FYI, Other WordPress Bloggers

In case you’re having a problem with “Like” button: After two days (or more) of not being able to leave a “Like” on other people’s blogs, I finally asked the kind support staff at WordPress what I was doing wrong.

Someone answered me right away on Chat and said they’re making some changes to the code that governs the “Like” button, so that service has been and will be erratic for a while.

Janet

This blog’s for you!

Sometimes I get carried away and forget my blog is for you. It’s not for me. You have a limited amount of time to read, so I’m flattered that you read my blog posts.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

If my blog doesn’t fill a need of yours, then reading it is a waste of your time. The pressure is on me every week to inspired you, make you laugh, give you something to think about, or at least put a smile on your face.

Although I’ve been blogging for almost nine years, I’m still learning. If there is something on my blog page that isn’t of benefit to my readers, I need to delete it.

Deleted national flags widget

In an effort to declutter my blog on February 4, I deleted the widget that showed the flags of all the countries in which my blog readers reside. I realized that showing those 93 flags was for my own edification, not yours. That widget was providing information that you probably didn’t care about. I’m a geography nerd, so I found it very interesting.

Actually, I found it shocking and a bit frightening to know that people in that many countries had looked at my blog at least once. The biggest surprise was when the flag of the People’s Republic of China first appeared.

My most popular posts

In place of the national flags widget, I added a widget that lists my 10 most popular blog posts. This should help my new reader find some of my best posts, and it will help me see at a glance the topics that garner the most interest.

An unexpected source

I knew my blog was for my readers, but it wasn’t until I started reading Building a StoryBrand:  Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller that I was prompted to try to view my website and my blog through the eyes of a first-time visitor.

Everywhere Building a StoryBrand says, “customer,” I mentally substitute “reader.” Sometimes it works better than others. Although Mr. Miller’s book targets business owners, it made me ask myself how my website and blog portray me as a writer. I’ll continue to make changes that help first-time visitors become loyal readers.

Mr. Miller says a person should be able to look at my blog or my website and know within five seconds what I’m about.

I’m reminded of Alan Alda’s book

If you read my February 11, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/02/11/the-other-three-books-i-read-in-january-2019/ you know I read Alan Alda’s book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

That book prompted me to ask myself, “What does my reader need?” and “What is my reader hoping to gain by reading my words?” Mr. Miller’s book dovetails into Mr. Alda’s book and reinforces what Mr. Alda said about communication.

The purpose of my website and blog

Mr. Miller’s book prompted me to state the purpose of my website and blog in one sentence. When I got to the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish, this is what I concluded: 

The purpose of my website and blog is to show you that I write with authority and skill and, therefore, you can trust that my writing is worthy of your time.

If it sounds like I’m boasting, that’s not my intent. I’m setting the bar high for myself, and will read that purpose every day when I sit down at the keyboard.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain. (Audio books come in handy when a reader has vertigo.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Don’t forget to look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow when I’ll reveal two books that remind me of someone. (Writing prompt provided by “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog post on January 8, 2019 (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646)

Let’s start a conversation

What are you hoping to find in my blog? A smile? Humor? Something to ponder? Inspiration? My take on a book I’ve read? Samples of my fiction writing? A variety of these?

Janet

Two for Tuesday — Two Books that Taught Me Something

In “Rae’s Reads and Reviews blog post on January 8, 2019 (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646), Rae mentioned her idea of starting a “Two for Tuesday” tag.

I thought she was launching the idea, but I found a link (https://educatednegra.blog/2018/07/19/what-is-two-for-tuesday/) to her July 17, 2018 blog post in which she talked about it. She invited other bloggers to participate, and I took the bait. She supplies the writing prompts. All I have to do is share my thoughts. How hard can that be, right?

Today is the first day of this #TwoForTuesday adventure for me. The prompt is:  Two Books that Taught Me Something.” That sounded easy until I tried to narrow it down to two books.

The first 11 books that came to mind

I made a list of books that taught me something. I thought of the following 11 books right off the bat (in no particular order):

Whose Gospel?  A Concise Guide to Progressive Protestantism, by James A. Forbes, Jr.

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I., by David Grann

Lessons from a Sheep Dog, by Phillip Keller

Unthinkable Choice, by Sampson and Lee Ann Parker

Picking Cotton, by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ron Cotton

Left to Tell:  Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

The Third Reconstruction, by The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

The Story of the Covenant:  Fifty Years of Fighting Faith, by T. Ratcliff Barnett

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker

Tears We Cannot Stop:  A Sermon to White America, by Michael Eric Dyson

Then, I narrowed it down to two books

Both books are nonfiction. Both books taught me that, with God’s help, people can withstand much more than seems possible and then come out stronger than they thought they could ever be.

Unthinkable Choice, by Sampson and Lee Ann Parker

Left to Tell:  Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Unthinkable Choice, by Sampson and Lee Ann Parker

I personally know the authors of Unthinkable Choice. If you want to read a book by a couple who overcome the impossible and the unthinkable, this is the book for you. Sampson and Lee Ann take turns by chapter telling their story.

Sampson made an unthinkable choice and had Lee Ann’s support throughout his battle to survive the consequences of that choice. Sampson’s story begins with a horrendous farm accident. Lee Ann’s story begins the moment she is notified of Sampson’s accident. After reading this book, I think you’ll agree that Sampson has the right name.

Please read this book of true courage.

Left to Tell:  Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin

I’ve seen Immaculee Ilibagiza interviewed on television. Hers is another jaw-dropping true story of courage and beating the odds. She survived the 1994 Rwandan Holocaust by hiding with seven others in the tiny bathroom of a Hutu pastor’s house for an astounding 91 days. She lost most of her relatives during the three-month slaughter of nearly 1 million Tutsis.

If you haven’t read Left to Tell:  Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, I highly recommend that you do so.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read. Please consider Unthinkable Choice and Left to Tell. They are both true stories that will stay with you forever and, hopefully, inspire you to get through the hardest times in your life.

If you’re new to my blog, thank you for finding it. I blog on Mondays and, at least through the month of February, also on Tuesdays. Thanks for stopping by for #TwoForTuesday!

Let’s continue the conversation

What are two books that taught you something?

Janet

They’re All Uncertain Times

Events of the last week prompted me to write about uncertain times for today’s blog post. It soon occurred to me that all times are uncertain because we cannot see into the future.

We tend to think the time we’re living in is more unpredictable than any other time, but if you’ll stop and think about it, you might see that life is and always has been full of doubts, worries, and stress. The unknown can do that to you.

I think about the uncertain times my known ancestors lived through:

English-speaking Lowland Scots being taken into the Gaelic-speaking Kintyre Peninsula in the southwest of Scotland to be tenant farmers in the 1600s and being required to attend a church where only Gaelic was spoken;

Scottish immigrants crossing the Atlantic and settling in the Carolina backcountry/wilderness in the 1760s; and

Those Scottish immigrants facing the American Revolution and not knowing what the outcome would be.

On December 23, 1776, in “The Crisis,” Thomas Paine wrote the following:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

My ancestors lived through those times. The deaths of my Morrison great-great-great-great-grandparents during the American Revolutionary War left my great-great-great-grandfather orphaned at the age of nine. He and his siblings were cared for thereafter by his uncles and their wives, but it must have been more than frightening.

Then came the following trying times:

War of 1812;

American Civil War;

Reconstruction Era in The American South;

My maternal great-grandmother’s death in childbirth in 1881;

My paternal great-grandfather’s accidental death while felling a tree for lumber to build a kitchen in 1886;

Spanish-American War;

World War I;

The Great Depression;

My paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather both dying as young adults;

World War II;

Korean War; and

Illnesses and epidemics.

Living in the age of modern medicine and miracle drugs, it’s difficult for most of us to empathize with our ancestors who lived with the possibility of dying or watching their children die of typhoid fever, tetanus, flux, or polio.

When the Salk polio vaccine became available in the late 1950s, I did not fully appreciate what it meant to my parents. For me, as a child, I just remember our family going to the gymnasium lobby at Harrisburg High School on three Sunday afternoon after church to get an oral vaccine on a sugar cube.

The 1960s and years since have brought the following times of uncertainty:

Vietnam War;

Civil Rights Movement in the United States;

Numerous wars in the Middle East;

Rumors of more wars;

Terrorism; and

Incompetency and recklessness in The White House. (Don’t blame me; I didn’t vote for him!)

All of my ancestors down through my grandparents were farmers. I can’t imagine a life full of more uncertainties than one in which one’s livelihood is at the mercy of the weather.

I believe that God created the world with everything we need to not only survive but thrive. Human beings have brought on many uncertainties by not being good stewards of the world that God has entrusted to us – its animals and natural resources. Come to think of it, we have created most of the uncertainties ourselves – war, poor planning, poor agricultural practices, greed, and envy.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes, and wildfires happen, but even many floods and wildfires are caused by man’s carelessness.

I attended two funerals in less than 48 hours last week. One was expected after a long battle with cancer, but the other one was quite sudden. Life is full of uncertainties.

Reviewing some of the events and hardships my ancestors faced, and the things I’ve witnessed in my 64 years has helped me put recent events and concerns in perspective.

The sun comes up. The sun goes down. The world keeps spinning around and revolving around the sun. What an amazing world!

simon-hesthaven-216108 (2)
Photo by Simon Hesthaven on Unsplash

 

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann and Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have lots of productive writing time.

Janet

Words That Give Me Trouble

Words-That-Give-Me

Writing keeps me humble. There are words I worry about now in my writing that I used to not be concerned about. Since I’ve claimed aloud to be a writer, I feel the spotlight on all my written words. Sometimes I come up short.

Memory and Age

Memory and age begin to take a toll. Words that I used to spell or remember the definition of without a second thought now fall into the “need to look it up” category. Some words I’ve thought to be synonymous aren’t quite equal when examined. I continually learn of words I have used incorrectly all my life. It happens often enough that I’m losing my confidence.

Mark Nichol’s list

After creating an account on StumbleUpon last week, I stumbled upon Mark Nichol’s article, “50 Problem Words and Phrases” https://www.dailywritingtips.com/50-problem-words-and-phrases/. In today’s blog post, I’ll share a few examples of words that give me trouble.

  1. Compare to / compare with – Compare to implies only similarity; whereas, compare with   implies similarity and contrast.
  2. Each other / one another – Use one another when more than two are involved. (Who knew?)
  3. Jealousy / envy – If I am jealous of you, I resent your having something. If I envy you, I   covet something you have. (I’ve didn’t realize there was a difference until reading Mr. Nichol’s article cited above.)
  4. Since / because – As stated by Mr. Nichol in his article, “Informally, these terms are  interchangeable, but in formal writing, since should be used only to refer to time.” (This one from Mr. Nichol’s article was new to me, too.)
  5. Transcript / transcription – Mr. Nichol stated, “A transcript is a thing; a transcription is the process of creating it.” (I know I’ve been guilty of using “transcription” when I  should have written “transcript.”

I need to keep Mark Nichol’s list of “50 Problem Words and Phrases” handy as I’m writing. The more I read about the sometimes subtle nuances of words, the less confident I am in my writing.

chicago-manual-of-style-008

Self-Editing The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

I’m having flashbacks of the days when I had to follow the 1,000+-page gold standard of American English, The Chicago Manual of Style, as I self-edited the manuscript for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.* That’s when I began to realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

Writing-keeps-me-humble

Writing keeps me humble.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (Among other things, I’m reading Camino Island, by John Grisham.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and a better memory than I have for spelling and proper word usage.

Janet

*Shameless Plug:  In case you haven’t purchased a copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, please look for it at any independent bookstore. If it’s not on the shelf, please request it. If that doesn’t work, you can order it from Amazon.com.

 

Extreme Abbreviation

 

overwhelmed

Today I’m giving you a glimpse of what I deal with on a daily basis while I attempt to be a writer. No one told me I would have days like this back in 2001 when I took that fiction writing course.

Bots

I received an e-mail from LinkedIn. It mentioned “productivity bots.” I Googled that, since I didn’t know what it was. In addition to being the larva of the botfly, a bot can be an app that performs an automated task. I even heard bots mentioned in a recent U.S. Senate hearing. They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

ROI

On May 9 I received an e-mail from Hootsuite’s Global Webinar Team. The headline was, “Prove the ROI of Your Social Strategy Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11am PT/2pm ET.” Nowhere did the e-mail explain what ROI is, so I “Googled” it and learned that ROI is Return on Investment.

I suppose anyone who didn’t already know that didn’t need to register for the webinar. Or perhaps I should register. Maybe I would learn how my minimal financial investment in social media is translating into readers and followers. Or maybe not.

Lead Gen Tips

Someone followed me on Twitter. His profile said he offers “lead gen tips.” I had to Google that, too, because I didn’t have clue what it meant. Since my search brought up 10,800,000 results, I must be the last person on Earth to know that “lead gen tips” is short for “lead generation tips.” With that knowledge, I knew a little more than I had before, but not much.

The “lead gen tips” Google results had titles that contained words and phrases such as “The Best,” “A Complete Guide,” “30 Actionable,” and “63 Lead Generation Strategies.”

That last one came from a person or company called Marketing Wizdom. I don’t know about you, but I’m leery of people who deliberately misspell words in a company’s name or elsewhere. I became aware of the dangers in this years ago when my sister was a literacy tutor. It’s inconsiderate to people who are struggling to learn English or who are learning to read to misspell words. But I digress.

Other search results included the following:  “30 … Tips & Tricks,” “32 Clever,” “Best… Tips and Tricks,” “4 Tips,” “5 … Tips,” and “10 Tips.”

That was just on the first screen. I stopped there.

I couldn’t help but notice that all the websites listed above got the memo but the last one. That was the memo saying you’ll get more hits if you don’t put “10” in your blog post title.

When I got to the bottom of the screen, I noticed that one of the “Searches related to lead gen tips” was “lead generation definition.” Now we’re getting somewhere! I clicked on that and the definition that appeared in the little box on the screen stated, “the action or process of identifying and cultivating potential customers for a business’s products or services.” Okay. Now I understand “lead gen tips.”

Extreme Abbreviation

Something else I understand is that I will never be able to keep up with today’s business and computer jargon. I’ll keep trying, though. Just like taking shorthand in high school (yes, I’m that old!) ruined my handwriting, I’m afraid texting has resulted in extreme abbreviation in all forms of communication. (Is “extreme abbreviation” a term, or did I just coin it?)

If you liked today’s blog post, I invite you to read my May 9, 2017 post, What is a Conversion Habit and Do I Need One?

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, for Monday’s book club meeting while I’m trying to finish reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. I’m also reading World of Toil and Strife, by Peter N. Moore, for research purposes. I’m also still reading The Source, by James A. Michener, when I have time. At this rate, it will take me a year to read the entire book!

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and don’t have to spend as much time as I do using search engines to translate abbreviations and jargon.

Janet

P.S.  I think all the images I’ve included in my blog posts until today were photographs I had taken. I discovered a free stock photo website, Unsplash.com, a couple of days ago. Today’s image is from that site and was taken by Pim Chu of Thailand.

11 Things I’ve Learned about Social Media since February 21, 2017

Certain social media platforms continue to be the bane of my existence. My February 21 blog post was 5 things I learned about Social Media this weekend. I continue to learn things. Some are more useful than others. Here are 11 things I’ve learned about social media since that earlier blog post.

  1. The first word in my blog post title is the most important word, as far as Google is concerned. (“11” probably isn’t the best choice, although I’ve read that it’s better than using “10.”)
  2. I need to use long-tail keywords in my blog post title, within the post, and also in subheadings. (I had to Google “long-tail keywords.”)
  3. Long-tail keywords are a targeted search phrase of three or more words. An example is “How to write a” or “How to get to.” These are the type of things that will bring your post up on page one of a Google search. Most people don’t move on to page two. (Since I’m still learning the craft of writing, I can’t very well title a blog post, “How to Write. . .” anything.)
  4. For $9.99 per month I can pay Alexa.com (an Amazon company) to tell me how people are finding my website and blog. That’s not in my budget. (I think I’ll just keep relying on WordPress analytics.)
  5. The “block” feature on Twitter comes in handy when creepy-sounding people follow me. (I think I’ve blocked three people so far.)
  6. One of those social media intricacies is “avatar.” Why can’t we just call our ideal reader an ideal reader? There is too much terminology springing from social media. (Yes, I am officially too old to be using this stuff!)
  7. With a free account, Commun.it will send out automatic weekly “Thanks for following me” Tweets; however, those Tweets include a flashy advertisement for Commun.it. That was embarrassing!  This seemed to continue even after I went into the website and deactivated this feature which I admit I should have be aware of when I signed up. In order to prevent the ads, you have to upgrade to a business account, which is pricey for someone in my situation. I’m still trying to determine how to best manage social media.
  8. Quora.com isn’t working out for me so far. Since I majored in political science in college, the site automatically sends me government questions. Since it has been 40 years since I was in a political science class and since my interests lie more in the realm of the craft of writing today, I wish they’d send me questions (and answers) about writing.
  9. A few of my pins on my “Novel in Progress:  The Spanish Coin” board on Pinterest have been repinned by others, which is encouraging. (I hope they remember me when my novel gets published!)
  10. I read that the best times to Tweet are Monday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Reading this on a Thursday night was not as helpful as it would have been on Monday morning. (It seems like this recommendation would depend on where in the world you live, but what do I know?)
  11. (And this is a constant) The more time I have to spend learning the intricacies of social media, the less time I have to read good books and work on my writing. (Actually, I learned this before February 21, but it deserves to be repeated.)

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (I just finished reading The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan, and I highly recommend it!)

 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

If you like my blog, please share it on social media by using the icons below. I would appreciate it.

Janet

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