Monday, February 8, 2016

Blogging for Writers

As I mentioned a few posts back, I'm working my way through a little book called Blogging for Writers.  So far, I'm fairly pleased with it - though it doesn't go deep enough into the questions and topics that bounce around my mind as I think about my blog.  Namely...
  1. Privacy vs. living publicly.  How does one balance the need for privacy in a full-disclosure culture?  How much can, or should, one blog about one's personal life?  In that light, how is it beneficial to blog about what you're currently writing - or even to blog bits of works in progress?  I live in fear of someone snatching my ideas, let alone my work... and my family worries about oversharing.  Not a great foundation for a writer's blog, that.
  2. Adopting the mantle of an expert.  In one chapter, the author highlights "the twelve types of posts" a writer's blog can, or should (I'm not certain here of the distinction), focus on.  Listed high on the list were reviews - of books, of other websites, etc. - and posts about the art and craft of writing.  I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with, or qualified to, attempt either.  I'm a writer and a teacher... but I'm no expert, and struggle mightily when it comes to providing salient advice even to writer friends.  As for reviewing... well, see my next conundrum.
  3. Everyone's entitled to (my) opinion?  Unless it's liberally laying on the praise when it's been well and truly earned, I'm not really that keen on broadcasting my opinions about what websites are hot, which books are must-reads, which authors are the most up-and-coming.  I have opinions, sure... but do I feel everyone is entitled to hear them?  Not particularly.  More than anything, I hate hurting people's feelings, even through the cushioning of the ether.  And I hate having my own feelings hurt when people snark back at my opinions.  A thick writer's skin I don't have yet... and I am firmly in the camp of Thumper's dad: If ya can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all.
  4. Kicking the wasp nest?  Another potentially blogworthy post, writes the author, is the controversial topic.  To be fair, she does make a point of noting that this sort of blogging is not for everyone.  Stirring things up can definitely garner readership - but it can also lose you readers, to my way of thinking.  Speaking personally, if I read more than a handful of posts I don't like, I unfollow the blogger faster than you can say Jack Robinson.  I'm guessing that this sort of posting is highly subject to the writer's personality, and is best attempted when one has followers to spare and a few won't be missed.
  5. Blogger or Wordpress?  That's it?  Primarily, my biggest qualm about this book is that it focuses exclusively on the two largest blogging platforms to the exclusion of all others.  Tumblr, for example, is given passing comment as a "minor blog platform" - and yet, my Tumblr account has over a hundred followers, while this blog has three.  Well, four - but one of them is me.  What really gives one blog platform cred over another?  And does it really make that much of a difference?
I suppose what I'm really looking for is a fairly obscure and very specific book... one called Blogging for Writers Named Chris Vrba Who Want Answers to Very Specific Questions.  If you happen to come across it at your local book store, let me know, would you?  Tankyouveddymush.

Gurney Journey: We come in all shapes

This man is one of my favorite artists.  It would be a dream come true to have him illustrate something I've written... and having seen this post, I like him that much more.

Gurney Journey: We come in all shapes: The Internet is full of pictures of skinny women, but my sketchbook wants to bear witness to the fact that humans come in other shapes, too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Need to Research

If I'm going to make this blog into my official website - my face to the online world, representing myself as a writer - I think I really need to do some research.  I need to read other blogs by writers I respect, see what sorts of things they blog about.  This will be hard.  I am easily intimidated by those who write better than  I do, those who are already more successful in the field of writing.  It's hard to imagine that Jon Katz ( or Derek Landy ( was once just a beginning blogger, not a successful novelist... and then too, they came to blogging after their books were already out and successful.  Is that really the best comparison for my project?

On the other hand, looking at other struggling and aspiring writers can be just as daunting.  After all, I want to read GOOD blogs, not lackadaisical halfway projects... and there are lists upon lists of the best writing blogs out there to choose from.  But how to choose?  Honestly, I don't have tons of extra time to spend scanning and searching for other aspiring writers of children's literature - writers, not illustrators or illustrator/writers.  Would just any good writing blog work, if the writer is aspiring?  Maybe... it would give me an idea of what to write about here, at least... but then, does someone who focuses on romance or adult fantasy blog differently than someone who writes for a younger market?

And there's still the intimidation factor I need to overcome.  It's one thing to be intimidated or cowed by an established author... it's almost understandable.  But the best bloggers, even if they aren't published, are still successful in their own ways.  They have an audience, which I don't (the handful of friends who will read this counts only in my heart of hearts, sad to say) and are, in that, virtually as successful and accomplished as any professional writer.  It's hard not to be jealous of someone like that, when you're fighting the same fight to get your work out there.

But I have to start somewhere, and research is always the best first step... whether it's a book or a blog.  And overcoming the intimidation and tendency to feel alternately jealous and cowed is a worthy goal.  Off  I go, then... virtual pith helmet on head, virtual machete in hand, into the wilds of the blogosphere, in search of my quarry: the truly inspirational blog.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Story Ideas: Tam Lin for Wolves? Beauty and the Beast for Beasts?

I started thinking yesterday about how I could take the old tales I love so much and flip them.  I've done quite a bit of drafting with altered myths, and once or twice tried out flipping a classic tale (I've got the ideas for a Jungle Book-esque tale called A Rat in the Twain House I'd like to sit with for a while), but generally, these don't go too far.  Why?  I wish I knew!

But yesterday, I started thinking... what if I retold the ballad of Tam Lin from a wolf's perspective?  A young female wolf comes upon a handsome stranger, a wolf of pure white, and falls in love with him only to discover that he's the captive of the faerie queen?  I'm not sure how the details would work, but I had a wonderful unfolding of the climactic scene where the heroine must hold fast to her love as the faeries transform him from one form to another.  If she can hold him, he is free - if not, their souls are forfeit.  I can only imagine her horror when the queen turns her one true love into a human man... for to a wolf, that would be the most horrific form imaginable...

Or perhaps, a Beauty and the Beast from a wolf's eyes.  The protagonist is captured by what appears to be a most brutal human male in exchange for the life of her alpha, and is forced to remain with him... but eventually, she discovers his secret: he is a werewolf who fears and loathes his wolf form, and only her love can make the curse bearable.

It's lovely fun to play with stories that are hardwired into our minds and hearts.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Stress, Stress, Stress...

I've been stressed at work lately... so stressed that it's awfully hard to detach from the work and live outside in the world.  And stress, as so many of us knows, has no regard for boundaries to begin with.  I truly envy those people who are able to find solace in a hobby or passion that shuts out the stress; it isn't that way for me.  The more I try to find relief, the more persistent the stress seems to become.

I force myself to make time for things that the gurus and TV doctors and real world doctors swear will help.  The trouble is, I really don't want to do any of them.  I joined a gym and exercise, which I hate doing.  I get regular mechanical chair massages at the same gym, my reward for going through the motions and making my body move.  I sketch or color, sometimes, though I've discovered that those "relaxing" coloring pattern books actually stress me out to no end; I fret over staying inside all the lines and getting every detailed hole filled in, and my fingers wind up cramped and my shoulders wind into knots. I go to bed earlier... and earlier... to the point that my ten year old son now to bed after me most nights.  But getting enough sleep is supposed to help, yes?  I pet my cats, which is supposed to lower my blood pressure, but that just reminds me that I don't, sadly, take my dogs out as much as they'd like - which is to say at all, cold-averse weather wimp that I am.

And I try to make time to write.  Ah, time to write.  THAT should be a stress reliever.  That, at least, is one thing I've always been good at - escaping into my own dream worlds, visiting with my imaginary people.

But not now.  Now, the words desert me when it's Time to Write, leaving me staring at the page or screen with a direct line to Writer's Block Superstore on speed dial.  Guilt comes calling - I should be writing; I made this time for writing, and I should be using it - then anxiety - why can't I write?  Will I ever be able to write the way I used to?  To find relief in writing?  WHY CAN'T I WRITE?  Finally shame joins the party, sadistically gleeful - I'm just not disciplined enough to write through this, and other writers are, and that's why THEY get published and I don't.  

It's enough to make a girl wish she didn't have time to write to begin with.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Blogging for Writers

I'm slowly working my way through a new book - Blogging for Writers.  It's convinced me that, to be a valid professional writer, I need a blog.  It makes sense - I need someplace to send readers and potential publishers and agents to see my work, my thoughts, my "stuff."  What stuff exactly, I'm not a hundred percent sure yet.  That's in a future chapter, the author promises.  But a blog is something I need, and something that may get my writer's block chiseled down into something sculpturesque rather than wallish.  For that reason alone, I'm going to give it a go.

I'm just not sure, however, whether this is that blog, or whether I need to start again in another forum... WordPress, maybe?  Can I do what I want to do with a blog on Blogger?  Do I even really know what that is?  Right now, my concerns are pretty basic.  Can I get a landing page for a decent "About Me" blurb, for example, rather than using that Google template I currently have?  (Answer - Yes, I can... and yes, I did!) Do I need more interactivity?  Is my title too long, too vague, too... I dunno.  It's me, but does it convey the right sense of who I am as a writer?

As the King once pontificated in Rogers and Hammerstein musical form, "Is a puzzlement."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Just a TADD ADD...

I'm thinking about starting a blog dedicated to learning how to manage as a teacher with ADD.  It's something I both want to do (there is pretty much NO information out there for teachers who HAVE the condition, as opposed to teachers who have children with ADD in their classrooms) but also don't want to do (because heaven only knows I have enough on my plate as it is).

The alternative, of course, would be to adjust this blog to make it include my ADD learning curve.  I haven't been good about keeping this blog up... so I suppose it's a possibility.  TADD means, to me, Teacher with ADD.

And if you don't know what ADD is... lucky you!

Factoid: People with ADD often have trouble making decisions not because they can't focus on any one thing... but because they focus on TOO MANY THINGS all at once!