Bloggers are Real People

Ten years ago, I found the SouleMama blog.  I was searching for a knit hat pattern, and stumbled across Amanda Soule’s website.  She talked about crafting and raising three kids; something about her voice and demeanor spoke to me.  I’d return frequently and watch her family and life unfold from afar.  Occasionally I’d comment, and once I submit a piece to her.  But mostly I’d just lurk and read and imagine how if I’d made different choices along the way – like a different husband, because my beloved guy is not a farmer – I could have lived a life like hers.  My baby girl was born right before her fourth kiddo, and my bond with her grew watching our kids grow up together.  Funny how that “kid the same age” bond works with virtual friends too.



Well, Amanda Soule is visiting Colorado this week!  She’s got a new book out and her publisher is up in Boulder, Colorado.  There are a host of events planed and I targeted the Horseshoe Market book signing and an open craft night as possibilities for me to attend.  Luck would have it that Saturday between taking the kitten to the vet, a soccer tournament, and readying our yard for winter I had a sliver of time and was on the right end of town to meet this lady who had no idea who I am, but who I’d known for years.  During the drive I vacillated between feeling like a weirdo for visiting this stranger and being excited about meeting the real live human being Amanda Soule.

After meandering around the market, I found Amanda’s tent and awkwardly waited while another lady chatted.  When my turn came, the introduction went like this, “Hi Amanda, my name is Johanna and I’ve been following your blog for years and I totally feel like a creepy stalker but I wanted to come by and introduce myself and tell you how much I enjoy your work and watching your kids grow up, I mean Harper – isn’t it weird that I know his name – is the same age as my daughter and I’m so glad to meet you.”  That was me.  Spilling out every detail of my life without breathing in hopes that my oversharing would somehow made up for my creepy overly developed one sided relationship with her.

Amanda replied, “You aren’t a stalker.  I put it all out there.”

True enough.  The short conversation proceeded a bit more normally after that, especially as it evolved to commerce.  She told me about the delicious lunch she’d had, and I renewed my Taproot subscription – Amanda is the editor – and bought a copy of her new book which wasn’t officially released until yesterday.   With the magazine renewal I got a free totebag, which doubles as a cat toy.  (Note below cat is not the new kitten who got an emergency visit to the vet this weekend.)

I wasn’t there for more than five minutes, but I did mention that I might bring my mama and kiddo to her last Denver event.  It’s at Fancy Tiger, a nearby craft and yarn store I love.  I confided in her, “Make a budget, because they have beautiful stuff and you’ll spend more money than you want if you aren’t careful.”  United by the call of expensive yarns and notions she thanked me, and then moved onto her next stalker/customer.  That last exchange felt completely real and friendly, and I was glad I had stopped to meet this woman whose writing I have so enjoyed the past decade.  Hopefully, if I make it to the next event, my interactions will be a little more natural.  After all, Amanda and I are real life acquaintances now.

Make your Blog Beautiful

I’m waiting for my first ever guest blogger to wrap up her first ever blog post, but while she dawdles with things like school and birthday parties and spelling tests I wanted to share an amazing photo resource I just found.  Occasionally my day job helps my early morning, late night and weekend avocation, and last week a 5-8:00 p.m. “day job” meeting led me to a remarkable site.  Blogging friends you have to check out Unsplash.

Personally, I love using my own photos in my blog, but sometimes I want to write about something and I don’t have an appropriate photo.  Oftentimes I end up with a blog post that has no picture because I get tired of trying to negotiate all the license terms and general ethics of using pictures I find on the Internet.  I find blog posts with no pictures less interesting, less read, and less liked on Twitter.  Well now there is a replacement for those boring posts: adding images from Unsplash.

Let’s say you have a blog post about how every February you yearn for spring, or even summer’s heat and flowers.  You may not have a recent picture of summer flowers, but Unsplash does.


Let’s say you are full of angst about politics. You want an image to convey how you feel inside, but you aren’t a professional photographer, so you don’t have a good storm picture.  That’s okay.  Unsplash has you covered.


Let’s say one of your favorite bloggers just shared an awesome photo site with you.  One that provides “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos” under a Creative Commons Zero license.  You might want a picture that shows how you feel about your blogging friend, this new resource, and life in general. Oh yeah, you guessed it, Unsplash has you covered.


So go forth my friends.  Write whatever blog post you want about any topic that interests you.  Then head over to Unsplash, and add an image or two.  Make your blogs a little more beautiful, and please, if you use Unsplash I’d love to check out your post, so leave me a comment or pingback.


Oh yeah, check that out.  A picture of a woman working on her WordPress site.  Unsplash has something for every occasion!

Thanks to Unsplash for the amazing resource, the artists on Unsplash for the images above, and to the Daily Prompt for the theme: Replacement

Help Me Out of my Writing Closet

I write in a closet.  It’s a cozy place with everything I need to create my stories.  There is a Microsoft Surface with a blue keyboard and a mouse, because I can’t figure out how to use the trackpad on that thing.  There’s a meandering path to get there and inevitably I find myself distracted by work, husband, child, and friends when I’m on my way to write.  Even when I carve out time to visit my writing closet the way is often blocked by obligations.

The thing I like about my closet is that I decide who visits me there.  Hand selected friends, family members, and other bloggers get to see what I produce in my closet.  If I take a risk and show my work to new people and they don’t like it my closet is off the beaten path so they won’t stumble upon it again.

In my dreams my closet is huge.  It’s an auditorium filled with adoring readers and harsh critics who can’t help but love me.  I sit onstage and read my work with tears coursing down my face and tissues are handed around as emotions fill every nook and cranny of the audience.  There is magic in that space and time stops for my stories.

But, growing out of a closet is scary.  What if when I get to the auditorium it’s empty except for me and my mom?  (Of course  my mom will come, she’s awesome like that.  She will even be there early.)  What if it’s filled with haters and they throw rotten vegetables at me?  What if it’s rundown, rat infested and stinky, and not the space I was dreaming of?  It’s so cozy in my closet, and I’m not sure I want to leave except that dream is so alluring…

I had an enlightening meeting with my family therapist on Friday and she told me I have to stop hiding my writing.  She said I had to go home and post about my writing on my personal Facebook account, but that terrifies me.  Right now my writing world and the real world are very separate, and I’m scared of merging the two.   That said, I’m also tired of living this dual life: one where I live out my hopes and dreams through my stories and another where I look down my engineer’s nose and scoff, “Isn’t writing for 23 year old English majors who can’t find a real job?”  I even have two separate Twitter profiles.  This schizophrenia runs deep.

So blogger friends, as people I trust to hang out in my writing closet all the time, what do you do?  Is your writing life and your real life the same?  Did you ever hide your writing life from your real life?  What happened if you merged the two?  Any advice for how to embrace my writer persona?  Have you put your writing on your personal Facebook account, and if so what happened?

Oh, and I totally don’t write in a literal closet.  I write in a beautiful basement study that was recently remodeled.

In fact, there’s even a real closet in there.  It’s filled with games and craft supplies, and anyone is welcome to see it.  Even you, my blogging friends.

 I’m looking forward to some help!  Thanks friends!

Let’s hear it for the goals!

30 posts in 30 days.  Done.  I blogged everyday in November, except one and I posted two the next day to make for the missed day.  I posted silly haiku, opinions, and a tribute to an inch tall Santa.  I told the story of my foster cats and shared my blog on Facebook for the first time so my shelter friends could read my post.  Tomorrow I’ll look at stats and do some analysis to see what worked and what didn’t.

I am proud of myself.  Normally I’m not a goal setter;  I break my New Years resolutions by January 5th.  But I stuck with this.  I learned that my fiction suffers when I write all the time, because it is hard to be thoughtful on a deadline and my fiction needs thought.  I have a 5-6 part serial short piece that I’d planned on posting this month, but I never got to it.  December will be the month of fiction.  I learned that I can produce whimsy on the fly, and sorrow.  I learned that I can write really long posts on my smartphone there are  I other options.  (Argh!  I never wrote the “forgotten backpack” post.  Putting it on the list.)  I learned that my blog reading suffers when I write every day, and I miss reading what you all write. I met some great new blogging colleagues this month and look forward to reading more from them.  

Thanks to those who read along and congrats to those who wrote with me.  Pat yourselves on the back and don’t be a stranger in December!

7-7-7 Challenge

Seventeen.  I have seventeen draft blog posts.  Some of them are deep and need time and effort to covey what I really want to say.  Some of them need a picture.  One needs some graphs.  One needs me to give a present first.  The blog posts are stacking up and I’m feeling drowned by the bits left to finish them off.

Ta da!  One of my favorite bloggers, A Funny Thing Happened When I was Learning Myself to the rescue!   She nominated me for the 7-7-7 challenge, which I love!  Thank you!  Here are the rules:

Go to the 7th page of my work in progress. Find the 7th sentence on that page, then paste the following 7 sentences into my blog post. Finally, select 7 other writers for the challenge.  It does not have to be fiction, I am interested in reading anything you’ve got!

What?!?!  How fun is this?  Since I have two works in progress over seven pages, I’m sharing them both.  From my first, yet to be completed, nameless novel:

Ingrid gasped, “Oh no, we use nothing but organic, free range eggs in this household.”

“Joke mom” Grant said and sat down on the dove grey love seat in the living room.  Anna joined him, and set Ingrid’s cup of non-alcoholic eggnog on a silver coaster.  Anna watched Ingrid as she took a sip of Anna’s eggnog.  What on earth was going on?  Ingrid was a germaphobe and she was drinking from a cup with a smear of Anna’s lipstick on the edge.

“So, what news do you have for us?” Ingrid asked and raised her eyebrows at them.

The second 7-7-7 series comes from my completed novel, Hallejulah.

Golden, grey and silver buildings lined the street in a variety of shapes and sizes.  There were Tudors next to low rise apartment buildings next to mansions; yet the street did not look odd with all the conflicting styles.  There was a gentle breeze and he could hear the leaves rustling in the trees.  No one walked the streets.  It was quiet.

“Welcome to the residential sector,” Petra said. “Here you will find all the residents of Heaven, and each new member is assigned living quarters based on their soul characteristics.”

Now for my seven nominees.  It appears as though my nominator and I share many favorite blogs, but there are a few I enjoy that didn’t make her list.  I’m leading with my “Hanna” derivative sisters.

  1. JoHanna Massey
  2. Proofreader Hannah
  3. K E Garland
  4. Spontaneous Whimsey or Socrates Underground (It’s the same author on both blogs!  So sneaky!)
  5. Alexand Knits – She’s mostly a knitter, so maybe she’ll provide us with a picture of the seventh stitch on the seventh row of some knitted object.
  6. Duck and Cover
  7. Amie Writes – who hasn’t been writing much and I miss her!

Also, a shout out to Mom Who Runs, who nominated my nominator.  Gotta love the blogging community!