Category Archives: Starting A Blog

I’ve Moved!

Click here for the same blog, exciting new address!

Anyone remember the Jeffersons? Sammy Davis, Jr.? Put them together and you get:

Nope, I’m not a published author yet, but after blogging on my own for two years, I celebrated my 70th post by pitching this blog to Chicago Now, which is Tribune Media Company’s online community of Chicago-area bloggers. I pitched RIDING THE WAVES via Chicago Now‘s online pitch form and heard back the same day. My blog was accepted!

So what does this mean?

It means I keep doing what I’m doing, but I might do it with a little more spring in my typing fingers. I’ll keep writing about RIDING THE WAVES, but now, I may have the chance to share it with even more readers. It means I’m sitting up a little straighter (which is great…I tend to slouch).

It means that Chicago Now believes my writing deserves a shot at something a little broader, a little wider-reaching.

It means I might get to connect with some new readers and possibly hear back from them.

These are all great things.

When I first began blogging in January 2010, I hadn’t a clue what to write about, so I searched for inspiration everywhere. In the process of doing so, I formed an unconscious habit of seeking inspiration; not only did that help me become a better writer, but it also grew me as a person. I’d ask people what motivated them to do inspiring things and investigate how certain situations came to be. I constantly pondered how I might incorporate many of the inspiring stories into my own life.

Some of my most “popular” (meaning “widely-read”) blog posts have ranged from my children’s entrepreneurial behaviors (How A 12-Year-Old Shags An iPad) to the suicide in a nearby park (Nichols Middle School Bomb) to the worry I felt when my husband and son sailed through the same storm on Lake Michigan that killed two fellow sailors (Trying Not To Cry) to an interview with a guy formerly known as Barry (How I Got To Interview The President Of The United States). Each of those posts serves as a distinct mile-marker on my newly-discovered writing journey. I’ll always remember how those events moved me so deeply that I couldn’t wait to write my feelings about them. Whether they made me laugh or cry or shake my head in disbelief, they each inspired me to sit, breathe, write and exhale.

Expanding my blog to a potentially wider audience on Chicago Now feels a little scary, but then so did talking to President Obama. What I’m telling myself as my blogging branches out is exactly what I told myself when the camera lights went on during the Obama Hangout: It’s just you & the person in front of you.

When I spoke with the President, I didn’t let myself think about anything other than the fact I was talking to a guy who used to live in Chicago. When I write my blog entries, I always try to write as if I’m talking to you directly…not to a slew of readers who may pass one of my posts on to someone else. The only way this works for me (and the way I keep my head fastened on tight) is to write with an honest focus, just to write what I’m thinking — as if I’m talking with a friend over coffee. It’s essentially a stream-of-conscience style, but that’s how my mind works. I’m pretty simple.

I hope you’ll visit my new site on Chicago Now and continue reading RIDING THE WAVES. And, if you’d like the latest posts delivered to your inbox, just put your email in the subscription box.

You’ve been with me from some of my earliest posts, and I’m grateful for the support, the comments and the encouragement. Thank you for RIDING THE WAVES along with me. This is getting pretty fun!

Click here for the same blog, exciting new address!

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For Kids (And Adults) Who Love To Write

Thank goodness you’re here, because I know you’ll understand what I’m about to say.

I’ve wanted to write since I was little. I know you have, too.

If I ever see a scrap of paper, I get excited. You know the feeling.

A blank Word document on a monitor feels like a gift.

My hands usually to catch up with all the thoughts in my head. I love the feel of a keyboard under my fingertips or a pen in my hand.

I used to be a kid who loved to write. I’m 43 years old now, and I officially began my “writing career” when I was 40. I still have so much catching up to do, but one of the things I promised myself is to share whatever I learn, especially to kids who were just like me.

So, here’s an open letter to any kids (or the adults they’ve become) who love to write and who want to do it as much as possible:

Dear Writer Friend,

You realize how good we’ve got it, right? Our love of writing opens worlds beyond description, and not just on the page. Writing things down is just part of the wonderful world we’re part of. Talking about writing, sharing our writing, and reading others’ work adds so many layers to our own writing satisfaction.

There are lots of people who write, but true writers share a language of understanding with one another that is like no other.

Those of us who love to write are so fortunate. Ask anyone who loves to write and they’ll tell you it’s just something deep inside that needs expressing, and the options available to express that need are limitless. Journals, essays, poems, novels, blogs, short stories and letters are only a few of our choices.

True writers cross-train when they’re “stuck”. A novelist can take a break from her conflicted characters and write a magazine article for other writers about conflicted characters. A magazine writer can stretch her writing skills by outlining a picture book. A picture book author can sign up for a conference on eBook writing to learn how to share her work with more readers. The options keep going.

The writing community is like a family. We’ve got the crazy uncles we’re a little embarrassed by, the gentle, grandmotherly types who remind us we’re the very best in the whole wide world, the bossy sisters who try to outdo us, the cousins we see only once a year and wish it could be more often. We’ve got younger siblings who look up to us, and older, wiser siblings who take risks and show us the way. The family of writers is full of opportunities to learn from others and, most importantly, about our own talents and interests.

Keep writing, even when you’re tired. Keep writing, even when you wouldn’t share your work with your worst enemy. Keep writing until you feel written out…then write some more. As a writer, the best part of you is your deepest, most honest core. That’s where your voice is. That’s where your strength is found. That’s the place you’ll want to write from. You won’t always reach it, but it’ll never, ever go away.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Writer

P.S. If you’re a kid who can’t wait to be published, look into places like these to practice your skills.  Most of all, have FUN, and check out these great websites for inspiration:

Amazing Kids Magazine:  Here are the submissions guidelines

Click here for Websites for Young Writers.

Resources on Kids Learn To Blog

Genna’s World, endorsed by the Newberry Award Committee.

KidPub: Books and stories by kids, for kids.

Aaron Shepard’s Young Authors page.

The Young Voices Foundation, mentoring young writers.

The Betty Award writing contest.

Poetry and Essay contests: Creative Communication

Creative Kids magazine (and writers’ guidelines)

Launch Pad magazine

Stone Soup

Magic Dragons

Motivating Other Kids To Blog

Where else can kids hone their writing skills?

How Do I Start A Blog?

If the idea of starting a blog scares you, don’t worry.  This post will give you a little inspiration and explanation about the process, as well as some reassurance that every blog starts small and has the potential to bloom.

Why should I start a blog? Who’d read it anyway?

I asked myself those same questions. The fact you’re reading this proves people actually read blogs.

Why should I bother?  Shouldn’t I stick to my real writing?

I also wondered about this.  I worried that blogging would be just another distraction from the real work I’m trying to do (writing my first novel).  But, just as an athlete cross-trains, blogging keeps your writing muscles warm and ready.  Sure, you can distract yourself with thousands of non-writing tasks, like Facebook, laundry, TV, eating, organizing photos…or you can add blogging as another way to strengthen your writing.

Blogs are like roses.  With time, attention, and care, blogs, like roses, have the potential to grow stronger and touch many people in different ways.  When you first start blogging, you might struggle with the thorny “newness” of it all; as you cultivate it, you’ll develop your unique variety, watching it grow before your eyes.

Which varieties are best?.  Some simply look beautiful. Others bloom and die quickly from neglect.  The truly great bloggers are in it for the long haul, knowing the benefits come with time, determination and a passion for what they’re working on.

Pick something you like to write about…something you know…and you’re set.  Nothing’s too obscure.  In February 2010, Google reported 88 billion searches per month, so there’s bound to be someone somewhere looking for what you’ve got to say.

Don’t worry.  You don’t have to be afflicted with hypergraphia (the uncontrollable urge to write) to find time to blog.  Set your own pace. Twice a month is a good starting goal.

And sharing is what blogging is all about.  Whether you’re imparting advice, showcasing your writing talent, cataloging family history, recording the events that your children or grandchildren or students go through…it’s all worthwhile stuff that other curious humans want to know about.  Keep your ideal reader in mind when you’re blogging.  Think about him or her stumbling onto your blog and saying, “Now that’s what I’m talking about.  I was looking for something like this.”

Each blog entry is a chance to connect with another human being, to share a common circumstance or impart wisdom or perspective.  Write confidently, knowing you’re able to do that.  Everyone is.  All you have to do is start.

Blogging’s good for you!

According to Scientific American, there are health benefits to blogging.  I also

really enjoyed this blog post by Ricardo Sanchez of On Techies, called

Blog More.  It is Good For You“.

WHERE TO START?

I love working with WordPress because it’s so intuitive.  It takes minutes to set up a blog.  Then, once you commit a few hours to playing with the buttons and learning your way around the dashboard, you’ll be up and running.

I know you might be scared to start a blog.  I was, too.  When I finally jumped in, it felt just like getting a new cell phone: exciting and new at first, then maddeningly frustrating learning all the new features.    You just want to scrap the whole effort and go back to life as it was.  But hang in there.  I found these links easy and essential to setting up my blog:

http://learn.wordpress.com/get-started/

http://learn.wordpress.com/

Once you’ve written a post (or entry), don’t forget:  people need to find it! That’s what TAGS are for.  Just think about TAGS as the words people will use to search for your blog.  For instance, for this post, I used the following tags:

Benefits of blogging

Why should I blog?

Why should I bother blogging?

Is blogging real writing?

How to start a blog?

I’m scared to start a blog

How do I start a blog?

Starting a blog

I love to write

Helpful hints

Scientific American

Hypergraphia

WordPress instructions

WordPress tutorials

Blogging

SPREADING THE WORD

When you want to increase traffic to your blog, you can utilize Google Insights for SearchClick here for the video to learn about what topics people are interested in around the world.

Here’s one of the most helpful posts I’ve read about increasing traffic to your blog.  My new favorite thing is linking your posts to blog carnivals, which collect and link blogs of similar topics, styles, etc. for readers to enjoy.

NAGGING QUESTIONS

You’ve got questions about blogging?  I did, too.  Maybe this virtual Q&A will help answer some:

Q: How long should a post be?

A: Brevity is key (I’m still working on that one), but pack your post with helpful info if possible.  Add links, pictures, opinions, ideas, questions, surveys.  Make your readers want to come back for more.

Q: How long does it take to get followers to a blog?

A:  Patience, patience.  It takes time and consistency. One extremely helpful activity is to check out other blogs, and leave comments on the ones you like.  It’s polite blog ettiquette to reciprocate a visit with one of your own.  Leaving a comment is always appreciated.  Here’s my analogy:  Every visit to my blog feels like a visit from Santa Claus; every comment left on my blog feels like Santa stayed, had some cookies, and left a note.

Q: Isn’t a blog just like an online diary that you’re sharing with the world?  Isn’t that weird?

A: I thought the same thing at first.  “What could I possibly share that other people will want to read?”  Ask yourself, “What’s my goal?” Do you want to show you’re an excellent writer?  Knowledgeable about a topic? Capable of organizing issues into a comprehensive format? Willing to update regularly? If you answered yes to at least two of those questions, you’re ripe for blogging.

Q: What if I make a mistake and the whole world reads it?

A: The good news is, the whole world won’t see your blog unless you know how to target the whole world (or your name is Facebook).  If you make a mistake, you can always go back in and change your post.  Nothing’s set in stone. You can edit or delete a post (minutes or months) after you’ve written it. The bad news is, once someone reads it, they’ve read it, and that’s that.  But be brave.  Everyone has something worth sharing.

Q: What separates good bloggers from bad bloggers.

A: No real answer here.  Every blogger is different.  Some bloggers are prolific and make me extremely envious…but that doesn’t mean they’re better bloggers than others. They just post more often.

In my opinion, good bloggers share things you’ll want to share with others.  That, quite simply, is the distinguishing characteristic between blogs and traditional diaries.

Q: What if I don’t want my mom to read my blog?

A: Then don’t give her the link.

Q: What if she finds it anyway?

A: Lie and tell her it’s not you.

Q: There are so many other bloggers out there with thousands of followers, professional photographs, eloquent words, and all the time in the world to write.  I work full time, want to blog occasionally, and don’t have the slightest clue where to begin.

A: First, they all started from zero, too.  If you want to build a huge blog or a massive following, you’re already doing the right research for it.  However, I think a great blogger does more with his/her life than just blog.  You’ve got to live life, breathe the air, be with people, and not just sit at your computer day and night accumulating posts.

And as far as where to begin, just follow the tutorials mentioned above.  It’s a process, but little by little, you’ll get the hang of it, and soon you’ll have a blog with archives and followers and — most of all — a stronger sense of your own voice as a writer.

Good luck, and keep me posted on how it goes.  I’d love to hear how your cultivation progresses.

Photos taken at the Merrick Rose Garden in Evanston, Illinois.