Tag Archive | blogging

Blogging trumps poetry: I’m so much cooler online

Tonight I’ll be reading my poetry at the Albany Word Fest, an annual event that’s a virtual orgy of the spoken word. I thought I should come up with at least one new poem for the event, but instead I came up with a severe case of writer’s block. I managed to confront it in the following poem.

Word Fest features a 12-Hour Friday Open Mic that kicks off at 7 p.m. I’m scheduled for 10:30 p.m., so by all means stop by to cheer me on (and buy my books, if you haven’t already.) There’s be dozens of poets and spoken-word artists there, and it’s always a festive night. It’s free, too! Come to the UAG Gallery at 247 Lark Street.

I’m still planning to cover more topics from the Empire State Book Festival, but today this poem took priority. By the way, I borrowed the phrase “I’m so much cooler online” from Brad Paisley’s megahit of the same name.  As an entertaining lyricist, he’s peerless in country music.

 I’VE BECOME A BLOGGER 

My fingers have stage fright.

Knowing I’ll have the floor

tonight at Word Fest, I sit paralyzed at my computer.

Picturing people perched on metal chairs in narrow rows,

faces inscrutable, judging my every word,

my brain slams on the brakes, then sputters out,

rolls over and plays dead. As a poet I’ve grown shy and tongue-tied,

probably because

I’ve become a blogger.

 

Blogging, I measure my audience in hundreds,

rack them up as hits on my stat counter,

check the numbers daily. Nearly sixty thousand now,

but are they human beings, or merely phantom ciphers?

Some are real people. I treasure comments

from Albuquerque and Australia, schmooze with friends

I know by photos from their books, mostly self-published.

We all look our best on line, young for our actual ages.

We spill selected secrets, shout in virtual keystrokes, 600 words or so,

enough for a few pithy points, stopping just shy of boredom.

I feel I know them better than folks I know face to face.

I’ve become a blogger.  

 

My words flow free and easy when I blog.

I keep it bright and breezy, mindful that readers can abandon me

with a single mouse click, never to return.

Still, I’ll never know the pain of their rejection,

never see their restless jiggling legs or condescending smirks.

Month by month I’m turning inward,

conjuring an adoring virtual audience,

withdrawing from flesh and blood communion,

leaving a minimal carbon footprint as I cleave to my computer,

swaddled in my fuzzy pink schmatta from WalMart.

I leave home less and less.

I’ve become a blogger.

 

My fictional career is on sabbatical. Why write fiction,

when I’ve living in the World Wide Web,

spinning my tales, creating my character, branding my name

in Musings Mysterioso. Racking up the readers,

watching my WordPress graphs spike ever higher.

Mystery novels grow redundant, slow the flow.

Who needs them, reads them anyway?

I’ve become a blogger.

                                                                        ©2010 Julie Lomoe

ANNOUNCING AUTHORS AVANT GARDE!

I’ve just registered two new domain names for my latest blogging brainchild, Authors Avant Garde. One is a dot-com and one is a dot-org. I’m not posting the links, because there’s nothing there yet, but Go Daddy assures me that courtesy of my Visa Gold card, I now own the domains for two years. I’m amazed the name hasn’t been taken already. So what am I going to do with it? You’ll just have to wait and see.

For over three months now, I’ve been planning to start a new blog titled Authors Avant Garde. I even registered the name with WordPress back in December, but till now, that’s all I’ve done. The idea came to me after an ill-fated trip to New York City wherein I missed the Mystery Writers of America’s holiday party due to acute intestinal distress, followed by a memo from MWA banishing Harlequin from their list of approved publishers because they’ve started a POD and self-publishing division, and that’s strictly verboten.

This confluence of MWA events ratcheted up my rage over the many snippy comments I’d been reading online about self-publishing and quality concerns. I was growing increasingly angry about industry snobbism and old-fashioned gate-keepers. Rather than conjure up the winter’s foul mood by writing more on this issue, I invite you to read my post from December 4th, titled “Was Jane Austen a professional writer? Not according to the Mystery Writers of America.”

I’m hoping the new blog will be a communal effort. Back in December, I even toyed with the notion of forming a not-for-profit corporation, an association of nontraditionally published writers, but I quickly realized that was a terrible idea, at least for me – I don’t always play well with others, and at this stage of my life, I have no need to subject myself to daunting bureaucratic games. So I’ll keep the ultimate control, thank you very much.

So what will I (or we) blog about? I envision Authors Avant Garde (AAG for short) as addressing aspects of writing, publishing and marketing especially from the perspective of self-published writers. I may sell memberships or (gasp!) paid ads, and I’ll offer others the chance to sell their books as well. Traditionally published writers will be welcome too, but they’ll be considered affiliate members.

AAG is very much a work in progress. Till now, it’s existed primarily in my head, but now my brainchild has survived the first trimester of the long dark winter, and I’m going public with the announcement of its impending birth. I don’t have a launch date yet, but if I commit to periodic progress reports on this blog, perhaps that will kick my motivation up a few notches. Never fear, though – it won’t take a full nine months.

I’d love your reactions and ideas. And no matter how this new venture evolves, those of you who’ve helped inspire me with your ongoing comments and support, especially the folks from Blog Book Tours, will always have pride of place.

Julie & Julie & Julia Part III

Ten days ago my blog scored a record number of hits – 451 in one day. Trying to figure out why, I discovered that 319 of these visits were racked up by a single post –  “Julie & Julie & Julia Part II” from September 2nd. My family and friends would find this ironic in the extreme. I’m a good cook when I set my mind to it, but I avoid the kitchen whenever possible. This post and the one that preceded it were about writing and blogging, and cooking got barely a mention.

So why is the J&J&J post so popular? Note to self: duh – it’s the search engines, dummy. Over the past few months, I’ve been watching my stats climb steadily, and as of today, I’ve logged 24,022 hits on a blog I just started in May. All along I’ve been under the delusion that I’m building a devoted readership, and the comments and stats tell me I’m not entirely wrong, but the majority of visitors are lured in by certain key words and especially by well known names.

Here are my most visited blog posts for the past week, according to WordPress:

  • Julie & Julie & Julia Part II (September 2)
  • Julie & Julie & Julia (August 31)
  • Michael Jackson and the archetype of the tortured artist (July 8th)
  • My blogging story arc – a field of dreams (June 22)
  • Woodstock 1969 Part III: Requiem for the spirit of 1969 (August 12)
  • Woodstock 1969 Part II: Stuck in the muck for 16 straight hours of music (August 9)
  • Woodstock 1969 Part I: I was there with my paintings – now if only I could prove it! (August 6)
  • Did Poe get fan letters too? (October 30)
  • Affordable funerals Part II: Down by the riverside (September 12)
  • TGIF Blog Party – You’re all invited (August 21)

Julie Powell

It’s interesting that these are all older posts – the most recent is from October 30th. Does this mean no one is reading my more recent ramblings? No, those get visits too – just not as many. WordPress tells me where most or all of my readers come from, and a fair number come from other authors’ blogs as well as from online discussion groups like CrimeSpace and Murder Must Advertise. WP also tells me all the posts that have attracted visitors on any given day, so I know many folks visit my static pages with my bio information and sample chapters. Here’s hoping some of those folks are actually buying my books!

Most common searches that drew people to my blog recently: Julia Child, Julia Childs (I purposely inserted the misspelled name as a tag, a trick I picked up somewhere in the past few months), Edgar Allan Poe, Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, baseball diamond (I can’t figure out that last one!)

I tend to shy away from statistics. In fact, sheer panic drove me to drop out of a statistics class at Dutchess Community College – me with my hotshot degrees from Barnard, Columbia and NYU. (I eventually enrolled for statistics again and got an A – a necessary evil, since it was a prerequisite for the PhD psychology program I briefly enrolled in. But that’s another story.)

I’m hereby making a New Year’s Resolution to put more time into understanding the wealth of blogging statistics available to me on WordPress, thereby maximizing the  effectiveness of the many hours I spend online. Meanwhile, for my Christmas blog post, I’ll create a short story incorporating all the popular names, subjects and tags that show up in my stats. Be sure to check back then! For anyone who’s read this far: sorry I never got around to the subject of cooking. But I’m sticking in some photos of Julia Child and Julie Powell as a consolation prize.

Fellow bloggers, do you have any wisdom to share about statistics and blog hits? I know many of you are far more sophisticated than I am on this subject, and I’d love to hear from you. 

©2009 Julie Lomoe

Ten thousand hits on my blog! But what does it all mean?

Renoir Moulin Galette For the past few days I’ve been watching the stats on my blog roll climb steadily toward the 10,000 milestone, and this morning I finally made it – 10,007 hits as of 11:13 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time. But what does it all mean? Who’s reading me, and why? And are any of my blog readers buying my books? If so, it’s not yet reflected in my royalties.

When I began blogging seriously back on May Day as part of the Blog Book Tours, I imagined that I’d be writing primarily to promote my own novels, and that I’d focus on the craft and the profession of mystery writing. Instead, my posts have veered off in all sorts of directions I’d never planned, and people seem to like it that way. I enjoy reading posts by other writers who discuss the ins and outs, the ups and downs of their craft and the publishing industry, but frankly, I feel so many folks are tackling these topics so well that I don’t have that much to add.

For me, this blog has turned into a journey of self-discovery, and I’ll probably ramble on in my own quixotic fashion, writing about whatever strikes my fancy. But today, I’d like to hear from you – especially those who’ve been lurking, who seldom or never post comments. I’ve got a few questions for you:

How did you discover me, and who are you?

With a few exceptions, most of the people who comment are writer friends from the Capital Region of upstate New York or folks from my online BBT group, but that can’t account for my stats, which have been averaging well over 100 a day. So who are the rest of you?

Do you ever buy the books of authors you’ve discovered through their blogs?

 I confess to a dirty little secret here: although I’ve accumulated a list of authors whose blogs I enjoy and whose books I plan to buy, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Among my Blog Book Tour colleagues, I found Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Pretty Is As Pretty Dies in my local Barnes & Noble and bought it instantly, and I checked out Ann Parker’s Leaden Skies from among the new releases in the East Greenbush library. But I keep procrastinating about ordering books online, knowing all too well how easy it is to run up a significant bill. I hereby promise I’ll order a bunch this week. How about you? I know budgets are tight, but have you bought any new books lately?

Do blog reading and social networking cut into the time you spend actually reading books?

Again, I plead guilty: I know I spend less time reading books than I used to. Frankly, I find this virtual online community more fascinating than books right now. Will I ever get bored – or suffer terminal eye strain from staring at a computer screen for hours – and  retreat back to the world of printed, bound pages? I honestly don’t know.

Why are you reading this blog right now? Are there topics I cover that you’d like to see more of – or less of? How can I improve?

If you’ve read this far, I assume you enjoy being here, at least to some extent, but I’m always open to suggestions. I may totally disregard them, but that’s my prerogative.

Okay, faithful readers, and especially lurkers, it’s your turn now – let me hear from you!

Today’s painting, Renoir’s “La Moulin de la Galette” from 1876, depicts an open-air cafe and dance hall favored by Parisians back in the day. A fine reflection of my festive mood!

Julie & Julie & Julia Part II

Julie Powell

Julie Powell

I’ve spent the past couple of hours researching Julie Powell and her 365-day Julie/Julia Project, which led to a book deal and then a movie. I’ve learned a lot, but I still haven’t figured out how she built such an enormous following for her blog. I did find her actual blog, though – two of them, in fact – and although I may be jealous of her writing abilities, I’m underwhelmed by the look and layout of the blogs, which are elementary in the extreme. Members of Dani’s Blog Book Tour classes would have had lots of improvements to suggest. As Julie admitted when she began her second blog in 2005 before her book came out, “I still haven’t figured out all this blog crap yet. Picture, blogroll, etc.” Even so, some of her posts generated over 400 comments. Go figure.

Writing has been important to her since childhood, and she graduated from Amherst in 1995 with a double major in theater and creative writing. In her 20’s, she found herself mired in a series of dead-end secretarial jobs. In a post in December, 2003, she describes the way blogging changed her life: 

This thing was always meant to last a year and no more.  I knew that.  What I didn’t know, when I started, was how much I would come to rely upon the feedback and encouragement and just plain daily greatness of all of you who’ve so inexplicably agreed to go through this thing with me.  I am sure that keeping the blog limping along past its useful life is no good to anyone involved, and the last thing I want to do is jump the shark; I know it’s time to go.  But that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily happy about it.

. . . I started this project in inky isolation, to pull myself out of a tailspin of secretarial ennui.  How was I to know that you were all out there?  I am in a place that a year ago I could not have imagined. Because of all of you, because you kept coming back, my life has changed.  I credit Julia Child’s spirit and example with the inspiration to start this crazy thing, but for finishing it, I can only credit all of you.  And it’s great.  But it also means I’ve come to a place where I’ve got to let go of this, and of you, to some extent, for a little while.

By this time, she had a book contract, and she put blogging aside for the duration, but she was back in 2005 with the new blog, titled “What could happen? A baleful influence on American English as a Whole.” Evidently writing in isolation wasn’t enough; as she describes in a recent interview:

I’m not one of those people who can just be like: La di da, I’m going to get my two thousand words a day. I will avoid writing like the plague. And I find the process completely exhausting. When I was finishing my book that’s coming out in December, for the last two weeks I was a nervous wreck. I was shaking. I broke out in hives. I’d been thinking about stopping drinking, but I was like, I can not do that until I’ve gotten through this book. I’ve gotta just hang on with the tools I’ve got. But the pleasure of going back and reading something that I’ve written–that I finally feel that I’ve expressed what I meant to express in a way that is evocative and provocative, and true to my experience–is so intense. It’s an addiction, really. It’s something I have reveled in since I was a small child. It’s difficult to get there, and you torture yourself getting there, but the high of getting there is one of the more profound experiences in my life. So you’re always going after it again. Even though it’s exhausting.

Julia Child photo by Paul ChildIt’s fascinating to compare her writing in the blog entries and the book, for example in the passages describing her reaction to Julia Child’s death. The blog post, more casual and conversational, reads like a first draft for the more finely honed prose of the book. And in the blog post, she talks about learning of Julia’s death through multiple e-mails, whereas in the book, she describes first hearing the news in a phone call from her mother. But that’s literary license, and as a memoirist, she’s entitled.

In the end what I found most inspiring, perhaps even more than her fast-track success,  was the way she found her personal writing voice through the interactive world of blogging. My voice has been evolving over quite a few years now, but I feel blogging is helping me take it to a whole new level.

How about you? Has blogging had an impact on your writing voice? Or on the way you tackle other writing projects?

Julie & Julie & Julia

CocktailParty Anon painting Wash PostI just finished reading Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia, which I confess I’d been unaware of until the movie came out. The book and the movie both left my main question unanswered: how on earth did Julie Powell lure all those visitors to her blog? I wish I knew her secret. Reading her book, though, I can detect some of the key ingredients. I’m tempted to use the obvious metaphor of analyzing the ingredients in a delicious recipe, but in my case, that’s a phony parallel, because my sense of taste isn’t all that great when it comes to food.

Julie Powell’s primary ingredient is good writing. Just a couple of pages into the book, she had me hooked. I hadn’t expected such a high-caliber, thoroughly entertaining prose style. I’ll admit to being a tad jealous and upset, just as I am when I discover a truly excellent mystery writer, the kind that makes me think, “Damn it, I’ll never be able to write that well.” Actually, my thoughts are nastier than that, but unlike the other Julie, I tend to limit my use of four-letter words, at least in prose. (Orally, it’s another matter – I was once practically kicked out of my Nia class at the Y for using the F word. Remind me to post my poem about the experience.)

Then there’s the freedom with which she spills her innermost thoughts and feelings on the page. Early on, we learn about her gynecological problems: “I found out I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, which sounds absolutely terrifying, but apparently just meant that I was going to get hairy and fat and I’d have to take all kinds of drugs to conceive.” She talks about her sex life, or more accurately, her lack of same due to her cooking obsession. In the book as in the movie, her husband Eric comes across as an absolute saint. I love her penchant for self-disclosure, and as you’ve probably realized if you’ve been following my blog, I write fairly openly about many aspects of my life, but unlike her, I believe there’s such a thing as too much information.

Julie Powell developed a loyal readership (her “bleaders,” she called them – short for blog readers), and whenever she missed more than a couple of days of posting, their comments reflected their alarm about her state of mind and their fear that she might give up and leave them in the lurch. Gradually she developed a sense of obligation to them, which no doubt helped sustain her momentum in cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year.

Another primary ingredient, of course, is the subject of food itself. No doubt this is what attracted her initial followers, but it wouldn’t have grabbed me. Yes, I own a few cookbooks, but the last time we moved, in 2001, I packed away most of them in a carton I’ve yet to unearth from among the many boxes of books moldering in my basement. Mostly I improvise. So does my husband, who fortunately shares the cooking duties fairly evenly. Lately, for the sake of longevity and all that good stuff, he’s trying to turn us into vegans. I find I scarcely miss meat, but as a native of Wisconsin, I could never give up cheese.

It’s five o’clock, and this post is making me ravenous. Besides, I need to take off for Woodstock, where I’ll be on grandmothering duty tonight and tomorrow. Hope I can pull together something to feed the kids! I have lots more to say about Julie & Julia, and how it relates to blogging in general and my own blogging ambitions in particular, but it will have to wait for my Wednesday post. I hope you’ll stop back then!

My blogging story arc – a field of dreams

Available from Amazon or www.virtualbookworm.com

Available from Amazon or http://www.virtualbookworm.com

In my mystery novels, I do my best to build tension, to keep the reader engaged for over 300 pages. More than one successful author has said there should be conflict on every page. And ideally, every chapter ends with a cliff hanger – an unresolved situation that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Readers have told me I’m pretty good at this – once they start one of my novels, they have a hard time putting it down. I’m delighted to hear this, of course. But blogging is a whole different ball game. For me, each post has been a mini-essay, complete in itself. But what keeps readers coming back and wanting more? That’s something I’m still figuring out.

Once again I’m giving a shout-out to one of my colleagues on Blog Book Tours, Alexis Grant. Whereas most of us in this online course are published authors, she has yet to finish her first book-length manuscript. Although an experienced journalist, she calls herself an “aspiring author” and invites readers to follow her along on her journey to publication. At first I thought this was presumptuous – why should anyone care? But her posts are engaging and full of information, and she’s getting tons of followers.

So I’ve decided I’m going to share my journey as well. Not to publication – I’ve already published two mysteries I’m proud of – but to getting a first-rate agent and a well established publisher. I’ve tried the traditional query-letter-SASE-sample-chapters routine, and I hate it. Baseball diamondSo I’m trying the Kevin Costner “Field of Dreams” approach instead – “If you build it, they will come.” I’ll just put myself out here online, build the best blog site and internet presence I can manage, and have faith – when the time is right, with a little nudging, that agent will appear.

I’ll post my journey online – not daily, but maybe once a week. I’ll devote the other four weekdays to other topics. But my quest for fame and fortune, however modest, will be my story arc, the tale that keeps people coming back – and I have every intention of hitting the ball out of the park.

This is a weird metaphor for me, since I absolutely loathe baseball – or playing softball at least. When I worked as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, we used to have picnics at the boathouse by the river. Occasionally I was forced to play softball, and I’d scream and run away every time the ball came near me. The patients thought it was hilarious.