3 Reasons the Blogging Community is better than Social Media

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I’ve been blogging for about three years now. And one thing has become pretty obvious. The blogging community is not only different than social media, but it is also better.

Here’s why:

Bloggers are readers. Most writers are. I’m willing to bet almost anything that no matter how many WordPress bloggers you have, they read what you write. It’s because they find reading enjoyable. It’s also because they want people to read what they’ve written as well. Social media doesn’t always yield readers. There have been times when I’ve commented on a person’s post, only to realize s/he hadn’t fully read the link themselves.

Bloggers reciprocate activity. If you read, like and comment on their words, then they’ll probably read, like and comment on something that you’ve written too. There’s a shared experience that invites empathy. Writers know the painstaking task of finding just the right phrase to convey just the right message. It can take hours! Consequently, if you took the time to write it, then a blogger will take the time to read it. Seemingly, the quick culture of social media, coupled with an imbalance of newsfeed updates from all several hundred of your social media friends and followers makes it difficult to reciprocate reading/liking activity.

Bloggers post thoughtful comments. Similar to number two, your blogger-followers have probably written, deleted and re-written their comments to express like, love and support for your posts. Sure, some only use the “like” button, but more than not, your blogger-followers have sought thoughtful words to communicate their feelings about your content. Social media friends and followers do not always seem to honor the “thoughtful” part of commenting. Whether it’s the use of text/IM language or the more recent and popular posting of memes as communication, social media comments just don’t seem to be as considerate or attentive.

What did I miss? Do you enjoy social media better than the blogosphere?

RE-Defined: DISCIPLINE

I’ve been thinking about discipline a lot. People have asked me how I accomplish things, and I never have a clear answer. I think I do now. Discipline.

In 2009, I quit a school instructional coaching job so that I could focus on finishing my dissertation.

“Who do you know that can actually make themselves sit for hours during the day to write?” my very good friend had asked when I shared my decision.

“I can,” I replied.

And that’s what I did. While Dwight was at work and the girls were at school, I analyzed data and wrote eight hours a day for nine months. I know my friend’s comment wasn’t a judgment against what she perceived me to be able to do or not do. It was more about what many people cannot and will not do…discipline themselves to achieve a goal.

But I want to be clear. I didn’t magically wake up with a spirit of commitment towards projects. It was taught.

typewriterYears ago, when people typed things on typewriters, I had a fifth-grade report due on Haile Selassie and Ethiopia. I’d made several mistakes and had to use that awful liquid paper/correction fluid stuff to cover it up and re-type words. It was a bumpy sludge of a mess.

My English major mother peered through her glasses to see how it was going.

“Kathy,” she started, “you’re going to have to re-type this paper. You can’t turn in something that looks like this. Your work is a reflection of you.”

I didn’t say anything back to her. In 1983, children simply sat there and seethed with anger and did what they were told. Or at least that’s what I learned to do.

I sat at that brown dining room table for hours. I wasn’t allowed to watch television until I finished. I ended up re-typing that essay three times, well past The Love Boat and Fantasy Island…and well past my bedtime. But it was done properly. What’s more is because of my mother’s correction I’d learned self-discipline. I’d learned the importance of focusing on one task (typing) and ignoring others (television). I learned to sit quietly and perfect something until it was “right.”

Today, being disciplined has served me well. I function within a distraction-based society by turning my phone over when I’m working and turning it off altogether while I’m sleeping. I’ve learned to take social media breaks when I’m indulging too much, so that offscreen life and people can take precedence. More importantly, I still practice sitting quietly and focusing on the day’s project until it’s complete.

Thirty-something years ago, I typed and re-typed those words through ten-year-old, tear-filled eyes. Now, I’m grateful for that early lesson because I see it as having shaped a positive and useful trait: discipline.

What about you? Do you have a positive superpower that you attribute learning from your parents’ rules? Are you disciplined? Do you want to be more disciplined? Feel free to share below.

Journey to the Center of My Heart: Trusting My Inner Voice

The year after my mother died, my father packed up all of my belongings in trash bags and sent me to live with my maternal grandmother. I was seventeen. One day after I’d gotten settled, I confided a feeling I’d had.

“I’m going to write a book,” I said with a smile.

“Oh yeah?” She asked. “About what?”

“About my mother’s death.”

“You think you’re the only whose mother’s died?” She replied.

feedback_opinionI want to share this with you, not to bash my grandmother. Twenty-seven years later, I know that people’s conversations and comments have little to do with me. I’m sharing this with you because I never wrote about my mother. Her response led me to believe that not only was my topic one in a million, but that no one else would want to read it.

So I didn’t write it. In fact, I didn’t write much of anything for the next 25 years.

I became a high-school English teacher, got two more degrees, and became an education professor.

The urge to write crept back around 2014. I asked my little sister friend to create this very WordPress site for me. She did. I took it from there and learned the ins and outs of blogging. I continued to follow my intuition. Blogging gave me more writing confidence. Blogging 101 and 201 gave me more tools and knowledge. Following people like Janice Wald gave me more tips.

2015 rolled around. My dad died. I felt a flurry of emotions and another urge of intuition: Write about it. This time I didn’t tell anyone, not one soul. I sat in my stepmother’s guest bedroom and wrote the entire story of our failed relationship from 1989 to his death in 2015. I included all of the murky, emotional details that people rarely want to discuss or feel. By the last keystroke, I felt satisfied. But it was too long for a blog post (that’s something Janice Wald taught me).

I broke it up into five separate posts and called it a series; that’s something I learned in Blogging 101 or 201. The response was positive and endearing. Once again, this validated a choice I’d made to follow my heart.

A few months later, I had another stroke of intuition: Find a local writers group. I sought out the Florida Writers Association and considered entering their annual writing contest. Mek, a blogging friend I’d written with had been taking writing courses. She read The Transition and offered genuine suggestions.

I entered the contest and won first place for Creative Nonfiction of an unpublished piece. Did I need to win to prove I should follow my heart? Not really. I’d already felt good by simply writing it. But there’s no doubt my choice to write was again validated.

Now I had an “award-winning” piece of literature. It came in handy when the Still I Rise Grant required three writing samples. And although I didn’t win, as some of you remember, Alternating Current/The Coil published that piece during Father’s Day weekend.

Furthermore, Alternating Current then nominated The Transition for Best of the Net.

meditating_1This is just one example of why I’m adamant about listening to your inner voice and tuning others’ out. This is why I almost beg people to follow their hearts. Those feelings, voices, visions, or whatever come to you, they’re not accidental. They are specific nuances sent to guide you towards what you and only you should be doing.

Furthermore, I finally realize my grandmother was right. I’m not the only person whose mother (and father) have died. However, I’ve also recognized my ability to string words together that convey relatable feelings for people who’ve been through similar experiences. Today, I’m glad sharing about my life through writing has not only helped others, but also shaped a clear path for me as I continue to follow my heart.

Monday Notes: Cover Letter/Life as a Black Woman

If you ever plan to submit your work for publication or a contest, then you should also plan to submit a cover letter. My journalists friends initially suggested a cover letter only include two quick sentences with the title of the work, word count, and brief summary. I’ve found a letter like that was fine, until I began submitting for longer projects, like book chapters. Sometimes, those editors and publishers want in-depth descriptions, and they usually provide guidelines if that’s the case.

That’s what happened when I recently submitted to win a grant for Black women writers. Although I didn’t win, I was one of the Top 10 Finalists. Consequently, two of my manuscripts will be published with their journal as soon as this Friday.

I’ll share that publication once it’s published. In the meantime, here’s the cover letter I wrote.

img_3807The question was something like, What are the challenges of being a Black woman in America? After mulling over a few notes, here’s what I came up with:

Life as a Black Woman

I learned the importance of my blackness when I moved from Detroit, Michigan to Jacksonville, Florida. It seemed the Duval County school board hadn’t fully integrated. Consequently, the job fair I’d attended in 1997 held a surprise. On one table, there sat a white paper with the words: Vacancy Black English Teacher. After an awkward conversation about my recent graduation from a teacher education program, the white, male principal offered me a position.

That was the first time my blackness preceded my qualifications.

I learned the intricate nature of being a woman during my six-year, doctoral program. Single, childless professors rarely took me seriously once they found out I was married with two young daughters. Similar to microagressions based on race, I could never put my finger on one discreet moment. It was more intuitive. More subtle. But somehow proving I could mother, wife, teach, and learn seemed to become an integral part of attaining the prestigious degree.

That was the first time my intellect was challenged based on the social construction of gender.

I learned what it meant to be a Black woman in academia when I applied for a permanent, tenure-track position at a research university. I submitted my application two separate times. I didn’t receive an interview. The third application was for a one-year, clinical position, teaching only. The institution hired me with a simple Skype conversation.

My new colleague was the person they’d hired in the English Education position I’d sought. He was a white man. His terminal degree was not in English Education; mine is. At the time of hire, he had one scholarly publication; I had three. He had five years of K-12 experience; I had ten. He had no years in higher education; I had two.

That was the first time race and gender intersected to create a sense of dual oppression.

To say that being a Black woman is a double-edged sword is cliché. But it must be said. It’s getting a job because I’m Black and not getting a job because I’m not white and male. It’s reading and teaching about white privilege and male privilege, nodding in agreement with textbook theories, but then having both thrown in your face by the very institutions that preach those concepts.

It’s ironic, really.

I’ve learned what it means to be a Black woman by attempting to participate in one of America’s most hopeful institutions. By attaining the highest degree possible and asking for a seat at the education table, I’ve learned that racism and sexism still exist, both as independent forms of discrimination and as collaborative acts of subjugation.

However, I have chosen to be a Black woman who uses her voice as an act of change. Neither my pen, nor my opinion can be taken from me, no matter my race or gender.

Have you ever had to contemplate your race or gender and their impact on your place in society? What’s your experience writing a cover letter? 

 

Monday Notes: Writing Endeavors®

Recently, I began an editing service business called Writing Endeavors®. While I’m happy for you to procure my services, what follows isn’t necessarily about the business. It’s more about the process of actualizing dreams.

bradburyPeople ask me all the time how I do fill_in_the_blank. The answer is simple. I just do it. Take this business for example. Over the years, friends have asked me to edit work for them. There have been times when I decline and pass the work on to someone else. Sometimes I’ve edited for free. Other times, I’ve worked more like an independent contractor; we create an agreement and the person pays me.

As recently as February, I edited a first-time book for a friend’s son. Shortly after, a thought occurred. The urge to begin my own editing service business flashed in my mind. I needed to stop passing work to colleagues and friends and do it myself…for a fee.

The next step was to tell Dwight. Announcing my plans to him somehow solidifies things. He’s been with me long enough to know that once I say it, then it’s as good as done.

What happens next is what I’ve learned to be the difference between myself and other people. I typically research how to do things while I’m doing it. For example, I didn’t know if I should create a business first, or trademark a name first? Well, after working with Legal Zoom, I found out that you create the business first. So, I did that. The business was created March 21st.

Afterwards, I trademarked the business’s name. During that process, I learned the difference between the little TM symbol and the R in a circle sign. The first is something you can use, whether you registered the name or not. The latter means registered trademark and allows the owner to sue if someone else tries to use it.

More questions cropped up, as is common with on-the-job training.

Should I create a whole new website just for this business, separate from selling books and blogging? Should I pay for this website, or be comfortable with using an extension, like .wix? How about registering the business with the county? The state? The government? What’s required? When am I supposed to pay taxes on this business? I found all of that out…as…I…went…along.

img_3635In fact, I just started editing a client’s dissertation, while still in process of learning more business-related info.

I don’t want to paint an idyllic image. I’m not dancing through poppy fields while establishing a business. Functioning this way can sometimes be a tad stressful, like when the state notified me that I’d missed a deadline for reporting income, even though there was no income. But here’s the reality. I know that dreams might not materialize, unless I just begin. I know it’s important to just get going and trust that the rest will work itself out. I know this because it always does.

So, I have one question. What are you waiting for?

Monday Notes: Starbucks Observations

coffee-1281842_1280There’s nothing better than ordering a tall Youthberry, with a shot of classic. Hot tea is one of the few drinks the barista will make immediately. I always get it before I leave the counter.

If I’m inside, I find a seat near the back of the café where there’s an outlet. If I’m outside, then I’m right by the door. Either way, I follow the same ritual: 1) take the top off my tea so that it can cool to a consumable temperature; 2) unpack my MacBook, log onto the WiFi, and answer the question of the day; and depending on how loud the patrons are 3) plug in my ear buds and select Film Scores on Pandora. Something about listening to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack helps me focus.

But on this day, I decided to ditch the headphones. I’d observe my surroundings instead.

Directly in front of me, a Spanish-speaking couple met with a bilingual man. The cellphone conversation he’d had five minutes before they arrived was in English and full of laughter. As soon as the couple sat down, his tone changed. Eleven years of the romance language didn’t help me interpret their discussion, but the seriousness in the air led me to believe it was an important topic. Was he a professional translator? Had someone recommended him? Were they in trouble?

I’d never know.

On the left side of me a couple met with a realtor. The middle-aged white man and his Asian-looking wife had moved from Seattle to Jacksonville. Years ago, they’d lived overseas. I wondered if they were former military. Where “overseas” had they lived? Why did they choose Jacksonville over Seattle?

“So are y’all ready?” the bright-eyed realtor asked.

“Yep,” the husband replied, “It’s time for a house.”

I’ve come to accept my nosey-ness as a positive trait that allows me to observe and then write detailed descriptions of people. But it was time to be productive.

Just when I’d settled in to read and respond to blogs, I saw them.

“You’re not old enough to be line leader,” he said.

She snatched her tiny, pale, white hand away and attempted to sprint to the edge of the sidewalk. Her legs failed her. He reached for her small arm with his free hand, while the other held firmly to his more well-behaved, five year-old daughter’s right hand.

First he praised the two year old, “I admire your tenacity,” and then, he reprimanded her, “but no.”

The two little girls remained on either side of their dad, hand-in-hand, dawdling their way down the sidewalk and out of my view.

img_3053I admire your tenacity reverberated and stuck with me.

I was sure they were middle class simply because he used the word “tenacity.” Did they live in the new development that peeked through the space between Nordstrom’s and Bento? Did the girls have traditional names, like Emma and Gracie? Or had they gone more trendy, Bailey and Zoe?

It was probably a mix. Zoe was the runner and Emma was the oldest. Zoe wanted her bedroom to be painted deep purple, but they’d convinced her that fuchsia was just as amazing. Emma never posed a problem, going along with whatever her parents wished. Her room was light pink, with a matching flowered duvet and pillow covers.

Their mom was at home taking a well-deserved break from her orchestrated life.

“Why don’t you take Emma and Zoe to the mall?” she suggested.

He was happy to help out. But, next time he’d ask his wife to come along. She’d have to seek rest elsewhere.

Real people inspire me to write. I’ve looked over at the person next to me on the highway and made up an entire short story with characters, backstory, and plot. Am I the only one who does this? Do you look at people and wonder what’s going on with their lives? Where does your writing inspiration come from?

4 Things I Learned while Self-Publishing

TUWcover2#1 Outsource your cover design; however, be mindful about how much you pay. The same person who designed the Kwoted cover also created The Unhappy Wife cover. This time around, she charged $265. This is not what I expected for a simple eBook jpeg. But instead of complaining, I paid her for it and then learned about a site called Fiverr. On Fiverr, you can find anyone to do anything digital for you. By the time I was ready for a cover for the paperback, I simply signed up, listed an ad with these words: I need a 6×9 paperback cover for Lulu specifications, and then narrowed my choices down from international graphic designers. Someone I didn’t know produced the paperback cover in less than 48 hours for $15.00!!!

img_1603#2 Outsource your editor. I started to ask an English major friend to proof and edit The Unhappy Wife, but everything I’d read stated that this should be completed by a paid professional. I used a book called 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing in order to find an editor. The book lists several different editors by state. I vetted a few Florida ones through email in order to determine cost and efficiency. Each one offered a free/sample editing of the first 500-1000 words. Once I emailed the story, I compared editing style, personality and expertise. For example, the editor who charged $700 had a lot of industry knowledge and mentioned book characteristics that I wasn’t familiar with. Another editor who charged significantly less didn’t notice things like number formatting. I decided to go with someone in the middle, Erin Foster Books. She had a great personality, didn’t charge an arm and a leg, and offered two passes (read and edited twice).

#3 Outsource the formatting because it has to be precise. You probably can figure out the formatting yourself, but by the time I’d written a book, revised a book, and edited a book, the last thing I wanted to do was format a book. eBook formatting is so very finicky. It has to do with styles, style changes, making the book reflowable, etc. (big yawn). Paperback versions have to be formatted totally different than eBooks because whatever you send to your distributor is what will be printed, exactly as is. Take it from me; just have someone else do it. In my case, I asked Erin. She was wonderful and both books were published with no issues.

#4 Choose your publisher/distributor wisely. I chose Amazon because it’s the largest retailer of eBooks and authors earn 70% profit, which is the highest in the industry. But because I’m also not a fan of having all of my eggs in one monopoly basket, I chose Lulu.com to publish/distribute the paperback. Again, Lulu is known for paying the largest profit (as long as you sell from their site). This site also offers mass distribution to places like Barnes & Noble. Finally, Lulu prints books that look and feel like traditional books. I’m sure you know what I mean.

If you’re planning to self-publish a book, then I hope this information helps you in some way. If you’ve already self-published a book, then what else would you add? You know I’m all about helping one another!

Happy Halloween and Good Luck w/NaNoWriMo!

raven-988218_1280Happy Halloween Everyone! That is, if you celebrate that type of thing. As for me and my house…just kidding. Halloween is fun. I will probably pass out candy because I LOVE seeing little kids in their costumes. 👻🍬👀

 

 

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AND…Good Luck to all of you participating in NaNoWriMo! I hope you meet all of your November writing goals 🤓✍🏾️📖

Art Inspired

Last year, I listened to Kendrick Lamar’s How Much Does a Dollar Cost? over and over again. I tried to exhume every bit of meaning from the words. And then, I was inspired to write Transient, my perspective on giving to the homeless. That’s how art works, right? You inspire me; I re-shape it and inspire someone else.

A month or so later, Dwight and I saw the amazing recreation of Unconditional Surrender.

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Some of you might remember its iconic newspaper image from V-J Day. Since capturing the sculpture, I’ve learned that this same statue lived in San Diego and then New York. You can find replications in New Jersey, Hawaii and France! Art inspired art times three. Wait! Times four because my photo prompted Juliet Q. to pen Sweet Surrender, a Haiku!

I continued to document life with a full moon post and I’ve shared how the image moved Authenticitee to write a new poem. Consequently, inspiration continued to flow to another continent. Mek wrote an amazing environmental post based on my Shared Space picture.

These connections have helped me see the intricacies of life. I met Authenticitee, Juliet and Mek through blogging, but like tapestry, our lives were woven together because of the distinct ways we express our views of the world. I’m amazed by how art inspires art and how it provides a dimension to being human that other interactions sometimes do not.

Does art inspire you? If so, let us know how. If not, how do you maintain creativity?

By the way, T.Wayne gets an honorable mention. His blog inspired me to begin with an embedded video. He blogs about music and its influence in his life by using a similar format.

Four Considerations as you Publish Beyond your Blog

 

Image. ©2016 All Rights Reserved K E Garland

Do you want to publish outside of your blog? If so, then here are four things that might help as you journey down that path.

Check Publication Requirements Research the publication’s rules about previously published stories. For example, an editor loved my Gratitude article but his strict no prior publication rule meant the original, which was featured on my blog, was a no-go. He, like most editors, wanted first rights. And even after he published a revised version, I had to wait 30 days before I could share it publicly. Other places won’t consider your stories, even if they’ve only been on your personal blog. So, if you plan to write for someone else, be discerning. You might want to start saving those really great pieces for other opportunities.

Prepare for Editing This might seem like common sense. Publications have editors and editors have processes. I guess what I wasn’t 100% ready for is someone else rearranging the beloved words to which I was inextricably tied. Also, unexpected was how one publication chose to run my entire moniker, instead of my pen name. I was like what the what? But I inhaled and exhaled. The message was bigger than the byline. Another publication asked for edits that took a few hours on top of the weeks that it had already taken me to research the unfamiliar topic. But again, I revised because the point of it all was greater than the extra time it took to double-check information.

Roll with Rejection Rejection is a huge part of writing. Although I’ve secured a few popular publications in the past, I’ve also counted twice as many rejections. And depending on where you submit, that’s what they’re called, rejections. But I don’t get caught up in them. Blogging helps with this part. Take that Breast Cancer Awareness article, for example. I was prepared with images and a publication date to post here. If the newspaper declined, then it would have been shared with each of you anyway. That’s how I roll with it. The comfort of having a blog allows me to go with the flow. No matter the outcome, I have a medium and trusted community.

Remember your Purpose What’s your purpose for writing in a public forum? My purpose is explicit. I want to use written words to promote discussion and nudge readers to think outside of societal boxes. One way to do that is to publish with bigger venues. They provide a wider audience. However, it’s super easy to get caught up in accumulating bylines. That’s not my overall goal. Reminding yourself of your specific purpose can keep you grounded and also connected to the larger objective.

Hope these help as you navigate the public writing terrain. Have you published beyond your blog? What else would you add?