for another book event. This one will be held at Scribd Headquarters, Thursday May 8th from 6 – 7pm, 539 Bryant street in San Francisco.

(Someone else gets the lucky task of writing the event description. I cut, pasted, and tweaked bios.)

 

Moderator: NANCY DAVIS KHO has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, TheRumpus.net, The Morning News, andSkirt! Magazine and is most recently anthologized in Moms Are Nuts (Vansant 2014). An avid music fan, she blogs about the years between being hip and breaking one at MidlifeMixtape.com.

Write On Mamas authors

British-born CLAIRE HENNESSY is writing a humorous memoir about reuniting with her childhood sweetheart “Bug,” after a thirty-year separation. Her work has been published in Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God –Transitions anthology (2014) and blogs at Crazy California Claire. In 2011 she was awarded the Scribd Favorite Funny Story Award. A co-founder and website editor of the Write On Mamas, Claire lives in Novato with Bug and an assortment of kids and animals.

LAUREL HILTON is the president of the Write On Mamas, as well as a founding member. Her work has appeared as part of KQED’s Perspectives series, A Band of Women’s Transitions anthology (2014), and elsewhere. Laurel resides in Mill Valley with her husband, two daughters, a very loyal Australian cattle dog, and a couple of rats.

MARY HILL is writing a memoir about learning to accept her son’s disability and then helping him do the same. Mary has read at Lit Crawl, and her essays have appeared in various disability-related newsletter and blogs, including her own, Finding Joy in Simple Things. Mary is a co-editor of Mamas Write.

MARIANNE LONSDALE writes personal essays and short stories, and is now focused on developing a novel. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Mama, Fiction365, The Sun, and Pulse and is an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Marianne is a founding member of Write On Mamas. She lives in Oakland with her husband Michael and son Nicholas.

JANINE KOVAC is a founding member of the Write On Mamas and a talent-wrangler for Litquake, San Francisco’s literary festival. She is a co-editor of the anthology Mamas Write as well as a contributing author. Janine is currently reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with her daughter and The Adventures of Spiderman with her twin boys when she isn’t working on her own books.

TERI STEVENS lives in Napa, California with her husband, son, and twin daughters. She is a founding member and marketing director of the Write On Mamas. In addition to writing young adult fiction, Teri writes about parenting and how she became the mother of three six-year-olds.

Here’s the description of our book:

In Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit, and Grittwenty-four moms (and one dad) share stories from their lives as writers and parents. Essays range from finding one’s calling as a writer through adopting a toddler; a tribute to a dying wife; an account of a premature birth; raising a transgender child; the joys of sharing a favorite childhood book. In a concluding interview, authors share funny and heartfelt responses to questions such as: “How does a busy parent make time for writing?” “Why do you write, and where?” “What writing books inspire you?” and “What holds you back from writing?” With a foreword by Kate Hopper, author of Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers.

 

M is for Math-head

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MMichael is my little math-head. He counts in his spare time (sitting in his car seat, sitting in the bath, lying in his bed at night) in his four-year-old way.

“Twenny-seven! Twenny-eight! Twenny-NINE! What’s after twenny-nine, Mama?”

All the way up to “Nine-y-one! Nine-y-twoo! Nine-y-tree!”

I’m so happy one of my kids is a math-head. Chiara couldn’t care less about math when I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t crunching numbers. If there had been an Excel Etch-a-sketch. I would have had one.

Now, this doesn’t mean I was very good at math. I just really loved it. Or maybe more precisely, I was really good at math in the ordinary sense. The sense of high-school algebra and SAT geometry. But by the time I got to set theory and discrete math, I was out of my depth with regards both to skill and talent. And the deeper I got into probability theory and statistics, the more I relied on my counting on my fingers. Not a good sign for a programmer. Turns out I’m more of an addition-and-subtraction kind of girl with a soft spot for long division.

But I still like math. Sort of the way I still like baseball although I can’t play to save my life.

Chiara is not a math-head. She couldn’t care less about counting and called all currency “gold coins” until she had to make change for her book and then she became suddenly adept and counting bills. But because initially she showed such little interest, I was afraid that maybe I just didn’t make math-heads. Maybe my offspring just wasn’t wired to like numbers.

So it warmed my heart to see Michael enthusiastically counting on his fingers, declaring that our car could fit three grownups and three kids, calculating how many cookies each child could eat if there were six cookies left. It was validating.

Even when he finished counting: “Nine-y-seven, nine-y-eight, nine-y-NINE, NINE-THIRTY!”

Same love. Same limitations.