Wednesday, November 28, 2007

So I've Probably Suggested a Time or Two...

That you check out Barb Cooper's So the Thing Is... blog. Today, I want to suggest something entirely different. Today, I think that you should visit The Rising Blogger and check out Barb's award-winning post there. Then, of course, you are free to click through and read the rest of Barb's blog, as set forth in my earlier promotional posts.

Seriously, all this warm, fuzzy "look, my friend won this award!" stuff aside, The Rising Blogger has a great idea, picking out individual posts rather than blogs and shining the spotlight right on the best writing. There's some other good stuff there, too. After Barb's post.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oops, Make that Four...No, Five...

I just discovered yet another meme I'd been tagged with during my brief (at least, *I* thought it was brief!) absence, and this one is a double from PetLvr. It's actually ten days old, but since I just found out about it this evening it should really be at the end of the list. I'm bumping it up because, frankly, it's the easiest one.

Dane Morgan tagged me with a great meme about a week ago--one of the best I've seen and one that definitely goes beyond the fun "share a little personal information" of most memes. But it's taking more work--I've actually been working on my answers during my evening commute. And Peter's meme itself isn't hard, but he put me to shame with his illustrations and made me want to invest a little more--and I definitely lack the technical skills to follow his example. So those are still to come.

So on to today's double: First, three things I couldn't get through the day without. Interestingly, I saw this meme on someone else's blog a few weeks ago and thought that there really weren't THINGS I couldn't get through the day without, but as soon as I saw PetLvr's post this evening, the first item on this list flashed into my mind.

1. 51 minutes of extra sleep on the morning train. As a single mom with a somewhat-more-than-full-time job and a 3.25 hour a day round-trip commute, it's pretty rare for me to consistently squeeze out five hours of sleep a night. That extra almost-hour on the morning train is critical.

2. Bathing. The instructions specified that we were to overlook the obvious, but this isn't about being clean. Water is essential to my psychological well-being. I can take a quick shower if I have to, but half an hour in the bathtub with a novel is as restorative for me as a week at a spa--I can't fairly say I couldn't get through the day without it, but you'll like dealing with me a lot better if I get it.

3. Hugs and kisses from my daughter. I know...I know...she's almost twelve and I'm going to have to get over this one pretty soon. But I've been lucky so far and I'm holding on for dear life.

The second piece asked about the music in our "players". Since I'm old and not technologically inclined, that means a CD changer or my computer--no i-anythings or MPwhatevers here. Rick Springfield's 1999 CD, Karma, is definitely at the top of my "most listened to" list (and I'll bet you didn't even know it existed). Other frequent appearances include Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Elvis Costello's Armed Forces, Olivia Newton-John's Back to Basics (but I always skip "Physical"), Bruce Springsteen's The River, The Very Best of Rod Stewart, Maggie Brandon's You Come to Me , U2 War and Bruce Cockburn's Stealing Fire.

I'm holding off on tagging for the moment because I've got a few more of these to get through in the next couple of days, but keep an eye out...I'm going to shuffle and send them right back at you!

While I was Away...

It's been a busy couple of weeks, and now that it's Saturday morning and I'm sitting down at the computer with a little sliver of time on my hands for the first time in many days, I discover that most of my friends and acquaintances have made good use of the intervening weeks me with memes right and left.

I'm going to answer them all. Really, I am.

The most recent one comes from Barb at So the Thing Is..., but she gets to cut, so I'm starting there, even though this looks like a LOT of questions...

1. What were you afraid of as a child? Spiders. When I was about four, I told my mother there was a spider on her back and she told me to knock it off; I was too afraid to touch it, it bit her, and she went into anaphalaxis and nearly died. Ironically, this created in me a fear of spiders that ran so deep that my allergic mother had to run around killing them for me. It was so paralyzing that if I saw a spider on the wall, I was a virtual captive unless someone could hear me calling, because I could neither kill it nor let it out of my sight.

2. When have you been most courageous? Generally, I would not say that I'm a courageous person. The few instances I might point to are, alas, confidential (as they arose in my legal practice). I did once pluck a spider off of my daughter's shirt with my bare hands, though.

3. What sound most disturbs you? Sadly, the human voice. I can get used to almost anything regular--my daughter has mentioned more than once that I don't seem to hear things like her mice running on their wheel or the noise my computer makes, and it's true--but the constant variance in tone and volume that comes when people are TALKING intrudes into my brain like knives.

4. What is the greatest amount of physical pain you’ve been in? Unbelievably, it's a toss up between labor (wherein I screamed at regular intervals for fourteen hours) and when I broke my molar. Actually, I think the broken tooth was worse, because the pain level was pretty similar, but contractions come and go and that just went on and on and on.

5. What’s your biggest fear for your children? (or children in general if you don’t have some of your own.) Some sudden harm from an uncontrollable outside force. There's so much to worry about with children, but the nagging fears-out-of-nowhere are always random accidental violences that might occur outside my presence: What if she gets hit by a car? What if she falls from the top of those monkey bars and gets paralyzed or brain damaged? What if those chemicals they're using in science splash in her eyes?

6. What is the hardest physical challenge you’ve achieved? I don't do physical. Seriously. So I guess it would have to be childbirth--though I tried to wuss out of that, too, and tell them that I couldn't do it and they'd have to find another way.

7. Which do you prefer: Mountains or oceans/big water? Oceans. Or lakes. Or ponds. Or streams. Or large swimming pools. Or my own bathtub. Mountains are pretty, but water is essential to my mental health.

8. What is the one thing you do for yourself that helps you keep everything together? I'm too busy keeping things together to do anything to help me keep things together.

9. Ever had a close relative or friend with cancer? No. My best friend's mother died of cancer, and she was a gutsy, fun, energetic and generous woman whom he loved like crazy and it was hard as hell to watch her deteriorate and the toll it took on him, but I can't even begin to imagine what it's like that giant step closer.

10. What are the things your friends count on you for? Rationality, I think. I can usually put things in perspective. People who are not my friends often see this as a major character flaw--I'm not likely to get caught up in the emotion of the issue--but those who choose to hang around me seem to appreciate my ability to cut through issues.

11. What is the best part of being in a committed relationship? How the heck would I know?

12. What is the hardest part of being in a committed relationship? See above.

13. Summer or Winter? Why? Winter. Snow. Clean, clear air. Snow. Christmas decorations. Snow.

14. Have you ever been in a school-yard fight? Why and what happened? "Fight" would be the wrong word. I knocked a kid down and hit him once, but he never got a chance to fight back. I was 13, and I was walking across the school yard with my 6-year-old sister when a 12-year-old boy hit her in the head with an ice ball. She cried. I tackled him and slugged him. His mother stood by and watched with her arms folded and didn't say a word.

15. Why blog? Before there were blogs (or personal computers), I used to write whatever came into my mind down on paper and toss it in my desk drawer (and, for the most part, never look back at it). Now I do that here instead.

16. Did you learn about sex, and/or sex safety from your parents? No, I don't think so, but I don't recall there being much mystery or being in any way disadvantaged by having missed that.

17. How do you plan to talk to your kids about sex and/or sex safety? In ongoing dialogue. I don't think that there's much value in "the big talk"--I think it makes kids edgy and they don't take in a whole lot and it's too much information (especially such potentially disconcerting information) to absorb in a lump. I try to address little pieces naturally as they arise in life or books or movies or whatever opening I see, so it's easily digestible and so that it seems a natural topic of conversation that doesn't have to be momentous if she has questions.

18. What are you most thankful for this year? Money. I hate to admit that, and there's a huge irony in it because I don't care all that much about money or material things--I drive a seven-year-old car and still have the stereo my mother bought for me when I was in college in the 80s, and I wouldn't even have a television if someone hadn't given it to me as a gift. But as a single mother who has seen so much in my work (representing victims of domestic violence, attempting to collect child support, running a welfare advocacy clinic) I know how incredibly fortunate I am to be in a position where I never have to say to my daughter, "No, we can't afford that." Well, at least not to any REASONABLE requests.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Associated Content - It Isn't the Only Option

Every once in a while, I see an "advice" post encouraging bloggers to submit articles to Associated Content or an article bank. Associated Content makes some payment for the articles, though it's very small and largely dependent on traffic; most article banks do not.

Now, before I go on, let me just say that there are sometimes good reasons to use outlets like GoArticles or Associated Content--as I've clearly spelled out before, I'm in favor of the dreaded "writing for free" when there's a clear benefit to the writer. You're not going to hear the old arguments from me like, "They make a lot more money than they're paying you!" This isn't a word I use often, but let me say it clearly now: DUH! Magazines make a lot more money than they pay for articles and restaurants make a lot more money than they pay their cooks and if the didn't, they wouldn't be in business.

There are two big issues, though, that bother me every time I see someone in a forum or on a money-making blog or in any of a dozen other places encourage readers to "submit" to Associated Content or article banks. The first is that Associated Content seems to be set up as something to aspire to: if you're a good writer and you have knowledge on a topic (etc., etc.) you should submit to Associated Content!

Maybe it's just me, but I think that if you're a good writer and you have good knowledge to impart and you want to take that beyond your own blog, you should be submitting to established markets that will simply cut you a check when they accept your article and won't expect you to do your own promotion.

I recently posted about a quick sale I made after discovering a new online magazine. As I mentioned then, it wasn't a high dollar sale by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it would have taken tens of thousands of views to achieve the same income from an Associated Content article, and I wouldn't have come away with a published clip for my portfolio.

There have always been far too many reasons (read: rationalizations) for writers not to submit their work, and the Associated Content compromise looks like just one more. If you write well and you know what you're talking about but you're not a "real writer", here's a great option for you! Nonsense. If you write well and you know what you're talking about, you're a real writer.

Again, that doesn't mean there's no good reason to use Associated Content or article banks--there are some good reasons, provided you have clear goals and know how to use them effectively. But if you're producing good content for your blog and want to "get published" in other forums, there are many other options. If you're not so sure, just Google a phrase like "online magazine writers guidelines". That one (without the quotes) returns more than 1.8 million results--and many of them are direct links to submission guidelines for paying publications you probably don't even know exist.

If you are going to submit to Associated Content or a similar outlet, make sure that you have a clear vision. That vision should include not only your goals for placing that content, but your plan for achieving them. Understand that simply submitting an article to Associated Content or an article bank is very unlikely to drive significant traffic to your blog or to generate significant income for you. Your article will be competing with thousands of others, likely many others on the same topic. No one is going to market it for you--if you want it to pay off (in links or cash), you must be prepared to promote it yourself. You can do that, and do it very effectively if you do your homework and plan ahead, but don't think that simply submitting an article to Associated Content or an article bank is going to magically produce results for you. Whatever marketing approach you choose, someone has to do the legwork...and with outlets like these, that someone is you.