Thank you!! Hiccup!

There once was a girl from Vancouver,
Whose 1st anniversary unnerved  ‘er.
She tried to be clever,
but St. Paddy said, What-ever,
Just write thanks & end our damned torture!

There are some advantages to starting any endeavor on St. Patrick’s Day, and one of them is drinking green beer or  writing limericks while doing it.  If you’re like me, you don’t believe in unnecessary compromises, so I did both.  I can’t say how well it turned out, but like all St. Paddy’s Day activities, I’ll see how it turned out tomorrow.  Hopefully it doesn’t involve any mug shots.

In the meantime,  I had a year of quite a few firsts,  but I’ll say that this first year of public writing has been especially gratifying.  Within this world of worlds, there were experiences I had no idea I would have.  For starters, who knew that you can make some really great friends in this cyber-world?

I remember pining away for pen pals when I was I kid.  I dreamed of having all kinds of discussion with kids who would tell me all about their exotic lives in their exotic homes somewhere far away.  I ended up waiting all these years to discover them within the WordPress forum – the truest pen pals of the 21st century.

I’ve mentioned a lot recently, of how many incredible and simply wonderful people have taken the time to read my posts and lend their voices in response.  There is a shared intimacy that reaches depth of feeling and understanding not usually found in some of the other forums we use, like Facebook or LinkedIn.  There is also a frankness that flows easily, but very respectfully and is so enlightening.

Thanks so very much to my friends who have faithfully followed.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much it means that you have stuck with me and tell me your thoughts about what I’ve written

Happy 1st AnniversaryI’ve also been honored to have gained a wider following this year that I am damned proud of. The quality of writers and remarkable people that I get to call my community is beyond gratifying.  I have learned so much from them, and they have gifted me with their amazing talent and insight.  I wish I could name everyone who I have enjoyed crossing paths with, but for now, I would like to give a shout-out to a few people who gave something unique to my heart and efforts in this first year:

I got to be a Groupie 🙂 , for  Ned Hickson  – official and everything, and in writing at least 5 times.  I followed his blog and have laughed at with him ever since.  He has been a really supportive influence in more ways than one, and he’s a great source for writing advice.

I got utterly hooked on Robert Hookey – he is a chronicler of his bellman activities in Niagara Falls.  You CANNOT believe what goes on in hotels! Robert AKA The Hook captures the shenanigans with great humour.  I appreciate his comments which are always thoughtful, or funny, or both, and despite claiming to be a jerk, is a really decent person.

I met a fellow survivor of coming back from the edge & favorite twitter (twisted?) sister Lisa Johnson Sawyer – loads of laughs and commiseration.

Melanie, Christy, Diahann Reyes – These beautiful women have survived so, so much and they support and inspire truckloads of us with amazing knowledge, grace, and kindness.

JT Weaver – the accomplished writer who scared the bejezus out of me when we talked about doing a guest blog on his site.  I got whatever is the equivalent of tongue-tied and couldn’t write a full page for some time.  He got me back on track with some tough love that I have been able to use for everything ever since.  Don’t be afraid, he’s a keeper, and he will help.

So, thanks again everyone, here’s to bigger and better for the next year.  I now hoist a magical mug o’ green beer; it apparently disappears immediately after a toast.  Cheers to you all!

RL

Freshly Pressed is Not Trash

Okay, if you ever get an email where the subject line says ‘congrats, you’ve been freshly pressed’, do not automatically send it to the trash folder assuming it’s just another clever piece of junk mail.  Just sayin’.

Wait! Do not delete!

Wait! Do not delete!

Instead of madly retrieving crucial mail, maybe check the sender’s name by say, a Google  search or checking the supposedly being Freshly Pressed post ‘likes’.  It’s likely that name is there too, in which case, let out a big breath and semi-whisper WTF?

For non-bloggers, Freshly Pressed is a showcase on our host website, WordPress.com. It’s the site where they feature editors’ picks and community favorites to a following of millions of writers.

If you’re like me, you will then re-read that email repeatedly.  After that, it starts to sink in and then, really? Will what I blurted out in a moment of bravery inspired by an hour of heroism by someone else matter that much to other people?

WordPress Editor Cheri Lucas Rowlands thought so, and I’m deeply grateful that her take on people sharing vulnerabilities is that it’s important and a path to understanding.

So, before I knew that Cheri had, however miraculously, set her eyes on my post, (103 People Unfriended Her…) I calculated that a total of 50 of my loyals would read it.  Freshly Pressed sent it shooting past thousands of eyes. Kind of heady stuff.

Anyway, it is quite an experience, and natch, I took notes as I rode the “FP” roller coaster.

Seeing as how mine was pressed the day after the Oscars, it felt like an extension of the awards.  Hey, this IS my Oscar.

oscar 2Anyhoo, once pressing is done, you know you’re going to get more readers than usual, and you do, lots of new viewers.

One notification came  that totally cracked me up, “Your blog, Blog Woman!!!, appears to be getting more traffic than usual”!

You get the coveted blue Freshly Pressed badge in your Widget tools. Way cool.  It’s added to your collection once the post is pressed.

Without a doubt, what was really, really outstanding, were the comments.  The overwhelming support for the point of my post was heartrending.   The amount of thoughtfulness is amazing.  The humor, the sincerity, the straightforward opinions are just beautiful.  Each comment touches my heart for its own reason.

All those comments and only one that I didn’t know how to take.  Joke or jerk?  I published it anyway.

I got a really good look at how many blog names are incredible, amazing, and hilarious.  Oh you witty writers.

If, like me, you get a kick at seeing the notification box light up orange, you’re really going to like the first few hours of being pressed.  You can just sit and stare as that little box lights up with each blink – like the cats that love that red dot.

Anyway, all those eyes! Thousands!  Wow, right?  Little reality check – reading is not the same as liking.  In fact, the stats say roughly 10-15% of the overall readers hit that like button or commented.

On the other hand, those 10-15 percenters were damned overwhelming with how much they opened up.  As I read through them, I thought this must be what the Ellens and Oprahs feel like when they come out from behind the curtains and feel a whoosh of emotion so moving, that I’m surprised any hair or make-up stays on.

Then, some of those 10-15 percenters also perused my other not Freshly Pressed posts. That was also awesome sauce, and their comments were absolutely uplifting on those too.

Oh, and seeing new followers, well, what’s a higher compliment than that?

Finally, my agent (AKA 12 yr. old son) said that when I go on Ellen (he’s determined to get me there), I better have a thank you list, and he’d better be #1 on it!

So, thank you all so much for this fantastical ride, it’s been stunning fun so far. … And to my agent, I am nothing without you.

Could I also leave you with this 4 minute video that happened to show up on my Facebook page this week? It couldn’t be a better example of the definition of what is beauty. It is by Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo.  I believe that most of you exhibited that to me in your comments.  It’s taken me one more step away from “the seduction of inadequacy”.  

Dare you to keep a dry eye:

http://www.upworthy.com/oscar-winner-lupita-nyongos-speech-on-beauty-that-left-an-entire-audience-speechless?c=gt1   (4:55)

 RL

Beware of Bloggers, and Other Success Warnings

Recently I witnessed two prominent blogs, each followed by several thousand readers, cause disturbing ripples across the blogging community.

Although I’m fairly new to this arena, I did have contact with both of these bloggers, but it was minimal, and so I watched the dramas unfold from the safety of the periphery.  Nonetheless, it left me unsettled and a little disconcerted.

Writing gifOne of the blog-sites fully imploded due to revelations of wide-spread improprieties toward other bloggers that included bullying, coercion and sexual harassment. That site’s owner/writer ended up closing down that blog and all its associated webpages, but it had run for quite a long time prior because the harassed had been intimidated into silence.  The other had to deal with a very strong backlash regarding a post in which he called out another blogger as less than worthy of public acclaim.  This one also closed, but only temporarily, presumably to lick wounds and regroup.

In both cases, regardless of how much damning proof there was, there remained for both of these bloggers a strong base of supporters who were willing to excuse and even completely overlook the accusations toward these, their heroes, and for many, their  ‘on-line friends’.

In retaliation of the revelations, these supporters were also more than willing to demonstrate their solidarity by writing the victims and/or injured parties and their followers to demean and belittle them and the charges, some even issuing threats. This is a pretty strong example of when people don’t like to admit they’ve made a mistake – especially about someone they look up to. Especially one that questions, “Was I a sucker”?

Each case reminded me of the often repeated cautionary tales that we speak to our kids about when it comes to internet usage – whom to associate with and what we choose to post online.  It also reminded me that we have to re-think how we make heroes out of appearances of success.

In the blogging world, a successful following and  wider readership is attained through, in large part, making mutual blogging contacts and following each other’s work,  but like our warnings to our children, we also need to be more discerning about with whom we choose to support and associate.

In the pursuit of success, we too often, and easily, make heroes out of those we see as triumphant.  We hope to be able to tag onto their success and open opportunities for ourselves.  At least, that’s how it supposed to work and really, that’s how the world has gone around forever.  However, applauding success doesn’t require falling down in worship.

The last few weeks have served as a tough reminder to many of us to remember to be responsible for what we say publicly, or be willing to take full responsibility for the results, and it is also a reminder to behave; act with decent propriety and respect.

In the interest of general face-saving and self-preservation, we should also pay attention to that old adage of listening to our gut.  Follow our heart in what we want to say, but definitely pay attention when our Spidey senses start tingling while we’re writing, reading, or in a discussion.  Let’s face it, in this realm, we really don’t know who we are be-friending. If we back-off from something that feels wrong, that’s a win.  Maybe we will miss out on a chance to step up a notch, but it’s far more likely that there will still be plenty of opportunities to grow.

The last thought I took away from all these events, is yes,yes, yes it is OK to stand up for yourself, respectfully, when you’ve been wronged.  Even in the blogosphere, no one is too big to have to own up to bad behavior.

RL

Thanks Bloggers, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

frantic writer

Arrrrgh!  I am falling behind in my own writing and I can’t get up.  It’s entirely your fault!  Yes you, you fellow bloggers.  I have been catching up on your writing.  I follow a great number of blogs, but only because a great many of you are great writers!

I frantically flip through the humorists while scarfing down my favorite yogurt and fruit in the morning.  You are funny as hell, by the way.  I read the short fiction stories while I scarf down a quick lunch – wow, if only I had half of that creativity. While contemplating my son’s requests for later bed times and higher allowance, I read the thoughtful musings on everything from parenting to how we view ourselves, to what really burns someone’s butt.  Thanks for the respective reassurances, great ideas, and food for thought.  It goes on and on from there, and I stand transfixed while dinner burns.

I wonder if I’ve fallen into some kind of wordy Alice trap – navigating through mazes and mazes of great advice, ideas, creativity and interesting and thought provoking opinions and situations.  I think I should be inspired by all of this, but I somehow come away feeling — empty. My mind is the storied black hole. Am I intimidated too much by so much goodness?  Have I morphed from a ‘journaling’ addict to a comparative reading junkie?

So much to see, so much to learn, and I know I still have opinions and thoughts of my own aplenty.  I just don’t seem to be able to string them into a reasonable string of sentences that will eventually make a point.

WordPress itself tries to help me with all their daily great suggestions and writing tip prompts.  Great ideas WP and I will get to those, maybe right after I catch just this latest post from Ned.  And You’ve Been Hooked, and Twisted Sifter, and Gotta Find A Home….  Arrrrghh….

So, uh, anyone got any good tips?

RL

What? Me Blog? Thanks WordPress, and Maybe Ellen

Blogger Kendall F. Person isn’t kidding, in my opinion, when he says:  “Writing is a performance art and every post is a show”.  When the notion of blogging first came up via the semi-gentle prodding of blogger Lois, I thought, really?  Would my personal musings, normally put down on paper in a private journal, have a place in the public realm?  Not that the public realm is necessarily a bastion of expert, or even semi-good, public offerings. Was it possible I could land somewhere in the semi-middle?

I looked over some of my musings to see what might be interesting and I thought, n.o. w.a.y! Well, maybe?  I eventually settled into the idea that maybe there is someone out there that I’m meant to share some thoughts with.  I have to confess, I also wrestled with the idea that any non-fans might have a heyday with my inner vulnerabilities.

Eye of the TigerCue up ‘Eye of the Tiger’.  This is my tap dance; any naysayers would be braying whether I wrote or not.

So, I searched up how to start a blog and looked at a couple of websites that offered pre-set web pages.  Novice that I am, I wanted cool, but needed easy.  I chose the WordPress offerings and I was off to the keyboard – which actually, wasn’t that far off.

For my first publication, I settled on a note written for my son after I was hospitalized with a condition that made me wish I had already condensed all my learned life shortcuts for him.  It wasn’t Aurelius, but perhaps enough for a decent start.

I followed the directions to send this out to the cyber-world with the expectation that maybe ten of my closest friends and family would bother to have a look. I was content with that idea, and that my son might get a kick out of the latest item added to my first-time-to-do list.  I intended to share the post on Facebook with some of my friends, so I also anticipated a like or comment about it on my Facebook wall in the same way I get for status updates.

Despite my low-key expectations, I still held my breath a little when I clicked that ‘publish’ button.  Regardless of how well you think you know your audience, putting yourself out onto the ledge of public judgment gives you some degree of heart palpitations that feels a lot different from the quaint idea of butterflies.

Regardless, shortly after, my tried and true came through with their likes, comments, and support for the blog.  All was well; I could breathe easily within the cushioned approval of my pals.   I was also lucky enough to be unaware at that point, that our website host also supplies statistics on how many people read your posts and from which country they are reading them.

I discovered that statistic counter the next day.  I clicked on the link to my post from my Facebook wall.  I wanted to see what it looked like from that angle.  It brought up my blog website and unexpectedly I saw that it had a ‘Follow’ tab at the bottom.  I clicked on it and it said, “Join 235 other followers”.  Huh?  That was exactly my first thought.  Then I realized this was some kind of error, so I logged into my website and navigated around the site directions. This took me to that eye-popping statistical page.  It said 135 people read that first blog on that first night, followed by the rest the next day.   Now, maybe that’s not exactly The National Post’s readership numbers, but for this average mom in the sticks, it might as well have been The National Post and CNN!   Of course I was obligated to check this page every hour for the next few weeks.

I was astonished at the number of people who cared to have a look at my site, especially those who weren’t aware that I existed pre- blog.  It was also thrilling to see those geographical stats. First another country popped up, another, then another continent, and now only one more continent to go.  I couldn’t believe how fast and how far these words, my words, could travel – Belgium, Ethiopia, England, Qatar, Singapore, Australia and on and on and back to Canada.   It was a heady Sally Field moment for me, but you know, just not in front of millions.   Of course, that pride puffing up was deflated somewhat by a bit of a reality check.  Blog junk mail.  Who knew there was such a thing?   See blog no. 4 – “First Blog Results in 3 Unbelievable Opportunities”.

Despite blog no. 4, I showed my young son all of these details and he was as excited for me as if he was my agent about to get his 15% of… something.  He has big plans for me, as soon as he figures out what they are going to be, something about Ellen DeGeneres.

An unexpected bonus in all of this was that I landed in a new community of extremely interesting, uplifting, fantastically talented, writing thoughtfulness.  One as generous with information and tech support, as they are in raising spirits by being quick to like, share, and comment on your work!

I now find myself turning to our host reader page to view their posts as often as I do the newspaper.  I feel like I won the literary lottery and now have at hand the most engaging stories of every genre at the ready.  Who knew Lois’s kick in the pants would catapult me into writing and reading bliss?

Whatever the long-term purpose of this blog is to be, I am ever hopeful that it helps to serve as much as I get from it.  I might also hope that the next time I’m rear-ended by a foot, I may more quickly remember that, many times, if not most,  inspiration comes in the form of a good kick and some bruising.

And, I still have the excitement to come of that one last continent being added to my stats.

RL

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/daily-prompt-beginnings/

Daily Prompt: Origin Storyby michelle w. on August 2, 2013

Why did you start your blog? Is that still why you blog, or has your site gone in a different direction than you’d planned?Photographers, artists, poets: show us BEGINNINGS.