Blogging 101: Starting New

And why, you may ask–when this blog will celebrate its fifth anniversary in the spring of 2016–would I tackle WordPress’s “Blogging 101” course to start the new year?

The answer? It’s an opportunity to re-visit this blog, to learn some new tricks, and to make these pages stronger and more appealing.

So I thought, Why not?

Because Poor Blog: I have to confess she’s been neglected lately, even after the publication of my short story collection, Crosscurrents and Other Stories. Maintaining the blog is more important than ever, but there are all those other things you have to do when you publish a book, especially  when you publish with a small press, even a really good one like Press 53. You don’t have a publicist, and nobody is handling your marketing or setting up events. (For more on this, see “Great Expectations: Ten Things to Expect When You Launch Your Book.” ) It’s all exciting and fun, but it’s a lot of work.

createstone
Create / Gerry Wilson

And to tell you the truth, the blog was feeling stale. It had become a chore. This blog began in response to a challenge, so I thought maybe a new challenge is what it needs–what I need–to re-engage and find new and refreshing ways to engage you, the reader.

The first assignment for “Blogging 101” is to write this post and think about why I’m here. “Blogging 101” suggests that if I’ve been blogging for a while, now is a good time to re-examine my motives. Here are the suggested questions to address:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

Here goes:

I’m blogging publicly because 1) I don’t enjoy talking (writing) to myself so much;  2) I have something to say; and 3) I want to create a platform for my book and whatever comes after it.

Scraps / Gerry Wilson
Scraps / Gerry Wilson

What will I write about? Certainly some of the same things I’ve written about before: personal experiences,  memories, writing about writing. I will seldom wax political here, not because I don’t have strong opinions, but that’s not the focus of the blog. That won’t change. And maybe there’s something new, something I haven’t explored yet.

I want to connect with anyone who shares my love of books and writing and, well, life.

What do I hope to accomplish? On a practical level, a blog calendar I can stick with and manage without feeling overwhelmed. I’d love a revamped theme/style. I want connection. I want growth.

So here it is: #1 post for “Blogging 101.” The old hand, trying something new. We’ll see how long I last. Hoping for good things!

Counting Words and Milestones

500 Words Challenge logo
500 Words Challenge logo

The second day of the New Year, and here I am, churning out words, mainly because I joined Jeff Goins’ 500 Words a Day Challenge for the month of January. What was I thinking? I’m already a day behind!

I’m late for a couple of reasons:

1. I didn’t know about and sign on for this challenge until last night.

2. I took my fourteen-year-old grandson out to lunch, and we did some post-Christmas shopping (he had a gift card to use), and then I dropped him off for his hitting lesson (he’s a baseball player). I had a great time. I think he did, too.

This child (dare I still call him that?) isn’t a stereotypical adolescent.

We talked. A lot.

We talked about cars. And driving, the next big milestone for him, I suppose. On the way to lunch, we passed a very old Ford Explorer parked on the side of the road not far from his house, and I kidded him, said we could probably buy that for a song and save it for when he drives.

We talked football, both college and pro. I learned that he feels bad for Eli Manning because Eli’s having a bad year.

We talked about dogs: about how great his is, and how he thinks I need one, and what kind to get.

We talked about the city where I live (he lives out in the country, sort of) and what it needs in terms of development. Very sophisticated conversation.

And then we talked family. He asked questions about what his dad was like at fourteen. “Was my dad this tall? Was he thin? What did he like to do?” I learned that he likes our big, chaotic family gatherings on holidays. He enjoys his cousins and would like to know them better. We talked about how, as they all get older, they’ll grow into a different kind of relationship. They’ll be more than cousins; they’ll be friends.

What he doesn’t realize is how quickly that time will come. He’ll be driving before we know it. Having lunch with his grandmother probably won’t be cool then. But he promised me a date in a couple of years—when he’ll be the one to pick me up and take me out to lunch.

All in all, it was a fine afternoon, a great way to start the new year. Time spent that I won’t soon forget. I hope he won’t, either.

Milestones

Grandsons in action
Grandsons / Gerry Wilson

They grow up, you see, these children and grandchildren. My sons aren’t children anymore, except in my head and heart. I hear their small voices still, calling out in the night. I hear their laughter. I hear their noisy, rowdy selves thundering down the stairs and running through the house and slamming out the back door. I hear their dueling stereos playing across the hall from each other. Now they tower over me. They wrap me in their arms with big bear hugs and kiss my cheek or the top of my head. It seems to me  they hold on a little longer this year than last, maybe because they’re old enough now to know that time goes all too fast.

The same is true of grandchildren. Mine range in age from four months to seventeen years (four teenagers)! They’re all beautiful/handsome, smart, loving, and kind. My husband and I have devoted two door facings to keeping up with their growth. This grandson had me check his height again today. There’s a bit of competition going on with his cousin who’s two years older. This one wants to outstrip the other in the height department, and he just might do it. Give him a couple of years. Give him a blink of time.

Growing up is the natural course of things; it’s what children are supposed to do; it’s what we want for them. Yet it goes too fast.

So this little piece that has now grown well beyond the 500-word target for today is a tribute to “my kids,” grown and otherwise, who make me proud. It’s also a nod to good times and to making good memories.

Because memories are important. Memories last.

My challenge to you: Recall a meaningful conversation or a rare, shared moment. What made it memorable?

Stones in My Pockets: Resolve for 2013

Resolutions?

Today is January 3, and I have made no New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions (at least mine) are made for breaking. I resist them mightily. And yet, here on the Web, I feel surrounded by energy and optimism and lofty resolutions and writing challenges like Elissa Field’s January Challenge: Finish, Begin, Improve, Plan and Khara House’s January 2013 I Love My Blog, both of them worthy of note. I’m summoning the will to participate. Really, I am.

Create/Gerry Wilson
Create/Gerry Wilson

But the last of our holiday guests left yesterday, and I’m doing laundry. The Christmas decorations need to be taken down and put away. The grocery store looms. We are having our usual Mississippi winter weather, which means cold (by our standards) and rainy. These are days meant for sipping tea and reading a good book, not for challenging the mind. These should be days for rest and re-fueling.

Playing the Lead

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I was playing the lead role in a Tennessee Williams play. I’m not sure which play it was–maybe A Streetcar Named Desire–and I’m not sure whether I was Blanche or Stella or a combination of the two, only that my role required a certain level of undress on the stage (yes, this was live theater), and my parents, who died in the early eighties, were in the audience. The play turned improvisational, and I felt it was up to me to carry it. I remember thinking in the dream that the action was plodding, the players sluggish and uninteresting, and the audience was losing interest. I woke up just as I was standing on the stage, anxious and alone, wrapped in a bath towel!

Why am I telling you this? I suppose I’m hoping for a dream expert among my readers, although I don’t really need one to interpret the dream. It’s about writing, and certain words are keys: undress, improvisational, responsibility.

First, the state of undress: I am most vulnerable when I’m writing, when I strip the facade and put words on the page.

And don’t we all feel naked before editors and contest judges and critics and agents with their pre-printed or email rejections at the ready? Those are our words. They are sacred to us, and when others don’t love them, it can be devastating. Or it can be motivating. (See Kasie Whitener‘s article, Courage to Submit: Releasing the Tiger.)

Life at the Improv

Back in the fall, when I was revising my novel, I focused mainly on a particular subplot. I had to improve my sense of when things moved along well and when they lagged. I needed to create a little mystery. I had to try to read my own book as any reader might, without any sense of what was in my head that hadn’t made it to the page. Remember that the play in the dream was improvisational, and I felt I was carrying the success or failure of the play on my shoulders. It was up to me to make it work, and when I felt it was slow and uninteresting–the flaws I fear most in my fiction, or here on this blog–anxiety kicked in, and I woke up, feeling quite undressed and vulnerable and responsible for the outcome. Nothing miraculous; just teeth-grinding hard work.

Turning . . .

What does all this have to do with the turning of another year?

I may not make resolutions, but the dream and its meanings have everything to do with resolve: to keep writing, to value my own work, to protect my time and organize it better, to say no when necessary (and to know when that is). To be brave, to take risks with the work. To send it out, as honest and as strong as I can make it.

So, for the record, I’m taking the stones out of my pockets for 2013. I will not be weighed down by whatever else is happening in my life. I will walk on water. I will be involved in a miraculous act of making.

And whenever I start to feel weighted down, I want to remember that dream because it was telling me some important things: to embrace the vulnerability and not be afraid, to embrace the time I have, to embrace the words, even when they’re messy and cantankerous, and especially when they go naked into the world.

When, in your writing hours or days, do you feel most vulnerable? What gives you resolve and strength? Tell me about it!