Wednesday, February 11, 2009

 

When do you do your best writing?

I had the pleasure of traveling to BlissDom09 in Nashville over the weekend--a conference of more than 300 bloggers. The keynote address was given by Jen Lancaster, who has her fourth memoir coming out in May.
She has a wicked sense of humor, a contagious laugh and I enjoyed her talk immensely. And I know I probably would have even if I hadn't been sitting next to one of her biggest fans (if not her biggest fan).
Often I bemoan the fact that I don't always have all the time I would like to follow my creative work to its completion. (How many of us have ideas scrawled on grocery lists or on notepaper tucked in as a bookmark?)
I have a children's book that moves higher up the pile of my creative work, only to push all the other ideas and creative work down. And that is just one pile.
Listening to Jen Lancaster convinced me I need to follow through and (again) set attainable goals. Amazingly, she convinced me of this even as she admitted to having a marathon writing session in the months leading up to her deadlines--8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for weeks on end. Mind you, I don't have the publishing contract(s) yet, but certainly honoring the creative work is one big step towards moving the book up the pile--or something else and spending even an extra 15 minutes on it.
She mentioned that, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, it is a lot of hard work, amassing up to 10,000 hours to become good at something. It is not going to be your talent that guarantees your success, but spending time at your craft and celebrating that you get to do it. Even if it is just a few extra minutes a day.
Celebrating your craft--what a fantastic way to celebrate you!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms.com. She is also a freelance writer, columnist and blogs for wilmaville.com. She knows she needs a couple extra minutes each day to spend creatively, but she's been enjoying the energizing company of the BlissDom and WOW! women.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

 

Call a Friend


I'm collecting stories about how successful writers get their ideas. Here's another good one for non-fiction writers, particularly columnists, from Fran Lebowitz:

"When I was writing two columns a month, sometimes it was difficult to come up with ideas. I had certain friends that I have a humorous rapport with, and I'd talk to them on the phone until something came up. I made no bones about it. 'Hello, I have to write a column,' I'd say, and start talking. It was a way to hear my own voice back. I often found it useful in a pinch. Certain people inspired me or provoked something in me."


--MP

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

 

An Active Process

I'm collecting stories about how successful writers get their ideas. Here's a good one for non-fiction writers:

"You can't sit there and wait for ideas to smash into you. It's not a passive process. So much of being a nonfiction writer is forcing yourself to find things to write about. It's an active process of looking at something in the newspaper, or some thing that's going around, and thinking, 'How do I feel about this?...Can I get anything out of this?...Can I push myself a little further on this topic?"
- Nora Ephron

Great advice--and stay tuned for more suggestions from the experts!

--MP

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

 

Women as Writers: Take What's Useful...

A few months ago, I seemed to keep running into the same theme concerning women as writers: that once women start families, the vast majority of them stop writing.

I read it in Alice Walker: A Life, where she recalls one encounter with a woman she upset with her assertion that having more than one child hampers a woman's full creativity (I'm paraphrasing). Ms. Walker, of course, only had one child. The woman who reacted was bothered by the assumption, prompting her to write a letter to the author, who in turn told the woman that she should take what is useful and ignore the rest.

On one hand, I often say that same thing: take what is useful and ignore the rest. On the other hand, it does nag at me when I continue to run into the idea that women aren't allowed their full creativity when children come on the scene. When men become fathers, no one expects them to stop writing, but for women, who most often are the primary caregivers (whether they work outside of the home or not), unless she's a bestselling author, she can be expected to put her writing on the back burner.

If you've always been a writer, this can be akin to setting your dreams on the back burner, on a low fire and watching it slowly die.

Yes, it can be more difficult to find time to write when you have children, but if writing is truly your passion, what you were called to do, then it shouldn't matter if you have one child or five or ten. We all find time for what we truly value, whether it's reading, exercising or scrapbooking.

Of course, this may hit closer to home if you're a mother, but whether you have children or not, take what's useful: you're a writer, and ignore the rest: the idea that women always have to sacrifice the best of themselves.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

 

Preheat the Oven to 375F and Write!

Many things simply go together naturally. Song and dance. Needle and thread. Calvin and his trusty sidekick, Hobbes. And for me, it’s food and writing.

Many people have their own special writing rituals. Some have unique pens while others wear special hats. Some play music while others light specific candles. I personally like to fire up Pomeroy (my happy little Mac) and sit down with some yummy food to get my creative juices moving. And since becoming a vegan 8 months ago, so many new foods have been opened up to me and made prep time for writing all that more exciting, never mind the fact I’m healthier than I ever have been and I’m making a difference in the lives of animals all at the same time!

Being a vegan means I avoid the use of all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. This not only benefits the animals, but also other people and the environment. Luckily for me and my writing, being vegan doesn’t mean I have to avoid tasty snacks. True, I might occasionally nosh on carrots or raw almonds, but more often than not, I’ll bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies or have a bowl of Soy Dream soy ice cream (butter pecan is tops!), and this weekend I’m going to make the dreamiest of berry muffins and am including the recipe for you below.

Today also just so happens to be World Vegan Day. Do you want to open up new doors to your food (and quite possibly your writing!)? Then I challenge you to be vegan for a day. What have you got to lose? If anything, I’d love to have you write about it.

Vegan Banana Berry Muffins

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)
½ cup maple syrup
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup water
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or cranberries

1. Heat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine remaining ingredients, except berries. Pour this into flour mixture and stir until just combined. (Do not stir any longer, or muffins might be tough).

3. Add berries and stir to distribute them throughout the batter. Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins to 2/3 full. (You can line the muffin tin with paper or foil liners instead of greasing).

4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until muffin are risen, firm and slightly golden on top.

For more sinfully delicious (and fat free) vegan eats and treats, visit http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/



Debbie

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

 

WOW! Women On Writing Named as a Finalist in the 4th Annual Stevie® Awards for Women in Business

Stevie Award Winners to Be Announced in Las Vegas on November 12

Placentia, CA – October 17, 2007 – WOW! Women On Writing was named a Finalist in the Website of the Year category in the 4th Annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business, presented by Infiniti.

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business honor women executives, entrepreneurs, and the companies they run – worldwide. The Stevie Awards have been hailed as “the business world’s own Oscars.” (New York Post, April 27, 2005).

Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word “crowned,” winners will be announced during a gala event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Monday, November 12. Nominated women executives and entrepreneurs from the U.S. and several other countries are expected to attend.

More than 800 entries were submitted for consideration in more than 40 categories, including Best Executive, Best Entrepreneur, and Best Community Involvement Program. WOW! Women On Writing is a Finalist in the Website of the Year category.

This is a significant achievement for which finalists are to be applauded. This means that independent judges agreed that WOW! Women On Writing is worthy of international recognition, and has won at least a Certificate of Finalist Recognition, and possibly a Stevie Award trophy. WOW! CEO and Founder, Angela Mackintosh, states, “We are honored to be in the company of esteemed women who are making a difference in business. Heartfelt congratulations go out to all the finalists, and to the Stevie Awards for recognizing women and their achievements.”

Finalists were chosen by business professionals worldwide during preliminary judging. Members of the Awards' Board of Distinguished Judges & Advisors and their staffs select Stevie Award winners from among the Finalists during final judging.

“Being named a Finalist in The Stevie Awards for Women in Business is an important achievement,” said Michael Gallagher, president of the Stevie Awards. “It means that independent business executives have agreed that the nominee is worthy of recognition. We congratulate all of the Finalists on their achievement and wish them well in the competition.”

Angela Mackintosh adds, “To be a finalist in the Stevie Awards is already an award in itself--not only for our website, but for our hardworking and dedicated staff of talented women writers. It’s also an award for our readers and community who make our efforts worthwhile and keep us striving for the best. Ladies, take a bow! We’re thrilled and honored to be a finalist for such a prestigious award.”

Details about The Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the list of Finalists in all categories are available at www.stevieawards.com/women.

About WOW! Women On Writing:
WOW! Women On Writing is a global magazine that promotes the communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers, and readers. WOW!’s concept is unique, as it fills in the missing gap between writing websites and women's magazines. WOW! is dedicated to raising the overall standards within the writing community, and devoting an active profile within writing industry associations, organizations, and websites.

About the Stevie Awards:
Stevie Awards are conferred in four programs: The American Business Awards, The International Business Awards, The Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Selling Power Sales Excellence Awards. Honoring companies of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about The Stevie Awards at www.stevieawards.com.

Infiniti is the presenting sponsor of The 2007 Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Supporting sponsor is JetBlue. Media sponsor is Pink magazine. The Business TalkRadio Network will broadcast the ceremonies live nationwide.

About Infiniti:
Infiniti offers a full-line of luxury performance automobiles, including the G Coupe and Sedan, the M luxury performance sedan, FX premium crossover SUV, the QX full-size luxury SUV, and the upcoming EX luxury crossover inspired by coupe design. More information about Infiniti and its Total Ownership Experience can be found at www.Infiniti.com.

###

WOW! Women On Writing
Angela Mackintosh, CEO and Founder
740 S. Van Buren St. Ste, D
Placentia, CA 92780
(714) 632-8869
angela@wow-womenonwriting.com

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

 

Interview with Carol D. O'Dell, author of Mothering Mother

Carol D. O’Dell’s latest memoir, Mothering Mother, deals with a timely topic that we as women and mothers have to consider.

** How do age-related changes affect our parents?

** What should we do if a parent goes through Alzheimer
’s? And how can we tell?

** What do we do if our parents can no longer take care of themselves?

** I know all of you have thought of this at one point or another, I know I have. But how do you handle it?

Carol’s book, Mothering Mother, shares her true-life experiences—funny, sad, hopeful—and how she made these decisions. She’s an amazing woman, an expert writer, and uncovers this heart-touching topic with grace.

WOW: Welcome to the WOW! Blog, Carol. We’re excited to be able to chat with you today! So tell us, how did you get started in writing?

Carol: How far back do you want me to go? I got the bug in elementary school. Remember the old spelling words? I used to take all twenty and weave them into a crazy story. The teacher would read them all, and everyone would laugh—and I was hooked.

WOW: Oh how funny! I just talked about that in an interview I did with Chynna Laird on AC... about elementary school and the big lines on paper. Well, we’ve both come a long way... especially you Carol!

Congratulations on your latest memoir, Mothering Mother. We’ve heard great things about it. In fact, one of our contributing editors had already purchased your book right when it came out. Please tell our readers a little bit about the book and why you decided to share your story.

Carol: I was a 39 year-old wife and mother. I had started and was directing a private school (and writing short stories, essays and articles on the side) when I realized my mother could no longer live alone. I made that big leap and brought my mother into our home. At that time, we all moved from Georgia to Florida and found a house we could build a mother-in-law suite onto our house. I put the ole’ novel I was working on in the back of the drawer and dove head first into caregiving.

But I didn’t want to give up writing.

My soul ached for something beyond the typical medical based literature I was finding. I yearned for something for my soul, intellect and creativity. Most days, I felt as if I were the 89 year-old. I wanted something that addressed our relationship—as mother and daughter—and my relationship with my daughters and my husband—and how caregiving was impacting not only my life, but my perceptions.

I couldn’t find anything that encompassed these deeper, more intimate issues. So, I began to write—every day. I wrote my fantasies, fears, and frustrations. I wrote about the terrible things you think you can’t say out loud. I wrote how scared and isolated I felt—so that hopefully, no one else would have to feel that alone.

WOW: Carol, you definitely accomplished that with Mothering Mother, and helped readers relate. And for family members who’ve experienced a loved one going through Alzheimer’s, it causes so much agony. Do you remember the first signs or symptoms in your mother’s life?

Carol: Looking back, I see a lot of signs I either missed or ignored. We all know that as we age, a certain amount of forgetting, senility is normal. But when is it no longer normal?

I also realized as time went on, that my mother was making excuses, fibbing, if you will—covering things up. Alzheimer’s had been creeping up on us for years. I can look back and see the series of fender benders were probably related—when she let it slip out that she was at an intersection near her house and couldn’t remember how to get home.

I now see that paranoia was an early sign. Mother always thought someone was breaking in, that people were stealing from her—all those little idiosyncrasies probably had something to do with Alzheimer’s. But I was busy. I wanted to believe my mother was all right. I wanted her to be independent—for me—and for her. I didn’t want to face what Alzheimer’s would do to all of our lives.


"I was there when everyone else went home.
That’s the day you grow up.
"


WOW: I can totally understand that, and it’s hard to actually know when the transition occurs. There’s no exact science to the subject, it all comes down to feelings and decisions... And one decision you had to make is whether or not to give your mother a feeding tube. That must’ve been extremely tough.

Carol: My mother did sign a living will, and because she had experienced some of the more “unpleasant” decisions when my father passed away, she was able to decide a few things about her own life. She hated seeing my dad on a ventilator. She saw him struggle with it, fight against it, and in her own way, she thought of all tubes as being like that one—intrusive.

I also knew that at the age of 92, with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and a heart condition that my mother could not come back to any real quality of life. Alzheimer’s is irreversible. Mother had declined to the point of not knowing me—or anyone else. She had forgotten how to swallow or chew food. It was time to let go.

It was harder to live out the decision to not use a feeding tube. I had Hospice there, and they assured me it was not cruel, that it was natural. I could tell that my mother was not in pain.

I was there every day—every minute, and even in the middle of the night. I made sure she was serene and comfortable. Those last few weeks were rough. I had made a decision and I had to live by it. I was responsible. I was there when everyone else went home. That’s the day you grow up.

WOW: Carol, I admire you so much. What heavy decisions to have to make... and I know you did the best thing. Considering your mother’s battle with Parkinson’s disease—do you have strong views on stem-cell research?

Carol: I do, but I also know that my mother had perhaps different views than I had. Stem cell research is inevitable, and we’re finding more options, more alternatives than before. We’re going to have to learn how to use it ethically and responsibly.

I believe we need to talk, and argue, and grapple, and work through these issues. I understand and respect the moral implications that add to the complexity of this issue, and I think it’s important that we do speak to one another with kindness and respect for differing viewpoints, but in the end, I see stem cell research and applications as being “here to stay.”

There’s so much good to be gained, and I do believe that scientists can find many solutions, alternatives and possibilities regarding stem cell research.

WOW: Oh, I fully agree! I know that there are moral issues, but in my humble opinion, the benefits are great. Another tough decision you had to face was choosing in-home care. But how do you feel about care centers for the elderly? Not everyone can afford in-home care, as you know.

Carol: I am honored to speak to many people across the country online and in seminars and support groups who are grappling with elder care needs. There is no one perfect solution and caregivers need to realize they will most likely be a caregiver more than once in their lifetime—and that their needs (as a family and the care receiver) change over time.

For example, your loved one wants to live independently, and they do—for a time. Then you hire live-in help, and that works for a while, and then something happens. Do you bring them into your home? Can you afford to be there a good part of the time, or do you need to work? Is adult day-care available in your community? Things change again, your loved one may have been hospitalized, or their medical condition may have worsened.

Again, you have to make yet another decision. Is assisted living right? Does your loved one need skilled nursing care of a memory care unit?

Things keep changing. You think you have it all figured out. You work months to come up with a good living arrangement, and BAM. Back to square one. I tell you this not to discourage you, but to help you plan and prepare. Know your options now. Look into all the alternatives now. Start by looking close to home—yours or theirs. Find out what your own community has to offer. Your loved one needs to be nearby. They need an advocate, a family member who can look out for them. No matter how much they fight you, someone needs to be nearby.


"Memoir writing is not an autobiography.
A memoir means literally, a memory."



WOW: That’s excellent advice, and something we’ll all have to think about sooner or later. You must have grown a lot spiritually by writing this book. Has your experience with your own mother affected or changed your views for your future?


Carol: Yes. Caregiving transforms you, and I believe it makes you a better person. You can’t “stare death in the eye” and not come out a changed person.

My views for the future…living this experience with my mother has taught me a few things:

  • Forgive. Forgive now and let go. If not, it festers, and it’s really ugly.
  • Examine and then let go of every fear you can possibly get rid of.
  • Be flexible. Don’t demand things of others. Invest in those you love—invest your time, your money, your encouragement, your commitment to their lives, and do so willingly with no strings attached.
  • Trust—trust that you’ll be loved and cared for. Have a good attitude no matter where you end up. Choose to be happy.
  • Be easy to love. Relax.
  • Be grateful. Every day, for little things. Today, I was grateful for my cup of coffee (I’m always grateful for that), for the sand between my toes, for my beach walk and prayers, for my puppy dogs, and that first kiss from my husband when he returned from work. Gratitude works.

"Art is more about what you choose to leave out
than what you include."



WOW: I totally hear you, sister. That’s great advice! And that’s what I love about writing... it helps us gain perspective. So how did writing a memoir compare to the other styles of writing you’ve done?


Carol: Memoir writing is not an autobiography. A memoir means literally, a memory. An easy way to think of it is that you take a memory—a thought—an idea, and you put it in a bubble in the center of your page. Then, you begin to look at your life and only write in that bubble memories, thoughts, events, reflections that have to do with that “topic” you placed in the center.

For example, my book was about becoming my mother’s mother. So, each vignette is how that decision to be responsible, to allow caregiving to impact my life and those around me, how I perceived myself, my faith, my actions as it pertained to my mother and me—and our changing roles. If it doesn’t connect in some real way to that thought in the bubble, it doesn’t go—in the memoir you’re working on. Art is more about what you choose to leave out than what you include.

WOW: I love what you just said, and am writing that down... what a great quote! You have a great deal of wisdom on writing, and we have readers who are currently trying to get their memoirs published. What advice do you have for them in terms of how to seek out an agent/publisher?

Carol: First, tell your truths. Dare to be real on the page. Not vulgar. Not shocking, but real. Your story has to have an idea or concept that others can relate to. The personal is universal. You don’t have to be a celebrity or cut off your own hand to write a memoir, but it has to be real, and it has to be something others can relate to.

My advice is to build your literary ladder as I call it when I speak to writer’s groups. Write articles, essays, contribute to anthologies, write for your town newspaper. Build your publishing credits. You have to have some sort of a track record. Write, blog, submit, submit, submit. Get used to rejections, and keep submitting. This could take years by the way, so keep your day job—for now.

WOW: Speaking of taking years, oftentimes a memoir can be a hard sale; do you have any ‘insider tips’ on how to pitch a memoir?

Carol: Sell excerpts to magazines. You prove it’s sellable. An agent gave me that advice, and I think it helped. I had sold six excerpts before the book came out.

WOW: You seem to be very hands-on in terms of promotion and marketing. From your experience, what is the best way for authors to get their books into as many hands as possible?

Carol: The Internet plays a big part now, so blog, join forums, submit e-zine articles. Write for free, (in the beginning) but keep a list of your publishing credits. Networking is vital to a writer.

I do a lot of caregiving/Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Baby Boomer talks. I still believe you sell one book at a time. I like to and need to meet my readers. Go where they are. Don’t expect them to come to a bookstore. Whatever your subject is, there’s probably a hobby or organization for it—join in, get to know people, and let them know about you.

WOW: Excellent. So, any future writing ventures in the works?

Carol: The prequel to Mothering Mother is under consideration at my publisher’s now. It’s working title is Said Child, and it’s about being adopted at age four—and eventually finding my birth family—and loving and accepting both.

WOW: Carol, you have a lot of story in you. I anxiously await your next book! Do you have any closing tips for our eager authors-in-waiting?

Carol: Persistence, I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true. So many people never turn a dream into a goal. You have to put legs on your dreams. Writing and publishing aren’t quick ventures. Relax, and enjoy the journey—and never give up.

WOW: Thank you Carol for a wonderful and enlightening interview! You have a great spirit and vision, and are a remarkable woman. Thank you for chatting with us today—I’ve learned a lot!

Mothering Mother is published by Kunati and available on Amazon and in most bookstores. Check out Carol's website at www.mothering-mother.com to view her touring schedule, Virtual Book Tour, contest, and radio and television appearances.

Carol D. O'Dell is available for conferences, seminars, and interviews. Her topics include inspiration, spirituality, medical based talks, caregiving, and women’s issues. Her brochure is also available on her site.

You heard it ladies! This is a must read and an opportunity of a lifetime!

Carol has a wonderful contest on her site featuring all kinds of goodies. And when you think about gifts this holiday season, remember Mothering Mother for the perfect gift, and a caring gift... the gift of words, kindness, and love for your mom, and an enriching gift for your family.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

 

Spring Contest Winner--Irene Sullivan!



WOW: Irene, congratulations to you for placing as one of our Runners Up! How does it feel?

Irene: It feels great! I was a journalist before I became a lawyer so it’s wonderful to be back writing again.

WOW: I’m glad you decided to come back. What inspired the idea behind “Save the Last Dance for Me”? Was there anything from real life inside your story?

Irene: Putting my mother into assisted living. Also, living in an area where lots of elderly people are getting married again.

WOW: That’s a great pull from life, and you have many areas from which to draw stories. In your bio you mentioned that you preside in the Unified Family Court, handling various cases and family matters. Of course, this is a single mention among many of your professional credits. Do you find that this career plays a role in your writing? Or would you say your writing gives you a completely “other” world in which to explore or escape?

Irene: Both. I am presently working on a novel and a memoir based on the stories I hear in juvenile and family court. However, short stories and “flash fiction” are more escapist, as I love to let my imagination run from the “prompt.”

WOW: We’re so glad to hear that our contest helps provide an escape, among its other benefits and, hopefully, its motivational side. Have you found inspiration from other books or authors?

Irene: Of course. Scott Turow is my favorite legal mystery writer. I’ve read all his books. The variety of talent is amazing. I really enjoyed The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, and The Kite Runner.

WOW: Scott Turow is a writer and an attorney. I’d imagine he draws upon experience much like you will in your future novels. Speaking of drawing from life, do you have specific long-term goals for your writing career?

Irene: My goal is to finish my novel and my memoir, get them published and perhaps create a series featuring a juvenile judge.

WOW: That series sounds fascinating. Please make sure to send us an announcement when you meet that goal. Of course, we learned in your bio that in addition to your Juris Doctor degree, you received an undergraduate degree in journalism. Has this undergrad degree helped you in any way with your writing?

Irene: I hope the writing skills are returning, after having been buried for many years in “legalese.”

WOW: I’d say from your entry that’s a definite. What in life inspires you the most for your writing endeavors?

Irene: The complicated lives of the children I see in court, and the stories that they tell.

WOW: Would you like to end on some motivating words to our audience of writers?

Irene: Don’t worry about getting it right, just write!!!!

WOW: You have precision in your writing and your words. No one should procrastinate, just write! Thanks for your time, your wisdom, and your entry. We wish you well with all your future goals.

To read Irene's winning entry, go to Save the Last Dance for Me.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

 

SEO Sundays PART 2: Link Juice!


Phew... I feel like I just ran a marathon! Our new issue is now up and live, and it’s WOW’s Anniversary Issue: Freshly Squeezed Juice. WOW! turns one-years-old. Go take a gander (remember to refresh your browser), then come back here when you get a chance.

Last week we talked about optimizing your blog, and now we’re going to talk about a little something I call “link juice”. This whole topic started because one of our WOW! flash fiction contest winners, Danette Haworth wanted to learn how to get her blogs and website to show up in the search engines. Not too long after the post, she wrote in and said, “Did you have a magic wand? Both of my blogs are turning up now!” Well, I wish I did have a magic wand, but I don’t, so if anyone finds one on ebay or something, let me know! LOL.

There’s a simple reason why Danette’s blogs started showing up. It could be because her waiting period was over to get into the search engines (that 4 to 6 week thing I talked about), but more likely it had something to do with link juice. Let’s start at the very beginning.

Let’s say that you have a website with your own domain name. The first thing I recommend you do (and this is important), is get an Alexa toolbar installed on your browser.

Check Yourself With Alexa

Alexa is the web’s global positioning system. It keeps track of all the sites in the world and how they rank in traffic. The lower the number, the better your ranking. For instance, Yahoo! is ranked “1” – and yup, that’s in the whole world, folks.

Most websites start out ranking around 7 million. Some web appraisal sites even say that an Alexa ranking of 2 million is considered good. Now remember that you can only check your traffic ranking if you have your own domain name. If you have a blog that ends in blogspot.com then your ranking will be “15”. That’s because the ranking counts all blogger’s rankings in one group, like Yahoo! So, to find out the true traffic ranking of your own site, you need your own domain name (.com, .net, .org, .info, .tv, etc.)

Not only can you check your own traffic ranking, you can check everybody else’s ranking on the web. Each site you surf to will show you how that website ranks globally. Once you install the toolbar, there will be a little colored bar at the bottom with your number on it, and now they even have a graph. Check it out, it only takes a couple seconds to install!

Get the Alexa Toolbar, it’s free. Install it on your browser of choice:

For Internet Explorer go to: http://www.alexa.com/site/download?show=ie

For Firefox get “Sparky” here: http://www.alexa.com/site/download?qterm=

Now, go check your website!

If you look at ours http://wow-womenonwriting.com you’ll see we’re almost under 100,000. And we’re ranked 17,000 in the US. That’s extremely good, considering that we started at 7 million, and we’ve only been online for a year now. Most popular sites that have been around for over ten years still don’t have the traffic ranking we have... so we must be doing something right!

Give Your Website Some PR (Page Rank)

There’s also a Google PR (page rank) toolbar, which doesn’t have anything to do with traffic, but it does have to do with link popularity. It measures the amount of incoming links that point to your website, or that link to your website, usually with a text link. Page Rank is measured out of 10, so you can have anywhere from 0/10 to 10/10. Websites start with 0, then move up from there. Anything above a 2 is considered pretty good.

You can go to Google and get the tool bar for free and install it. Once you do this you’ll be more aware of how popular each page of your website is, and you’ll see if it’s being linked to.

How Links Can Help or Hurt Your Traffic Rank

If you really want to succeed in the search engines, you should focus on incoming links. Like I said before, simply submitting your website to search engines can take weeks or months even, but if you have other relevant and well-trafficked sites link to yours, you’ll be up in no time. That’s why you need the Alexa toolbar (you already installed it right? *wink) so you can see which sites have more or less traffic than you. If you get a well-trafficked site to link to yours... bonus! Your traffic and page rank probably just went up.

Google explains that, "The best way to ensure Google finds your site, is for your pages to be linked from lots of pages on other sites. Google's robots jump from page to page on the Web via hyperlinks, so the more sites that link to you, the more likely it is that we'll find you quickly."

How do you do that?

Inbound links (sites that link to yours)

Outbound links (sites you link to)

Find sites that are relevant to yours, and ask them to link to you. We get this all the time, but you have to be careful, too many outbound links to sites that are less trafficked than yours could be harmful. Plus, most sites will want to do a link exchange, also called reciprocal links... and while this used to be great, recent SEO trends show that Google is no longer counting these kinds of links. But no one really knows for sure—so when exchanging links, find well-established sites, the more similar (relevant) content to yours, the better.

Also, avoid link farms, or places that tout they’ll bring you traffic for a price. This can be damaging to your PR rank and to your overall statistics. If you consider the ‘build it and they will come’ method, you’ll do much better naturally. Write interesting content and other sites will link to you.

Make a wish list of sites that you’d love to see link to yours. Contact them and ask them nicely if they’d place a link on their site—but before you do this, make sure you already have a link and a URL you can point them to, this is polite.

When asking for a link:

  • Make sure you already have a link on your site to theirs before you ask. Provide them with a URL, so they are less likely to say no.

  • Give them all the info they need to make it easier for them, including reference to the page that your link would fit best.

  • Make sure they have a link page!

Angela’s Secret Tip:

If you can get a site that ends in an .edu or .gov, you’ve just scored some major link juice! If you’ve ever purchased a domain name, you know that you can’t buy an .edu or .gov URL, that’s because these sites are only given to libraries and schools, and governmental websites. It’s not an easy task to do, but if a school decides to link to your site, that’s super!

Well, that does it for this week ladies! I know this is a little more in depth than most of you would like to dive into, but if you’re serious about SEO and traffic, then these tips will help you get started.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, and happy blogging!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

 

PART 1: An Introduction to Optimizing Your Writing Website/Blog - for Women Writers

One of WOW!’s Winter Flash Fiction Contest Winners Danette Haworth wrote in about a topic that is important to women writers, now more than ever—blogging and website optimization. Since website marketing is one of my favorite topics, I’ve decided to dedicate a few of the following Sundays to women writers looking to promote their website and/or blog and receive their well-deserved recognition! This topic can take thousands of words to completely cover, so I’ll take on one topic at a time. This is Part 1: An Introduction.

Danette Haworth writes:

“Weeks ago, I submitted my URL to Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Technorati, yet search results do not list my blog or my name. (My name appears in entries for other sites (like WOW!), but not for my own blog.

Is there something I'm not doing? How can I be more successful in this area?”

I know this can be extremely frustrating for a writer who wants to get her work out there, and I had to learn the hard way. When we first started WOW! Women On Writing, I’d spent most of my time perfecting the graphics for the website, getting the layout down, articles/interviews written, but I didn’t even think, or know, anything about SEO. Needless to say, when we launched that first day in September 2006, it truly felt like a let-down. We had this great content, a fabulous assortment of interviews from well-established authors, and we even garnered an interview with the senior editor of Writer’s Market at the time, Kathryn Brogan. We were perplexed to see that our traffic wasn’t peaking, nor had inclusion of any of the search engines! It felt like speaking to an empty theater. There was basically no one visiting our site.

The learning curve started there before I even knew what to expect.

I don’t like to fail—no one does—but I like to GO BIG!! So I quickly learned how to work with that magical voodoo called SEO and website marketing.

Side Note: Here’s a little rah-rah cheer for women writers: today, WOW! Women On Writing’s traffic has surpassed Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest (to name a few), according to the worldwide web statistics at Alexa.com. We’re very proud, and that’s super news for women writers!

So how did we do this?

Let’s start with what Danette wrote: She submitted her URL to Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

For starters, the three search engines you mentioned can take six-weeks or more to have your URL show up and indexed. I still notice that to this day. We put up a new issue of WOW! and the articles are nowhere to be found in the search engines for a couple weeks. Our blog posts show up the same day though, but blogs are extremely search-engine friendly once you get them going. For website owners though, there are several things you can do.

Of course, we’re assuming you have killer content. After all, you’re writers right? So lets skip that part for now. We’ll get to that later.

Submitting Your Website:

Most websites come with a tool that lets you automatically submit your site to search engines. Or you can use a third party site to do this—there are tons of them out there. I’ve tried several and they all work about the same. For a minimal fee (usually $5-10 a month) you can take out the guesswork and have your website submitted to over 100 search engines across the web. And yes, there are hundreds, actually thousands, of search engines! Just do a simple search on “Submit your website”.

If your budget is tight, and you have time, you can always submit them by hand for free. Here’s a list of free submission sites: http://www.sitepronews.com/free-submission.html. This website, Site Pro News has a bunch of articles on the topic if you’re interested in diving in head first!

If you’re going to be submitting your URL, you should have a relevant title and description with key words used in your content. This is a whole other topic.

Angela’s Secret Tip:

Do you have a Google Search widget on your site? Sign up for Google Co-op ( http://www.google.com/coop/ ) and create your own search engine. Here’s ours: WOW! Women On Writing Search Engine. If you have content-heavy pages like we do and you want them to be noticed immediately, I add each page into our search engine so Google is forced to search that page. I’ve never actually heard of this as an SEO tip or trick, but just thought it might work and it does! Pretty sneaky sis!

Tips to Optimizing Your Writer’s Blog:

So you have a blog, doesn’t everyone these days? That’s one of the problems. How do you make yours stand out and get major traffic?

Optimizing a blog is different than a website, that’s why I’ll have to do this full article in separate parts to give you the full info. So, today I’m going to talk about blogs since that’s what Danette originally asked.

The blog is run off a different platform than a website, since most blogs are standard platforms which are usually hosted by someone else’s URL. Check the end part of your URL, if it ends in .blogspot.com then you’re not hosting it. If you look up at ours, we have our own host, meaning that the URL is unique and we can record our traffic and actually see in real-time how many people are visiting each page of our blog.

One of the problems with having your blog hosted by Blogger or something else is you’re basically in what we writers call “the slush pile.” But that’s not to say that you can’t pump up your traffic even with a standard cookie-cutter template. It may take you extra work though. But let’s assume that you want to be the best, GO BIG, and create a stir in the blogging world. By following these tips, you have the ability to do just that.

Give Your Template a Makeover!
Aren’t you tired of seeing the out-of-the-box templates that everyone has? If you are serious about this, hire a designer and give your blog that original look. But if you don’t have the money, try and customize the standard template with your own logo and color scheme. Do what you can to make it unique.

Feed Me!
These days every blog comes with an RSS feed, so use it. Make the most of it by adding a custom signature. If you don’t know how to access your RSS feed, or your blog doesn’t provide one, burn your own! Go to: http://www.feedburner.com. Decide whether you want to offer Full or Partial feeds.

Button Up
Get your own buttons and place them in a prominent position on your blog (usually the sidebar) so readers can easily subscribe and read your posts on their own homepage or RSS reader. Use an RSS aggregator to make it easy on your readers. Here are a few:

http://www.feedbutton.com/

http://www.bloglines.com/

http://www.technorati.com/

But one thing to remember is to avoid ugly button overload! Don’t you get sick of seeing a blog with a whole bunch of buttons and widgets all over the place? This also slows down the load time. Remember you only have less than 30 seconds to capture your reader. Be spare, but make those buttons and widgets count.

What’s Your Topic?
Remember when you start your blog, it should have one main theme or topic in general. Focusing on one area will definitely help your blog have its own niche audience. Being too general won’t keep the readers coming back. I know what you’re thinking, our blog, The Muffin, has a plethora of topics, but they’re all geared toward women writers. Your topic doesn’t have to have a narrow focus, but you should consider your audience and who your blog is catering to. Is it about fashion? Art? Motorcycling? Okay, I know it’s none of the above, but if it’s about your journey as a writer, or a promotion for your forthcoming book, then tailor it toward that. Make one blog for your journey as a writer, and the other for your book. Keep the topics separate to create unique content.

Write Like You Know the Whole World is Reading
Try and keep your entries short, yet detailed. Write for your readers and for search engines. This is possible! I prefer writing for readers, but you can do both. Just make sure the key words you use are relevant to your content. Use relevant titles and tags. Make your titles leave the reader wanting more, because that’s what is going to show up on search engines. Don’t just say, “Welcome to my blog!” Think of it like you do the first sentence in your short story or article—hook that reader, reel them in.

Check your spelling. Use nice readable fonts in a standard size. Create unique stories. Other bloggers will be more likely to link to your blog if you have a story that sizzles. They may even quote it in their own blog with a link and create a viral effect.

Juice Up Those Links
Link to other blogs in your posts. This is an easy way to make other bloggers learn about your blog when they’ve never heard of it. For instance, I do this every month: I check bloglines and technorati and type in our blog address to see who’s chatting about us. I find the most interesting posts from readers that I never knew of! And like I always say, if you mention WOW! Women On Writing, I’ll add you to our blogroll, thus perpetuating the growing family of women writers and bloggers. You can create your own blogroll, just go to: http://www.bloglines.com/

Also consider the importance of links. For instance, in Danette’s case, it’s better to link to her blog like this: Danette Haworth’s Blog, than http://www.danettehaworth.blogspot.com. Why? Because link names hold more value than simple URLs. People can list a whole bunch of URLs, but if it’s associated with a key word or phrase, search engines are more likely to pick up on it.

Angela’s Secret Tip:

Buy your own domain name and host your blog under that site. Of course, our blog doesn’t have all the cool widgets that blogger-hosted blogs have, but if you want to increase your traffic ranking this is a great way to do it. For instance, we have a Blogger blog, but it’s an FTP blog. This means that when we post we get that dreaded spinner that old-school Bloggers may remember, but you know why it’s worth it? Every time we upload a new blog post that counts as traffic to our website domain name. It’s like a unique visitor is checking out your site and uploading content. Bonus on traffic ranking! Shhh... don’t tell anyone.

Okay, as you can see this topic is endless. Things are changing all the time, so I’m going to dedicate Sundays to helping women writers pump up their websites and/or blogs. Stay tuned! These were just some of the basics, more to come next week.

Happy Blogging!

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Monday, July 02, 2007

 

Singing Over One's Bones

Many years ago when I lived in the panhandle of Idaho, not far from the Canadian border, I found myself looking into the eyes of a beautiful female Timber wolf. Her name is Mika, which means “Angel” in Osage Indian, and she “works” for the Wolf People in the hills near Lake Cocolalla, gracing and educating interested visitors with her kisses and mesmerizing light yellow eyes.

At the time of my encounter I was much younger and the wolf weighed only ten pounds less than me. At 110 pounds she could have been intimidating, but her eyes and demeanor let me know she meant no harm and loved people.

Wolves fascinate me for many reasons, but I’m most fond of two noble characteristics--they mate for life and stay loyal to their pack. Many selfish people I’ve known could learn a lot from emulating a wolf. In fact, I’ve known many people to be more “beast-like” than a wolf.

Maybe this is one reason why Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, hit so deep in my center. Ms. Estes is a Jungian psychologist and cantadora, and she reveals many old folktales in her work. But one stuck ever since my eyes and mind devoured its words.

Ms. Estes relates an ancient oral tale of La Loba, also known as La Huesera (The Wolf Woman or The Bone Woman). La Loba is an old, fat, and often hairy woman who lives in a hidden place, from where she awaits lost or wandering people. She makes animal sounds, and she has one goal.

La Loba’s sole purpose is to collect bones, mostly the ones that are in danger of being lost to the world. She collects many types from various creatures, but she sifts through dry river beds and mountains searching mainly for wolf bones. Once she’s found enough to complete a skeleton, La Loba lays the bones out in her cave and sits by the fire composing the correct song for each complete set of bones.

At just the right moment, La Loba stands over the bones, raises her arms, and sings. As she sings her long song, flesh begins to grown on the bones, and fur grows atop the flesh. Eventually, the creature’s tail curls upward, it begins to breathe, and it opens its eyes. Ultimately, the wolf runs out of her cave and down into the desert canyon. At some point along the wolf’s running path, she transforms into a laughing woman, running toward the horizon.

This tale represents the archetype of the wild woman, not the crazed meaning of wild, but the natural state of a woman’s self—running free, living loyal and strong, being her true self.

I’d like to think that writing gives us a little edge in the gift of this song. In writing we sing something of ourselves. We expose a little of our own graceful, strong, and natural selves.

Have you read Women Who Run with the Wolves? What story sings over your bones?

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

 

WOW! Featured on Best Ezines

Ladies,

Happy Saturday! It's another time to celebrate! :-)

WOW! has been accepted to bestezines.com -- a site which highlights a wide variety of quality ezines.

Our contributing editor, Sue Donckels, has been working overtime promoting WOW!, and her hard work has paid off. So, as we round out this issue on self-promotion, you can see that all it takes is a bit of effort, some research, and perseverance. Sue has shown us that no matter what you're promoting, if believe in it, you can achieve great things! Thank you Sue, and to everyone who has contributed to WOW! because you are what makes us, as women writers, able to share our voice in unison.

bestezines.com allows readers to post ratings and reviews. If you'd like to share your opinion, we'd love your support. We strive to offer you the best resources, contests (when we grow, we want to offer you more!), and content for women writers.

As we actualize this issue, The Wings of Self-Promotion, we'd love to hear what you've accomplished, or how you've tried to promote yourself this month. No matter how big or small, if your work was accepted or not, whether it was word of mouth or a submission... we want to know:

What have you done to promote yourself this month?

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