Today’s To-Do List

Today (this week)  I am working on:

  • Setting up a newsletter for the ASCII Art blog.
  • Deciding how to add ASCII art by others without merging with my own creations.
  • Thinking about a newsletter for Word Grrls. Looking at plugins and other practical stuff.
  • Exploring the options for selling art online.
  • Working through link rot on Word Grrls. Fixing and finding what I can.
  • Setting up One Word Blog Day with a page of it’s own.
  • Must find and mail a receipt for the Acer computer thing.
  • Need to pick up more coffee. I am drinking the last of it this morning.
  • Laundry, even though it is not the cheap time of day for it. Yes, I do feel a bit guilty and I will feel more guilty when I get the hydro bill.
  • A Valentine’s Day post for each blog. One with a paid link for lingerie. I’m not sure I will do paid posts again. But… someone has to pay the bills.
  • Two hours of writing as per the 90 Day Plan.
  • Should go to the coffee night group tonight, especially when it is Valentine’s Day.
  • Starting a St. Patrick’s Day ASCII Art post for Hubpages.
  • Check the usual places for any interesting freelance work that might pop up.
  • Look for post ideas to be rewritten for HubPages.


Do Some Writing

Reprinted from the WordCraft newsletter on BackWash.

It was late at night. I wandered into a Backwash chat. Had a good time. And I found myself saying “yes.” So, here I am, sending you a newsletter about writing, writers, books, literature, etc. And I have a difficult job to fill the shoes of she who precedes me. I hope I can do that.

What makes me think I can do this? I’ve taught writing for more years than I care to remember. I have published poetry. I read too much. I love words. I live to write.

Writing by nature is a lonely profession. No one sits with you and tells you what to write. You are alone with your thoughts. You sit alone and enter the world you are writing. And nothing frightens an artist (for that’s what you are) more than a blank sheet of paper. Whether you’re a creative writer or a writer of non-fiction, it is your goal to fill that page with words that will move people.

But there comes a time when you have to move out of your own world. You need contacts with other writers, readers who can critically look at your words. For many years not only did I spend time writing but also searched for a group of like-minded people. I was not only isolated by my passion, but by geography. I traveled the 120 miles to Carson City, Nevada, and the members of Ash Canyon Poets nurtured my growing art.

My point? Hie thee to a writers’ group. If you are in an isolated part of the country, search the Internet. There are groups of writers who will welcome you. There are fiction writers, fantasy writers, poets, mystery writers, non-fiction writers out there for you to find.

Also, read. If you are into anthropological fiction, find out what Jean Auel is writing. Who are some of her emulators and what are they writing? If you like lawyer/crime, see what John Grisham is doing now. If you like erotica, check out what is selling at this point in time.

This is enough for now. I do want to extend an invitation to anyone who has questions, suggestions or opinions to contact me. Your ideas are the ideas I build on for my columns and this newsletter.

Until next month, sharpen your pencils, file down your fingernails, and do some writing.

Moving Forward in Life?

This came in a locally delivered newsletter. No credit given to whoever wrote it originally so I don’t know who or where it came from.

Are We Moving Forward in Life?

Well, that’s a silly question, isn’t it? Life and time moves forward and onward with or without us!

Life can pull us along and we can allow it to take us where it leads us. In doing so we will surrender control to anyone who happens to drift into our path.

Or, we can take control and move life forward under our own sail. We can take control and go where we want to go.

Taking control will require some effort and even some sacrifices. Firstly, we will have to believe in ourselves, know that we really can be the masters of our life. This will not always be easy because once we set in motion the actions required to change the direction challenges, obstacles  and setback will happen, it will be our belief in ourselves that will get us through.

Next we need to adjust our attitude, we need a can-do, positive frame of mind. Eliminate negative thoughts and feelings of being undeserving or inadequacy. Keep our mind firmly focused on where we want to go and what we are looking to achieve. We must be prepared to take risks and realize that risks are necessary to achievement, as are a few failures along the way. even the turtle doesn’t move ahead unless he sticks his neck out.

Finally we need a total commitment to change. Change ourselves, our thinking, our action, our words even some of our associations.

If we adopt these steps in gaining control of where our life is headed we will: catch the wind in our sails, ride the current and become the master of our own life.

It’s all up to you!

Blame any typos on me. I was testing my speed typing skills when I typed this from the original. I still don’t know what my actual speed is but I’m getting better at typing from copy. Speed comes from not second guessing yourself so much as you type it.

For the A – Z Blogging Challenge… L is for Life

How to Write a Christmas Newsletter

A Christmas newsletter is a lovely thing. A time to think back over the year and remember the good parts and the things you accomplished. If you have a family there is that much more to tell. Singles can write newsletters too. The best people to send a newsletter to are those older relatives who would like to hear from the family more often.

The formatting of the newsletter:

  • Mail it, don’t email it. It’s so rare to get something personal in the mail. Bills addressed to you don’t count!
  • Pick a coloured paper and envelope if you like but keep them fairly plain, easily readable.
  • Pick a font and font size which are also easy to read. Use a fancier font in the header, not in the text.
  • Come up with a name/ title  for your newsletter.
  • Keep copies of the newsletter each year, like an annual family history in print.
  • Add photos before you make copies to send out.  Write a little blurb to go along with each photo.
  • Add papercrafts, clip art, drawings or create some other kind of art that will be able to get mailed out.
  • Keep it short, a one page newsletter is easier to read and easier (less expensive) to mail out.

What to write about if you get stuck:

  • If you have a family get each one to write a paragraph about how their year has gone. Their hobbies, interests, special events or something they are looking forward to for next year.
  • Think about the year in seasons. What were you doing in the Winter, Spring, Summer and the Fall this past year?
  • Skim through your planner if you keep one jot down notes about what was happening that would be noteworthy for the newsletter.
  • Though Christmas is an upbeat time you may include a memorial to family members or close friends. It is nice to remember, even if it is just a short addition after all your other news.

Other notes:

  • Don’t spill any secrets, don’t be bitter or negative about others and try to focus on the high points in your family life over the past year.
  • Keep a conversational tone. You are writing to family and friends after all.
  • Of course, don’t send it to people you don’t want to read it.
  • When you’re done, edit it, read it out loud to see how it sounds. Then give it a proofread through, catch any typos spellcheck missed.
  • Add a hand written note to your newsletter to personalize it for each person you send it to. Or, those you especially want to give some extra Christmas cheer to.
  • Don’t forget to add Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings or whatever works best for you.
  • If you feel like doing an extra special touch try some mail art on the envelope itself.

Write Every Day aka The Reality of the Day of a Writer

From Chris Baty, the NaNoWriMo Newsletter:

Write every day. Even if you just knock out 75 words before collapsing into bed, those 75 words will keep you connected you to your story in essential ways, and make diving back into your book much easier.

Between one and a hundred things I have not even started for NaNoWriMo. Yesterday I said I was just giving up on it and I might still do that. But, this morning, when I was still waking up and not quite back into my life yet, I thought that I could still do it. I’d just need to write double the regular words per day. The month isn’t half gone by. It is still a possibility.

So I turned on the computer, waiting for it to load up all the Windows stuff, the Acer stuff and then some update it just had to do for Java. It finally finished loading up a second time after the annoying Java thing… then I was called away. My Mother needed me to get the lawn mower out from the garage where my brother had put it away behind a bunch of lawn furniture he had stored away for the winter last weekend. So I did that. Then she wanted me to do something else, then something else still and then a couple of other things… about two hours later I came back to my computer.

Now I have about 10 minutes before I leave for a birthday party for my niece who will be 5 today and is very excited and especially phoned me last night to make sure I remembered her birthday and to tell me (again) that I am on her invited list.

Knowing the usual at my sister’s house I will be making the dinner, after I clean up her kitchen. Then it seems she bought a cake mix so I am probably going to be making the birthday cake. Then the party itself. Then the running around and pinging off walls while my sister and her husband forget they are parents. I will be getting the girls into the bath and then tucked into bed. Then, by 8:00 or so I will come back downstairs. My sister may want to play cards but these days she is nearing the end of her pregnancy so she may not and just watch TV or go to bed early herself.

I will get home any time from 9:00 to midnight, as I have in the past on babysitting days. I will try to write then when I sit here in front of the computer. But, first I will need to unwind a bit. So I check email, probably put on a computer game and end up going to bed cause my eyes cant’ stay open to do much of anything.

So that will be another day of not writing for NaNoWriMo. But, I did update for my daily post here. That’s a good thing!

The Awful Silence of Blogging

Many years ago I started a newsletter for writers online. I called it InkSplatters. It ran on the site that is now Yahoo Groups. (Does anyone remember when it was Yahoo Clubs for awhile and something else not even part of Yahoo before that?) The newsletter began as a spin off from a site my friend was doing called The Writer’s Pen. We worked on The Writer’s Pen together (he did most of it) but InkSplatters was all my own creation. I even sent it out with some of my own ASCII art as borders. Quite the fancy newsletter some days.

It lasted a few years. I was doing okay with it. I had over a hundred subscribers, then 250 and beyond but there was little feedback. In the end it was for that reason I decided to shut down the newsletter.  I know other online projects have ended for that same reason.

Publishing online can be lonely. There should be some kind of cute name for it. Like cabin fever for when you have been indoors too long and desperately must get outside, break free of the inside space. It became known as cabin fever for the pioneers who were trapped inside their small farm houses most of the winter, snowed in or just too cold to leave.  Publishing online is like that too. You keep posting, hoping to hear something besides the echo of silence all around you. No doubt that’s why I tend to write with the radio or TV on in the background.

Still there is the urge to be that pioneer, to try something, to start something and try to make it grow. I still do it. I start things independently or I join up other sites and networks to start something as a smaller part of something big. But, there are days when I feel overwhelmed by the to-do list I keep building for myself. There are days when the cabin fever of online publishing gets to me. When I lived alone there would be a day when I’d realize I had not spoken a word all that day. I typed a lot, but spoke not at all.

I look at my work, this site and the others and it’s so very quiet. The only sound is the TV or the radio. The comments that come in are like life rafts of communication. I’m not just talking to myself after all! There really are still people in the world.

Being inside too much also narrows your focus too much. Get out there, people watch or even talk to someone. Blow up your world again, remember what it’s like to be really social, face to face. It may be a bit scarier than talking online but we all need that interaction too. A breath of life in our quiet publishing world.

When you get back online comment in a few blogs, randomly. Spread that breath of life around.  Yes, it’s good for your blog stats but more importantly, it’s really good for the blogging community too. Remind someone else that, just because it’s quiet, doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone out there, reading, listening, maybe laughing at the right parts too.

How do you battle that cabin fever of being a web writer, an online publisher?

Bring Back the Ezines?

Should ezines make a comeback? Although an ezine can use content management systems (blog software) it is the format and style which make them different. An ezine is an online magazine. They don’t need to be published daily, they don’t need to be the work of just one person and they can have various sections geared to offering information, services and promotion of the business.

If you can’t write your own blog post each day, consider an ezine. Hire or find people to create the graphics, articles and power up your ezine. You can make your own graphics, write your own content too. But a magazine isn’t built by just one person, generally. They update monthly or weekly, or bi-weekly or bi-monthly or seasonally even.

A blog should not expect reader feedback or rely on it. People read, lurk and leave. That’s how it goes. If you want interaction with your readers/ sales prospects look at message boards/ forums or Twitter. You only need to make a short post, maybe just a quick question, then let the readers post their opinions, ideas and questions. It is interactive and relies less on your own input than on the people you want to inform about your skills, services and/ or products.

It is a good idea to make sure you have recent posts so be prepared to make at least one each week, more when your message board is just starting up. You can make a Twitter post a couple of times a day, but not just a link to your site. Have something to say, to interest people and bring them in.

Always go in to moderate your boards for spam, discussions that get out of hand or someone who has asked a question about your business. Message boards are a great way to inform the public. Instead of a blog which cycles posts a board has all it’s content sorted and displayed on the front page. Readers hit the section they want and follow the thread, like a train of thought. It is a great format for site owners who don’t really want to spend time learning how to write and publish.

Another option is the email list. This isn’t as great an option as it once was. People get a ton of email now, newsletters they once subscribed to and don’t really have the time to read. It is still an option worth noting, and things could change. Email may become less cluttered and more useful once again.

An email list/ newsletter goes right to the people who subscribe. They will see it in their inbox and read it at their convenience. You don’t rely on bringing them to your site. Have a site with more information, a back up, with instructions for subscribing to the email newsletter and an archive of past posts.

Post the newsletter on a schedule, monthly, weekly or some other time period that suits you. It does not have to be stuffed with articles. There is a lot you can do, depending on what your goal is. Notify your readers about a contest you are running, a sale, something new that has just come in. Or give them tips and advice regarding your niche or area of expertize. Add a link to your site and the archive at the end of each email. It is important to have unsubscribe instructions too, make them clear and visible. You will still get people asking to be unsubscribed and sending it through to the whole list, but you do what you can to make it simple and easy for them.

New formats and software will come along that can be applied to running and ezine. Some blogs are set up with the magazine theme/ template and look like an ezine. They post daily and have a set of writers and designers and others who keep the blog running. What is the difference between an ezine and a blog set up like one? I’m not sure. But it does seem an easier way to run things, if you can find others to write on a schedule, you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Graveyard Posies

Graveyard posies
Graveyard posies

In a cemetery: “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own grave.” Found in a local print newsletter this week.

Have you ever taken flowers from a cemetery? I have. Shocking? It isn’t really. Plastic flowers blow around and end up being dumped into the trash. They can’t be recycled unless someone comes along and reuses them. I did find it hard to sort through and pick out flowers that were still in good shape. I used to have new flowers once a month in a vase on my kitchen table, most or all of them from local cemeteries.

Do you think that was wrong or was it just thrifty recycling?

Objectify Your Front Page

Does your front page guide your reader into your blog? Or do you kind of leave them to fumble their way around?
This is part of a post at ProBlogger for the 31DBBB:

Think about Objectives and Call to Action – one question to ask when looking at your blog’s front page is ‘what are your objectives?’ What do you want people to do when they arrive on your blog for the first time (remember your front page is a logical place for new people to be visiting)? Do you want people to subscribe to an RSS feed or newsletter, click an ad, tell a friend, drive them to your best content, buy a product, hear your story…. what do you want them to do? Once you’ve identified your objective you can then position a call to action in a prime location on your blogs front page.

If I look at my own front page I am not accomplishing my goal as well as I could be. My goal is to have people find my content. But the top post is not always one that really gives the best face forward for my blog. How can any one post really speak for your blog all the time? So I need to find something to stick a selection of my posts in a place where they can easily be seen by first time visitors.

Something else to work on.