Category Archives: Blogging

Experiencing SpaceX ‘s First Launch of 2016 Live with NASA Social

LaunchPad

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sits on its launch pad on Friday awaiting liftoff at Cape Canaveral.

The Writing Well celebrates storytelling in all its forms, and I am thrilled  to post a unique blog  with some of the social media “storytellers” invited by NASA to observe and report online during the April 8th SpaceX  launch of its Dragon Falcon to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s first launch of 2016.

Of course, it was SpaceX’s experimental drone ship landing  of the first phase — a feat that had been attempted before but succeeded for the first time last Friday — that created just as much excitement and with good reason: it paves the way for developing reusable, lower-cost spaceflight since future missions in deep space will depend upon a sea-based landing.

“It’s another step toward the stars,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk during a post-launch press conference at Kennedy Space Center.

For those of you who are not space enthusiasts, take note:  NASA and private-sector space innovators are entering into a new and exciting chapter, one that fosters collaboration and hopefully successful outreach beyond low earth orbit to Mars and beyond.

Anne_SpaceX_Clock - Copy

Here I am at the countdown clock a little over an hour before launch.

Vehicle Assembly Building

Inside NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, which is 520 feet high.

I was one of several bloggers and tweeters invited to take part in a “NASA Social,” a special behind-the-scenes opportunity sponsored by NASA’s social media team to experience the launch, tour key facilities and talk to some of the space agency’s best and brightest.  On Friday afternoon we found ourselves on the NASA Causeway  a little over two miles from the launch pad as the Dragon rocket roared into a perfect blue sky – and made history minutes later with the historic landing at sea of its first phase.

View 5 Stories High

A breathtaking view of Cape Canaveral and the launch pads from the roof of the VAB.

Before the launch we had the opportunity to tour Kennedy Space Center’s famed Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, where engineers assemble large space vehicles. We headed several stories up to the roof where we enjoyed a breathtaking view of Cape Canaveral and took video and pictures of the launch pad.

NASA Crawler

NASA Crawler

We also got up close and personal with NASA Crawlers, the 50-year-old giant transporters that have carried shuttles and rockets since the Apollo era from the VAB to the launch pads at Launch Complex 39. We learned how they are being upgraded to handle the additional weight requirements of future launches.   We also heard from scientists, engineers and astronauts who are shaping NASA’s next chapter and the future of space exploration.

We gained a richer appreciation of the agency’s focus on supporting private partners like SpaceX to build the capability to support space exploration beyond low earth orbit. Who can’t wait to see the first launch of Orion in 2018 and follow its mission to take human exploration to Mars?

Below is a snapshot of a some of the bloggers, tweeters and YouTubers from across the country who I met and who are helping tell the new story of NASA and SpaceX to an increasingly excited public.

********************

Accuweather sponsored Brian's attendance at the NASA Social event.

Accuweather sponsored Brian’s attendance at the NASA Social event.

Brian Lada, Meteorologist and Journalist for Accuweather

City: State College, PA

Social platform of choice:    Twitter  / @wxlada

“I loved space as a kid. Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut. I loved watching all the rocket and shuttle launches on TV, but when it came time for college, I decided to go for meteorology because my other passion is the weather.  Fortunately, I can pursue my passion for astronomy as well. I help to manage our astronomy Facebook page and I talk about space all the time on my Twitter. Down here I am fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing NASA, meeting NASA, watching a space launch while still being in my weather world. I was sponsored by Accuweather and am reporting live from the ground for the company.”

“The one message I want to leave with my social media followers is Just how much weather can affect launches. I’ve been nervous the last few weeks about the winds and the probability of postponing the launch. Everyone is down here for this one day and if the weather is wrong, a lot of people are going to miss out. Fortunately, it is looking good.”

 

Matt2 - Copy

Matt plays video games for a living. Here, he’s streaming live on his Twitch channel during our briefing at the VAB.

Matt Anderson, Live Broadcaster, Twitch Interactive, Owner, Bad News Gaming

City: Dallas, TX

Social platform of choice: Twitch   @thebadnewsbaron

“What excites me most is seeing people get excited about space.  It’s been amazing. There’s been so little energy around the space program for a long time in the U.S. and it seems like that’s starting to come back again. SpaceX is starting to kick that into gear again a little bit, and a lot of entertainment media has brought that back, and what we saw with the Orion project I think will be absolutely astounding when it’s finished.”

“The one message I want to leave with followers is that the future of the space program is so incredibly bright – there is so much to look forward to with the technology that they are working on.”

KelleyRowe_MadisonChildrensMuseumKelley Rowe, Data Integration Specialist, Madison Children’s Museum

City: Madison, Wisconsin

Social media platform of choice: Facebook

“The most exciting part about being here is just getting to see the rocket launch in person and also I’ve heard that the roar from the engine you can feel even at this distance is kind of indescribable and can’t be experienced in any other way than seeing and feeling it for yourself.  That being said, everything we’ve done – the exclusive access to  the Vehicle Assembly Building, everything we’ve seen on our tour,  getting to go on the rooftop, getting to see the crew module being worked on for Orion, how can I pick a favorite from these really incredible and amazing experiences?”

“My one message to my followers is that I hope that they become aware of what’s out there – of the opportunities that especially STEM presents of what the U.S. and our space program is capable of, what they are capable of.  We’ve had some amazing interviews with NASA staff people who talked about dreaming of being involved in the space program since they were 5, 8, 10 years old. I hope our followers who are children are exposed to maybe something that they didn’t realize existed before, or hadn’t understood the scope of before and that somehow galvanizes or inspires them.”

 

Kayla, 19, has always dreamed of being an astronaut. Her tattoo by Martin Buechler includes the Neal Armstrong quote: "Humanity is not forever chained to this planet."

Kayla, 19, has always dreamed of being an astronaut. Her tattoo by Martin Buechler includes the Neil Armstrong quote: “Humanity is not forever chained to this planet.”

Kayla Robinson, College student majoring in engineering /insurance agent

City: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Social media platform of choice:  Instagram  @kaylajdr

“My dad had me into space since I was a kid. This is what I want to do. It’s been great, meeting different NASA workers, getting the inside scoop on what it takes to work here in the future.  For the past few months I’ve been thinking about going to school around here. Just being in this area and around this kind of environment makes me want to come even more.

“It’s really important for the general public to get into space and science – the American people are the ones who will be funding the federal program and will support all the private industry efforts—and that kind of broad support is going to get us to where we want to go.”

Jake Counselbaum

Jake Counselbaum, social media consultant

City: Chicago, Ill.

Social media platform of choice: Twitter /@jakecbaum

“What excites me most about space is the thought that we are not alone! Being at the SpaceX launch was an incredible opportunity to see the next generation of space travel, sustainably, reusability and exploration.”

“The one message I’d leave with my followers is this: keep using social media to impact people, not to just impress them.”

 

Brandon carrying a model of a Dragon rocket sent to him from a former engineer with SpaceX.

Brandon carrying a model of a Dragon rocket sent to him from a former engineer with SpaceX.

Brandon Thonen, Photographer, Disney Digital Marketing

Orlando, Fla.

Social platform of choice:    Twitter   /  @HipeRFin

What excites me about space is [the idea that] we have yet to reach the farthest we can go. There’s always going to be a further point.  The best part about being here today is being the closest I’ve even been to a previous launch. I usually watch from the crew ships.”

“My one message to social media followers is how impressive and massive every different part of NASA Kennedy Space Center truly is – no matter how many photos I take, it will never make up for it.”

Ashley Demers - Copy

Ashley, a NASA software developer and new hire, is spending eight weeks with groups outside her department. She was lucky to be assigned to the social media team and be part of the NASA Social on April 8th.

Ashley Demers, Software developer, Application Development Branch, IT, NASA Kennedy Space Center

City: Titusville, Fla.

Social Media Platform of Choice: Twitter /@ashley_demers

“What excites me about space is the ability to inspire and the ability to do research that you can’t physically do on the ground, the ability to learn more about our universe – there’s nothing you can’t love about space exploration.  I am very excited to be a part of this group, see the launch and go on the Vehicle Assembly building roof. Going on the roof is not something employees can easily do.

“The message I want to leave with my social media followers is that NASA is active, alive; we’re doing amazing things and all the science that’s going to be accomplished on this payload is going to be amazing. We’re doing really cool things.”

JeffDunn_Google

Jeff Dunn, Education and Outreach Manager, Google

City: Mountain View, Calif.

Social platform of choice:   Google+ / @googleforedu

“The best  part about space is it’s our future whether we like it or not, and there are both for-profit companies and governments working together to develop an actual future that we can all live in and keep us safe and not extinct.

“The best part of being here is that I got to meet a lot of interesting people both from NASA and via social media — I look forward to keeping that conversation going. Just seeing the passion from everybody has been overwhelming…you see it on webcasts, you see it on hashtag chats, but it’s nothing like seeing it in people jumping up and down as a rocket blasts off in front of you.

“My one message to social media followers is to get excited about the new opportunities for invention and exploration.”

Carter, 18, hopes to study computer science in college.

Carter, 18, hopes to study computer science in college.

Carter Dempsey, High school senior

City: Orlando, Fla.

Social platform of choice:   Twitter /@carterdemp

“What excites me about space is Just the idea of people living there every day and the possibility of being to another planet and just being self-sustained and getting to the point where there’s constant missions back and forth.  The commercialization of space is really cool — seeing people get more interested in space.

 “My one message to my social media followers is that I hope they would be more interested in the future of space – and just in science in general.”

 

Scott with his telescope equipped with a custom software program he developed for closed-loop tracking of moving objects, including satellites and rockets.

Scott with his telescope equipped with a custom software program he developed for closed-loop tracking of moving objects, including satellites and rockets.

Scott Ferguson, Neuroscientist, software developer and astronomy hobbyist

City: Tampa, Fla.

Social platform of choice:   YouTube

“I grew up in Titusville and saw a ton of launches.  I’ve seen some bad launches and some good launches.  I was sitting on my front lawn when Challenger exploded. That was a bad day, but today was a great day. It was the best launch I’ve ever gone to.  Another highlight was getting to stay on top of the VAB – I’ll probably never get to do that again. That was an incredible experience.  That was just an amazing view – words can’t do it justice. 

“In terms of social media, I hope to inspire young people to pursue math and science, and show what human effort can accomplish – and what we can accomplish when we work together. I think [the launch shows how far America can push the space industry and push forward with new innovations – when we unleash unbridled capitalism into the space program. What’s SpaceX is doing is really incredible and [their latest launch] proves they are really leading the competition in lowering space costs and that’s going to change the whole ballgame, I think, for spaceflight in the future.”

____

NASA Social Group

The April 2016 NASA Social Group (photo courtesy of NASA Social)

More Reading

Check out my blog Q&A interview with “Orphans of Apollo” filmmaker Michael Potter.

Read my Via Satellite article on the ‘SpaceX effect’ in the launch vehicle market.

Check back with The Writing Well for more insights from my time at NASA Kennedy Space Center.

Finishing Book Projects Top of My New Year’s Resolutions

M2A-050_AuthorPhoto

It’s a new year, and a time to reflect and make resolutions. For me, 2016 will be the year I finish my book on moving to Atlanta and my historical novel. Both of these projects are special for different reasons. I last wrote a book in 2005, after losing my mother to lung cancer.

 From Mother-Daughter Memoir to Moving Guide to Historical Romance

A Breath Away: Daughters Remember Mothers Lost to Smoking, my anti-smoking memoir, was A Breath Away cover (hi-res)written while grieving the loss of my own mother as I was becoming a mom.  I find myself saddened that many of the daughters in my book have been stricken with cancer, including my friend  Jackie Graff, who passed away last month from lung cancer.  At the time my book was independently published, and it it didn’t benefit from today’s social media environment, where you can create an author platform and connect with your readers.

My next book is called Moving to Atlanta: The Un-Tourist Guide, It came about by a chance meeting with Newt Barrett, publisher of Voyager Media in Estero, Fla. We met through a mutual friend right before my family’s move back to Atlanta this past June. I learned that Newt, a fellow Ohio buckeye, was a successful publisher of city moving guides, mostly in Florida and other Southeastern cities. Why not Atlanta?

High Res M2A coverWe agreed that I would be able to tackle this since I was moving back to a city where I’d lived for 16 years — and also the place where I had met my husband, had a family and started my writing company. I’ve enjoyed researching what makes Atlanta such a cool place to call home…and have met and interviewed some amazing Atlantans along the way, including Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta Beltline.  

I included a spotlight on key intown and suburban communities, where I interviewed residents on what makes their neighborhood unique. I believe these firsthand accounts set my book apart from other guides. Expect to see Moving to Atlanta: The Un-Tourist Guide on bookshelves this spring.

Author Page Header

I also intend to finish my historical novel, Torrential, set in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, at the time of the 1913 flood. The last year of relocating to one city and coming back made it difficult to do the final editing of this turn-of-the-century love story focused on an Irish seaman who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic only to find himself facing a catastrophic flood after moving to Dayton to start a new life.

I fell in love with this story, partly because it was loosely inspired by my grandmother’s family, who owned a boarding house in Dayton at the time of the flood. My grandmother met and fell in love with a boarder, a theme that I bring to life in Torrential I wrote this manuscript in 2013 and 2014, received feedback from numerous advance readers and even had it evaluated by a professional editor. Many people think this story is made for the Big Screen, including a screenwriting coach who I’ve consulted with. I will begin the final content edits for Torrential this month.

One thing the last few years has taught me is that I am happiest when I can write stories about people and events that resonate and inspire me. Atlanta is fertile ground for this exercise, and so is my historical novel.  What a great time to be a storyteller!

Author Bio

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Anne Wainscott-Sargent moved to Atlanta in 1998. She is a writer, blogger and strategic storyteller specializing in the tech and education sectors. An avid history buff and movie-goer, she loves following Atlanta’s growing film industry, connecting with other writers in the Atlanta area, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Chattahoochee River’s many bicycle paths.  She and her husband live in Roswell with their two children. She hopes to finish her first novel, a work of historical fiction, in 2016.

Visit Anne’s consulting website at: http://annewainscott.com/writing-consulting-services/ or her blog, The Writing Well, at: http://annewainscott.com/blog/. Connect with her on Twitter: @annewainscott.

Book Marketing: What’s Your Strategy?

book-marketing

By Anita Paul Henderson, The Author’s Midwife

Writing your book is the hard part, right? Well, if you’ve completed your manuscript, had it published, and started down the road of sales and marketing, you know the previous statement is absolutely not true. Marketing is the hard part, as any experienced author/writer will tell you. Trouble is, most writers don’t have a clue how to market their book. You’re a writer, after all, not a marketing specialist.

Marketing, however, is THE most important aspect of book publishing, and the one that receives the least thought and attention from the writer—the one who will ultimately do the marketing. Yes, you, as the writer/author, will also be the name, face, brand, and executor of the marketing plan for your book. But how do you do that when you don’t know the difference between a press release and a speaker sheet? Not only that, who pays for all of this marketing stuff? Remember, you (or your publisher) have limited marketing time and limited marketing dollars, so you’d better use both wisely.

TigerMarketing—essentially EVERYTHING you do to get the word out about your book—is a big animal, and you have to tackle it one bite at a time. So think strategically and know the ultimate result you’d like to have with your book. To get started, consider these points:

Know your target audience. Trust me, your target audience or ideal reader is not EVERYONE. Narrow it down to the one person who would get the most from your book or who would enjoy it most. Think of your book as a service to others. Which person or person type would be best served by the content of your book? Describe him/her as thoroughly as possible.

Seek and find. Knowing your target audience helps you determine where to find him/her. Determine what blogs, podcasts, magazines, radio shows, venues, activities, social media sites, etc. your target audience most enjoys. Visit and engage within these outlets in the form of visits, posts, comments, likes, shares, etc., then determine if your limited marketing dollars would be well spent there based on the response you receive from the audience.

Identify your big wow. What is the ultimate result you want to accomplish with your book? Make wow_rt_red_Tit measurable. Is it number of book sales, dollars earned, clients booked, speaking gig invites, media exposure, awards won, or something else? There are no wrong answers here. Just know what you want, assign a number and timeframe to it, and go for it.

Get some help. There are few things worse than watching someone struggle to do something when getting help would make it so much easier. Marketing is one of those things. Why struggle to build a website, apply for awards competitions, submit news pitches, post regularly on social media, schedule book signings, and more when there are experts who can do these tasks much faster and with a greater level of professionalism than you can? Hiring professional marketing help is probably the best investment you can make in your book project.

how-market-your-book-free-nicole-antoinette-paperback-cover-artThere are thousands of ways to market your book. In fact, in my book, How to Market Your Book Free, my co-author and I include 101 no-cost ways to do so. But really, you only need to execute a handful of marketing strategies that make sense for you, your target audience, your team, and your budget. As you develop strategies for your book marketing, consider the following:
• Appearances/book signings/speaking
• Articles
• Awards
• Blogging (guest or host)
• Contests
• Family, friends, fans
• Podcasts (guest or host)
• Public relations, media interviews
• Radio shows (guest or host)
• Retail stores (think outside the bookstore)
• Social media
• Website

These are only a few strategies to consider. Choose the one(s) that work best for you, then develop a plan to get results.

About Anita

Anita Paul.0168Anita R. Paul Henderson is known as The Author’s Midwife. Through her Write Your Life program she coaches professionals and entrepreneurs to develop engaging book content, publish it, and market it for success. She is co-author of five books, including How to Market Your Book Free and Publishing as a Marketing Strategy. She is also co-creator of Write Books That Sell Now, a digital program to help authors write, publish, and market their self-published books. She can be reached at www.WriteYourLife.net.

Spring Mini-Blog Tour: Four Writing Qs Answered

Today on The Writing Well, I’m taking part in a mini-blog tour! It’s fun to share a little bit about my writing process and to recognize three other writers.

Thanks to Dr. Carol Cooper, a talented London “chick-lit” writer and The Sun’s newspaper doctor, for inviting me to be on her blog, Pills and Pillow-Talk, last Monday. Her blog is filled with wonderful tidbits about parenting, health and her journey writing romantic women’s fiction.

The tour involves each of us answering four questions about writing. The same questions are then passed on to three new writer-bloggers. Be sure to check out the blogs for Sharon, Megan and Shane, who I introduce below, and who will carry the blog torch forward next Monday. Now, it’s my turn!

Blog_Header
Q. What am I currently working on?

I’m in the editing phase of my debut historical fiction novel, Torrential. Set in Dayton, Ohio, in 1912, Torrential follows Irishman Kieran Gregor who survives the Titanic’s sinking paralyzed by guilt. He begins a new life in Dayton, taking a job with his uncle and letting a room in a downtown boardinghouse. There, he meets Hannah, the beautiful 17-year-old daughter of the house’s proprietors. He denies his growing attraction for Hannah, who is expected to marry Dayton’s youngest city engineer. Soon, Kieran must confront his past and his feelings for Hannah when a horrific flood hits Dayton and puts the boardinghouse’s inhabitants in peril.

My book is now with a professional editor, who will help me refine my manuscript in preparation for pitching it to agents and publishers this summer.

Q. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Rendering of the Titanic sinking.

Rendering of the Titanic sinking.

Two things come to mind – first, the story line. I believe I’m the only author to bookend a novel around two disasters that struck within a year of each other – the RMS Titanic’s sinking and the 1913 Great Dayton Flood.

Second is the degree to which I intermingled my fictional characters with historical figures in Dayton. These men, including John H. Patterson, the controversial yet brilliant founder of N.C.R., played heroic roles in the disaster and the city’s remarkable recovery.  I was able to draw upon a rich reservoir of historical research to recreate Dayton in the early 20th century, as well as the flood and its aftermath.

Beyond just the usual newspaper archive material, I interviewed a journalist who has covered the flood for 30 years, two family members of Arthur Morgan, the engineer who designed Dayton’s permanent flood control system, a national weather historian and Dayton’s chief water conservancy engineer. I believe all this research lends a level of detail and authenticity to my novel.

Q. Why do I write what I do?

I love history, I love place and I love stories of heroes who overcome adversity and triumph.  If I can bring all these elements together, then it’s a win-win for me and my readers.

Q. How does my writing process work?

I begin with an idea or a spark that gets my creative juices going. For Torrential, it was my

My grandmother and great-parents in Dayton, circa 1911-12.

My grandmother and great-grandparents in Dayton, circa 1911-12.

grandmother’s stories of her family surviving the flood when she was a small child. They lived in and operated a boardinghouse in downtown Dayton. Her recollections included the heroic role of the carpenters at the nearby National Cash Register Company, who built boats that saved trapped residents. She witnessed one of these boat rescues of an elderly neighbor from an upstairs window.

From there, I sketch out my main characters and the supporting figures who will move the story along, and the key plot line. Then I just pour the story onto paper. After a while, my characters become real and they speak to me. Two years into this, they sound like part of the family. The editing phase of my writing is the hardest. It’s difficult to cut, and that’s where a good editor and advance readers come in.

* * * * * *
Introducing Three Dynamic Writers

Now, here are three fellow authors, who will showcase their writing process next Monday.
Megan HeadshotMegan Cutter is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist with over 18 years of experience in the field. Her expertise includes manuscript and article editing, as well as copy writing for websites, newsletters, magazines, and social media campaigns.  Together, Megan and her husband Barton, published their first memoir, Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll, highlighting their relationship as an inter-ability couple.

Her newest memoir, Leaving Traces: Diving from the Nest, will be published in 2015.

A. Shane Etter, a supernatural thriller writer, has penned two novels, Bottom Dwellers and Mind ShaneEtterDwellers. Both books follow a team of talented individuals as they battle a global community of powerful mutants who can read their minds and communicate telepathically.
Shane is a native son of Mississippi. He is proud of the great literary heritage of his home state and that some of the finest 20th Century authors, like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, John Grisham and others have called it home. Shane has taken a number of writing workshops and classes by such noted authors as his mentor and two-time Pulitzer nominee Jedwin Smith, author/literary agent Nancy Knight, Mary Helen Stefaniak and Kaylie Jones, daughter of the great James Jones (From Here to Eternity),

Shane is a member of the Atlanta Writers Club and he makes his home in Warner Robins, Georgia.

KD HoskinsSharon KD Hoskins has been a communication specialist for more than 20 years. Her first novel, To Handcuff Lightning, was a 2010 Eric Hoffer Award finalist. She is currently working on her third book, Polishing Up Heaven. All her stories are told with humor, candor, and the expectation that love will eventually show up.

She is a member of the Atlanta Writers Club and enjoys reading literary and historical fiction, contemporary humor, and mysteries solved by a cat. Read her blog here.

 

That’s a Wrap! Blogathon Takeaways & Top 10 Posts

Today marks the conclusion of the WordCount Blogathon – the annual blogging fest where participants agree to post every day in May. I made it — and it feels great!

Smarter Blogging

It was my second year and I believe I blogged smarter this time around for two key reasons:

  • Organization — I developed an editorial calendar and stuck to it, and because of the calendar I could work ahead (often two posts ahead of schedule).

 

  • Variety — I tripled the number of guest posts this year and every Thursday, I showcased experts on topics ranging from ways to build a blog following, to factors to consider before self-publishing.

I am proud of the rich content this month on The Writing Well — I profiled a book charity for soldiers, and featured both a documentary filmmaker and authors in two of the hottest literary genres –YA and fantasy. I also shared my own experiences writing a family memoir and current writing projects in children’s memoir and historical fiction.

Thanks, Michelle!

 

Thanks to Michelle Rafter, an independent business editor, reporter and blogger, for pulling this event together for the last five years — you’re an inspiration! Every year, we see familiar names and new ones and it definitely feels like a community. This year the blogathon attracted a record 250 bloggers, and many came from outside the U.S.  

Because of the international participation this year, Michelle told me she tried to make the blogathon less U.S.-centric. For example, she started message threads 24 hours ahead to accommodate Asian bloggers.     
 
“Overall, this year’s blogathon was fantastic — high energy, lots of committed, dedicated bloggers who stuck it out all month long and were rewarded for their efforts with more traffic, comments, and subscribers,” Michelle tweeted to me. “At least one blogger got job offers because of her daily blogging. Another writer says daily blogging got him back into the writing groove & as a result, he started working on a novel. Lots of other bloggers used the month to refocus on their blogs, doing redesigns, tweaking details or just stretching their wings.”
 

I especially want to call out the daily Google Groups postings…They provided invaluable guidance and support, and gave all the bloggers a chance to meet and learn from one another. If you are a writer or blogger, I strongly recommend you subscribe to Michelle’s blog, WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age.

To wrap-up this year’s blogathon, here are my top 10 blogs from The Writing Well for May and the words or quotes that stuck with me.

***************************************************

 

Memorable Quotes from My Top 10 Blog Posts 

***************************************************
#1 “When I interviewed Elon Musk for ‘Orphans of Apollo,’ very few people on the planet would have imagined that SpaceX would have the chance to become the centerpiece of the U.S. manned space program.” — Filmmaker Behind ‘Orphans of Apollo’ Shares Significance of SpaceX’s Historic Flight

#2 “Mom knows how to reach me, and I now know how to listen.  It has taken me a long time, but I am writing regularly.  My memoir, Finding My Peace of Faith, is my medicine.  I understand my mother and my Father:
Just write.
            And your heart will be healed.
She is with me.  God is with me.  That’s quite a gift.”
Guest Blog: Betty June’s Gift

#3 “I can almost see Mom and her sisters in my mind’s eye…sitting around that porch with the eastern Tennessee mountains over their shoulders, laughing — their eyes crinkled in merriment. Their spirit still lingers — built over a lifetime bonding as sisters, mothers and friends.”
The Bond of Sisters and Moms

#4 “I do remember being in the car one day as I was out running errands and suddenly thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if the thunder god Thor had to get a job as a photocopier repairman?'”
Writing YA Fantasy: One Author’s Journey

#5 “While first-time authors think the writing is the hardest and most important part, we’d like to say writing is 10% and the marketing is 90% of the work and effort you need to put in.”
5 Things to Remember Before You Self-Publish
#6 “Book publishing is simply becoming self-publishing.”
Self Publishing – The Way Forward?

#7 “A blog has to be about something other than you. An issue, a topic, a cause. Something interesting.”
5 Ways to Build a Blog Following

 

#8 “If you can identify more than five percent of the language you used as being essentially foreign to your normal usage, then you’re not employing your own personality on the page.”
Finding Your Voice

               
   
#9 “On the bus ride home on Monday he has drawn a ‘secret’ map; later that day he lists what he will sell his collection of bottle caps for at a garage sale. With the same attention to detail and mathematical process of his math-teaching dad, my son includes type, quantity and a ‘bulk’ price.”
The Joy of Journaling
       

#10 “When I’m stressed out, I pick up a book and I go somewhere else. Soldiers’ stress is far beyond anything I’ve ever dealt with. They’re going through things most people just cannot fathom, and to be able to open a book and go someplace else for whatever period of time, is hugely beneficial.”
Books for Heroes – A Worthy Cause

 




 

   
               
   

“If I started blogging today, I would….”

 
 
This question, posed to bloggers taking part in the WordCount Blogathon, got me thinking about what I would do differently if I was starting over.
 
I launched my blog  in October 2009. In that time, I’ve written 100+ posts that attracted just under 135,000 page views, according to my Blogger analytics page.  My all-time most popular post, with 555 page views, was “One writer’s take on 9/11, the death of bin Laden and Obama’s defining speech.”
 
I’m pretty happy with my blog’s focus – namely, writing and storytelling. It fits my interests and the focus is broad enough for me to always have things to write about…from book and film reviews, to my journey as a writer, to interviews with authors and other storytellers.   I haven’t been shy about showcasing different perspectives and experts. This week, I featured “Orphans of Apollo” filmmaker Michael Potter. I consider that a huge coup since I’m a space geek, and I also have been lucky to interview authors Jedwin Smith and Jeffrey Stepakoff.
 
Nevertheless, here are five things I wish I’d done with my blog from the start:
 

Better define my unique “voice.”

This is a toughie…but it’s critical if you want to stand out in the blogosphere. I think that’s why my bin Laden post was so popular…it definitely had a point of view.   One blogger who really has mastered “voice” is Guy Bergstrom, who writes the Red Pen of Doom (the evil secret to all writing is editing), and appeared on my blog last Thursday. Writer Jeff Goins, in a guest post on ProBlogger, suggests a good exercise — to brainstorm a list of 10-20 personality attributes that you want your blog to have, and then cut it down to three to five key aspects that represent your blog’s voice.

Show up more often.

I am bad about dropping off the radar unless I have the accountability of a blog challenge or something that I really want to say. I know I need to be more present to build an audience and have them want to come back.

Take more risks.

This goes hand in hand with building your own voice. But, I also mean editorially speaking, putting yourself out there more:  Be provocative. Take a stand. Use humor (when appropriate).

Embrace guest blogging.


I first tried this out last year with two guest posts. This year I’ve tripled that number and am appearing three times on other people’s blogs. Guest blogging is a great way to minimize blog burnout, while introducing new voices and broadening your exposure.   

 

 

Really leverage social media.

I’m only now beginning to catch on to leveraging Twitter and other social media sites. If you quote a well-known author, let them know!  I tweeted my book review of The Mermaid Chair to Sue Monk Kidd, and she tweeted back, saying she agreed with my takeaway of her book. A week later I posted a link to my blog on Les Egerton’s Facebook wall indicating I had quoted him. He immediately left a comment on the post. I’m still not good at using “hashtags” that mark a keyword or topic in a tweet. I’m probably missing audience members by not using hashtags every time I tweet a post. The next phase of all of this would be building an online community like Michelle Rafter has through this blogathon…really engaging your target audience and making them part of the dialogue.

What lessons did you learn as a first-time blogger? I’d love to hear them.

 
 
 
 
 

5 Ways to Build a Blog Following

 
In today’s Ask the Experts post, Guy Bergstrom, the provocative blogger of Red Pen of Doom (the evil secret to all writing is editing), who has more than 6,000 Twitter followers, offers these five insights on how to build a blog following.
1) Know your audience 
The first rule of rhetoric is, “Know your audience.”
There are more than 50 million blogs on this planet, with more born every second. Before you think about design and layout, WordPress widgets and flaming graphics, sit down and think about your audience.
Who are you trying to reach, and why reach them in the first place? There’s no point in starting another blog about writing, movies, literature. That’s too generic, and those fields have been plowed long ago.
Get specific. If you’re into zombie movies, don’t call your blog “Dave’s House of Popcorn” and make it seem like a place to talk about rom-coms and the latest Transformer sequel. Narrow it down to zombie movies and target that audience specifically.
To really stand out, you’ll probably have to get even more specific, because there’s already a ton of blogs about zombies. Maybe you’re a huge fan of zombie flicks from overseas with subtitles. That’s different and interesting, and you could own that niche. GO WITH IT.
2) There’s no “I” in blog
At least two-thirds the blogs on this planet are personal diaries masquerading as blogs. This is seven separate kinds of wrong. Hear me now and believe me later in the week: You are not that interesting.
The worldwide audience of “people who really, really want to know all about you, your creative process and what you’re doing to get over writer’s block” is seriously limited.
Go back to the first rule of rhetoric. Is there an audience? Is there such a huge demand for information about you that reporters lurk in the bushes every morning, hoping to ask you questions as you stumble out the door in your bathrobe to pick up the morning paper? That’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway: no.
Even if the answer is yes, and you’re a massive Hollywood celebrity / pro football quarterback / U.S. Senator who’s won the Pulitzer prize for literature, diaries pretending to be blogs are an achy breaky bad mistakey, because they expose you as a narcissist.
A blog has to be about something other than you. An issue, a topic, a cause. Something interesting.  Mark Sanchez of the New Jersey B team (the Jets) does a good job of this whenever he’s being interviewed by a pack of reporters.

The natural instinct for anybody is to talk about themselves. There’s a team rule that before you say one flipping word about yourself, you say something nice about other players or the coaching staff. So instead of “Oh, I was happy not to get sacked today,” Sanchez says things like, “The offensive line was brilliant today and all that hard work they put in with the offensive line coaches paid off today.”

That’s nice, and smart. And it’s more interesting than somebody talking about themselves.
3) Have realistic goals
Most people without a background in journalism or publicity see blogs the wrong way. They treat it as mass media — or as a platform to sell widgets, especially books. Blogs are not mass media. That’s a high-volume, low-margin business.Don’t think that once enough traffic comes through, you can quit your day job. That’s not the point of a blog. Here’s an example: You probably think 400,000 monthly page hits is a big flipping deal. The Seattle blog publicola got 400,000 monthly page views during election season. They had 10,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and the writers were professional journalists. But they closed their doors and are trying to combine with another blog because the ad revenues weren’t there.
Also, a blog is no substitute for the mass media (radio and TV, newspapers and magazines). If you truly want to reach a mass audience to sell books or other widgets, hire the best possible publicists and marketers. The competition has them on board. Believing that you can beat them by starting a blog, something that you do part-time, is utterly delusional. My friends across the pond would say “completely daft.”
A blog is a way to connect with people, to share your passion or expertise. If you are an expert, it might be a way to find clients. That’s a low-volume, high-margin model, and it can work.
 
4) Be faithful
If you want readers to show up every day, you need to post every day. Too many people freak out about this. “My gosh, I don’t have time for that.” But they have time to update their Facebook status six times a day, and tweet 16 things. Treat blog posts less as term papers and more as Facebook updates and long tweets.
It’s more important to be consistent than long. Long is typically bad anyway. Nobody wants to read a 3,000-word blog post — not unless you’re saying something insanely unique.
 
5) Say something different
Before you write a post, fire up the google and punch in the topic you’re about to cover. Not to take notes and steal from the best advice and material out there. Do it so you’re not reinventing a wheel that’s been polished and perfected 6.93 gazillion times  already.Do it to make sure you’re saying something NEW and DIFFERENT. There’s no reason for people to follow your blog if they can get the same material all over the Series of Tubes.Break new ground. Do your own research or experiments. Take conventional wisdom by the skull and bash it against the sharp rocks of Truthiness. Because that’s the best way to attract a loyal following: give your audience something they can’t get anywhere else.
 
Guy Bergstrom was an award-winning reporter and editor before moving to speechwriting and public relations. He served as a contributing writer to The New York Times’ about.com as their expert on public relations and is a contributing editor to Criminal Element and The Big Thrill. You can find him on Twitter (@speechwriterguy) or visit his blog at www.redpenofdoom.com.
 

Five Movies that Inspired My Blogging

 
 
 
Given my blog’s focus on storytelling and writing, films are often a source of inspiration for my posts. After all, every memorable movie began with words on a page.  Some of the films that made it onto my blog since I launched it in 2009 include:
 
 
  • Casablanca – The holiday post titled, “Ways to nurture your writing spirit,” included the joy of listening to dialogue from this 1942 classic, which remains my all-time favorite film. I loved the Epstein brothers’ remarkable screenplay and the chemistry between not only Bogart and Berman but also between Bogie and Captain Renault played by Claude Rains. 
  • Water for Elephants – On day one of the blogathon last year I reviewed this film based on Sara Gruen’s bestselling drama. The story’s backdrop is a struggling circus in Depression-era America.  
 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2earned an entire post last July where I discussed the lasting legacy of J.K. Rowling’s body of work. Through her seven-part fantasy series, Rowling made reading cool for millions of kids. 
 
  • Twilight Saga – A self-professed Twilight Mom, I shared the fun of heading to my local Cineplex with my girlfriends for the opening night of the film’s New Moon premiere. The post talks about the generational pull of the Stephenie Meyer series and how Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg translated the book to screen.
 
  •  The Avengers – I am adding this action flick to today’s blog. My husband and I saw it Saturday night, and he pretty much summed it all up when he said not even half way through the movie, “This is the best action movie I will ever see!” 

It didn’t surprise us that the film shot past even the Harry Potter finale in terms of opening night ticket sales. It’s not just the effects and the pace of this Marvel Studios’ tour de force; it was the genuine comedic moments and bantering among the characters. Director Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angelfame) had an incredible lineup of star power at his command starting with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Downey practically stole the show with his comedic and deadpan one liners.  Case in point is this testosterone-laced exchange between him and Steve Rogers (Caption America):

 
Steve Rogers: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?”

Tony Stark: “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”

 
Chris Evans continued his clean-cut All-American image as Captain America, while Chris Hemsworth was an eye-candy favorite as the demigod Thor out to contain Loki, his vengeance-obsessed adoptive brother set to destroy Earth. Scarlett Johansson, who played Black Widow, had some great action scenes, as did Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. The movie wouldn’t have been the same without Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. One of my favorite characters, however, was Mark Ruffalo, who alternated between a low-key but brilliant Dr. Bruce Banner and a crazed Hulk. I will never forget him smacking Loki around like a rag doll at one of the movie’s funniest and most satisfying moments (prompting spontaneous applause from moviegoers).
 
Of course, those who love these movies have been anticipating an Avengers “dream team” on screen for some time now. It couldn’t have come soon enough for this fan.

The Blogathon Begins

 
 
Today begins the WordCount Blogathon, Michelle Rafter’s annual challenge to get bloggers blogging every day in the month of May. I participated for the first time last year and found it challenging and gratifying.  
 
For those of you who don’t know my blog, The Writing Well, it’s where I celebrate excellence in writing and storytelling.  The blog fits me as I am a home-based professional copywriter (or as I like to call myself, a strategic storyteller). I’m also working on two books:  a family memoir about my two kids and their love of bedtime stories, and an historical novel centered on my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, on the eve of the Great Flood of 1913. 
 
I will post entries every day in May following this editorial focus:
 
  • Mondays – Blogathon Theme Mondays – I will write on the same topics as fellow bloggers
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – My Writing Journey  
  • Thursdays – Insights from the Experts – publishers, authors, editors and others who help people tell compelling stories
  • Fridays – Guest Blogs from members of my writers group
  • Sundays – Relaxing Reads

 
Please visit me often and tell me what you think! If you have a suggestion for an expert interview or a book review for my Sunday “Relaxing Reads” post, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or follow me on Twitter (@annewainscott).

In the SEO Game, Key Words and Strong Content are King

Ever wondered how to maximize your online presence through Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Stacy Williams, Search Advisory Net blogger and president of Atlanta-based search engine marketing firm, Prominent Placement, Inc., recently shared her best practices with an audience of Atlanta-based technologists with the International Association of Business Communicators.

The most important step, according to Williams, is generating strong and on-target keywords. “If you target the wrong keywords, then nothing else works. Use the verbiage your target audiences uses, not only what your industry or internal experts use.”
Stacy Williams, president of Prominent Placement.

Her company has a lot of B2B software clients, and many of them don’t like to talk about software; they like to talk about solutions. But their target audiences are searching for software instead.

When thinking about what keywords to use, the more detailed the better. You should think about the buying cycle of your prospects you’re trying to reach. The more specific you are with key word choices, the  higher probability of higher rankings and of connecting with people who want to make a purchase decision.
 
What do you do once you’ve figured out what keywords to target?  Williams says her team then takes one or two key search terms and assigns them to the key pages of the site.  “We like to work it into text headline when we can and the copy on the page – these are real important places to put your keywords.”  She also points to the title tag in the blue browser bar as a key place to put keywords.
 
Search engines don’t just look at the web page itself when determining rankings, Williams emphasized, rather, they also assess the quantity and quality of links pointing to that web page.
“Creating a well respected, authoritative site with lots of links pointing to it is the goal. Google knows which websites (and links) people want to read.” She considers link building one of the hardest tasks any SEO firm pursues.  Ideally, you want to get links from sites that are in your industry, on the same topic and are related.  
 
“The easiest way to get links is to not go out and ask for them, but to create really good content whether it’s a widget of some type, an article a lot of people refer to – something cool, something funny, something that goes viral.”
 
WebStoreSEO.com
One way to build links is through so-called “optimized press releases.” This is not “doing PR. But, it is taking a PR tactic – a press release – and using it for search marketing purposes. For example, using a service like PR Web, you can embed keywords in the headline and press release lead – you can dictate your anchor text. “These releases show up in search engine results and serve as search engine results agents,” Williams says. 
 
Another factor that can affect a company’s rankings is its level of activity on social media, including posts on Twitter or blogs, as well as a company’s Facebook and LinkedIn presence.
While your search engine ranking – how high your site is referenced on a page compared with competitors — is important, it’s not as critical as the number of visitors who actually come to your website and are converted into a customer.   For this reason, Williams advises that companies invest first in the content of their website, before investing in an SEO service to drive traffic to their site.
 
Hear Williams’ podcast on  the latest in social search. The 10-minute presentation covers how social media has changed the search landscape, Google+ and what marketers think about its chance for success, and how businesses can improve the SEO value of their Facebook page.