I was pushed into blogging in the summer of 2009 by my then-agent, as we were trying to sell my second book (which we sold on September 11, 2009), and even then “having a platform” was becoming a publishers’ demand — i.e. bringing with you a built-in audience for your work.
I didn’t want to blog and was fearful I’d have anything useful to add. There were, then, 400,000 (!?) blogs on WordPress, and who knows how many now?
The ensuing ten years have proved both personally and professionally interesting, much of which I’ve chronicled here.
— 2011, got married on Centre Island in Toronto harbor, with 25 dear friends.
— 2012, finally got my destroyed left hip replaced
— 2012, won this exclusive about Google teaching meditation for The New York Times, the fruits of six months’ negotiation
— 2013, renovated our kitchen, which I designed
— 2014, back to Paris and London, where I met the fabulous blogger behind Small Dog Syndrome, Somehow we survived a week of me and my too-large suitcase and her and her husband in their very small flat. Whew!
Hotel Flora, Venice
— 2017. I took a six week vacation, most of it solo, traveling from NY-Paris-Berlin-Budapest-Zagreb-Rovinj-Venice-London. Bliss!
— 2018, diagnosed in June with DCIS, a very early form of breast cancer.
It means a lot that some of you keep reading and commenting, year after year.
It’s heartening to know my words are of value beyond the monetary price put on them for my paid assignments.
I had the oh, so snottily New York Timesian — “Oh, do people blog anymore?” asked of me at Jose’s going-away party last year (while snarfing the cake I paid for.)
I write for a living, and have been doing so for (gulp) 40 years, since I was an undergrad at the University of Toronto, utterly desperate to (as I did) become a journalist.
No Internet then.
People ask me: if you’re a professional writer, why on earth would you write unpaid, i.e. blog?
For exploring ideas.
For a place to muse aloud.
For a space in which to chew ideas.
For civil conversation with smart, interesting people across the globe.
For writing that isn’t, for once, tailored to someone else’s tone, length and subject matter.
That wasn’t, of course, the original plan.
But then Lorna and Sarge (now — yay! — her husband, and proud parents of the gorgeous girl Isla) came to New York, and I’d been reading her blog and she’d been reading mine and it was as if we’d been friends for years through our words flung out there so hopefully into the ether.
She in Scotland, I in suburban New York.
Like many of my new blog friends, we’re also decades apart in age, but perhaps not in sensibility — our shared love of books and travel and ideas and wonder at the world.
When I went back to Paris, in December 2015, I was thrilled to meet Mallory and Juliet and Catherine and others who were readers of my blog.
I met them in public places, thinking — This is nuts! What if she doesn’t show up? What if she’s an axe murderer?(Sadly, now, more of a worry than it was then.) No doubt, they, too had their fears.
Then off we went and, every time without fail, had a lovely face to face experience.
This week I met yet another smart, savvy, worldly young woman, the legendary X who’s the bestie of Cadence, the author of Small Dog Syndrome from London; she and I finally met face to face — after years of mutual admiration — in the train station after I got off the train from Paris in my brown vintage fedora.
We talked for so long her husband called to make sure we were OK.
X was everything you’d expect of a friend of Cadence and we sat at the bar and drank cold beer and shared notes on life in journalism in New York City. I would never have met her had I not read Cadence, nor emailed her privately, nor (!) stayed with her in their London flat (sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor) and we all survived.
It’s been a great semester with the four senior students who signed up for my blogging class at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, a small art school with a justifiably excellent reputation.
It’s been fairly challenging to teach and engage so small a group, but we’ve had fun and we’ve had some fantastic guest speakers, three who came out to Brooklyn in person and two via Skype.
My husband, Jose Lopez, a photo editor at The New York Times, explained how to use photos legally and well; Troy Griggs, a Times graphic designer, shared his thoughts about how to design a blog that will really engage readers and Rani Nagpal, who works with a major Manhattan real estate firm, taught us about SEO.
Both were funny, lively and super-helpful. Much to my surprise, Anne told us she breaks several blogging “rules” — she doesn’t revise every post to death before posting, she posts only once a week and she rarely answers comments from readers.
Here are two of my students, Grace Myers (left) from Bowie, Maryland, and her bestie Ellen Trubey, from California.
Grace’s blog is Rough Guide to Life, a lovely, thoughtful guide to meditation, breathing exercises and ways to slooooow down and enjoy life; the photo of her in a tree on her blog is very Grace! She graduates soon, so I hope her blog will continue, and continue to attract and inspire readers.
Darnell Roberts, our only male student, and an illustration major, writes this blog about video games. A passionate gamer, his drawing work is charming — one of his super-heroines is called GravityGirl. It’s been a sea of estrogen with four chatty women in the class, but he’s held up well.
Ellen’s blog, He Is Out There Somewhere, details the ups and downs of dating in 2014 and beyond, especially the travails of using sites like Tinder and OKCupid. Ellen is also an illustration major, and uses many of her own drawings to illustrate her posts. Like her, the blog is chatty, down-to-earth and practical.
Tiffany Park’s blog, Morning Calm, follows Asian artists exhibiting in New York City; her blog has won her three internships so far and she’s even been re-blogged by major artists like Takashi Murakami.
I also privately teach blogging webinars, and offer individual coaching at $150/hour (one-hour minimum), so if you feel it’s time to up your own blogging game, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I work by phone or Skype, at whatever time suits you best.
I’ve helped bloggers from New Zealand to D.C. to Rochester, NY improve their writing, photo selection, graphic design and theme, whether for a blogs that’s personal or one that’s professional, designed to attract new clients; some testimonials here.
Please visit my students’ terrific blogs — and please comment!
Just a few housekeeping notes, for followers both longtime and new (thanks!)…
For the past five years, I’ve been posting faithfully three times a week, sometimes more.
Pooped! (Hint: please spend some time poking around the archives, where you’ll find plenty of material, often on books, writing, publishing and freelancing, often titled The Writer’s Week.)
For the nex few months I’ll likely be posting once every four or five days — not every two days — as I’m now teaching three college classes and will be spending a lot of my time preparing for them, teaching and grading students’ work.
So please don’t feel neglected and/or abandoned!
I also offer six webinars on various aspects of writing, blogging and freelancing, details here. They cost $125 for 90 minutes via Skype or phone and satisfied students have come from, literally, across the world — New Zealand to Germany.
I can schedule these any time that suits you, including days, evenings and weekends.
I also coach other writers individually, answering pretty much any question you’d like to throw at me about journalism, writing, publishing non-fiction commercially, memoir. Happy to read your pitches or work-in-progress, be a “first reader”…
I charge $150/hour (with a one-hour minimum), and will be raising that rate to $200/hour in January 2015.
I’m teaching writing this fall at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and at the New York School of Interior Design; I have also taught writing at Pace University, New York University, Concordia University and Marymount College. As the author of two well-reviewed non-fiction books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, for places like The New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, I know what it takes to succeed in this highly-competitive business.
What can I do to help you? Please email me at email@example.com.
Do you trust what you read, hear or see in the mass media?
A Gallup poll of 1,000 Americans a few months back says no:
Their findings: just 21 percent of the people surveyed ranked newspaper reporters with high or very high honesty and ethical standards. Next came lawyers, tying with 21 percent, followed by TV reporters at 20 percent, then advertisers at a miserable 14 percent.
Just so we’re clear, here. I work as a journalist and often write for The New York Times, which sends out a long and detailed ethics code it expects all freelance contributors to adhere to. Interestingly, though, every freelancer — whether an artist, writer or photographer — is completely vulnerable to the whims of their individual editor, some of whom have been abusive indeed: abruptly killing stories, (which cuts our fees dramatically), or sitting on unpaid invoices for months.
One of the paper’s more challenging demands, for example, is that no freelance writer can ever accept a paid trip to write a travel story, (even for another publication or outlet) — which leaves its travel section open only to people with deep-enough pockets to jet off to exotic destinations and pay all their food and lodging as well.
Another issue the Times is fussy about, and which seems fair to me, is not interviewing friends, relatives or groups in which you have a financial interest — i.e. your brother-in-law’s fab new company.
On this blog, I occasionally mention companies, products and experiences I’ve enjoyed — none of whom pay me to do so. If and when I’m able to get sponsored posts, I’ll be very clear who’s paying me to say what.
So when I read or listen to “news” of any sort, I expect to be told of any potential conflict of interest, even though that’s unlikely.
If someone takes a freebie, then raves about said item or experience, they need to come clean to their audience.
I once attended BlogHer, an annual conference that attracts 5,000 bloggers. I didn’t much care for it, although it’s obviously hugely popular.
The reason I would not go back was the exhibition hall, where women thronged the booths to collect as much free loot as they could carry. That’s not why I write or blog.
It’s also not what journalists do.
Have you followed the excruciating behavior — and criminal trial it led to — by UK editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson?
A British jury has declared Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World and executive at News Corp., not guilty of criminal charges. She had been charged with participating in the paper’s phone-hacking practices, for covering up evidence, and for involvement in payoffs to silence the police or solicit their help in fetching fresh news stories. At the same time, they found Andrew Coulson, Brooks’s successor—who went on to serve as communications director for the Prime Minister—guilty on charges of conspiracy to intercept phone messages. Stuart Kuttner, the paper’s former managing editor, was also found not guilty; charges against some of the editors’ other colleagues have yet to be resolved. But a criminal case is not the final word on whether either editor, or News Corp., nor much of the British tabloid press, has betrayed the principles of journalism.
Ethical failures may not merit a jail term; they do merit a spotlight. In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Sir Brian Leveson, a prominent judge, to call witnesses to inquire into the culture and ethics of the British press. A year later, Leveson issued a report than ran more than two thousand pages.
Other recent ethics scandals have depressed and dismayed many, like the discovery that Cambodian human rights advocate Somaly Mam had been less than truthful.
Now Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, is calling on Kristof to “give readers a full explanation” of his reporting on Somaly Mam, the celebrated Cambodian anti-sex-trafficking activist who, according to a recent Newsweek expose, fabricated parts of her story and those of some of the alleged victims she advocated for. The revelations have disillusioned many of Mam’s loyal supporters and left the press looking gullible. Just as importantly, they’ve highlighted the public’s seemingly insatiable desire for heroic narratives—and the willingness of many in the media to provide them.
Kristof was hardly alone in promoting Mam and her initiatives. Several respected outlets, including Newsweek, have played handmaiden to her celebrity. Consider just a partial list of media-bestowed accolades: Mam was named a CNN Hero and Glamour’s Woman of the Year. She was included in the Time 100, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women—the list goes on. When stories like hers crumble, however, few in the media pause to examine how they could have been so thoroughly duped. Fewer still acknowledge their complicity in perpetuating stories that were too good to check out.
Partnerships between NGOs and big-brand companies are developing even faster than those with energy and pharmaceutical corporations. Environmentalists have led the way, collaborating with, and accepting money from, big-box retailers and brand manufacturers. The Environmental Defense Fund blazed a trail in 1990 by partnering with McDonald’s to phase out the restaurant chain’s Styrofoam packaging. Today such partnerships are ubiquitous. IKEA works with WWF as a “marketing partner,” providing funding through the Global Forest and Trade Network to “create a new market for environmentally responsible forest products.” Conservation International works with Starbucks on sourcing coffee beans and with Walmart on tracking the sources of the company’s jewelry products. Monsanto and The Walt Disney Company are two other “featured” corporate partners of Conservation International (as of June 2013).
Executives from these companies also sit on the boards of environmental NGOs. As of June 2013, the board of trustees of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s includes Robert J. Fisher, past Chairman of the Gap board of directors, and Alan F. Horn, current chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. Neville Isdell, former CEO of Coca-Cola, is chairman of the board of the U.S. branch of WWF (known in the U.S. as the World Wildlife Fund) (as of June 2013). Rob Walton, chair of Walmart, also chairs the executive committee of Conservation International’s board of directors, which, as of June 2013, includes Paul Polman of Unilever (current chief executive), Heidi Miller of JPMorgan Chase (retired former president), and Orin Smith of Starbucks (retired former CEO).
Social and human rights organizations have generally been less receptive to partnering with big-brand companies. But this is changing, too.
I tend to be a fairly trusting person — until I get burned — as I recently was by a fellow blogger who really should have known better than to try to screw me.
I’ve sent her several un-answered emails asking her to do the right thing.
Many of you already read her blog, filled with cute personal stories and a you-go-girl! flavor. She blogs about writing and how to become a better writer and is very popular; last time I looked, she had almost 30,000 followers.
I used to read her blog and enjoyed it.
Then she reached out to me, after months of my comments, and asked me to teach for one of her on-line conferences. I did, offering my time and talent to nine of her students — unpaid. In return, she said, I could guest post and promote or link to my own classes.
I fulfilled my part of the deal.
She never did.
What ethical breaches have you recently faced?
Do you care if people behave ethically toward you or others?
It was a sad, sudden shock to read this from a fellow blogger recently:
It’s raining, and the sky is overcast. I cried.
I woke up to an empty apartment. The water leaking from the ceiling is hitting a tin bucket, sending out an echo. I cried.
Today, I am not strong. But I’m giving myself permission to feel it all. And I’m not so sure that’s weak, either.
It turns out, losing what feels like home is much more difficult than I thought. Buddy. Georgia. They were my home.
I respect him and what we had far too much to shell out details to a semi-faceless-web, but I feel that to move on, I have to say this “out loud”; Georgia and I have gone our separate ways.
The blog, Key and Arrow, written by a young schoolteacher in Austin, Texas, has been a source of pleasure for me for a while now. Every Monday, she posts “Seven Things”, a recap of seven pleasures from her past week, charming and inspiring, with lots of photos of meals, her man, her dog…
Now the man and dog are gone and I, too, feel a little bereft.
The Internet is odd that way, all this uninvited intimacy with strangers, people we will likely never meet in person, but whose children and pets and lives become a part of ours for a while, possibly for years.
Some people disclose a stunning amount in their blogs, as I have occasionally as well, including infidelity, mental illness, family strife and addiction. The Internet sometimes feels like a safe place to park difficult and complicated feelings, hoping against hope that someone else out there will read you and say:
“You, too? I thought that was only me!”
Admitting publicly, especially to strangers, that your life is actually complicated and difficult takes guts. We’re not all perky and shiny all the time, and blogs that reveal little of the writer behind it quickly lose me. There’s plenty of that faux fabulousness on Facebook already.
But doing so also means trusting that others will read you with compassion and empathy — not schadenfreude and voyeurism. (It happens.)
It takes trust.
I like that it demands trust, as when intimacy is met with kindness, friendship blossoms.
In the past few years, I’ve become friends with several readers of Broadside and plan to finally meet and visit with two of them, both living in England, this winter; both moved from reader to new friend after I posted this very dark and personal piece about my mother.
I find these web-created friendships sustaining, as sometimes people thousands of miles away better comprehend us than our own families, colleagues or neighbors.
For those of you fairly new to Broadside, welcome!
A career journalist, winner of a National Magazine Award, author of two well-reviewed works of non-fiction, each on complex national issues, I now offer webinars a few times a year, designed — after consulting you — to offer the skills you’ve told me are most helpful.
I taught journalism to adults at New York University for five years, and find this individualized approach fun, and practical. If you need more information on my background and journalism credits and credentials, please visit the about and welcome pages here, or my website, caitlinkelly.com.
Students signed up for my fall webinar series, and individual coaching — thank you! — from Australia, New Zealand, London, Chicago, D.C., California and Connecticut; one student saw her blog’s page views and followers increase as soon as she made the simple change I suggested; more testimonials here.
Even if you enjoy only one webinar a year, ($10.41/month), your sharpened skills can markedly and quickly improve your productivity, audience and satisfaction.
My classes are also friendlier, more affordable and much more personal than sitting in a classroom or the cost and hassle of attending a crowded conference. (I also coach individually whenever it suits you — by phone, Skype and/or email.)
These are the six 90-minute classes, each priced at $125:
May 10, 10:00-11:30 a.m. ET
This practical, lively seminar offers more than 30 steps you can take — right away — to boost your blog’s engagement, views and followers; Broadside has more than 10,000 followers now, and grows every single day. To win writing jobs, freelance or full-time, your blog is your best marketing tool. Broadside has been Freshly Pressed six times and chosen as one of 22 in “culture” by WordPress worth reading. Let’s do it!
You, Inc: The Business of Freelancing
May 10, 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm ET
I’ve freelanced full-time since 2006, this time, for local, regional, national and international clients. You can too! In this super-focused, tips-filled webinar, we’ll discuss how much you really need to earn, negotiating, how to find (and keep!) clients and how to maximize your productivity. My clients include Cosmpolitan, Ladies Home Journal and The New York Times and on-line sites HGTV.com, Quartz.com, reuters.com and the Harvard Business Review blog.
Learn to Think Like a Reporter
May 10, 4:00-5:30 pm ET
If your mother says she loves you, check it out! This class teaches the tips and tricks I’ve gained from working as a staff reporter for three major dailies, including the New York Daily News — and freelancing for The New York Times since 1990. What’s a stake-out? A nut graf? A lede and kicker? Every reporter knows these basics, and if you hope to compete with them — whether you’re blogging, or writing for on-line or print or broadcast or video — this is the stuff you need to know.
Conducting a Kick-Ass Interview
May 17, 10:00 a.m. to 11;30 a.m. ET
No ambitious non-fiction writer, blogger or journalist succeeds without knowing how to conduct probing and well-controlled interviews. I’ve interviewed thousands of sources, from an Admiral to convicted felons, Olympic athletes, cancer survivors, duck hunters and ballet dancers. How to best structure an interview? Should you tape or take notes? What’s the one question every interview should end with? My 30 years’ experience as an award-winning reporter, author of two-well-reviewed books of nationally reported non-fiction — one of which included 104 original interviews — and frequent New York Times writer will help you ace the toughest interviews.
Crafting the Personal Essay
May 17, 1:00 p.m – 2:30 p.m. ET
From The New York Times to Elle and Marie Claire — to Thought Catalog, Salon, the Awl, Aeon and Medium — the marketplace for personal essay continues to thrive. How to sell this challenging genre? How to blend the personal and universal? Every essay, no matter the topic, must answer one key question, which we’ll discuss in detail. Having published my own essays in the Times, Marie Claire, Chatelaine and others — and winner of a Canadian National Magazine award for one — I’ll help you determine what to say and in what voice.
Finding and Developing Story Ideas
May 17, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m ET
We’re surrounded every single day by dozens of potential story ideas. Recognizing them — and developing them into salable pitches — is the topic of this helpful webinar. And every non-fiction book begins with an idea; developing it into a 30-page book proposal means “saving string”, collecting the data you’ll need to intelligently argue your points. This webinar will help you better perceive the many stories already swirling in your orbit and determine who’s most likely to pay you (well) for them.
Feel free to email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me in New York at 914-332-6065.
Sign up and further details are here; I won’t be offering these again until fall 2014, possibly in October.
The examples are too numerous to recount, but like any good journalist, I keep a running file documenting the most deranged cases. There was the local cable viewer who hunted down my email address after a television appearance to tell me I was “the ugliest woman he had ever seen.” And the group of visitors to a “men’s rights” site who pored over photographs of me and a prominent feminist activist, then discussed how they’d “spend the night with” us. (“Put em both in a gimp mask and tied to each other 69 so the bitches can’t talk or move and go round the world, any old port in a storm, any old hole,” one decided.) And the anonymous commenter who weighed in on one of my articles: “Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?”
None of this makes me exceptional. It just makes me a woman with an Internet connection. Here’s just a sampling of the noxious online commentary directed at other women in recent years. To Alyssa Royse, a sex and relationships blogger, for saying that she hated The Dark Knight: “you are clearly retarded, i hope someone shoots then rapes you.” To Kathy Sierra, a technology writer, for blogging about software, coding, and design: “i hope someone slits your throat and cums down your gob.” To Lindy West, a writer at the women’s website Jezebel, for critiquing a comedian’s rape joke: “I just want to rape her with a traffic cone.” To Rebecca Watson, an atheist commentator, for blogging about sexism in the skeptic community: “If I lived in Boston I’d put a bullet in your brain.” To Catherine Mayer, a journalist at Time magazine, for no particular reason: “A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10:47 PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER DESTROYING EVERYTHING.”
Here’s a response from a female writer, in the progressive magazine Mother Jones:
She’s done exhaustive reporting on the failures of law enforcement at all levels to comprehend, let alone address, the emotional, professional, and financial toll of misogynistic online intimidation. She’s called local police, 911, and the FBI on a number of occasions when she feared for her safety IRL; law enforcement officials have recommended to her and other women that they stop wasting time on social media. One Palm Springs police officer responding to her call, she recounts, “anchored his hands on his belt, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘What is Twitter?'” “When authorities treat the Internet as a fantasyland,” she writes, “it has profound effects on the investigation and prosecution of online threats.”
It’s a painful read, but Hess’s piece should be required reading for anyone with an Internet connection. And check out this excellent response by Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic (a “6-foot-2, 195-pound man”), who recalls guest-blogging for a female colleague there who was on vacation. “I’d never been exposed to anything like it before,” he recalls.
I’ve fled a public space on the Internet — Open Salon — years ago after a really frightening experience there; my last post there is May 2012.
It’s a space — unlike some others on-line — that attracts some terrific writers but also some really weird, creepy people with a shitload of anger and animosity. I blogged there a lot for a few years, and usually cross-posted from this blog to that one. But what worked here just fine, there sometimes prompted some crazy-ass responses.
It got really ugly at one point, with dozens of commenters piling on to vilify me, mocking my resume (wtf?) and eventually escalating to the man who told me that he would physically hurt me if I continued there.
That was it for me.
I went to my local police station — I live in a small town north of New York City. The cop stood above me, barely listening, clearly dubious. Some woman whining about the Internet? Really?
Only when (too ironic) I started brandishing my legacy-media dead-tree credentials — 20+ years writing for The New York Times — did he start to pay closer attention. I also knew, (from a friend also posting at OS), that the man threatening me lived in Florida.
I wanted to be sure he lived very very far away from me, so his threats were highly unlikely to come to fruition.
I also know a District Attorney and have some knowledge of the law. I pushed hard and the cops finally did determine that yes, my harasser lives in Florida but — so far — had no criminal record. I also pushed hard, repeatedly, to get the guy removed from OS and, finally, management there did so.
I haven’t been back since.
Having been, in 1998, the real-world victim of a con man, a convicted felon, I have no illusions that the world is filled with unicorns and rainbows, nor that law enforcement gives a shit about how absolutely terrifying it is for a woman to be threatened and/or pursued by a malefactor determined to do us physical, emotional and reputational harm.
So women have to figure this out for themselves.
Interestingly, very few trolls find their way to Broadside.
I have very strong opinions on volatile issues like gun use, abortion, women’s rights and more, but rarely express them — for the reasons stated above.
I have no time or energy to fight with trolls or to keep running to the cops for help.
And, yes, it’s very much self-censorship.
Ironic, in a medium designed for the maximum freedom of expression.
Have you or other women bloggers been harassed in this fashion?
Broadside now has more than 8,060 readers worldwide, adding new followers daily.
Here are are 10 of the 30 tips I shared yesterday with the students in my webinar, “Better Blogging.” I hope you’ll sign up for the next one. I also do individual coaching; if you’re interested in learning more, please email me at email@example.com.
Please use photos, videos, drawings — visuals!
I wish more bloggers consistently added quality visual content to their posts. Often, a well-chosen, quirky or beautiful image will pull in a curious reader more quickly than your very best words.
Every magazine or newspaper, and the best blogs and websites, uses illustrations, maps, graphs and photos — chosen carefully after much internal debate by skilled graphics and design and photo editors and art directors, each working hard every single day to lure us in. A sea of words is both daunting and dull. Seduce your readers, as they do.
Think like an editor
When you write for an editor, (as every journalist and author does), your ideas, and how you plan to express them, have to pass muster with someone else, often several. Their job is to ask you why you think this story is worth doing, and why now. (Just because you feel like hitting “publish” doesn’t mean you should.)
Who is this post — and your blog — written for? Have you made your points clearly?
Would your next post get past a smart editor or two?
Your readers are busy, easily bored and quickly distracted
All readers resemble very small tired children — they have short attention spans and wander off within seconds. Grab them fast! Keep them reading to the very end using “golden coins”. (Tip No. 30!)
Woo me with a fab headline
Magazine editors sweat over coverlines, the teasing short sentences they choose to put on their magazine covers, hoping to make you buy their edition over that of their competitors. Newspaper editors know they need powerful, succinct or amusing headlines to catch our eye and pull us into a story.
Have you ever studied some of the best heads? “Headless body found in topless bar” is a classic. This is an excellent headline as it immediately made me read the post — it’s bossy, very specific and focused on a place I know well. Sold!
Break your posts into many paragraphs, and keep them short
Don’t force readers to confront a huge unbroken block of copy! It’s lazy and editorially rude. They’ll just click away, irritated. (I see this on too many blogs.)
Post more frequently
A blog that only pops up every few months is the sign of someone who just isn’t that into blogging. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it takes time. Once you’ve found an audience, your readers want to read more of what you have to say! Don’t disappoint them.
Some bloggers, giddy with the delicious freedom of being able to hit “publish” after every thought flitting through their head, post constantly. Do your readers really have that much time or interest?
We’re not writing for ourselves, but our readers’ pleasure.
Your readers probably don’t live nearby, and may not get your points of reference
While you assume we know the cafe/restaurant/politician/streets you’re referring to, we probably don’t. Remember that your readers — and potential new followers — are coming to you from all over the world. Which is incredibly cool! But consider including links or a helpful brief explanation so we feel included, not shut out by our (natural) ignorance of what’s super-familiar to you.
Edit, copy-edit and proofread
Lightning — not lightening.
Palate — not pallet.
Spell-check will leave plenty of terrible errors in your posts. Read each one over carefully at least three times before hitting “publish.”
Is your “about” page still empty? Why?
In a world jammed with competing voices, why should readers choose to listen to yours?
Who are you? Where do you live? Have you any specific experience or credentials that add authority to your posts?
The best “about” pages include an attractive photo of you, some fun facts and a few paragraphs that give us a taste of your voice and point of view. It’s your very own editor’s page or movie trailer, and ideally makes us eager to dive into your archives.
I love the one here, at key and arrow, written by a young couple in Austin, Texas — it’s quirky, charming and informative. (Their logo and header are also terrific.)
PLEASE SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT WEBINAR — LEARN TO THINK LIKE A REPORTER — 4:00 p.m. SUNDAY NOV. 17 AT 4:00 P.M. EST.
I know, from checking the gravatars and profiles and blogs of every new follower, that many men also visit Broadside and some consistently comment, like New Zealand author Matthew Wright, DadofFiveboys, Rami the student/writer, Nigel, an Australian writer, and Kentucky schoolteacher Paul Barnwell.
But there are legions of you who still — silently, comment-less — remain ghostly presences…
— If you’re in college or university, what are you studying? Are you enjoying it? If you’re a teacher/professor, what do you teach?
— Who are your three of your favorite bands/musicians/composers?
— Do you have a pet? Type? Name?
— What’s the view from your front window?
— Your favorite food?
— Dream job?
— Favorite author(s) or books?
— What’s a perfect Sunday morning?
I’ll go first…
— Tarrytown, New York, a village of 11,000 people 25 miles north of New York City, right on the Hudson River. It was named one of the nation’s 10 Prettiest Towns by Forbes magazine.
— I attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto, studying English, French and Spanish (English major), with a goal of becoming a foreign correspondent. I loved the intelligence of my peers and the high standards of my professors. The school is huge, with 53,000 students, which felt impersonal. I worked as a reporter for the campus newspaper, which jump-started my journalism career.
— Tough one! Joni Mitchell, Bach and Aaron Copland. (Also, Leonard Cohen, the Rolling Stones, Keb Mo, et al.)
— Just my husband!
— The Hudson River, the west bank of the river and the towns along the water’s edge. We also see the Tappan Zee Bridge, now under re-construction, with the noisy hammering sounds as they dredge the river bottom.
— Maple syrup, closely followed by very good, creamy Greek yogurt. Great combo!
— Running my own magazine with unlimited funds and a super-talented staff.
— Alexandra Fuller, Jan Morris, Edward Abbey (non-fiction); Tom Rachmann, Richard Ford, Balzac (fiction.)
— Waking up healthy beside my husband…cranking up some blues or rock and roll…blueberry pancakes and bacon…the usual three newspapers, in paper: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.