Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Eulogy


When I am gone, I hope everyone misses me for a long, long time.  I hope my life was not a ripple but a big splash, and no one will be able to “get over it and move on.” I hope I am missed and not dismissed.
I hope folks will set a place for me at their table, reach for their phones to text me, or add me to their Christmas list before they remember I am no more.
I hope folks will smile, feel sad, and stop what they are doing to remember me for one second.  I hope I made a difference in their lives and it was all good.
Nothing sadder than having existed and not lived a good life, one that is remembered long after I am gone.

I hope that even when those who knew me have joined me in the afterlife, my splash will have reached the generations after.  No need to have known me firsthand.  No need to recall my name like some person in a text book.   What I hope is that my love for others, my words of well-earned wisdom, my kindness will have been sown forward, and a little bit of ME will still exist. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

THE BLOG on BLOGGING: ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON



So, you’ve decided to blog.  Let us ponder your options. 

OPEN THE POD DOORS, HAL
Why do you want to blog?  What do you have to say or share that isn’t already being said or shared by the other 200 million bloggers out there? Who is your audience? Is it a family-and-friends-only journal or a me-only diary? Maybe it’s an advertisement for a product/creation/business, and you wish to attract awareness/admirers/customers? Is it an exercise in creativity and you are searching for an audience or an outlet for your opus? It is crucial you decide this before you blog.

I HAVE ALWAYS DEPENDED ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Study other blogs and glean information that will help you decide how to best set up your site and its operation. See what works and doesn’t for your purposes.  Come up with a quirk or innovation that will make it different from the many others. 
If what you envision is beyond your technical savvy, then enlist/hire/beg for help. Will it have links, photos, interactive options? Tabs?  Several pages? Have you considered banners, head shots, color schemes, fonts? Will your blog open onto a full screen, or will your product/text be positioned to the left or the right?
Remember you want to make a good first impression, so don’t broadcast it until it looks and feels right to you. You can always upgrade it or give it a face lift, but your first launch should be your best font forward.
One more thing, consider topics and taboos, subjects you will and won’t do, and decide those with care. 

LOUIS, I THINK THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP
Where are you going to post this blog?  Choose a server that will match your needs the best.  Will you link to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.? How often you post will depend on the purpose of your blog.  Will you post when the muse amuses you or will you set up a strict schedule? Set your own guidelines but then announce and follow them. 
Remember if you seek a constant readership, you will need to be constant as well.  A reader’s time is valuable and fickle.  If you treat your blog with abandon, the reader will also. 

NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER
Whether it is a me-only blog or you seek extensive readership, once it goes live on the Internet, it is “out there.” It is a web log, after all.  It is also a visual résumé, forever attached with its magnet to the refrigerator door of Cyberspace. 
Regardless of that daunting thought, here is your chance to stretch your creative muscles, perfect your skill, show off your talent(s). If you write, grapple with the grammar, insinuate yourself into the syntax, and lunge loquaciously into the language.  If you are a visual artist, post pictures, venture out there with vlogs, and tinker with technology.
Establish your platform, your stamp, your voice.                            

LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY
If you’ve truly considered what you will blog about and who it will reach, then you are aware of the importance of privacy and ethics.
Unlike a private journal or diary that only becomes public upon your death or the prying eyes of nosy family, a blog is accessible to anyone who can maneuver about Cyberspace. Not only will your creation be public but so will you. Readers will claim you. You will find yourself pinned on Pinterest.  
You might enjoy the attention, but your family and friends may not. Don’t belittle, betray, or blather about them without their permission.  Don’t post a picture if you want to protect their anonymity. If you do, disguise their names.
Also consider if what you have posted – text or picture – represents you well.  Do you want to become known for that? Always be aware of your theme and message. 
Would you rather be famous for a blook deal or infamous for a lawsuit? Remember you still have to show up for Christmas dinner with the relatives, and you might have to face the ex(s) at the grandkids’ birthday parties sooner than you think.

Starting up a Blog or Newsletter


I.               Your blog or newsletter
A.   Is your opening page/landing page too busy?  Keep it simple and easy to read and use.
B.    Offer only a few options but lead your readers where or what you want from them.  Make sure there is a “Call to Action.”  Provide buttons for readers to sign up as members, to sign up for the blog or newsletter, to leave a comment, or to purchase and item.  (Use different color buttons or bars for this to attract the eye.)
C.    Add videos, podcasts, images, pictures, etc. It increases the amount of time a reader spends on your site and it increases your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which then leads to Google preference when someone does a search. Make your own videos, create your own pictures, and label your work so they will be credited to you.  If they end up elsewhere, you will own the property and they will link back to you and your page(s).
You will own the property and it will not be reliant on other advertisement. (Almost everyone owns a phone, especially people ages 20-36, so make your own photos and store for future use.)
1.     Use a small file size and save them in jpeg or png.
2.    Themes for different types of video libraries might include: sales, advertising, and marketing; product demonstration; how to, instructional, tutorial; or testimonials.
3.    Include transcriptions when possible for the visual or hearing impaired.
4.    Test your links and make sure they are easy and friendly to use. You might be able to see and access them but your readers might not.
D.    Link or refer to other people’s blogs and websites.  Hopefully readers on those pages will link back to yours.
II.          Writing Your Blog or Newsletter
A.   Target the social media where you will find you readers or consumers.  Older readers rely on email and Facebook, but younger readers like Instagram and Twitter.
B.    Use your blog to find and test your voice. See if you attract an audience.
C.    Address the audience you wish to attract, but be specific, consistent, useful, and relevant.
D.    Make sure your content speaks to the title and subject and optimizes fitting key words throughout the body. 
E.    Keep writing and create a body of work.  Make it relevant to the reader’s needs.  Make it seasonal or useful.  Go for the “evergreen” post. The more Google will notice your body of work, and remember if you stop posting, it will be difficult to regain your momentum.  Google Analytics keeps tabs on amount/body of your work and how many readers it garners. It also helps if you reply to comments and add images because Google is timing how long readers spend on your pages.
III.       If you want to learn more about WordPress as you Content Management System:
A.   Remember it is one of the easiest and most popular CMS because it offers you only the most popular choices to help set it up.  Most of its options are free, and it offers a lot of technical support.
B.    Know beforehand what features you want on your blog or website.  Visit websites you like and create a vision or a business plan before you start.
C.    If it is too much for you, hire a manager who specializes in WP installation and implementation. They will help you set up, manage, update, and analyze data. WP updates several times a year, and a manager will help routinely (24/7) back up, debug, and answer your questions should you decide to add or subtract features.

IV.          Don’t forget to purchase your domain, but consider what you will title it before you go shopping.  Once you call attention to the name of the domain you wish to buy, your search will call attention to its attraction and it might get bought by buyers and the next time you go to buy, it might cost more.  Suggestions:  buy your name.com, or the title or your blog.com so that you own them before anyone else does. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Writers’ Group Dynamics


I belong to a writers’ group.  We meet once a week for two hours.  The first hour we meet as a whole group; the second hour we meet in genre-specific, critique groups. This group has met for over fifteen years and the membership has changed but the group itself has continued with great success.
I joined six years ago and have learned an immensity about writing, and writing well for publication. Of the many, varied writers’ groups I have belonged to (and started) over the last thirty years, this group has taught me more than all of them combined.
The question is why? What makes a successful group?
1.     Does the group have meaningful goals? Are they clearly stated to old and new members? Do they draw people to attend meetings and do they return week after week? Does it meet a need or fulfill a purpose for its members?  
2.    Do they feel accepted and welcomed?  Do they feel part of the group? Do their goals mesh with those of the others? Is there trust that their views and opinions will be accepted, and do they feel they can grow into its community and ownership?
3.    Is it of mutual benefit? Does it help meet the needs and goals of ALL the members and not just benefit one person or one group? Is attention given to everyone or does one person or one group monopolize the time spent together?
4.    Are all members allowed to participate in leadership roles, get involved in the group’s activities, take part in emergent and integral roles within the group? Are all members who wish to volunteer allowed to participate in the work that needs to get done? Do they have a voice in the group’s ownership?
5.    Does it meet the goals set by the group? Is there success, even in failure? Some never meet ambitious goals, yet there is satisfaction in the effort and in the potential displayed by all. When one does succeed, does the whole group celebrates along with them?
6.    There is a reason why this group has lasted as long as it has – leadership. The tenacity and perseverance of its leaders have kept this group going even through the lean years when the membership has waned to single digits. The two women in charge listen to the membership and its needs.  They stay open-minded, flexible, and approachable when it comes to motivating and recruiting members.  The goal has stayed the same for the past fifteen years, but the membership has changed, technology has changed, and writing for publication has changed.

When I say I have learned more about writing from this group than any other I have known, it is because the group agenda changes with the times, information is up-to-date, and individual needs are heard and answered. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Moving to Canada!!!


          Not really.  Regardless who wins the election for President this coming Tuesday, I am not moving to Canada like so many others claim.  
          One, I don’t know anyone there.
          Two, I suck at French. I was so bad at it that I dropped out of the class during my second week as a college freshman.
          Three, I cannot stand the cold.  I become totally physically disabled when it comes to cold weather.
          Regardless of who becomes President of the United States (and I do not like either one of the two major candidates), I am stuck here in the US of A along with all the other inmates.
          I could try moving to Mexico but I don’t know anyone there.  My Spanish is notably not my first language, and the heat might be bearable but the crime cartels might mistake me for a rich American and no one in my family has enough cash to pay a ransom for my safe return. At least, that would be their excuse.
          I guess I will take my chances here regardless of who wins.
There might be some benefit to that.  If the folks who claim they are abandoning the US if their choice for Prez is not chosen actually follow through with their boasts that means half of the complainers, bullies, and boasters will be gone and the rest of us can get on with our lives.

I am counting on their promises about as much as I am counting on the promises made by the Presidential candidates