Write Start Blogging Tips at ORA

I love how progressive writers are!  They are always looking at new ways to reach readers, whether it is through print, public appearances, or social media.  It was my privilege to speak to the Ozarks Romance Authors in Springfield, Missouri about the topic of blogging, and how writers can incorporate this versatile tool in their writing practice and marketing efforts.

Here’s a few tips from my presentation…

Why Should Writers Blog?

  • Establishes a presence on the internet for readers, fans, publishers, and agents
  • Creates a ready-made market for self-published authors
  • Helps to build your platform
  • Networks with other social media
  • Can develop into a fully-functional web site (using WordPress) that you can later useto sell books directly from your page, host a fan club, stage online chat sessions, and more
  • Exercises writing skills
  • Fun

Do NOT Write About…

  • —Your every movement – this is not your diary, and you are not a celebrity (yet).
  • —Writing – “I just finished 12 pages today!  Chapter 3 is really coming along!”  (This is the equivalent of “I put my left arm in the sleeve and then I zipped my zipper all by myself!”  Writing is your job.  Readers care about the end product and getting lost in the world you created.  Don’t break the spell by revealing the man behind the curtain!)
  • —Yourself as if you are your character (What…you’re never writing another character?  Or have you crossed the line into therapy-time?  We all know a real person types the posts on your blog, so pretending to be a fictional character has the same effect as baby-talk.  It’s just weird.)
  • —Sections of your work in progress (Yup, posting on a blog IS publishing, so when you try to shop that piece it may deter publishers from picking it up if they feel the world has already seen a good portion.  Also, “in progress” is not polished and ready for public appearance.  Does the term “Emperor’s New Clothes” mean anything to you?  Hmmm?)

English: Ilustration of "The Emperor's Ne...

Ilustration of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DO Write About…

  • —Your area of expertise – writing an historical romance set in the 1860s?  Blog about the Civil War, Westward Expansion, Slavery, Clothing, the Gold Rush, burgeoning Industrialism – it is all related to your book, and readers will be thrilled to get further immersed in your world.  It also sets you up as an expert in this field, and gives you a secondary use for that mountain of research you thought was just backstory.
  • —Your activities in the book world – let readers know that you love to meet them by
    English: Laurence Brahm at a book signing in C...

    Laurence Brahm at a book signing in China for his book, “Searching for Shangri-la”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    demonstrating your presence at book fairs, signings, and conferences.

  • —Topics of interest that reveal your point of view as a writer – Current events are great, just as long as you write publicly about them as a writer, and not from your personal political or religious views.  Don’t risk alienating readers by suddenly stepping outside your persona as “writer”.

Don’t forget to invoke The 10 Commandments of Blogger Etiquette, available as a printable download HERE.

Attendees received a lot of bonus handouts to help them draft their blog posts and streamline their page’s appearance.  You can get them too, by requesting me as a speaker at your next writing event, or arranging a half- or full-day workshop!  (Details HERE.)

Many thanks to ORA for inviting me to visit with their fabulous members.  If you are in the Springfield area on the first Saturday of the month, be sure to drop by The Library Station, Frisco Room at 1pm to enjoy more of this vibrant writing community.  Of course, they are also online, on Facebook, and all over Twitter!

GRAVEL: A Literary Magazine Debuts

One of my summer projects has been working on the University of Arkansas’ new online magazine, GRAVEL.  June is the inaugural issue, and I’m so pleased to announce its arrival!

As the official magazine for the MFA Graduate Program, GRAVEL attracts talent from around the globe – both in fiction and nonfiction.  Short stories, poetry, personal essays, memoir, flash fiction… it’s all welcome!  In addition, GRAVEL seeks to publish original artworks and multimedia pieces that showcase artists’ creativity.  If you write, paint, draw, take photos, or have some other form you’d like to submit for publication, please click HERE.

As part of the staff, it was my privilege to meet some wonderful authors through their writing.  Although I don’t typically do this, I’d recommend you read the Contributors page for the brief biographies first.  There are some fascinating individuals, and getting a glimpse into their lives before reading their pieces adds a whole new dimension to the experience.

Some of my personal favorites are:

So grab a cup of whatever gets you going, and peruse this grist for the creative mill.  GRAVEL is here, and it’s paving the way.



Math Rider Review

My kids LOVE games, and I’m always excited to see a new educational game that will have them working on skills that are not so popular during schoolwork.  I recently had the privilege of sampling Math Rider – the new computer game that helps kids master math facts.

Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – those are the building blocks of mathematical operations and concepts.  We aren’t really the “drill and kill” kind of family, so any excuse to have fun with math is good to us!

From the Website…

Your child is taken into a land of fantasy and quests. Living in the Land of Ray and riding a horse called Shadow, he or she will set out on various noble adventures. Riding across amazing, digitally matte-painted moving backdrops of distinct fantastic lands, they will accomplish their quest, be it finding magical flowers, returning gems to the elves or even rescuing a princess!

The graphics are good quality, with a story text at the bottom of the screen to set the scene.  The narrator speaks very slowly, which may be good for emerging readers following the text, but was annoying for older kids.  The speaker is easily turned off with a click, allowing the very pleasant background music to play.

The horse and rider gallop along the bottom of the screen as various hurdles appear.  A math equation must be solved to jump the hurdles.  Riders get extra bonus points for faster solving times, and each level completes another section of the quest (documented on a nifty map of the kingdom).  You can set the difficulty levels from easy to hard, and choose which area of math facts you’d like to practice.  While tons more fun than a sheet of math problems, it is still computation practice.  There are many online games that do similar jobs, but for a family that has multiple children, limited internet access, or wants to keep individualized records of progress, Math Rider can be a nice supplement to any math curriculum.

This is an ideal tool for daily math practice, and my students enjoyed using it during waiting periods between subjects, or as a warm-up for the day.
Math Rider uses the Adobe® AIR™ runtime, so the game operates on Windows and Mac. The Math Rider website has download links for both of these applications, and it took me less than 4 minutes to be up and playing.

Just a few of the highlights of Math Rider:

  • Leveled practice in mathematical operations
  • Choose from addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division
  • Complete “quests”, follow a story, and earn bonus points and rewards
  • Free 7-day trial
  • Complete program is $47.00 (includes free updates for life)
  • Up to 8 players are allowed, and each player can have their own login and “personal rider”
  • Requires 80MB of  hard disk space.
  • Requires a screen resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels.

You can read more experiences right HERE,at SchoolhouseReviewCrew.com, and in the words of Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton, “Don’t just take my word for it!”  Read these other great reviews by parent educators like me!