Regarding my blog

Hi everyone,
The other day a good friend asked me for some thoughts about my blog as part of her preparation for a presentation to writers who were interested in making better use of social media. I sent her the following message. As I thought about it, I decided to also post it here as a way to explain what I do to myself and to anyone else who might be interested.

First, a few numbers. Except when I declare an occasional “goo foffing” period, I don’t miss many days of posting something. I began making daily posts in 2009. I’ve now posted 2,474 times in more than 800 categories and 2,277 of the posts have also appeared on Facebook. The blog is currently followed by 2,870 people. It has been visited 357,161 times by people in 133 countries and readers have left 17,188 comments, each of which I’ve answered.

I work for a balance between talking about myself/books which is, after all, the primary reason for an author to have a blog, and posts of general interest meant to “keep ‘em coming back.” To keep my spot friendly and informal I usually sit down early on the morning of the post, type, “Hi everyone,” and see what happens. Some days I know what I want to talk about but often I have no clue until I sit and think for a moment. On some such mornings the ideas come easily. On others I groan and look desperately around the room for inspiration.

I’ve learned to use pictures to attract readers and add interest. Having an “illustrated blog” takes a bit more time but I’m forever taking pictures anyway so it isn’t that hard to think in terms of what might be useful for a blog post. I have many pictures of myself that help demonstrate moods, circumstances, locations, special occasions, and so on. Many are not the least bit flattering, which also helps keep the posts honest and open.

Over time I’ve developed a few series that appeal to some of my followers. Sandy Asher and I co-write something called WRITERS AT WORK in which we discuss various aspects of writing and being a writer. I keep a running joke about the turtles that always want to go with me on trips. I have a number of posed shots of ceramic turtles to keep the humor alive. At various times I’ve had guests, conducted interviews, touted other people’s work, posted publishing news, discussed my work, featured cartoons needing captions, written mini-lessons about various creatures I see around our home or during my travels, and published poems. I know that at least a few readers check my blog first thing each morning to see what I’ve come up with for that day. I don’t expect every post to be a winner but I work at keeping each one unique in some way.

Each month I choose (or ask followers to suggest) a single word. The WORD OF THE MONTH POETRY CHALLENGE has attracted poets in America, Canada, Australia, and numerous countries in Europe to accept the challenge of posting poems they’ve written that were inspired by the word for the month. Many others check the site to leave their comments of appreciation and encouragement. I haven’t missed a month since the blog began in 2009.

Most popular posts? Hmm. One high visitor day came recently when I placed my 100th book. But another came years ago when two fifth grade girls were competing for first place in a poem of the month contest. One dad was a gamer so he had friends from other countries voting for his daughter. Both girls are now seniors in high school and we remain in touch. One’s mother has driven her to see me speak on three occasions, twice in Pennsylvania and once in New Jersey. Readers like humorous events. Who doesn’t? Sometimes I relate something stupid I’ve done. Visitors return frequently to writing tips I’ve posted from time to time. They like to hear about Goose Lake, which is what I’ve dubbed the 10-acre lake behind our house. I’ve written so much about the lake and my back yard that followers feel at home there.

I love anything that involves reader participation. I often refer to my wife as my M.O.W. (mean old wife) so many of my followers, especially women, have fun taking me to task when I seem to need an admonishment, and naturally they pull for Sandy even though most have never met her.

I do my best to read and respond to comments as quickly as possible. I check my blog frequently throughout the day for messages and stop working long enough to answer them. Same with Facebook where my daily blog post appears automatically. When someone posts a comment, I think I have an obligation to respond as promptly as possible. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about many of the men and women who frequent the blog through hundreds of quick exchanges. Some days I have running chats with several visitors going on at once, frequently from other countries.

And does all this sell more of my books? My M.O.W. asks that a lot. My answer is yes but how many I don’t know. The other day I announced a new book coming out in January and promised to give away an autographed copy to someone drawn from a pool of readers who decide to post a review on Amazon when the time comes. Enough people ordered – three months in advance – to give the book a respectable Amazon rating. Would those people have bought the book anyway? My M.O.W. asked that too. Does it get me more school visits and conference talks? Again, yes. Again, it’s hard to say how many. Do I think the effort is worth it? A writer writes and this is a daily exercise that’s part journal, part pen pal, and part marketing. I think it’s worth it even though at times I write, “Hi everyone,” groan, and start looking around the room.

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Group photo

Hi everyone,

My thanks to everyone who came to my fourth virtual blog party. Many of you traveled long distances so your efforts were especially appreciated. I thought you all might like a souvenir group photo, so here it is. Lots of smiling faces! If I left anyone out, or you were standing behind someone, I apologize.

I realized later that I had posed you in a really tough place so thanks for being patient with me, especially those who had to sit on the retaining wall, kneel between the fountain and tables, and even grin from the pool. You were all good sports.

Let’s party hearty!

Hi everyone,

It’s party time! I welcome you today to my fourth blog party. Come one come all. Bring something if you want, or not. Virtual parties are known for the ease of cleaning up afterward and one cupcake may well last all day and please the palates of dozens of guests.

Cool off in the pool if you brought a suit. For men with a 38 waist, I have a couple of spares. For women, Sandy might come up with one for you. I keep pool heated to 90 degrees, which is handy because when we’re not swimming we throw in a bag of potatoes and serve soup to the neighborhood. The water is only four feet deep and we have a stock of new noodles to help you bob around.

The grill is clean (by my standards more than those of my M.O.W.’s) so help yourself to it if you want to throw on burgers or brats.

You’ll find tables here and there. My two favorites are the ones closest to Goose Lake but there is one by the pool, one close to the kitchen door, and another at the far end of the patio for those who just want to enjoy the view and be left alone.

We have twenty outdoor chairs around tables and others that can be arranged to suit you needs.
I think all the plants are watered but if you’re given to puttering around in gardens, you’ll find a watering can wherever Sandy left it last. (No, my darling, I didn’t mean anything by that last “crack.” You’re just being overly sensitive. Yes, of course I apologize, Sweetheart.)

Sadly, my fallen tree is sprawling across part of the yard and down into the lake. We have someone coming to remove it next week. At some point I may offer a toast to the fallen beauty.

If you brought something in need of refrigeration, I’ve left the kitchen door open so help yourself. The counters are pretty much clear and the cutting boards are next to the coffee pot. No, the other coffee pot. The one that works. One of these days I plan to take the broken one to the garage, but it’s a long walk of twelve feet or maybe more and I’ve been busy these last two years.

So welcome! I am delighted to greet you, whether you’re a newbie to my parties or a veteran. The idea behind these events is to encourage folks to become acquainted and enjoy a chance to visit. If you spot someone you’ve been wanting to meet, march right up and introduce yourself. If you have questions to ask, ask away.

I never know how long these parties will last. One went on for three days. Please come and go as your time permits. My suggestion is that if you are returning to the party, you might want to make an announcement so everyone will know you’re back. Otherwise it’s easy to be overlooked in the crowd. And don’t forget to thank Joy Acey and Matt Forrest for dreaming up this party in the first place. Joy lives a lot of time zones away these days so you may have to shout to wake her up.

Our operators are standing by

Hi everyone,

It is my privilege to introduce a new niche market business. I hope you will all get behind this ambitious new enterprise and cheer on the owner/proprietor.

Please spread the word about:

COME RAIN COME SHINE
24/7 TOAD RESCUE SERVICE
Our Motto:
“No toad has too many warts!”

Does she deserve a little love or what? I know she will appreciate your business.

I have a feeling I’m about to get the business too.

Mother Goose is back

Hi everyone,

Sunday evening daughter Robin, son-in-law Tim and grandson Kris came over. I grilled burgers on the grill, which were nowhere near as good as the ones Tim does, but they were tolerable.

While I was in the yard I glanced down the steps to the landing by the water and noticed a rather pronounced accumulation of goose poop. I walked down the steps and discovered that we have a nesting goose on the rocks beside the landing. I don’t know who was more startled, Mother Goose or me, but she wasted no time letting me know how she felt.

“Geez!” she hissed. “You scared the crap out of me!”
“I can see that,” I said. “All over my landing. But I’m sorry I frightened you.”
“Then run along, sonny,” she honked. “Can’t a girl have a little privacy around here?:
“Of course,” I said. “I can see you are in a motherly way.”
“Motherly way?” she snapped. “I’m way past that, you dolt. I’m on my eggs!”
“Well I can’t exactly see under you,” I responded, my pride wounded by her sarcasm.
“You think I’d be sitting here on these rocks if I didn’t have eggs?”
“I suppose not,” I admitted. “But I have to tell you that I’m afraid you’ve picked a poor spot for your nest.”
She began to weave her long neck like a cobra. “Poor place?” she hissed. “What, may I ask, does a dummy like you know about it?”
Now I was getting peeved. Rocks or no rocks, she was on my property and I thought I deserved a little respect. “Because,” I said with a haughty air. “Some poor cluck tried it there on the very same spot two years ago. We had a heavy rain, the lake rose three inches, and the eggs were drowned. That’s what I know!”
She lowered her head and looked out over the water for a minute before responding. “I remember that,” she said with a sigh.
“You remember that but still you’re back?” I was astonished. “Why?”
“Why?” she sighed. “Because the idiot I’m mated to likes me here where he can keep an eye on me while he’s across the lake hanging with the swans, pretending he’s a big gander on a stick.”
Well that took me back a bit. “I can see you’re busy, Mother,” I said. “Sorry to bother you.”
“My problem,” she said, a bit more gently. “Just don’t try to be part of it. Go away. Leave me alone.”
As I walked back up the steps I was sure I remembered her. She was pretty cranky the last time too. Come to think of it, this is the third year she has nested down there. Last year she wound up with two goslings for her trouble. I hope she has even better luck this year. That’s what we need around here: more goose grunt on my steps.