Motivated by bloggers

cat on SwimSwam magazines
Olive hanging out on top of magazines with my stories inside. She doesn’t want anyone to read them.

I literally dusted off two picture book manuscripts that I wrote 20 years ago — thanks to my blogging community.

I was motivated again by blogger LA for her leap entering a writing competition. In her comments section, I lamented that I had not fulfilled my dream of having a book published. Another blogger along with LA encouraged me to keep going.

Although I’ve won contests, been published by magazines, websites and newspapers — that elusive book deal hasn’t happened.

I realized that it won’t happen — because I quit submitting to agents and publishers two years ago.

When I said I dusted off two picture book manuscripts, it’s because I discovered they aren’t on my laptop, nor are they on icloud. They’re on backup devices that no longer work with my current system. It has been 20 years since they were on my computer or backed up. That’s a lifetime in nano years.

I wondered if I had thrown out all my manuscripts when we moved? If so, my work would be lost. After searching the house and garage, I found two notebooks that I used to keep copies of my manuscripts, a spread sheet of submissions and a bevy of rejection letters. It wasn’t sad to look at the rejection letters, some had personal handwritten notes and were encouraging.

Long gone are the days of the snail mail submission with an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). I won’t receive hand written notes or form letters in the mail. Everything is done online and many publishers and agents don’t send rejections. If they aren’t interested, they don’t respond. Fortunately, some do reject via email, so I’ll know from those agents and publishers if my submission got lost in the ethers — or not.

I quickly typed the two manuscripts into my laptop and I’ll be off pursing my dream once again.

What are your goals or dreams? Have you stuck with it or did it go by the wayside?

Question for fellow bloggers

Waffles the pug
Waffles the pug when he lived in Arizona.

Do you receive solicitations by people or companies who ask to collaborate with you? I’ve been getting a few each week. What they want mostly is for me to post something they send me or for me to write about their company.

It’s interesting to see what they are proposing. Sometimes they are off the mark. For example, one woman sent me a link to their website and asked if I’d like to post their article about healthy pets. I clicked on the link and it was a parenting article. Oh well. I passed.

Once I was asked to add a link to a certain post and I did that. But I’m not comfortable with posting a company’s press release.

Once I posted a guest blogger. It was a friend of mine who I love his writing. It was a fellow swim dad and swim parents was the main topic I was writing about. It was nice to get his perspective. Also, I thought it would be a welcome break for my readers.

What are your thoughts? Do you get solicitations by email to include articles or links on your blog? What type of collaborations do they ask for? Do you feel that your blog should only be your own content? What do you think about bloggers who post other people’s material?

The ups and downs of blogging

sunrise in the desert
Sunrise from the back yard.

I have never posted about stats before. I’m talking WordPress numbers. But after I posted Party time! something weird happened. It’s only happened once before.

My stats boomed. I was up 1,427% !!

The question is why? Wouldn’t I like to know that secret.

The other time my stats skyrocketed was when I wrote about a Darlene Love concert I attended with my husband, dad and son. We had a venue in Palm Springs called The Follies. She was the headliner for their last few shows that included dancers in their 60s and 70s who look amazing!

I figured out why those stats boomed. I shared my blog post with Darlene Love through social media and she posted it!

But Monday’s post? Maybe it’s because our son’s sister-in-law Alexandra Simpson has a following or Chuck Prophet, the musician she’s playing with in the Youtube video for newly released song “Meet Me at the Roundabout.”

If you don’t know who Darlene Love is, I highly recommend the Oscar-award winning movie “20 Feet from Stardom.” Heck, I recommend that movie because the stories of the backup singers are so powerful and it includes many big stars like Sting, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.

What are your thoughts about stats? Do you think spikes happen because of key words, SEO, tags? Or just luck?

Blogging Along Through Life

My daughter with her relay celebrating in the pool.

When I started my blog in 2014, my focus was financial news for women. I had a short stint as a financial adviser working with my husband. At that time, I thought I had lots of knowledge to share. I had passed all the exams and went through training by two big firms.

One fact that stood out to me was that women own the majority of the wealth in our nation, yet they have less knowledge about investing than men. I thought I found a perfect niche to blog about. Funny thing, nobody wanted to read those posts. Maybe it was because I was new and didn’t have an audience — but when I wrote about other topics, I got way more views and comments.

My next niche was parenting — particularly sports parenting. I submitted one of my blog posts to the most read swim website, SwimSwam, and got feedback from the owner/founder Gold Medal Mel, Mel Stewart. He asked me to start writing parenting advice. He wanted me to write once a month for three months. After that trial period, I wrote every week. You can check out those articles HERE. I continued with that for six years, mostly basing my articles on my past mistakes. I didn’t want newer sports parents to go through the drama and issues that I had. I was thrilled when parents would email me and ask for advice. I started an “Ask Swim Mom” column from those emails.

My other favorite topics to blog about were about college admissions and being the parent of college kids. I learned a lot during those years. But as my kids grew, I felt I had less to offer in the parenting arena. In fact, I think my swim parenting articles put pressure on my daughter or made her feel exposed. I realized I’m far from an expert. Who am I to give advice?

Now, my blogging is me slogging through this phase of life trying to figure it out. What I enjoy most about blogging now is the community of bloggers I read every day. It’s more satisfying and supportive than before.

I’m curious how you see your blog evolving or changing through time. Do you feel you have a niche and what is it? What are your favorite topics to blog about?

What a week!

I hit the halfway point of my writing challenge at the start of the week.

Actually, not much happened out of the ordinary. But compared to most of my weeks during the past year and a half COVID days, a lot did happen.

Here’s a quick rundown:

I hit my goals for NaNoWriMo this week.

I managed to fit in posting blogs and reading other bloggers worked around my novel writing.

I played lots of ping pong and I sense some improvement.

I went to the Podiatrist and found an In-N-Out only 30 minutes from our house.

I had my first meeting as the official newsletter editor for our HOA. I met three new people who will be working with me to get the newsletter written and produced.

I took Olive the cat to the vet for shots. I had to find a new vet, since she hasn’t been to one in Arizona. I am not a person who regularly takes the cat to the vet. First of all, Olive hates it. She cries incessantly in the car and then she shudders and shakes. She doesn’t need to go to the vet if she’s not sick. But I called the place we boarded her in August to make a reservation for a trip planned in December. They told me one of her shots had expired. We both survived the trip to the vet, barely.

I talked to several of my old friends on long phone conversations after reading the article I posted on the importance of friendships. You can read that HERE if you missed it.

I went to my first NFL game in person.

Today I’m headed to our farmer’s market to get treats for Thanksgiving-week guests and my dad.

cat on a patch of grass in the house
Olive cat on her patch of grass next to pots of cat grass.

Happy Friday!

Have you noticed your weeks getting busier? Is it because we’re leaving COVID behind us? What makes your weeks busier? Or did I just have a one-off week?

Needs and Wants Add Depth to Characters

I’m finishing up my NaNo Prep and psyching myself up for November 1 when I attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month.

I got some writing advice from my son who graduated in Literature from UC Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies

He told me to add depth to my characters I should explore their “needs and wants.”

baby crawling and peeking out behind door.
My son a few years ago peeking out from his bedroom.

When my kids were in Catholic elementary school, a teacher explained the difference between needs and wants. I remember being impressed with how the teacher brought this lesson down to their age level. It was something that I hadn’t thought about explaining to my kids. Yet, it’s such a crucial life lesson. When you’re raising kids, they often have a lot of things they “need.” They want to fit in with their peers and when one friend gets the latest whatever, they feel they need it, too.

When my kids told me they “needed” a colorful iPod mini or a deck of Pokemon cards, I answered smugly, “Is this something you need—or something you want?”

I pretty much think they always believed it was something they needed.

Here’s how my son ended up giving me advice on needs and wants in fiction writing:

Several years ago, I was telling him how I was struggling with a rewrite of a mid-grade novel but was beginning to have a break-through. I hired an editor to review my manuscript and the main thread of advice was to add depth to my main characters. I have a “good” protagonist and an “evil” antagonist. It’s a book about friendships and growth in character, yet my characters are pretty shallow and flimsy Definitely one dimensional. My son suggested I look at their “needs and wants.”

Seriously? The child who “needed” so many material things is now lecturing me on “needs and wants?” Yes, and in literature, he explained, needs and wants takes on a subtle but different meaning. I found a good article “What your character wants versus what they need” from the Novel Factory. Here’s an excerpt:

What your character wants
We all want something. Some of us crave power, others long for heaps of cash, others want five minutes of fame. Some of us dream of having a baby, or a picture perfect wedding. Then of course there are more specific goals, like to win Countdown, to meet David Attenborough or to bake the perfect flan.

At the outset of your novel, you need to establish what it is your character wants – what it is that they are pursuing? What do they believe will give them a feeling of satisfaction?

What your character needs
However, there is something else under the surface, and that is what your character needs.

There are very few things human beings actually need, in order to be happy, and most of the things we fixate on wanting only obscure the really important things.

The things we need can usually be distilled to one thing: love.

This bit of advice from my son was eye-opening. I truly love my kids. They both continue to amaze me with their wisdom and good advice.

mom and toddler son sitting on the beach
Back when needs and wants were simple.

Have you explained to your kids about needs and wants? Have you used needs and wants to develop your characters in writing? What are your needs and wants in blogging?

Blogging from bed

view of Arizona backyard
View from my bed.

We’ve had thunder and lightening and down pouring rain since 10 p.m. last night. I’m sitting in bed watching the storm. I’ve decided this is a perfect day to blog from bed.

Right now there is a break in the rain, so I might venture out for a walk. But with all the thunder and lightning, I’m not sure it’s safe or the smartest idea. So here I sit, listening to the birds who are beginning to venture out.

It was quite a spectacular show last night — and the night before. The biggest issue is Olive who normally doesn’t meow. She was crying loudly this morning. When she got scared or nervous in the past — due to a pug named Waffles who likes to chase her — she ended up with a UTI. She’s hiding under the guest bed currently and I’m leaving her alone.

I’m enjoying my first monsoon season and blogging from bed!

Monsoon in Arizona
The water is pooling around the house.

Have you ever blogged from bed and for what reasons?