Tag Archive | Julia Child

A tall tale featuring my top ten tags

Julia Child

Today’s blog post is a statistical experiment. Never fear, I know that sounds dreary, but I’m going to have fun with it by creating a fictional journal entry using key words and phrases that seem to have drawn people to my blog.

I study my stats religiously, and they’ve been down in the past week. Perhaps my topics haven’t been uplifting or intriguing enough – I wrote about the death of an artist friend, website anxiety, agita and acid indigestion. On the other hand, “affordable funerals” has been one of my most popular topics to date, so go figure. Today, I’ll start with a true statement; after that, all bets are off. I’ll highlight the popular tags in turquoise, and see if I can drive up my stats for the day.

As Administrator for the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, I get a lot of inquiries about affordable funerals. I’m fairly well versed in what’s going on with funeral homes in upstate New York, but I decided it was time to broaden my horizons. What better place to start than Baltimore and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe? I’d visited there before when I went to Bouchercon, but I didn’t want to linger, so after paying my respects I caught a shuttle to the Baltimore-Washington airport.

Next stop: London. Once there, I realized I wasn’t in the mood for research, at least not of the kind I’d come for, so I decided to cure my jet lag by exploring the local nightlife. I found a pub in the Soho district, and lo and behold, a devastatingly handsome bloke named Harold was soon chatting me up. He looked much the way John Lennon might have if he’d lived to see 60.

Jimi Hendrix

I regaled him with tales of my past – how I’d shown my paintings and won a prize at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, how a disc jockey had helped me sneak my paintings into the Beatles’ suite at the Warwick Hotel, how I’d lived in New York City’s SoHo district at the height of its glory. How Jimi Hendrix bought me a screwdriver and asked for my phone number at a Greenwich Village club, and I stayed in my loft for a week waiting for his call in vain.

Baseball diamond

Harold and I discovered we both had a passion for blogging. I told him how amazed I was to be getting hundreds of hits a day, but that I couldn’t figure out what made certain posts more popular. I could understand the appeal of “Norman Mailer ogled my chest” and “Julie and Julie and Julia” Parts 1, 2 and 3, but why “My blogging story arc – a field of dreams?” Enid Wilson’s steamy take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was a big hit too. Michael Jackson I could understand – I blogged about Michael as the archetype of a tortured artist. Harold and I agreed about the poignancy of his death, but that he’d probably passed his prime, and that the brilliant film “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” was a fitting legacy.

After my second Black Russian, I was feeling confident enough to pull both my mysteries out of my carry-on bag. He raved about my cover illustrations, and immediately insisted on buying both Eldercide and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. My first sale on English soil! I was thrilled.

“I’d love to show you more of London tomorrow,” Harold said.

“That would be great, but I’m not sure my husband would approve.” I pulled out my BlackBerry. “Come to think of it, I’d better give him a call. . . .”

 [the scene ends here]

Actually, it turns out that most of the above is fact, not fiction. I’ve been to Baltimore for Bouchercon and and visited Poe’s grave, but I don’t have plans to return any time soon. I didn’t jet off to London and meet a dashing Englishman, but everything I told him about my background and my blogging is true. Now I’ll type in all the tags and see what happens.

Hey, this isn’t a bad creative writing exercise – maybe I’ll try it again sometime. You’re welcome to try it as well. What tags and subjects have drawn the most people to your blog? Can you turn them into a story? I’d love to hear from you.

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

Counting my Thanksgiving blessings

Today I’m down in Woodstock caring for my granddaughters, and I feel truly blessed. Kaya, who’s ten, has the day off from school, but Jasper, three, has a half-day at her Montessori school, and Kaya and I are leaving soon to pick her up. Then I’ll treat them to lunch at Friendly’s in the Hudson Valley Mall. I already know what they’ll order – the kid’s special, with a grilled cheese sandwich, fries, and an elaborate sundae concoction for dessert. I’ll probably have something equally decadent and bad for me, but hey, it’s the holidays. After that, we’ll probably stroll the mall and I’ll treat them to a couple of early Christmas presents, if the crowds aren’t too bad.

I’m typing this on the brand-new computer we bought our daughter Stacey for her birthday in October, in the house she bought over the summer and moved into just a couple of months ago. I’m enormously proud of her – she’s come a long way since her husband died unexpectedly in August of 2008. She and the girls have been gradually moving through the healing process, and they seem truly happy. The house is gorgeous, nicer than our own, and I look forward to spending lots of wonderful time here – including nights when I crash here after partaking of some of Woodstock’s musical nightlife. Oh, and they even have a new cat – a beautful gray tiger-striped, six-months-old male named Loki – who promises to be as friendly as my own cats.

Life is good, and the nasty infighting I described in my last blog post is the last thing on my mind. I know I’m truly blessed, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope that like me, you have many blessings to count.

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!