Monday, April 24, 2017

More Blog Reviews!!



By Hilde Garcia

here is my second review from the first ten sites that talked about HOW TO WRITE A BLOG POST.  
These are sites 4, 5 and 6. And they are so great.  I really enjoyed reviewing them.
Happy Reading!

101 Fabulous Blog Topic Ideas

I started off the year all gung-ho and self-righteous that I had a solid editorial plan and a never-ending list of blog post ideas I could ride through winter and beyond. But like many bloggers, I hit a wall. Ooops. My topics were boring. The content I’d planned lacked sparkle. I was tired, stuck, burned-out. I needed an infusion of creative ideas that would get my blogatude back on track. So I wrote this list of possibilities for myself, and I’m sharing them with you.

Here are six basic types of posts you can write, plus 101 blog post ideas and prompts. I threw in a few links to other resources in case you want more.

“Best of the web” posts
Essays – personal
General interest posts
How-to posts
Ideas for how-to posts:
Interviews and profiles
Ideas for interviews:
Opinions, rebuttals, trends, debates, and predictions
Ideas for opinion and predictions pieces:
Recap posts
Media-related posts

And on her site, each one of these topics has at least 10 examples each!


What makes a blog post bad?

There are lots of reasons a blog post could be less-than-perfect. Poor formatting. Poor grammar. Poor word choice. Poor shareability. 

The most pervasive problem? 

Poor flow. The post jumps from one idea to the next to the next and then circles around again for a split second to the first idea, then back to the fourth, and so on. Or the post reads like a stream of consciousness -- but it wasn't a stylistic choice. 

Luckily, you have a simple solution. Before diving headfirst into writing your post, you can create an outline.

I'm not talking about jotting down a few quick bullet points -- even experienced writers can go astray with just a few talking points. I'm talking a fully fleshed-out outline with enough details that make it virtually impossible for your writing to go off the deep end. And it's pretty easy to do.

1) Nail your working title.

2) Write down as many distinct takeaways from the article as you can.

3) Break up those takeaways into larger sections.

4) Add more takeaways to some sections. 

5) Revise, remove, and reorganize details in each section.

6) Include links to your examples and/or data.

7) If any details come to you that you don't want to forget, add them in. 

You’re beating your head against a wall. Staring at a blank screen. You need to write a blog post fast, and it’s got to be good.

You google “writers block” and hope to find a solution. If you had all day or all weekend to write, you know you’d come up with something. You always do.

But this time, you only have a few hours, and you can’t think of anything. Maybe you’ll just skip it. Who’s going to notice?

Stop. Right. There. If you’ve been posting regularly, your readers are going to notice. Even if they don’t, you will. And one of the most critical keys to a writer’s success is following good writing habits—and sticking with them.

Plus, the problem isn’t the vague, catch-all excuse called writer’s block. The problem is that you don’t have a system in place you can rely on.

Using a standard outline based on a 5-part essay can be a lifesaver.
With an outline, you can go from blank screen to polished post in a few hours or less, depending on the length and complexity.

No matter what kind of blog post you’re writing, though, or how much time you take, using an outline can reduce time, stress, and worry. Plus it keeps you organized and on track, especially if you’re writing something long and involved.

Ready, set, go!

1. Pick a topic

2. Create a working headline

3. Brainstorm, choose, and develop at least 2-3 main points

4. Write an introduction

5. Write a conclusion or call to action

6. Edit, revise, and proofread

7. Post it!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Submit. Then Revise and submit again.

by Susan J Berger

I think writing is easier than submitting. It's hard to send your story out knowing that there is a very good possibility you will be rejected.
Today I read a post on Literary Rambles on R&R (revise and resubmit) from the POV of agent Natalie Lokosil of The Bradford Agency and debut author Lindsey Becker. 

Lindsey writes of her journey to acceptance with her debut book. The Star Thief. Literary Rambles is always worth reading and is a great guide to agents. If you are not using it as a resource, you're missing a good bet.  I put the link to the post above.
Just in case you want to check out The Bradford Agency, here's a link to their guidelines.
and Here's  a link to Natalie's page
I've submitted to Sarah and Laura at The Bradford Agency. (Neither of them do picture books.) I think I would like to try Natalie.
Last week I got out two picture book queries - the snail mail kind.
Clarion Book, a division of Houghton Mifflin is now accepting unsolicited submission for children's books and separately for artwork.

Children’s Books:

Manuscript Submission Guidelines

Clarion Books and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers are the hardcover imprints of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers Division.
Please note: Presently, only Clarion Books is accepting unsolicited submissions. HMH Books for Young Readers will not be reviewing unsolicited submissions at this time.
While we accept unsolicited and unagented submissions, we do not respond unless we are interested in publishing the work or would like to request a revision. Our time frame for a response is up to twelve weeks. We regret that we cannot respond personally to every submission, but each manuscript does receive careful consideration.
Your manuscript should be typed and submitted via mail. We do not accept submissions by e-mail or fax. Please do not send a self-addressed return envelope or postcard, as materials will not be returned. Manuscripts will be recycled if we determine that they are not a match for our publishing program.
For picture books and novels, please send the entire manuscript. For nonfiction, submit a synopsis and sample chapters.
When submitting work to any publishing house, it is useful to check your local bookstore or library to get a sense of the company’s publishing style. This research may also help you determine which HMH imprint is best for your work. Please submit exclusively to one HMH imprint.
Submissions to Clarion Books should be sent to the following address:
Clarion Books / Submissions
3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10016

Illustration Submission Guidelines

The design department receives samples from potential illustrators of picture books and fiction book jackets for Clarion Books and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. (Illustrations that are part of a picture book dummy with text should be submitted to the editorial department per the instructions above.)
Send color copies or tear sheets; do not send original artwork or slides. Please show a limited selection of your strongest work. Illustrations that feature children or animals are helpful, but feel free to submit other subject matter. Samples will not be returned. We will contact you only if we have a potential illustration assignment.
Our mailing addresses are as follows:
Clarion Books OR Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Design Department / Art Samples

3 Park Avenue South, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Design Department / Art Samples

125 High Street
Boston, MA 02110
I vow to do at least one submission next week. On a happier note, I have two books eligible for the Crystal Kite Awards. Two. How's that for wonderfulness?

Earthquake, 2nd Edition is a non fiction book about Earthquakes with factoids and some fun experiments. and Mom, is There a Santa Claus? is a picture book about - well the title says it all.

 If I had don't this post last week, I could have asked for votes.
Timing is everything.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dispatch #63: Not My Story


by Lupe Fernandez

While getting my remaining hair cut, Ms. N_, the hair stylist at Super De Duper Haircuts tells me she had come to the United States in 1980 at age 14.

On a boat.

“Not really a boat," Ms. N_  says.

She lives in Saigon - renamed Ho Chi Min City - and leaves Vietnam with her Grandmother aboard a make-shift boat. More like raft. The raft is crammed with people and travels with other groups of rafts. Somewhere south-southwest on the South China Sea, the motor breaks down. Ms. N_, her grandmother and the other passengers are adrift off the coast.

A boat of pirates motors close and tows the rafts for a few nautical miles and then leaves them.

Another boat comes along and tows the rafts along the coast and then leaves them.

On and on, past the Mekong Delta, past the Ca Mau Cape, Viet Nam's southern tip, then northwest along the coast of Cambodia until the remaining rafts drift off a coastline.

How long at sea? Five days? Months? Ms. N_ doesn't know. She remembers hunger, thirst and her grandmother.

“Many didn’t make it. Girls were raped. Some drowned.”

At night the rafts wash ashore on a beach.

"They asked the locals where they were and told us we were in Thailand," Ms. N_ says. "Locals told us to go to a church to get help."

Ms. N_ and her Grandmother are interned in a refugee camp.

“People I tell don’t know what hunger is. We had two buckets of water. They supposed to be full but they were not full. They in a hurry to pour it in and it falls out.” Ms. N_ gestures with her hand to show water level in bucket.

"Today I still don’t like to waste food.”

Ms. N_ and her grandmother got out of the camp by having a sponsor in the United States. Her grandmother died after they reached America.

Here in California, she has a husband, also Vietnamese, two grown children and works at Super De Duper Haircuts.

After Ms. N_ relates her harrowing tale, I think, "there's a YA novel here. Or a non-fiction bio. Or..."

There are questions I don't ask. Was she assaulted by pirates? How long was she in the refugee camp? How did her grandmother die? What does she think about today's Vietnamese immigrants?

I would be stealing Ms. N_'s experience for my own gain. Besides, others writers can tell this story better. It's good to know when to back off.

This is not my story. I didn't live it. What was I doing at age fourteen? Thinking about girls at Winton Jr. High.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review that Blog!

by Hilde Garcia

Hello Readers. Well, as promised, here is my review of the top three sites Google took me to when I asked the simple question "quick ideas for writing a blog post."  Remember, about 176 million links showed up, but I am going to focus on the top ten!
How to Brainstorm and Write an Epic Blog Post in 4 Simple

Bryan Harris writes a fabulous post about how to write an epic blog in 4 simple steps. For full details, check out his post, but the gist of it is:
What if instead of writing blog posts you only answered questions?

An excerpt from his site:
If my wife asks me “Bryan, why do you think most people never act on their ideas?”

I would answer in less than 5 seconds with at least 3 minutes worth of dialogue.

No prep. No outline. No research.

However, if I were trying to write an article entitled “The 7 Reasons Your Idea Will Never Become A Business”

Gridlock. All dry. Words … are … hard.

There is something fundamentally different with writing about a TOPIC as opposed to answering someone’s specific QUESTION.

So, when you are stuck, try the following steps outlined by Bryan in his post:

Step 1: Don’t write, record

Step 2: Transcribe your audio

Step 3: Pretty it up

Step 4: Write 5 different headlines

Step 5: Publish

He has some great videos and an excellent easy to understand explanation about buffer analytics and how they can help you reach your audience more effectively.
Thanks Bryan.


Darren Browse has an amazing quick list of things that will give you a greaet blog post.  I like how #9 connects with Bryan Harris’ use of buffer analytics.  And I like how he ended this post with his own #15 suggestion- ask your reader questions.
I am personally taking #3 and #4 to heart and am re-promising myself to do #12, #17 and #19 better!  

  1. Tell your story– it is one of the key things that will make your content stand out of the crowd
  2. Share how you feel – it will take your readers to a deeper place and make it more relatable
  3. You’ll never please everyone – the sooner you make peace with this reality, the better!
  4. Write about things that matter to you – passion is infectious and your readers will catch ahold of it. Tell the world something important.
  5. Inform, inspire and interact – aim to do these things every week (read more on this)!
  6. Experiment with different styles of writing – it will help you find your voice
  7. Mix up the length of your postsshort can be sweet but long can be epic!
  8. When an idea strikes – drop everything and capture it!
  9. Do everything you can to understand who is reading your blog – it will make you much more useful to them.
  10. Before you publish – ask what you want your reader to do after reading your post – and edit accordingly. Calls to action are important!
  11. Become hyper aware of problems – and obsessively write posts that solve them.
  12. Put aside time to create quality content – it doesn’t just appear
  13. Put aside time to edit and your posts – it will take them to the next level
  14. Get a life – you’ll be a much more interesting writer if you’ve lived a little
  15. Ask your readers questions – it will make them feel like they belong and you’ll learn a lot from their answers!
  16. Take your readers on a journey – posts that build from one to another can be powerful. Build momentum and create anticipation and you'll hook readers for the long term.
  17. Brainstorm regularly – generating ideas for future posts now can save a lot of pain later and help you keep things rolling. I highly recommend mind mapping.
  18. Not every post needs to go viral – shareable content will help you grow but it may not serve your current readers best.
  19. Write, Write Write – the more you practice, the better you will get
  20. Publish selectively – you don’t need to publish everything you write

What quick blog writing tips would you add?

Thanks Darren, these are great.


Ok, so Neil Patel seems to be as busy as I am, so I checked out his blog to see how he stays afloat. 
For full details, check out his post, but the main points are:

From his post:
You’ll never succeed at content marketing if you can’t create content on a regular basis. In essence, you need to learn how to streamline your content creation.

The good news is it’s not that hard. I’ve figured out how to streamline my content creation process. It works so well that I write eight blog posts a week. I publish three times a week on Quick Sprout, and I guest-post five times a week.

Here’s how I streamline my content creation, and here’s how you can too:

Step #1: Generate a list of potential topics

Time limit: You should spend no more than ten minutes on coming up with content ideas.

Step #2: Create an outline

Time limit: You should spend no more than twenty minutes on creating an outline. If it takes longer than that, you are picking topics that you are not very familiar with.

Step #3: Write

Time limit: You should spend no more than sixty minutes on finishing your post. The writing portion typically takes me forty-five minutes, and then I spend fifteen minutes re-reading and adjusting the post.

Step #4: Proofread, add a picture and schedule

Time limit: You shouldn’t spend any time on this step. Hire someone to do Step #4.

Neil says that "It’s not that hard to streamline your content creation process. You just need to figure out how many times a week (or month) you want to publish content and stick with it.

Once you decide on the frequency of posting, make sure you create a few extra posts in addition to the required number. That way, if something doesn’t work out, you’ll have a few backup posts. Your readers will feel you are consistent even if you drop the ball with your content creation process."

My writing partners keep reminding me that I should use my teacher vacation days to write several posts as back ups so I don't drop the ball, but I can’t find my way out from the grading pile even during vacations!

However, what I did learn is that posting a blog isn't always about what you are interested in, you have to connect with your readers and two of these sites give me really concrete ways in which to do that. I like procedures and a solid process and these bloggers really have created a system that works for them, but has a universal appeal. I know that I for one, am going to try to recreate some of their tips for my own break throughs in the world of blogging.
I will be back soon with more reviews of links that will help you with THE BLOG.
And  a parting question:

What things do you do to generate your weekly blog posts?
See I am already employing number #15! Enquiring minds want to know! 
I dare you to reply.