Category Archives: Professional blogging

I’ve Moved!

Click here for the same blog, exciting new address!

Anyone remember the Jeffersons? Sammy Davis, Jr.? Put them together and you get:

Nope, I’m not a published author yet, but after blogging on my own for two years, I celebrated my 70th post by pitching this blog to Chicago Now, which is Tribune Media Company’s online community of Chicago-area bloggers. I pitched RIDING THE WAVES via Chicago Now‘s online pitch form and heard back the same day. My blog was accepted!

So what does this mean?

It means I keep doing what I’m doing, but I might do it with a little more spring in my typing fingers. I’ll keep writing about RIDING THE WAVES, but now, I may have the chance to share it with even more readers. It means I’m sitting up a little straighter (which is great…I tend to slouch).

It means that Chicago Now believes my writing deserves a shot at something a little broader, a little wider-reaching.

It means I might get to connect with some new readers and possibly hear back from them.

These are all great things.

When I first began blogging in January 2010, I hadn’t a clue what to write about, so I searched for inspiration everywhere. In the process of doing so, I formed an unconscious habit of seeking inspiration; not only did that help me become a better writer, but it also grew me as a person. I’d ask people what motivated them to do inspiring things and investigate how certain situations came to be. I constantly pondered how I might incorporate many of the inspiring stories into my own life.

Some of my most “popular” (meaning “widely-read”) blog posts have ranged from my children’s entrepreneurial behaviors (How A 12-Year-Old Shags An iPad) to the suicide in a nearby park (Nichols Middle School Bomb) to the worry I felt when my husband and son sailed through the same storm on Lake Michigan that killed two fellow sailors (Trying Not To Cry) to an interview with a guy formerly known as Barry (How I Got To Interview The President Of The United States). Each of those posts serves as a distinct mile-marker on my newly-discovered writing journey. I’ll always remember how those events moved me so deeply that I couldn’t wait to write my feelings about them. Whether they made me laugh or cry or shake my head in disbelief, they each inspired me to sit, breathe, write and exhale.

Expanding my blog to a potentially wider audience on Chicago Now feels a little scary, but then so did talking to President Obama. What I’m telling myself as my blogging branches out is exactly what I told myself when the camera lights went on during the Obama Hangout: It’s just you & the person in front of you.

When I spoke with the President, I didn’t let myself think about anything other than the fact I was talking to a guy who used to live in Chicago. When I write my blog entries, I always try to write as if I’m talking to you directly…not to a slew of readers who may pass one of my posts on to someone else. The only way this works for me (and the way I keep my head fastened on tight) is to write with an honest focus, just to write what I’m thinking — as if I’m talking with a friend over coffee. It’s essentially a stream-of-conscience style, but that’s how my mind works. I’m pretty simple.

I hope you’ll visit my new site on Chicago Now and continue reading RIDING THE WAVES. And, if you’d like the latest posts delivered to your inbox, just put your email in the subscription box.

You’ve been with me from some of my earliest posts, and I’m grateful for the support, the comments and the encouragement. Thank you for RIDING THE WAVES along with me. This is getting pretty fun!

Click here for the same blog, exciting new address!

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Teaching Writers How To Blog

My friends Sally, Francie and Lisa are interested in starting blogs.  I plan on putting up some easy-to-follow instructions for anyone interested in starting one of their own.  Would you like to read about that?

We are sitting in Wilmette, Illinois.

And I’m “Trying Out” Being a Vegan Because…

…I’m insane.

There’s enough going on in the world right now.

Laundry.  Arizona shootings.  A new teenager in the house.  Planning a 20th wedding anniversary trip.  A big old wad of wax stuck in my ear.  Editing my manuscript to present it to overworked editors and agents in NYC at the end of January with the dreams of a book contract.  Prayers for more subscribers to my blog and more readers on http://www.Evanston.Patch.com.

But hey, let’s throw in a 21-day-kickstart of all-vegan eating, just to feel TRULY alive.

Hold on, I’ll be right back.  Just need to pop another iron supplement so I can lift my hands to type.

That’s better.

Where was I?  Oh yes.  Avoiding any foods with faces.  Right.  Yum.  Crunch.  Slurp.  Fart.  Fart again.

I’m sorry, who are you?

Did you say we know each other?  You’re whose cousin?  Oh, sorry.  Yes, I was blogging about trying the vegan thing.

It’s not going very well…as clearly demonstrated by the sundry items I salivated over recently while on a trip to Austin, TX.

I sniff them whenever I get a hankering for hot dogs and BLTs.  It’s not the same, but every little thing helps.

Journalistic Terms For Newbies

I’d asked my editor at Patch.com what the term dek meant.  It’s utilized on the computer server which I use to upload my twice daily blogs about Evanston.

I loved her response, which was something akin to total surprise.  I think she said, “That’s a great question.  I’ve never really been asked that one.”  I love feeling like I’m not completely ignorant.

I went searching today for the meaning of dek.  It loosely translates to mean sub-heading, but there’s some question about how the letters d-e-k were chosen to indicate this.  It’s thought the term came from the term “deck”.

I just found a great blog post about journalistic terms:  click here.

Criticism

Ouch.

I posted a comment on http://www.Evanston.Patch.com about a local business with a website called http://www.fleebags.com.  Here’s the article I wrote:  http://evanston.patch.com/articles/flophouses-and-worthless-racehorces#c:

Photos (3)

I have some advice for the owners of a van I saw parked this week on Davis Street with their website, www.fleebags.com,  clearly emblazoned on the vehicle.

While their products are adorable, I’m struggling with the product name.

Clearly, their marketing assumption is literal:  women will use the company’s oilcloth bags when they “flee” (or fly) around, doing whatever it is they do.

With that logic, they’ve already lost me.

First of all, I don’t “flee.”

I zip.  I race.  I lug.  I schlep.  But, I most definitely do not flee or fly around like an Evanston fairy, landing softly on all the delicate anchorages of my daily to-do list.  I’m frequently storming through my day to get things done. I’m more of a blitzer.  A stormer.  An attacker.

I visited the www.fleebags.com website, where they provide definitions:

flee v; to run away, escape, fly, take flight, make off, bolt

fleebags; fun and functional oilcloth products for busy women “on the fly”

Then, for kicks, I visited http://www.dictionary.com, and typed in “fleebags”.  The result?

“No results found for fleebags: Did you mean fleabags?”

Why yes, I suppose so.

flea·bag

/ˈfliˌbæg/ [flee-bag]  –noun Slang

1. a cheap, run-down hotel or rooming house.

2. any shabby or low-grade public establishment.

3. a worthless racehorse.

4. a dog, esp. one that is flea-ridden.

5. a bed.

6. a sleeping bag. 


Origin:
1825–35; flea + bag 

Additionally, the site offers a slang dictionary:

fleabag definition [ˈflibæg] 

  1. n.
    a cheap hotel; a flophouse. : Rocko never stays in fleabags. He’s too proud. Sam doesn’t care.

Woops.  This is a little awkward.  So … how about those Wildcats?

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new store at 1106 Davis Street is on Nov. 20.  The Mayor of Evanston will be there.

I’m guessing I won’t be invited.  That’s okay.   I’ll be storming Around Town, doing some other things.

————————-

Clearly, I did not give the business a “thumbs up” in the website name category.

After 95 posts to Patch.com, I got my first “attack” from a reader:

While I usually find Christine’s articles to be helpful regarding ongoings and such in Evanston, I certainly don’t understand her seemingly uncalled for attack on a new business opening here in Evanston. We want to encourage small businesses to find a home in Evanston, not rip them apart before they’ve opened their doors because they might have a cutesy or whimsical name. But since she did call the products adorable, the rest of the article is justified, correct? So in keeping with the theme, while the author looks adorable, I have a hard time with her name. Definition of Christine: Christine is a feminine name of Greek or Latin origin. It is derived from the word Christ, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”. Definition of wolf (wlf) n. pl. wolves (wlvz)
1.
a. Either of two carnivorous mammals of the family Canidae, especially the gray wolf of northern regions, that typically live and hunt in hierarchical packs and prey on livestock and game animals.
b. The fur of such an animal.
c. Any of various similar or related mammals, such as the hyena.
2. The destructive larva of any of various moths, beetles, or flies.
3. One that is regarded as predatory, rapacious, and fierce.
4. Slang A man given to paying unwanted sexual attention to women.

Maybe we should call the author a destructive larva messiah? After all, she races, zips, charges, attacks, blitzes and storms around Town. But that wouldn’t be nice, accurate or fair, would it.

So.

Here I am.  In my kitchen.  Reading this reply. Wondering (with a smile) if this is sort of like what a Vanity Fair correspondent feels after writing a scathing review of Lindsay Lohan’s behavior, only to be admonished by a teenage fan for degrading LiLo.

I’m not sure if I should respond to the writer.  I’d like to see other responses.  I don’t feel defensive.  I actually feel justified in my critique (not criticism) of the business owner’s choice of names.  As a former advertising exec (and English minor in college), I can’t believe someone would choose to name their website http://www.fleebags.com and NOT expect some raised eyebrows.  Maybe that’s the point.

And perhaps this bru-ha-ha is all part of his/her marketing genius.

All I know is, this is my first dose of “negative” feedback from a reader.  I’m not hurt, but I’m genuinely intrigued by the back-and-forth of communication.  I live for it.  And I so appreciate the reader’s clever response.

Let’s Talk About Books, Baby. Let’s Talk About You and Me.

I signed up for something called http://www.shewrites.com.  I heard it’s a great online resource for women writers.  I haven’t done anything with it yet…just created a quick profile of who I am and what I’m doing.  But then, today, I received an email notice that someone was welcoming me to the site.  Her name is Meg.  She wrote The Wednesday Sisters, which is sitting (unread) next to my bed.  I think Mike bought it for me for Christmas, and it’s been one of those books I just haven’t made time to read.

I replied to Meg’s short and kind greeting with a little note about how I’ve got her book and look forward to reading it (I do).  And then, she wrote back, about how she’s got a child at the University of Chicago right now…about how I should join a group on http://www.shewrites.com for first time novelists.  It was extremely helpful to get a little boost from someone with that sort of cache (and believe me, it doesn’t take much to impress me…so coming from her, I was blown away).  Here’s a little bio on her from Amazon:

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of the national bestseller, THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT, which was a Bellwether Prize finalist, and the forthcoming THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS (Ballantine, March 2011). She’s also the host of the blog, 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started, which features award-winning and bestselling authors sharing stories about their paths to writing and publishing. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and have appeared in commercial and literary magazines. She’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, California. Visit her on the web at http://www.megwaiteclayton.com.

Wow.

That’s one end of my “book spectrum” today.  The other end involves my Amazon.com purchase, made in preparation for our oldest child turning 13 next month.  I just ordered  Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, Revised and Updated

The author’s last name is Wolf, which is comforting.

I think I’ll get a kick out of the book based on the title alone.  I see glimmers of teen-ish-ness from my son, but he’s truly a great kid (all my kids are…I’m extremely lucky).

I’ll admit that in the past 4 weeks of writing 2 posts a day for Patch.com, I’ve drained my energy reserves to an all-time low.  As such, my patience and ability to “roll” with things have both sunk far below the realm of recognition.  On the bright side, I’ve got two things working for me here:

1.  The wisdom to know that I’ve got to recharge, and

2. A husband who hears me and knows it’s important to step out, even for 24-48 hours.

I found a hotel downtown to bring all my files and notes and folders for my novel.  My neglected novel.  The novel I cannot WAIT to hand to young girls.  The novel that will empower them and celebrate their strength.  That will speak to them and make them laugh and cry and learn things about life in Chicago and sailing and living with less materialism.  That will be discussed in mother-daughter book groups far and wide.  That will transform the way kids look at the toy aisles in Target stores — from desire to disdain.

Lofty expectations from an unpublished author, no?

The way I see it, I need this hubris.  I need to believe I can do it.  An hour ago, I didn’t believe I could.

I was stressing about how I’d get all my obligations handled tomorrow before meeting with my critique group…until I had a breakthrough.  What if I don’t turn in pages this time?  I’ve never NOT turned in pages.  But when I’m really feeling down and overburdened, why not think about my group — and all its unwavering support — and try something new?  I emailed them and said this:

My goal for Thursday is to get some suggestions on how to tackle a major writing weekend.  Good news is, I’m getting out of my house for the weekend to write, but I’m a bit overwhelmed at the task of my novel (maybe b/c I’ve been writing short bursts of blogs for the last 4 weeks).  No need to read anything of mine this week.  Just looking for a little hand holding.  Wondering if my book’s any good, and if I’ll ever finish it.  Feeling a little defeated about my neglected novel.  Would love a motivating speech about how I can finish it AND polish it in time for the Winter Conference.  I signed up for it tonight and I’m excited and terrified about that deadline.

That’s right:  I’ve signed up for the New York SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference in January 2011.  I’ve also signed up for the Writers’ Intensive Group, which is when you sit with an editor/agent and let him/her read the first 500 words of your novel.  If the person likes it, they’ll ask for the whole thing.

Last year I went to the conference, and an editor read my pages.  She asked if I was finished (a great sign), but when I said I was 75% done, the conversation was abruptly through.  She came to the conference looking for manuscripts to take home.  I went to the conference (wrongly) hoping an editor would say, “This is great!  When you’re done, call me and we’ll sign a contract.  Keep going!  You’re awesome.”  Sadly, that’s not the way it works.

I now get it.  Well, I get it more than I used to. In this economy, editors are trying to find the best and the most polished manuscripts of the day.  They’re not there to soothe and coo and coddle us writers.  Their eyes are bugged out by the end of those writers’ intensive workshops.  They want to take something that’s ready to present to their board back at HQ.  Something that justifies getting out of the office for an entire day rather than pouring through the slush back at the office.

I want my manuscript to be the one to make the right editor shiver at the end,  to catch his breath midway through, lost in tangential thoughts like “how on earth will this story ever turn out?”  To compel the right editor to ——

Hold up.

Realistically, I’d like an editor to look at my first 500 words, put the page down, and simply say, “May I see more?”  That, actually, is what I’d really love.

And so it begins…

I swear I’ve got to collapse at some point.  It’s almost 3am (again) and I’ve just finished up my 2nd post for today’s Patch.com submissions.

It’s not really that the writing’s hard.  Seriously.  What takes time is:

–my hyper editing

–teaching this old dog new tricks, like how to upload a video onto YouTube so I can then download it onto the Patch.com site.

Still, “why are you up till 3am?”  Oh, well, you know, because before this new gig came along, I’d done my typical over-extension with commitments and signed on to lead a Girl Scout troop, run a once a month book club, and create a new Leadership Club for students in 2nd – 5th grade.  I’d been getting the biggest thrill out of each of those tasks, and then the blogging job came along.

I’m juggling and trying to keep all the plates spinning (have I used that analogy before?  Forgive me…I’m too tired to look back and see).  It’s working out so far.  Sleep’s been a challenge, but now is the real test.  Nate was just diagnosed with strep throat (and I just KNEW he had it when I brought him in for it, but the doctor insisted that NO he didn’t have a fever and NO he didn’t have a red throat and NO the rapid strep test didn’t come back positive so NO he didn’t have to go on antibiotics and NO he didn’t have to stay home from school).

“But he’s had a low grade fever and a stomach ache and he’s irritable and his throat sounds…funny,” I said.

“Well, these things are often indications of a virus,” she said.  She’s truly a nice pediatrician and I really wanted to believe he was well enough to go back to school.  I had stuff to do so I wouldn’t be up until 3am again.

“He’s not presenting with any of the classic symptoms of strep, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.  Just give him an extra pillow at night and that should do the trick.”

An extra pillow, lady?

After that $25 co-pay and the prescription for more polyester fill under his head, I was happy to send him back to school.  He even seemed perky the next morning…just as his sister started looking glassy-eyed and weepy.

She stayed home today, feeling (as my Nana used to say), “punky.”  After school, Nate was as irritable and emotional as I’d seen him in a looooong time.  Before I could even redirect his emotions, the phone rang.  Doctor’s office.

“Yep.  It’s strep.”

Told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you told you.

I want my $25 co-pay back.  More than anything, I want to take that extra pillow Nate used last night and put it under my own head.  I’m taking Maggie (and now Henry, who’s feeling emotional and hot/cold) for strep tests tomorrow morning.  Cold and flu season is touching down in the Wolf household, and it’s only September.

In the words of Capt. Sully Sullenberger, just before his plane crash landed in the Hudson River, “Brace for impact.”