broadsideblog

Life after being Freshly Pressed: tips, advice — and welcome!

In behavior, blogging, books, culture, journalism, Media on December 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm
English: Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité

English: Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whew.

More than 5,000 views (in three days) later, and 532 likes, life here at Broadside is back to normal. It’s fun to be featured, but the Niagara of comments is overwhelming if — which I do — you try to reply to each comment and visit everyone’s site who “likes” a post and/or who signs up to follow this blog.

For those new to Broadside, welcome! It’s a bit like throwing a party, happy to see old friends, and finding 300 people you’ve never met in your living room.

I blog every other day, sometimes a bit more often, on a variety of topics, often on writing. I am happy to hear dissenting views, but won’t tolerate rudeness, to me or others here.

If you want to argue a point, cool! But please do it with wit, facts and intelligence.

Insults are a direct route to the trash bin.

For those of you new here, I hope you’ll visit the blogs of some of the regular commenters here, like Nigel Featherstone, a writer in Australia; MrsFringe, a snappy mom in Manhattan, Michelle, a feisty, fun mom in Minneapolis; Rian, an expat American in Vancouver; the witty C, who I hope to meet for tea in London, Elizabeth, who traded Atlanta for Cornwall mid-life and the loquacious Rami, a student in Ohio.

A few thoughts on being FPed and how to get there, which Rami asked me about. I’ve been FPed six times, which is crazy, but flattering. The posts were about everything from why we need to thank one another, the lost art of conversation, how to write better to this most recent, about women’s obsession with their bodies.

I’m Caitlin Kelly, a Tarrytown, NY-based career journalist who writes for a living, and have been doing so since 1978, so blogging comes easily to me. I write frequently for The New York Times and have written two well-reviewed books. I hope you’ll buy them, and spread the word if you like them!

“Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” has sold well; it’s the story of my 27 months’ working in an upscale mall, and includes interviews with dozens of others nationwide, from the CFO of Costco to a woman who’s 51 making $7.25/hr — with a master’s degree and $60,000 worth of student debt.

Retail is the largest source of new jobs in this economy. Terrible jobs!

Here’s a link to both…

I’ve also sold personal essays to places like The New York Times and Marie Claire, so I have some experience writing for an audience about things personal. My second book, a memoir of working retail, is also filled with personal detail, interwoven with dozens of interviews.

So…how to get Freshly Pressed?

Be consistent

Blog on a regular schedule. People who start to enjoy your work want more! It’s frustrating to find a terrific blogger but never hear from them. People have short attention spans. Don’t let ‘em wander off.

Choose your tone

I think this is key. The blogs I linked to above each have a clear and consistent voice, some calm and meditative (Nigel and Elizabeth), some encouraging and upbeat (Rian), some funny and smart (C.) When FPs editors go looking for people to feature, they, too, need a good mix of voices. If yours isn’t clear and strong, your chances of being featured likely diminish.

Tags and categories!

Be sure you are adding these to every post.

Mix the personal with the universal

This is the toughest balance of all. Too personal is confessional and tedious. Too universal is too vague and no one can relate to it.

How about a call to action?

Several of my posts that have been FPed make clear I want readers to do something — Say thank-you! Start a conversation! Write better! They might not do any of them, but it’s clear what I want them to think about doing, at least.

What are people talking about?

Not the bloody Kardashians! But in a more general way, in the culture. It might be the U.S. Presidential election or Hurricane Sandy or unemployment or Christmas or Eid. People want to read something that’s current and meaningful to them.

Great headlines matter

Hard as hell to do well. Really hard. But the best posts draw in many readers with a funny, moving or quirky headline that make you want to read more.

Get angry!

One of the major changes I’ve seen recently in what’s featured on Freshly Pressed, (which I read every day), is their choice of material that’s more challenging and provocative, whether grief, divorce, politics. Women bloggers, especially, tend to be too polite. Say it loud and say it proud! What’s the point of blogging if you keep pulling your punches?

Read your competitors

This is pretty basic. If you really want your blog featured on FPed, you have to read at least some of what is chosen there to analyze what they’ve done so well. As a journalist and author, I read a tremendous amount, often envious of others’ clarity or turn of phrase. The only way to get better is to read the best.

Those of you who’ve been FPed — Rian, Michelle, others — what advice would you offer?

  1. Thank you for the link, nod, and kind words, Caitlin. “…What’s the point of blogging if you keep pulling your punches?” This, this, and this! Be honest in your writing. This doesn’t mean you have to put your large intestine on display, but there must be honesty and clarity. Personally, I think this is truth in all writing, even if it’s a sci/fi fantasy populated by beings we’ve never seen in a land we’ve never been. If you want readers to stay, there has to be something for them to hang their hat on. Specific to blogging, I’d say it’s equally important to acknowledge people who take the time to read and or comment on your blog.

    • Thanks. I would be surprised if someone did not reply to a comment left, but maybe that happens a lot?

      Clarity is tougher than it looks, no? Some posts just go ononononon and I have no patience for that.

      • I have seen it happen, and not surprisingly, it seems to happen more on blogs that have less “action.”

        Couldn’t agree more with your opinion on posts that go on too long. Know your venue, know your audience, know when it’s time to go home ;)

      • That’s a hard call, though, no? My posts tend to be pretty long — usually 700 to 800 words, sometimes up to 1200 or 1500. I have considered doing some super short ones and may try more of these in 2013.

      • It is a hard call, but everyone has their own style. Your posts clearly reflect your background and profession as a journalist. I tend to “write short,” even when working on a full length manuscript, my 2nd draft is usually layering in more, adding depth and details. When I blog, I like to feel there’s still more to say when I end the post, to encourage conversation in the comments. :)

      • Smart idea!

        I agree about the later drafts. I do that as well.

  2. Thanks for the advice Caitlin, and thanks for mentioning me and calling me locquaicous; that’s something not usually applied to me.
    I do try to follow the guidelines above, but I guess I haven’t written anything that the FP editors like yet. I’ll keep trying though; maybe someday I’ll have a post FPed. It’ll be fun.

  3. Thanks for the mention, Caitlin! I’ve just gone through the FP thing for the 2nd time and frankly, I’m baffled by what appeals to people. There are a couple of things that I focus on when blogging – improving my writing and understanding that it’s a conversation.

    To that end, I interact regularly with commenters, visit their sites and try very hard not to lose focus on content. I try to make my posts digestible – reasonable paragraph breaks, visually easy to read and I proofread until my vision blurs. If people are going to take the time to read my writing, I am going to put the work in. And lastly, I enjoy blogs where I can read and hear an authentic, unique voice and from the feedback I’ve received, I think that’s where a blog really holds its appeal.

    Congrats again on being Freshly Pressed! All the best, Michelle

  4. I agree…I think the interesting thing about FP is that they really need a wide diversity of voices. If anything, I really wish they’d choose more people from Canada, New Zealand, Australia and English-speaking people anywhere abroad.

    You’re so right — paragraphs! I can’t believe bloggers who think a huge block of tiny-font copy is appealing to anyone. And no dark backgrounds!

    Any blog with typos, as you are careful to edit out, loses me immediately. Readers have too little time and too many choices.

  5. Maybe following those guidelines helps for a good/popular blog, but it’s certainly no guarantee for being on their list. I still think it’s just a random designation. So many great blogs ignored, so many lame ones put in the spotlight.
    I follow your blog because you’re a good writer. There are several others I follow for the same reason. We don’t always agree, of course. I shy away from posts about current events, politics, and anything that incites anger. Guess I’m not a typical reader. But I still enjoy your writing style. I glad someone who is a good writer got the designation.

    • Thanks for the kind words!

      I agree that not everything featured on FP is stellar work… a few recent ones were especially weak, but when they are good, they’re good. I would be very curious to know how the editors make their picks as there’s no way they’re reading all 400K blogs, many of which are commercial or business-focused. I suspect they have people scanning different categories and tags, which is why I think that’s important to add.

      I didn’t mean to suggest everyone be angry or try to incite anger (maybe passion would have been a better word choice?)…just that I see too many writers soft-pedaling (for fear of? trolls? losing readers?) when a more full-throated argument can be more compelling. But that’s also my taste, of course. As a journo, I have no fear of disapproval at this point anyway. :-) (Even if I should.)

  6. Great post and conversation!

  7. Great points on how to get FPed – thanks for these. I felt glad to have gotten in to read your latest FPed piece and make my comment before the 300 or so houseguests showed up! Love your blog as always!

  8. Me, too!

    This is going to sound totally bizarre….but in the midst of FP Niagara, I kept thinking — “Shit. I owe everyone a fresh post. Hope they’re still there!” But I was wayyyyyyy too tired, dealing with travel and my fellowship interview and even had a migraine on Tuesday morning, which is so rare it took me a while to determine what was so wrong with me. Now I am home in NY with 3 holiday parties this week and fighting a cold.

    But I have a really fun post with 25 Xmas gift ideas, and links for each, as my next one…

    Thanks for all the enthusiasm. It is very sustaining!

  9. Congrats on beng Freshly Pressed again, Caitlin! I read your last post and the recognition was well-deserved :-)

    I haven’t been FP’d (yet!) so I can definitely use your advice on the topic. For me, the hardest thing is to develop a clear tone. I go from trying to be funny, to sharing a personal story, to giving advice. Something to think about!

  10. Thanks much! I do meander in my blog as well.

    (Would it be presumptuous for me to read some of your stuff and offer advice?) Feel free to say yes it would! :-)

  11. Huzzah for the FP! Thanks for the shoutout. Love your pointers, they’re all spot on.

  12. “…finding 300 people you’ve never met in your living room.” I laughed. :)

    You wrote about great headlines attracting more readers. As a reader, there is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a post that seems to be interesting, then finding out it isn’t.

    • But it’s true. I’ve spent the past few days (completely weird, I know) wondering how the new kids will get along with the regulars. I’m sure it will expand into an even livelier conversation, but having so many new people arrive all at once — certainly on the basis of only one post — always makes me a little trepidatious.

      I agree with your point. The challenge is teasing readers in, though!

  13. Oh. We’re NOT talking about the Kardashians? Shoot. I just made a big bowl of popcorn…

    Hey, cool that you got all fresh-pressed n’ all. Is that like French press only better? :D

  14. I love you, you know that. But this IS and always will be a Kardashian-free zone!

  15. Congrats, Caitlin! I don’t know how I missed your (6th!) moment in the FP sun. Pretty much everything you write could be FP, as it’s always interesting, provocative and very you. You have such a strong voice and are an idea machine– if I could come up with half as many, I’d feel like a million bucks. Anyway, enough with the (well deserved) flattery ;)

    I think these points–call to action, clever titles, timeliness–are great ones. Those are things I see again and again on FP. A strong voice is essential. I would call attention to this one especially–mixing the personal with the universal–it’s difficult to do really well, but is the element that draws me into a post immediately. I won’t hang around if a topic is really vague or irrelevantly personal. But if you can bake those things into one tasty layered cake, I’m hooked.

    I would also add that the WP story wranglers seem especially drawn to posts with quirky or beautiful images. It’s not mandatory, but it sure seems to help.

  16. Oh flattery is all good. :-) Thanks!

    The personal/universal balance is never easy. Never. I’ve been doing this a long time and know I probably blow it a bunch of times anyway. You do that very well!

    I think the use of fab visuals in every post — and thanks for that point — is REALLY overlooked. Bloggers MUST think like old-media editors how to TEASE the reader into copy….that is with a headline, great art, a fantastic lede (the first paragraph.) I think bloggers are very seduced by the medium itself and persuaded that it alone is sexy enough. It’s not! There is nothing MORE boring — would you read anything in print that looked like that???? — than huge chunks of copy with nothing to break it up or amuse me or visually intrigue me.

    Your blog photo — you with ceramic pig, skinny jeans and heels (!) is enough to stop many readers in their tracks and check out your work.

  17. for years i used categories, barely ever had any views/likes/followers. then i was told to use tags instead of categories. less than a year later i’m at about 520 followers but never FP. in fact, the post i’m most proud of is called “top 10 reasons i’ll never be freshly pressed,” which most people who read it make the wrong assumption that it actually was FP.

    for now, i’ll just pretend i’m the susan lucci of freshly pressed. works for me.

    http://brainsnorts.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/top-10-reasons-why-i-will-never-be-freshly-pressed/

  18. Congrats on being FP yet again! Maybe someday I’ll get to join the club.

  19. Thanks! I WISH yours was. I tell people about it all the time. It’s one of the best blogs I’ve ever read.

  20. Of course this post gets a like!

  21. Congrats!!!! Boy or girl? Name? Great news. Hugs to all. :-)

  22. [...] impress me. This week she was Freshly Pressed for the sixth! time, and yesterday she wrote a post full of tips for those who are hoping the Freshly Pressed fairy will favor them.   Among many useful [...]

  23. Six times Freshly Pressed!

    Gracious, Caitlin … I’ll never catch up now. I’ve been fortunate to make Freshly Pressed twice and agree that it’s a wild ride to see your numbers spike.

    Thanks so much for including me in your links today. It’s a lovely compliment that you mention me and my style of writing. I am amazed by your ability to respond to comments in the way that you do. It takes me FOREVER to give a proper response and I would get little else done in my day if I followed your example. There are times when I do make more of an effort, usually when I’m writing about something deeply personal to me. That said, I am always grateful for the thoughts and comments of those reading especially when they let me know my words have made an impact in some way.

    As for who makes the FP cut, it seems to be a pretty diverse group and it’s funny to see as you said, some of the restrictions being relaxed. Even though I may swear a bit in real life, I keep it squeaky clean on my blog. I think I remember reading that this was something the WP editors preferred when choosing the FP posts, but you write with a freedom that has certainly not been negatively affected by the occasional more colorful word here and there. (Said with a big smile, not a judgement … ;-)

    I think timeliness of the topic and a catchy title can increase the chance of being chosen. I rarely get my thoughts together in time to write about what’s current, but I did make Freshly Pressed when I blogged after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. It may have helped that my post included photos taken only two months prior and showed the cathedral before it was destroyed by the earthquake. I hope you don’t mind the link, Caitlin. http://giftsofthejourney.com/2011/02/22/between-the-earthquakes-in-christchurch/

    My first FP post addressed how some things were still the same after thirty years for me and encouraged those reading to consider what was unchanging in their own makeup. http://giftsofthejourney.com/2010/05/26/what-remains-the-same/

    I wish I could still fit into the short shorts I naively had on in the photo in that post. I tend to err on the side of boring conservative now in my attire, but at least I don’t look fresh off the farm in my ‘Daisy Dukes.’

    Congratulations again, and thanks for reigniting my competitive fire.

    • I’m fascinated by your enormous change of life/style/country. I have hung on dearly to the link to one of you recent posts — the images of the Cornwall countryside — as it is so gorgeous and timeless.

      It may well be that you accomplish FAR more in your day than I do in mine! :-) But I really appreciate people making the time to stop by, read and comment and figure it’s sort of my job to reply. And, to be honest, I think it also differentiates me from bloggers who do not reply…people know they will almost always hear from me and within a day or two. If I ever take a REAL vacation — and I hope to do so this year — I may even take a blog hiatus.

      I like the notion of a competition! Ready, set….:-)

  24. Still learning how to navigate WP-I’m glad I happened on your post, engaging & helpful! Looking forward to checking out your many prior blogs over the next few days starting with my coffee(and bigger screen) mañana!
    Gnite!

  25. Great blog, and I don’t even know how I got here. You’re now in my blogroll. I am already learning, and I have only spent 10 minutes here.

  26. Congrats. on being FPressed several times. Good advice. I think my problem is that I fall in love some of my blog posts that I like and ..don’t want to blog often because I hate pushing out blog posts that I like out of sight into history. I do feature some posts in a widget to keep them front and centre for readers if they are curious.

    One of the strangest things I’ve had so far with my blog is the level of interest in my “About” Page. It is the 3rd highest most popular post/page of all my posts! I don’t think I write wierd stuff that would generate curiosity about myself. But anyway…

    My best wishes to you for a great holiday.

    • Thanks. I’m also aware that every post shoves something else out of view. But with a deep archive, people will find you or roam around in it.

      I always read people’s “about” page and hate when they can’t be bothered to write anything or anything much. If you’re going to ask me for my attention and time, I want to know a little about you.

  27. Great info. Thank you. Bad flashbacks. Thanks a lot. I remember retail well – assistant manager of the Dollar General in a small, unemployed, methed-out, social security check-cashin’ town of rednecks. It’s a special kind of Hell I do not recommend…excuse me, I need to go call my shrink…

  28. I guess the one piece advice I would give is: try to think of a way of writing that no one else can capture.. I know that’s vague and generalized, but it’s the best I can do.

  29. [...] which is a spectacular, generous thing to do.   On the Broadside Blog, the author made some thank you’s and recommendations.  Also, WordPress highlights some blogs monthly and explains why they were Freshly [...]

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