Reply to Readers’ Comments

I no longer remember which of my colleagues at Live to Write – Write to Live first advised me to reply to readers’ comments, but it’s been great advice, so I’m passing it on.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s easy to send stories out into the world; it’s harder to know if they ever get read, and harder still to know if they hit home. When a reader comments, it’s like an out-of-the-park homer. Replying is simply cheering for the home team.
  2. When a reader’s comments offer me a new perspective, I thank them for widening my world-view. I live a somewhat solitary life, and I appreciate other’s opinions, life experiences and wisdom.
  3. When a reader reveals uncertainty about their writing, I reply with encouragement. I know both how easy it is to become discouraged and how important kinds words can be. Everyone has stories to tell; not everyone has the courage or wherewithal to write them down, let alone send them out into the world. Everyone benefits from kindness.
  4. Humans are a narrative species. We need stories. Stories are a way to build empathy, trade information, and resolve conflict. I want to do what I can to promote such peaceful behavior.
  5. Sometimes, this somewhat solitary writing life gets lonely, and hearing from readers has led to some on-line friendships. I’ve been in love with letters and intrigued by letter writing since I was a kid, and I like epistolary relationships. I still love snail mail, but email is easier and faster.
  6. Recently, an acquaintance I made through my blog turned into a face-to-face visit. Last week, this reader from England stopped by for coffee. (Read about it here.)

The chance to comment on a blog and reply to a reader’s comment is a gift of the internet. Yes, I received fan mail when my novel, Into the Wilderness, came out. No question, it was terrific. But I write novels slowly; I post blogs about six times a month. The frequency allows me to reach more readers between books, and these readers’ comments sustain me. So replying to comments only makes sense.

Thanks to all who read my posts both here and on Living in Place. This post is a special shout-out to those who respond with a comment.Deborah Lee Luskin

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, public speaker and educator who lives in southern Vermont. There are still a few spaces left for the WOMEN WALKING AND WRITING TO WISDOM WALKshop on November 4th. Learn more here.

Making the Most of a Post

Renovation & Revision posted recently on Living in Place, the blog on my website. It could have just as easily been posted here, as it’s about craft. Specifically, it’s about revision, which is my current work.

This is not the first time that a post for one blog is appropriate for another, and that’s not surprising. I’ve spent most of my life writing, even while doing other things, like supporting and raising a family. Back then, it seemed as if I mostly wrote shopping lists. But perception can be as skewed as memory, and I have several book-length manuscripts to prove it.

But the protocol is not to cross post. That is, not post the identical essay on different blogs. For the six years I’ve been writing for Live to Write – Write to Live, I’ve only cross-posted once, when I wrote about my Writing Buddy a few weeks ago.

The post I wrote last Wednesday on Living in Place is about my two current preoccupations: overseeing a kitchen renovation and revising a novel. “Obsessions” might be more accurate.

I invite you to wander over to my website and read for yourself how the seemingly unrelated activity of a kitchen renovation supports my work as a writer, revising a novel.

And I’m always happy to discover what you think in your thoughtful comments.

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin is an award-winning novelist and radio commentator, a public speaker, and a long-time educator. She lives in southern Vermont, where she spends a great deal of time outdoors gardening, sculling and hiking in the summer. The local bears have put an end to her beekeeping.

 

What Every Writer Wants

Google GI asked Google, “What does a writer want?” I found a variety of answers. Lev Raphael says we want “Everything,” and quotes Roxane Gay saying writers “want and want and want.”

Some writers will say they want fame, others money, some just want luck. I think what a writer really wants is Audience.

Writers want what they write to be read.

But as the explosion of blogosphere and the self-publishing industry demonstrates again and again, publication does not guarantee readers. Good writing might.

Here are some ideas for finding and building an audience with a blog. None of these ideas require an advanced degree in rocket science; they all require hard work, and they’re all working for me.

  1. Write for your audience. (This post is for Live to Write – Write to Live readers: writers – you.)
  2. Say what you want with economy and grace.Like everyone else on the planet, your readers are pressed for time, so don’t waste theirs. (I aim for a post of 400-600 words.)
  3. Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. If you
    Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. (pixabay)

    Practice your craft and give your audience a polished performance. (pixabay)

    were a pianist, you wouldn’t invite your audience to listen to you play scales or learn a new piece; as a writer, you don’t want to show your audience your rough draft. (This essay went through three drafts.)

  4. Commit to a publication schedule. While an audience may like to be surprised in the content of what you write, it also likes to know when to expect a new post. I post here every other Tuesday, and I post to my own blog every Wednesday. It’s hard work that has garnered non-monetary rewards, namely a growing audience. I have readers who look forward to my posts; I know because they tell me.
  5. Keep writing and other opportunities will follow. I keep writing; in addition to meeting new readers, editors I don’t know now ask me to write for them; invitations for public speaking and proposals for writing projects arrive in my inbox. I get to decide what I want to write and for whom.

I wouldn’t say no to fame and fortune, but it’s my audience who will determine that. Of course I’d like more readers, more publications, and more royalties. I believe they will come if I continue to do my job, which is to write stories that will cross that membrane between writer and reader, to engage in that intimacy that occurs when my words get under my readers’ skin, into their thoughts, and maybe even change how they think.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the award-winning author of Into the Wilderness, a love story set in Vermont during the Goldwater – Johnson presidential campaign in 1964. She blogs every Wednesday at Living in Place.

Friday Fun – I Have a Blog. Now What?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:

FriFunQuestion1

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I’m going to address my response directly to Connie, but I hope the thoughts and advice I share will also be helpful to others who are in a similar place in their writing journey – just starting out with a blog and wondering where to go from there. 

Hi, Connie. First of all – congrats on launching your blog and getting into a regular posting routine! I read your introductory post, Who Am I?, and loved much of what I learned about your interests and your intentions for your blog. You clearly have a great love for art, music, beauty, and animals (all things I love, too). Without the luxury of thoroughly reading them, I also scanned posts on your home page and saw that your recent writing covers a wide variety of topics: motherhood, music study, teaching, writer’s block, fiction exercises, artistic inspiration, grief, and the joys of a small closet.

In response to your original question, I had asked if you could give us a little more background about the kind of writing you hope to do and how you define “a little money.”  My recommendation for your next “small” step is to spend some time thinking about those two questions because once you can see the “shape” of your writing goals, you will have a much easier time reverse engineering the steps you need to take to reach them. Do you want to be a copywriter, a journalist, a columnist, a fiction writer, or something else? Are you hoping to make $100, $1000, or $10,000? In other words, what does your next version of writing success look like?

I would also encourage you to think about either narrowing the focus of your blog OR finding an “umbrella” idea that can help tie your posts together thematically (e.g., simplicity, the importance of art, slowing down, etc.). Look at some of the blogs you admire and see if you can figure out their focus and/or umbrella theme. This will help you get ideas about what your focus and or theme might be.

While you’re thinking these things through, here are some other posts that you might find helpful:

I hope that helps. Good luck!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson:  What Jamie said. 🙂 She has great advice.

To bottom line a first (big) baby step — figure out what the purpose of your blog is. Once you know that, you’ll be able to focus the posts and build a strong foundation for your writing career.

So, Connie, it sounds as though your blog was to get you in the habit of writing regularly and you’ve achieve that goal, wonderful! Celebrate your success!

Now that you feel ready to pursue making money from your writing, you need to decide what type of writing inspires you – what type of writing you can and want to do that you enjoy. That’s a larger baby step. (I started with writing for the local paper so I could see my byline.)

What type of writing attracts you? What have you read that made you think “I could write something like that.” or “I would have written from this angle.” or “Why didn’t the author cover xxx in this article?”

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: Jamie and Lisa’s answers are thorough and practical, starting with big congratulations to you for setting a goal and meeting it.

Self-motivation and follow through are critical professional writing skills: clients want you to figure out what they want, and they want it delivered on their time table. In my experience, if you’re going to be earning money by writing, you are going to be writing for someone else.

I’ve earned some money and more fame from publishing fiction, essays and editorials, and absolutely no direct income whatsoever from writing a blog. But money doesn’t always equate value, especially – unfortunately – in the arts. I blog to reach and build a wider audience. It’s writing profiles and science stories for medical centers that pays the bills. Some of it is by-lined, some not; it pays well. At this point in my career, I do as little of it as necessary, and spend as much time as I can writing what matters to me. Along with paying off the mortgage and living debt-free, one of the benefits of aging is gaining clarity on what matters. For me, it’s “advancing issues through narrative; telling stories to create change.”

So, in addition to all the advice above, I would recommend that you ask yourself the Big Question: What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  Only in the case of a writer, I’d amend the poet Mary Oliver’s question to What is it you want to say with your one wild and precious life?  

I’m a great believer in “follow your passion; the money will follow,” but first, you have to identify your passion.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Hi Connie, I don’t know if I have much to add, after reading all the wonderful advice Jamie, Lisa, and Deborah have given you, but I’ll try. First, congratulations on starting and contributing regularly to your blog–that’s huge! Second, it sounds like you are at the point where you can narrow your focus a little bit. For me, the way to do that is to answer the question: Why? Why are you writing this blog? With my life coaching blog, my “why” was to help people feel a little bit better in their daily lives, because I believe more peace and joy in our everyday world leads to a more peaceful, joyful life. As a part of this blog, my “why” is to inspire others to write or keep writing, in whatever form that takes for them. Best wishes for your continued success!

 

 

Sourcing Free Images 2.0

paulus self portrait

Paulus Moreelse self-portrait from the Rijksmuseum

I needed an image of a Renaissance self portrait for a recent post on my blog,  but having made an expensive mistake once, I’ve become hyper vigilant about sourcing free images.

In my search for digital images I could use free and clear, I made two discoveries worth sharing. First, I stumbled across Open Culture, which proclaims to be “the best free cultural and educational media on the web.” There, I found links to over twenty world-famous museums that make images of their collections available on-line.

Museum in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Margit Wallnery via pixabay.

Museum in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Margit Wallnery via pixabay.

Essentially, it’s possible to see a significant portion of the world’s great art with the ease of a few keystrokes. While this isn’t the same as visiting the Museum of New Zealand in person, for those of us in North America, it’s a lot cheaper. And while I’d love to spend a week at the British Library, or visit the Getty in Los Angeles, or even stroll through the National Gallery in Washington, DC, traveling requires the dual resources of time and money, which are not always available separately, let alone at the same time.

Should time and money allow, however, these websites could

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, in Paris. photo from pixabay

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, in Paris. photo from pixabay

serve as a wonderful primer in advance of a trip. And for the blogger in need of images with which to illustrate a post, these sites offer a wealth of images.

Not every museum gives carte blanche, however, so blogger beware, and follow the rules. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for instance, has made 400,000 high-resolution images available on-line, but has restricted downloading them to non-commercial use. Looking closer, The Met’s free-use policy is even more restrictive: the images are available for “Open Access for Scholarly Content.” As I understand it, this excludes using an image from their collection on a personal blog.

The image from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I used in my recent post at www.deborahleeluskin.com

The image from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I used in my recent post

The Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, on the other hand, not only makes most of the collection available on-line, it also allows ordinary users to download and manipulate their images, whole or in part through their Rijks Studio – a program that allows a viewer to save, edit and change images. I was glad to make this discovery and found an image that served my purpose well. And I’m determined to return to the site and figure out how to use the tools fully.

I’m also intrigued by Open Culture which offers a great deal of free material, including on-line courses, free audio books, e-books, movies, free music and more.

Where do you find open source images for your posts?

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of the award-wining novel Into the Wilderness, a love story between people in their mid-sixties, set in Vermont in 1964. She blogs at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Friday Fun – Why do you blog (and is it worth the effort)?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Earlier this week, Deborah posted about her blogging experience and whether she has found the effort to be worth the results. It’s an interesting question that often has very individual and personal answers, so we thought it would be a good one to pose to the group. So, writers, let’s talk about why we blog, what our expectations were when we started, what the reality is, and whether we think the whole thing is worth it. 

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I blog here because I want to share my writing passion with others. I find the time I spend blogging here very worthwhile. It’s been my most consistent blogging experience and I grow from each new post – coming up with the topic, designing how I want the post to read, selecting or creating images for it (still lots of room for improvement there!), to hearing from readers on the post. It’s definitely worth the time and effort and I look forward to continuing it, and building my own blog in 2016.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I am a big on blogging. I even teach a college level course on starting and promoting a blog. Most of my writing is for my personal blog; Lessons Learned from the Flock where I talk about  flock issues (avian and human.)  On occasion I also blog for Mother Earth News, Grit, and Community Chickens. As a result I am part of a large community where ideas are shared and noticed. Writing in my personal blog makes me feel like I’m connecting with friends – it’s not a chore, it’s a joy.

My blog is where I created and promoted my platform (and yes, if you try to get a book published, they will ask you if you blog, what your platform is, and if you are active on Social Media.)

To agents, It’s not so much that a writer has a blog, it’s that that writer knows what to do with that material in order to grow their audience. Is the blog based on a good idea? Is it focused?  Is the writing tight? Do you have a voice? Are you providing value? Are you using Social Media to promote your blog? and Does it fully represent you and your work?

Let’s face it, a blog done right, gets you noticed. And as a writer, if you are noticed then you get work (and sometimes even a book deal.)

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I love my life coaching blog, Healing Choices. I write about things that interest me and I hope what I write is useful to others. I definitely don’t think of it as analytically as Wendy mentions above, but I started it as a way to promote my business and as a way to connect with others. Writing here on Write To Live has been an amazing experience. I enjoy writing, thinking about writing, and writing about writing, and I especially enjoy interacting with the readers here on the blog. I don’t respond to comments right away but my goal is always to respond to all the comments I receive–eventually. It’s like an ongoing conversation that you tune into when you can best appreciate it.

I don’t pay much attention to the statistics, because whatever they are, I feel I get more out of blogging than I put into it, so I’m going to keep doing it.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: The replies I received to Tuesday’s post were so varied and informative, but mostly they helped realized how connected I am to a community here, and that matters – especially in this often lonely business of writing. Readers’ comments also helped me acknowledge how disciplined and productive I am as a result of posting on topic, to deadline. And one of the best things about this blog, in particular, is being part of this cohort of writers!

.

.hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes: My own blog is more of website for my books/writing life. I don’t blog there often. As Deborah mentioned, blog posts take time, and writing energy. I have little of both these days. I LOVE being part of this blog–the group posts are fun, and the demand on my time is limited. I also blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors. We are six friends who all got publishing contracts for cozy series around the same time. I was the last to get a contract, and the last published. Some of the Wickeds have two, and in one case three, series. We seem to be building up a following, which is great. And, again, sharing the blogging load makes life much easier.

Is Blogging Worth the Effort?

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin

Is blogging worth the effort?

I wonder.

It’s coming up on a year since I launched my new website and blog, revamped my author page on Facebook, and started to tweet. It’s time to review.

I set out to post an essay every Wednesday. Fifty-two blog posts later, I want to evaluate what have I gained, and at what cost?

 

There’s definitely been good that’s come from posting weekly.

  • I’ve posted every Wednesday but once, when I posted that Thursday.
  • Almost all my posts have been new essays; I’ve reworked previously published work less than a handful of times.
  • I’m proud of producing so much original work, and mostly pleased with its quality.
  • Thanks to a hard-learned lesson about intellectual property rights, I’ve also started to take my own photos. It’s been a lot of fun to reactivate the visual part of my brain and learn new skills around digital photography.
  • I’ve also learned how to source free photos and how to manipulate photos for the web. Since I like learning new skills, this has been fun.

But there’s been a cost to this work, in both money and time.

  • I’ve let some of my paying work slip in order to write for the blog.
  • Have I made up for lost income in increased audience? It’s hard to tell. Even looking at the numbers, I’m not sure.
  • According to the Jetpack Stats, my website has had 8,266 views; according to my hosting company, I’ve had 81,312.
  • Which stats do I trust? Why the discrepancy? And who are these viewers?

Evaluating the stats.

  • After a year of regular posting, I have forty-nine email subscribers, some of whom I don’t know.
  • The number of people who follow my author page on Facebook, however, has doubled, though still shy of 500.
  • If Facebook’s analytics are to be trusted, an average of two hundred viewers see each of my posts, and generally ten per cent of those viewers click through to the post.
  • Some of my posts have seen much more traffic; one had 1550 hits.

Social Media.

  • I also gave Twitter another try, but I still don’t get it.
  • For one, I refuse to put any social media on my phone. Life is distracting enough!
  • Even Facebook is getting old, as in Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame.
  • Social media does seem like lust in action – lust for readers, for higher numbers, and for book sales. Sure I want readers and income, but I still believe good writing will bring both.

Comments.

  • Without meaning to fall down the rabbit hole of social media, it’s hard not to become addicted to checking the numbers and looking to see if there are new comments.
  • The comments are unquestionably more gratifying than the numbers, because they represent real human interaction.
  • “Meeting” readers is definitely worthwhile.

There are definitely pros and cons to blogging, so I’ll sign on for another year, posting an essay every Wednesday about one of three themes: Living In Place, about living a life rooted in place; The Middle Ages, about this glorious passage between young and old; and Vermonters By Choice, profiles of some of the really interesting and talented people who’ve come to live in the Green Mountain State.

What do you think? Is blogging worth the effort?

Taking photos for the blog has been fun.

Taking photos for the blog has been fun.

Deborah Lee Luskin lives and writes in southern Vermont. She’s the author of the award-winning novel, Into the Wilderness and a regular commentator on Vermont Public Radio.

Comments on the Web

Thanks

Thanks for your comments.

I’m grateful to all the readers who take the time to write comments in response to posts. For me, comments do three important things.

  1. They reassure me that my work is being read. Sure, there are all sorts of analytics that tell me how many people click on the post, but mechanical numbers aren’t the same as human response. So if you’ve ever taken the trouble to post a comment here, I thank you.
  2. Many comments express gratitude, which goes a long way in this solitary business. To be read is a good start, but to make a difference – well, that’s why I do it.
  3. Some comments express different information and/or different opinions than those I’ve expressed. These are perhaps the most important comments around. They expand my knowledge and those of others who read them. It’s this ability to expand our common knowledge that is one of the great gifts of the web.
Comments are the string that weaves us together in a web.

Comments are the string that weaves us together in a web.

Taken all together, what comments do is help us form on-line relationships and forge internet community. Comments are the string that weaves us together in a web.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Nota Bene: This post is scheduled to go live while I’m away and unplugged, so I won’t see or respond to comments until I return in mid-September. In the meantime, I wish you good words.

Creating and Writing a Blog – notes

These are some of the notes from my blog writing class:

#selfieWhether you wanted it or not you guys are going to get a terrific example of internet marketing and promotion.

I mentioned in one of my blog posts about my daughters’ goal to snap a selfie with all of the presidential candidates. Being social media savvy, I created a hashtag for them on Twitter (#Presidentialselfiegirls) and then had them create an account @PrezSelfieGirls

I thought that they would have fun sharing this challenge with their friends and family.

The story got picked up by a local newspaper and then it BLEW open. I have been fielding interview requests for the girls all day (just today they have done 3 interviews and have requests for several more.) Note: Since I wrote this the girls have had several more.

National news has picked this up and CBS This Morning wants to do a segment on them. CNN ran an article. Two news crews will be filming them at the Trump event to see if they will get their Trump-selfie.

It’s absolutely CRAZY.

But let’s take a step back and see what’s really going on. Why is this even news?

First, my daughters had a great idea. They created a challenge to try and see if they could “snap them all.”

Second, because my husband and I know the internet, we set up a hashtag, an account and a website. The word got out and it got out quickly.

Third – did I mention my daughters had a great idea? More importantly, they hit a nerve (much like Obama did in his first run when he showed that he knew how to use a blackberry.) If you don’t know about selfies, you’re not speaking the language of the youth.

How does this relate to you and your blogs?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again. EVERYONE loves a challenge. I’ve heard that people ar actually betting on whether the girls can get a selfie with Trump or not.

Be nice. I’ve warned my girls to not say anything negative. People like a happy story AND THEY ADORE A HAPPY CHALLENGE.

Be ready if you hit something that goes wide. Get on social media, get your ducks lined up in a row, and promote it, promote it, promote it.

 

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Need Help with Social Media or WordPress? Meet Barb Drozdowich

If you’re in need of help getting started with promotion through social media, and/or help in setting up a WordPress author page, I’d like you to meet Barb Drozdowich, a social media and WordPress consultant who *loves* working with and helping writers at whatever stage they are at in creating their writer’s platform.

You can meet her at a free online event this Sunday night.

Barb has taught at colleges and universities, trained technical personnel in the banking industry and, most recently, used her expertise to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world.

Barb owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular romance book blog, Sugarbeat’s Books.

Her Building Blocks to Author Success series, currently containing 6 books, was born out of her work with authors once she realized there weren’t a lot of non-technical how-to books slanted towards the needs of authors.

AuthorsGuidetoWorkingwithBookBloggers BookBlogTours FacebookForAuthors GoodReadsGuideforAuthors WhatsYourAuthorPlatform

 

 

 

 

 

BookBloggerPlatform

She also has several free WordPress and blogger-related tutorials on her Website you can check out.

 

You are quite welcome to stop in for the live chat and conversation with Barb this Sunday night, April 26, from 7-9pm EST at The Writer’s Chatroom: http://writerschatroom.com/Enter.htm. No password or registration is needed. I’ll be moderating. We’ll even have virtual drinks of all kinds, chocolate, and other goodies.

–>During the chat, Barb will be raffling off a free 1-hour consultation on any of the topics covered by her books or her blogs.

If you have questions for Barb in advance of the chat, feel free to send them to me at lisa@writerschatroom.com, and I’ll make sure they get asked and answered!

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.