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

Can a person work tirelessly?

We hear the word tirelessly a lot, especially during and after a natural disaster. It is often said of rescue workers, “They worked tirelessly.” We’ve heard it used in recent days about the people giving aid to the victims of Hurricane Florence.

Tirelessly is an interesting word. If broken down and taken literally, it seems to indicate an inability to get tired. That doesn’t seem humanly possible to me, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition and the Merriam-Webster website (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tireless) gave the most satisfying definition of all the sources I checked. Merriam-Webster defines tireless as follows:

Definition of tireless: seemingly incapable of tiring. Synonym:  indefatigable. Example: a tireless worker

The word “seemingly” makes all the difference. Take out “seemingly” and we have a completely different meaning.

Most of my blog readers probably rolled their eyes and stopped reading after the first paragraph. I can’t blame them. Life is hard. Life is busy. There are more important things than nitpicking the definition of words. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what “tirelessly” means; however, writers must think of such things and try to use the most accurate words in their writing.

Since my last blog post

I continued to follow the news about the flooding left in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly in North Carolina and South Carolina. Since heavy rain reached more than 400 miles inland to the mountains of North Carolina, most of it fell east of the Eastern Continental Divide and, therefore, is draining into the rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Photo by reza shayestehpour on unsplash.com.

Ten days after the hurricane made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, rivers are still rising. Some are predicted to crest tomorrow. Some cities, such as Lumberton, North Carolina (where I lived for five years as a young adult) are expected to be flooded until October 5.

Think about that. Think about a flood that makes your home inaccessible for three weeks. Imagine what these people will have to go home to.

Think about the farmers who are unable to harvest this year’s cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, or peanuts this year. They depended on the money from those crops to make payments on the expensive equipment those crops require. Did you know that half the sweet potatoes grown in the United States are grown in North Carolina?

The flooding caused by Hurricane Florence has been in the forefront of my mind for more than a week, and the people affected by it will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Recovery won’t be measured in weeks or months. It will be measured in years – long after the storm is no longer making the news headlines.

The levee in Lumberton was constructed years before my arrival there. I never gave the possibility of flooding a thought while I lived there, but now – in the space of just two years – although the levee held, two hurricanes have dumped feet of rain on this flat area on I-95 halfway between Miami and New York. That’s two “500-year floods” in two years.

I’ve taken time to look through some of the photo albums I wrote about in last week’s blog post about Hurricane Florence:  My Heart is in Eastern North Carolina. We had no water damage at our house, and for that we are extremely fortunate. It is good to look at old pictures and remember special trips and memories. I’ll try not to wait until a natural disaster to revisit those photo albums.

Until my next blog post

Remember the people of eastern and central North Carolina and South Carolina who are still dealing with flood waters or the aftermath of flooding due to Hurricane Florence. Likewise, remember the people of Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria which struck a year ago.

Think about the thousands of people who continue to work tirelessly to help the people affected by Hurricane Florence put the pieces of their lives back together. People have come from as at least as far away as California to make swift water rescues.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve been reading parts of several books but can’t quite settle in on any of them. Three that I’m reading are A Double Life, by Flynn Berry; Women, Food, and God:  An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth; and The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality 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. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Janet

Can an Individual Make a Concerted Effort?

Can an individual make a concerted effort? I can hear what many of you are thinking:  Who cares?

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Who cares? Right?

I’m attempting to be a writer, so it’s my business to ponder such things. After reading three different times recently about someone making a concerted effort, it hit me that it just didn’t sound right.

“Concerted” comes from “in concert.” Can an individual be in concert with himself?

What did Google say?

I went to my friend, Google, to see what I could find on the subject. Grammarians say an individual cannot make a concerted effort because it takes more than one person to work in concert. Less picky people who took the time to comment online said a person can make a concerted effort if they put all they have into the effort. In other words, all their concentration, physical strength, mental capabilities, etc. can work in concert.

I’m not convinced. “He made a concerted effort” just doesn’t sound quite right to me.

I can hear what you’re thinking again:  Janet has too much time on her hands. No wonder she can’t finish writing her novel!

You’re right, but writers do have to consider such minute issues as they strive to choose exactly the right words.

Since my last blog post

Thank you, Ann G., Ann A., Cheryl, and David for signing up for my mailing list!

I couldn’t help but laugh. Several new people “liked” my January 29, 2018 blog post – the one about my wrinkled 65-year-old face – “Left in the dryer too long” including someone who sells wrinkle cream. I should have seen that coming.

I finished reading A.J. Finn’s debut psychological thriller, The Woman in the Window. If you like that genre, I highly recommend it.

I also finished reading The Salt House, by Lisa Duffy. I liked it, too. It’s about a family dealing with grief after the unexpected death of their toddler.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m still reading Fighting to Win:  Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, by fellow blogger David J. Rogers. I’m taking lots of notes, David, and the book has already helped me get some things accomplished that had been hanging over my head for a long time. I’m getting a lot out of this book!

I haven’t given up on finishing Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. I’m just having trouble getting to it and into it. I’ve started reading The Hope Chest, by Viola Shipman, for Rocky River Readers Book Club.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. (I hope I do, too!)

If you’d still like to sign up for my newsletter, please fill out the form below. I promise not to burden your inbox with a bunch of e-mails. I’m told I need to have a following before I get my novel published and that I need to send occasional newsletters to interested parties. Right now, I don’t have anything to put in a newsletter.

Thanks!

Janet

Holding the Forest Back

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Photo by Deglee Degi on Unsplash

Today I’m highlighting the opening sentence from the novel Redemption Road, by John Hart. You might have to be “from the country” to fully appreciate this turn of a phrase.

“Bushes were overgrown, but the grass had been cut often enough to hold the forest back.” – opening sentence in Redemption Road, by John Hart

I like how Mr. Hart wrapped that idea up in a simple sentence. Using the phrase, “to hold the forest back” gets the thought across perfectly and succinctly.

If I had written it, I probably would have gone into a detailed explanation of sweet gum sprouts trying to take over the property. Can you guess what we have a problem with in our yard? It seems like the woods are constantly trying to gain more of a foothold on the cleared land that we consider to be our yard.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Last Castle:  The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, by Denise Kieman. I’m also reading Perennial Seller:  The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts, by Ryan Holiday. I had to put The King of Lies, by John Hart, on the back burner and switch off to the Kieman and Holiday books because they’re due back at the library before the Hart book. There is method to my madness. I’m able to concentrate enough to read more now than a couple of months ago.

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

Janet

Seasonal Affective Disorder in November

I tried reading several novels in November that just didn’t grab my attention. I will not name them here. It’s disappointing to sit down to read a book and just not get “into it” even after 10 or 20 pages.

Still Life, by Louise Penny

The only book I read in November was Still Life, by Louise Penny. It was the book read by the Rocky River Readers Book Club last month. I really tried to like it, but I just couldn’t stay interested in it. Don’t blame the author or the book. Louise Penny is a popular author. I believe it wasn’t the right time for me to try to read her first book.

One of the items in the Reader’s Bill of Rights (my blog post two weeks ago:  Reader’s Bill of Rights) is the right to skip pages. I did too much of that while reading Still Life, so when I got to the last page I still didn’t know “who dunnit.” I enjoyed the book club discussion of the book last Monday night and found out how much I’d missed by not giving it my full attention.

After reading four to six books every month in 2017, suddenly in November I lost my motivation to read. I wanted to read. At first, I thought I was distracted by my desire to get back to work on my historical novel manuscript. It just didn’t work out very well.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As I wrote today’s blog post, I concluded that the culprit in my recent inability to concentrate enough to read is Seasonal Affective Disorder. In case you aren’t familiar with this disorder, there is reliable information about it at the Mayo Clinic’s website:  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651. I think I’ve had it all my life but just got a diagnosis several years ago.

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Photo by Cameron Stow on Unsplash

What I’m reading

As November came to a close, I was halfway through The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius. I’m eager to find out who the “mole” is, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is restricting my reading time and messing with my ability to concentrate.

I’ve checked out A Gentleman in Moscow twice. This time, I hope to finish reading it. Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. It is the December book choice for an online book club I joined earlier this fall. It’s a book reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows.

I also continue to listen to The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham, but you know I’m not a fan of books on CD. I’m on the waitlist for the electronic copy of it at the public library. One way or the other, I will finish it.

The Spanish Coin

I’ve worked on my scenic plot outline for the rewrite of The Spanish Coin several days in the last week in an effort to get it off “the back burner.” The outline kept calling my name in November and I was excited to get back to it. I hadn’t worked on it in several months, so I had to reacquaint myself with the new plot line.

My blog is about my journey as a writer, and that includes my reading. That journey was bumpy in November. Better days lie ahead as my Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms abate in the coming months. Too bad I can’t live in the northern hemisphere from April until mid-September and then live in the southern hemisphere for the remainder of the year!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ll try to finish the books I’ve started.

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

Janet

Sometimes I Have to Wonder

Raise your hand if you are addicted to Pinterest. I am guilty.

I have boards on Pinterest about various aspects of writing, cooking, blogging, local history, the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (which just happens to also be the title of my vintage postcard book published by Arcadia Publishing), the North Carolina coast, quilting, Southernisms, hearing loss, and many of my other hobbies and interests.

If you follow my blog, you know that I generally write about books I’ve read, samples of my writing, or things I’ve learned about the art and craft of writing. I have a board on Pinterest called “Janet’s Writing Blog” where I pin each of my blog posts.

If you participate in Pinterest and have interest boards on the site, you probably get e-mails from Pinterest with suggested pins that might be of interest to you based on your boards. Those e-mails usually make sense; however, one I received a couple of weeks ago fell into the category of “sometimes I have to wonder.”

Considering the content I pin to my “Janet’s Writing Blog” interest board, why did Pinterest send me an e-mail titled, “A few new ideas for your board Janet’s Writing Blog” which included the following pins for me to visit?

“How much space do goats really need?”

“How to make homemade chicken feed – a simple formula.”

“Halloween Pumpkin Wall Clock A9 Nice for gift or home.”

“DIY Garden Fence.”

“Pinned for what they used to hinge the gate.”

“What to wear – frivolous Friday.”

Another one with a photo of a fence was titled, “So simple – inexpensive – would work    for the dogs.”

And last but not least:  “Small chicken coop and fenced area for egg laying.”

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(Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash)

It served a purpose

The Pinterest e-mail served a purpose, although not its intended one. It made me laugh. It loses some of its punch here since I can’t include the photos that accompanied each suggestion.  As I scrolled down through the recommended pins for my Janet’s Writing Blog interest board, I laughed again and again.

I try to find something to laugh about every day. A good laugh, when not at the expense of another person, is good for the soul. Thanks, Pinterest!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have something to laugh about.

If you’d like to visit my Pinterest page and see my various interest boards, go to https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049/.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius; Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb; A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles; and The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham. And, yes, sometimes I get the story lines and characters confused.

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

Janet

Reader’s Bill of Rights

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Sometimes a novel’s story summary sounds interesting but fails to deliver. Sometimes it’s a matter of it just not being the right time for you to read that particular book. Sometimes the opening “hook” does its job and pulls you into the story, but the following pages fall short and your interest wanes.

Life is short. There are too many good books out there to spend time reading one that does not measure up or appeal to you.

I used to think if I started reading a book, I owed it to the author to finish reading it. I no longer abide by that. When I joined a book club a few years ago at the Kannapolis branch of the Cabarrus County Library system, I was introduced to a “Reader’s Bill of Rights.” Perhaps you are familiar with it. It is attributed to Daniel Pennac in Better Than Life, published by Coach Press in 1996:

“Reader’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right to not read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes” – Daniel Pennac

If you do not live in the United States, “Bill of Rights” might be an unfamiliar term for you. That is what the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are collectively called. It is not coincidental that Mr. Pennac listed 10 items in his “Reader’s Bill of Rights.”

In the United States, we take for granted our access to books and other reading material. Millions of people in the world are not that fortunate. Americans tend to take free public libraries for granted until elected local government officials threaten to close libraries or radically curtail their hours of operation due to financial constraints. Many of them see libraries as an easy target. They see libraries as “fluff.” We suffered through this in the county in which I live during the downturn of the economy that started in 2008. What was taken from us in a proverbial “blink of an eye” took several years to reinstate.

We have wonderful public library systems in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg Counties in North Carolina. I utilize both systems most weeks. The Harrisburg branch of the Cabarrus County system is a very inviting hub of activity. When Harrisburg’s public library branch opened in 2001, our community started to feel like a real town.

I do not take my right to read lightly. I hope you have the right to read anything you want to read. As you can see from the table of flags on this blog page, people from at least 73 different countries have read my blog. When I write my blog posts, I try to be mindful of that.

Some of my readers live in countries where there is no free press and there are heavy prices to pay (such as prison life at hard labor or even execution) if you read something that is banned. Knowing that a few individuals in such countries are putting themselves at risk by reading one of my blog posts has put unexpected pressure on me.

Please don’t take your right to read for granted! This Thanksgiving season in America, I’m thankful for my right to read and for free public libraries.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius.

If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

I hope you live in a country where you have the freedom to write and read anything you want.

Janet