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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Three Golden Rules for Surviving Blog Challenges

By Terri Rochenski


This year I decided to join in the A-Z blog challenge. It’s a big undertaking, not a quickie way to gain faithful followers. I learned a few things along the way – things that had I not done, I never would have succeeded.

Being prepared. 

As a stay-at-home mom, finding time to read and write is tough. Life itself often gets in the way, distracting me from deadlines that must be met. I realized the only way I would make it through this challenge would be to do things in advance. I’m ridiculously organized, so I made up a to-do list – preparing my mind I WAS going to succeed being #1.

Chose a theme.

I read this countless times, and decided since I’m such a neat / order freak this idea was perfect for me. I chose quotes & excerpts, then went on to create my own little widget to place at the beginning of each post letting visitors know what my challenge was all about. After this, I scoured my publisher & the world of fantasy books for titles that began with each letter of the alphabet.

Scheduling.

Starting a month before the challenge began I dove into pre-blogging. Getting posts completed in advance took the stress of the challenge off my shoulders. Luckily, I was able to complete all 26 posts before the challenge even began, thus freeing up the entire month of April for … well, life!

And the month of April brought a LOT of life.

Yes, I visited blogs during the challenge – I even signed up to help ‘police’ the linky list of participants. On top of that, there was 20 feet of the front of my house being completely ripped open for a new entryway and front windows, spring break for daughter #1, 10 day vacation at my parent’s internet-less Pennsylvania homestead where I grew up, an ARC to read for my publisher, and awful, all-day-long morning sickness.  o_O

Will I do this or a similar challenge again? Depends. If I have a major deadline looming like I do right now for the completion of the 2nd book in my 2-book series contracted with J. Taylor Publishing, then I’d have to say NO. Or if child #3 turns out to be a ripping terror who doesn’t let me sit and breathe until 8 at night it’ll be NO.

But if the next challenge comes along when only “normal” life is looming, I’ll give it a go. I just won’t attempt it without following these golden rules!

How about you? Planner? Panster? What got you through your last challenge?

Terri Rochenski


About the Author: Terri started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with storytelling.

Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her two young daughters allow. When not playing toys, picking them back up, or kissing boo-boos, she can be found sprawled on the couch with a book or pencil in hand, and toothpicks propping her eyelids open.




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blogging Basics: Guest Posting

Last week, we discussed the basics of blog hops and memes, and how to make connections with them.  This week, we'll discuss making connections by guest posting on other blogs.

The five pointers last week were: 1. Be Interested, 2. Participate, 3. Follow the Rules, 4. Visit Other Participants, and 5. Advertise the Hop/Meme.

Guest posts can expose you to new readers, as each blog already has its own readership.  Thus, this is a valuable way to meet other bloggers and possibly build your own readership (as well as bring your readers over to the host's blog, benefiting both of you.)

Some basic rules for guest posting are as follows:

1. Choose a relevant host blog.  You want to find a blog that will have a readership that might be interested in what you typically post about.  If you are a writer of romance novels, it behooves you to find a host blog that has something to do with romance, reading, writing, or other related topics.  You will likely not find the appropriate audience on a hardcore science blog or one that focuses on politics, for instance.

2. Choose a relevant blog topic.  You've chosen an appropriate blog, now be sure the post you write up is a topic that is relevant to both your blog and the host blog.  You don't want to trick their readers into coming over to your blog, just to discover your post has nothing to do with what they will find there.  Don't make an entire post that is just about self-promotion.  Your guest post should have valid information and be interesting.  Choose a topic and do it justice.

3. Be present and visit the commenters.  Know when your blog post will be going live on their blog, then be sure to show up.  Respond to comments and questions left in response to your blog.  Be a presence and show that you care what they think, and that you weren't just throwing a post out there.  And just as you should visit those who comment on your blog, you should visit those who visit your post on another blog.  Stop by, read what they have to say, and leave them a nice comment.  If you really can't think of anything to say, or are limited on time, at least thank them for stopping by.  Your friendly personality might win you more readers than the guest post itself.

4. Link them back to your site.  Always give readers a way to find you.  The best way to do this is to include a short bio at the end of the post, which should include important links, such as your website, your blog, etc.  You may just choose to include a list of contact points/links, or you may include a link to your blog or website somewhere within the body of the post.

5. Thank your host.  Be sure to show your appreciation to the host.  Thank them in your post, in the comments, with an email, whatever you feel comfortable with.  Let them know you appreciate that they were willing to share their space with you.  Think of it as them having invited their friends over to their house to listen to you talk.  Wasn't that nice of them?  Also, as an advance thank you, be sure to ask them what they want from your post and how to format it.  Giving them something they can easily cut and paste, and that they will be happy to share on their blog, is the best way to thank them.  The thank you at the end is well deserved frosting on the cake.

Always remember that the host is doing you a favor by sharing their space with you, and treat them accordingly.  Try to make this exchange as easy on them as possible by having a well written post that is relevant to their blog, and that is formatted nicely, easily, and to their specifications.  If you have questions, it's better to ask them, rather than leaving it up in the air whether you're doing what they need you to do.

May you find your Muse.

Shannon
The Warrior Muse

Special Announcement:   The special A to Z edition of Woven Tale Press is now available!   Be sure to check out Woven Tale Press.    Is one of your blog posts included?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tim Brannan guest post

Hello everyone and my name is Tim Brannan, some of you might know me from either of my two blogs The Other Side (gaming, horror and geek life) or The Freedom of Nonbelief (atheism, science and human rights).  I also am one of a groups of bloggers at Amazon Princess and Red Sonja - She Devil with a Sword.  I am guest posting at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

One of the reasons I first got into blogging was to expand my abilities as a writer and help build an audience for my various game books.  I started my blog, The Other Side, as a design journal for my then WIP The Witch.  Then something interesting happened.  I became part of a community.  Sure I had been part of an online community before, via message boards, chat and even going all the way back to BBSes and Telnet.  But a blogging community is something a little different.  I can say my bits here and then others respond, I respond back and there is the back and forth that is very nice.  I then go to other blogs and repeat the process as a responder.   Over the years I have integrated nicely into a community of other bloggers in both gaming and atheism.  I continually get ideas based one what ever the topic du jour is.

I do not underestimate the value of community here.
That is one of the reasons why I feel the Bloghop or Blogfest is critical part of my blogging experience.  For the month of May I am participating in seven different bloghops/blogfests.  I am considering adding an eighth.

I enjoy participating in these for a number of reasons.

First off it exposes me to new bloggers.  I get to read something new and potentially someone new to follow with each one.  For the A to Z challenge I end following a dozen or so new bloggers.  Likewise it exposes me to a new audience and potential followers to my blogs. There are a lot of blogs out there. There are even blogs out there that have similar interests to that I never saw before.  Joining a Horror-related bloghop, for example, is a good way for me to find people with similar tastes outside my normal circles, but joining a "First Loves" bloghop really gets some diversity for me!

Secondly it stretches me a writer.  So with all of these blogs you think I have a lot to talk about.  Yet I have to admit that there are some days that I open up Blogger and stare at a blank screen. A good bloghop gives me ideas, and failing that it gives me motivation.    One of the more obscure ones I joined was one dedicated to silent film star Mary Pickford.  Now you might ask how a game-blog with an emphasis on old-school games and horror can have anything to say about a silent film star, but in truth there was a movie that had a huge influence on my future writing.  Being able to share that with my primary audience (my regular readers) and my new audience (people in the blog hop) was great, especially since I needed to write from the point of view to satisfy both.

At this point I do want comment on not alienating your audience.  I know there are some people, not a lot, but some, in my regular blogging circles that do not like blogfests, and the A to Z one in particular.  I want to be cognizant of this.  Not tailoring my involvement to the loudest minority mind you, but what it means to my primary audience.  If I were for example were to spend the entire month of June doing nothing but talking about silent movies the people that come to my blog for gaming material will be turned off and leave.  I participate in these bloghops/blogfests, but I have to make sure that anything I post would have been something I would have posted anyway.

I enjoyed being in the A to Z blogfest the last three years.  Each year I do something a little different.  I am thankful to all the mods, helpers and minions that made this years' run so much smoother.  A real special thanks goes our to Arlee Bird for driving this Leviathan every year.  This year I was more focused and did things that will end up in my next book Eldritch Witchery.  Again, stuff I was going to write anyway and share.  This time it ended getting more diverse feedback than say if I had done it in June.

In the end I guess these things are what make of them.  For me they have been a great experience both as writer who happens to be blogging and as a blogger in a community of bloggers.   Now if there was only a central place where all the blogfest and bloghops were advertised that would be great!

Maybe someone else can take that on. I have some posts that are screaming at me to write. ;)

About the Author: Tim Brannan is an author and blogger living in the suburbs of Chicago.  He has worked on a number of games including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, Ghosts of Albion, and The Witch.  He is currently working on Eldritch Witchery for Elf Lair Games and Darwin's Guide to Creatures for Battlefield Press for the Gaslight RPG.  When not working on game material or blogging he spends time with wife and two sons.  During the day he designs curriculum for universities going online. Prior to this he was teaching Statistics at the university.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dying blogger giving away 100 dollars, people laugh like crazy

And now a late-breaking A to Z news report:

Dying blogger giving away 100 dollars, people laugh like crazy

Mumbai: In an interesting development, a broke amateur blogger who lost his job thanks to the April AtoZ challenge, has decided to give away his last 100 dollars through a blogging contest. The announcement sent shockwaves of amusement throughout the blogging community, with incidents of laughter induced hernia and vomiting reported from all over the world.

Our agency was among the first to report the tragic loss of Akhil’s job when he was caught writing articles for the AtoZ challenge during office hours. The blogging community, crossing borders and cutting lines, had strongly supported him and his right to get the load off his head. This time though, the reaction is completely opposite.

Vaisakh, a blogger from India, tried his best to talk to us over the phone. However his incessant, breathless laughter rendered all his words inaudible. After half an hour of effort, he finally caught some air and said:

“I’ve known that guy from the first day he started writing. I really liked his incoherent, thoughtless banter, made me feel really good about my own writing. But then tragedy struck and he was thrown out of his job. People really sympathised with him you know, but sympathy doesn’t pay the bills, does it? I can’t believe he is stupid enough to give away his last penny, that too through a blogging contest! I mean do you see the irony here? One challenge took away his job, the other one is gonna take away his life! He has really outshined Peter Griffin I tell you.”

We caught up with his fellow blogger Ayush Chauhan at a cheap liquor joint just outside of town. Sticking a dirty needle up his left arm, he talked about the good times and how it all went down the drain so quickly:

“We were 2 broke IT guys. Then we were 2 broke IT guys who blogged. Our dreams of making thousands of dollars online were brutally shattered when he got fired. Ever since then, he has been begging me for some money, but you can see how things are. I’m glad he is getting it over with. That poor bastard never knew what hit him. May he rest in peace.”


laughing beggar
Source: www.zuzafun.com[/caption]

When last seen, Akhil was living in a cardboard box just outside of Vashi station. He appeared frail and delusional, and kept muttering something about the Govt. taking away his home. Our reporters managed to get some fluids inside him, giving him the energy to speak:

“Sure, I lost my job due to the AtoZ, but it inspired me to write. I finally got a place to put my endless thoughts to rest. This is my tribute to my blogging friends, my death will spawn 100 new articles and those 100 will give birth to 10000! Money is so overrated I tell you, and eternal glory costs only 100 dollars. I invite you to share this glory with me.

The situation continues to be grim but excruciatingly funny.


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

      Okay so the article is not totally real, but the contest part is.   For more information check out 1 Hundred Works.





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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A-Z Reflections 2013: Ornery's Wife from Zoe's Cottage


As I was out reading Reflections Posts, I came across some fantastic ones that I thought would generate a good discussion. Perhaps you were too weary to write your own, but I'm pretty sure you still have some opinions. I thought Ornery's Wife did a great job of outlining some of the main topics we as co-hosts want to hear your opinions about. So comment away, or if you've already done so in your reflections post, feel free to leave the link to it in the comments. ~Tina



Since I have a strong tendency to FORGET things, I may have forgotten to write this when I had planned to and in fact may forget to put in some important thing.  I hope not...

First, the Positive aspects of the challenge:
  • It was very well organized and advertized
  • There were many participants, from diverse backgrounds, locations and perspectives
  • I found a LOT of new blogs to follow
  • Many new friends are following my blog :)
  • There was a lot of information up front about how to be successful and by reading that I was able to finish the challenge successfully and change up many aspects of my blog to make it more reader and comment friendly.  I do love me some comments!
  • After reading so many blog posts with the Captcha turned off, when I found one with that in it I was shocked! :)  I only had one or two anonymous comments that were unrelated to the post and those were directed to Blogger's spam folder.
  • I like only having to link up ONE time at the beginning of the challenge instead of daily--sometimes I can't get to my computer until late in the day and not having to stress if I didn't make it at all was really nice!
  • My Google Chrome browser highlighted which blogs I had already visited on the linky list so I could check out new ones easily since (as I mentioned before) I am inclined to FORGET things like where I had been before.  It only worked if I clicked the link directly from the list (as opposed to from another comment on a blog) and in Chrome (not Firefox) but that was how I usually went "shopping" for another friend. :)
  • I love that there was not a set theme other than the alphabet letter for the day--you could choose your own theme for the month or choose not to use one at all and fly by the seat of your pants. 
  • I was also glad there was no length requirement.  Some of my favorite reads were just a picture with a caption.  I also found that if the post was really long and about a topic I was only marginally interested in, I didn't spend much time there.
  • I was challenged to amp up my writing, both in quality and quantity. The challenge seemed to attract a really large group of "real" writers, and their content was more often than not meaty and fun to read with fewer glaring grammar errors. 
  • Truly, this was an amazing collection of bloggers!  Not only did most of them reciprocate visits, a lot of them left great comments. I have never had that type of response in any other blogging carnival/hop  in the past.
Now for the negative aspects, if one could call it that--Perhaps more like constructive criticism?
  • There were several blogs I visited that never did post a single entry for the challenge after they announced they were participating or else dropped out early in the month. I couldn't find the email address to send the links to so I didn't ever report them. Even at the end of the month I was still stumbling across some of those.  Perhaps there could be a link on the linky page of the A to Z blog about where to report? (or did I just miss it??)
  • I came across several blogs with Adult Content that were not flagged on the list. I may choose to visit one, but I would like to know in advance it is such. Otherwise the tags on the blogs were somewhat helpful when deciding which ones to visit.  For the most part the AC notes were the only ones I tended to avoid because I FORGOT what the different letters stood for other than WR and I didn't want to take the time to go back up and read the list.
  • The Disqus comment thing was annoying.  Some of the blogs allowed you to comment with just your name and email address, but others required you to have a Disqus account or log in with Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.  I didn't comment there.
  • Some of the blogger profiles are linked to their Google+ account, but there is not a visible link to their blog in their feed. So, when tracing down a comment I was directed to Google+ but couldn't reciprocate their visit because I couldn't find their blog address.  Perhaps if someone has their blog set up this way they might add a blog link to their home page or else in the comment itself.
  • I was more likely to comment on a blog whose comment link was at the bottom of the post as opposed to having to drive back up to the top to find it.  Some of them were so small and hard to find it took a lot of time.  
  • I was more likely to read a post if the entire thing was displayed when I arrived on the site as opposed to having to click a "read more" link. Page re-loads take valuable reading time and as I mentioned above, I have a tendency to peruse the length of the post before I read it to determine if I have enough time (or attention) to give to a lengthy piece or not.
And that is about it.  Thanks to Arlee Bird and all the helpers who made the challenge so much fun and easy to participate in.  Thanks to all my new followers and those who left such insightful comments on the posts. Thanks to you for reading this one!  I'll be back next year, maybe on more than one blog! :)


Thanks, Ornery's Wife (love that name) for sharing. Please go visit her at Zoe's Cottage and give her some more bloggy love.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Building Communities: Corinne Rodrigues and the A2Zeders


        In this year's A to Z Reflections Posts I kept seeing the name of Corinne Rodrigues mentioned in regard to the bloggers she had encouraged to join A to Z and the blogging community she had developed.  Since one of the goals of the A to Z Challenge is to build community, what she was doing was right in line with what I'd been working toward.  Corinne was so successful at this community building that I've invited her to the A to Z Blog to tell us more about this topic.   I think what she has done is part of the future of what the A to Z Challenge will become.


Although I've been blogging regularly for six years now, it was only in 2011 that my blog really took off. That was largely due to the fact that I was invited to join a Blogging Group on Facebook.   This was a group in which we share our links, have a lot of fun and laughter, discussed issues and yes, even got into arguments at times.  We  sent each other messages when we knew someone was not feeling good, wished each other for birthdays and anniversaries and even condoled the passing of family members. But most of all, we visited and commented on each other's blogs.  Now I knew that each time I posted, I could share my link in the group and have at a couple of visits and comments on my blog. This was so different, from putting my posts out in the blog world and hoping some random blogger would come along and be nice enough to read and comment.

Some people say that they don't blog to be read, and don't need assurance from their readers.  My question to such folk would be, 'Why blog, then. Why not keep your blog private?'  If we're honest, every visit, every comment, every 'award' does make us feel that someone is 'listening' to us.  I can quite frankly say that the moment I knew I had serious and committed readers, the quality of my posts improved. Now I knew for certain that people were 'listening' and caring enough to tell me so.

It was with this experience in mind that I decided to take on the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge for the first time.

 I'm part of a group of Indian women bloggers - but it's a blogging group with a difference. We don't share our links - we share our thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects. So while I interact with a lot of bloggers there, I don't actually visit all their blogs and neither does everyone of them visit mine! When I read about the Challenge, I shared the link with this group.  Someone in this group asked me if I was participating and told me that she would too if I was.  I decided to take up the Challenge on the blog that I share with my husband (and dog!) so as to get it really started.  By then the number of bloggers taking up the challenge was a staggering 1500. How was I going to be able to post, visit and get visitors to my blog, I wondered.  That's when I had  the idea of creating a Facebook group for specifically for Challenge. I invited some bloggers there, and they in turn invited others and soon we had a group about about 15 bloggers.

A2Zeders was born. We read and shared all we could about the Challenge. A few of us had undertaken the challenge before and shared their experiences.  Our guidelines were simple - write, read and comment. Every day I would pin a post for the Alphabet at the top of the group page. The members would then add their links to the thread and start to visit and comment on as many other blogs on the thread as they could. Many members even shared all the links on Twitter.

It's summer in India, and many members were scheduled to go on vacation. So that was going to be a challenge. We found a way around that too. These members scheduled their posts and someone in the group religiously shared them on the relevant thread and made sure they got comments.  There were a few members who seriously considered dropping out because of difficult work routines. Did we let them do that? No!

Soon people were chatting to each other on other threads - asking for suggestions and ideas,  praising someone's post for the day, inquiring why someone hadn't posted that day, motivating,  pushing and just being community.  The power of community using social media was on display the entire month of the Challenge.
Like - Thumb Up
As with all groups, there were some members who just shared their and didn't bother to visit other blogs or really interact in the group. Thankfully they were a very small minority. And it was completely their loss.

I'm happy to report that some members got so hooked on to this experience, that they've taken on another challenge for May.  Even better, we've created a new Facebook group - restricted to some of those who took part in the challenge.  We've begun visit each others' blogs, take on group prompts, undertake blog critiques. It's still in the early stages, but I'm confident the experience and euphoria of the A-Z Challenge can be converted into a sustainable group of bloggers committed to improving the quality of their writing and motivating other members to do the same.

I'm grateful to Arlee Bird and all the members of the A-Z organizing team who through their creativity have encouraged other bloggers to be creative and innovative.

Do you think that being part of Blogging Group on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or any other platform, can help improve your blogging/writing experience?

Corinne Rodrigues is a Mumbai-based blogger who can be found here.
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Marketing Through A to Z


By Julie Flanders


I know I’m not alone among writers when I say that marketing and promotion does not come naturally or easily to me. But as we all know, our books don’t sell themselves and our work doesn’t end when our books are released. Marketing is a continuous and essential part of the publishing process.

Fortunately for writers like me, the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is a wonderful tool for marketing and promotion. I’ve known since my first A-Z in 2011 that the challenge was a great way to network with other bloggers, make new friends, and increase traffic to my site. This year, I learned that it can also be an invaluable resource for marketing a book.

From the time I knew that my debut novel Polar Night would be released in February of this year, I knew that I was going to tie the book in with my challenge posts in some way. But I didn’t want to come off as one of those writers (we’ve all seen them, I’m sure) who post or tweet nothing but declarations about the greatness of their books and tell us all to buy them, over and over (and over!) again.

The A to Z April Challenge gave me a great opportunity to showcase my book without even posting that much about the book itself. As Polar Night takes place in Alaska, I wrote an A to Z of Alaska and shared interesting and fun tidbits I had learned about the state. I had a good time researching and writing the posts and the visitors to my blog seemed to enjoy reading them.

I know of other writers who used this year’s challenge to market their books in interesting and creative ways. My friend Carol Kilgore of Under the Tiki Hut wrote several of her A to Z posts using the voices of the characters from her latest novel Solomon’s Compass, thus introducing readers to the world of her novel and the people who populate it. And my new friend Sheena-kay Graham, who I was fortunate to get to know through this year’s challenge, shared tantalizing hints and tidbits about The Sacrifice Series, her series of novellas which will be released beginning in the fall of 2013. These are just two of many great examples.

I’ve said many times that joining the A to Z in April Challenge for the first time in 2011 was the best blogging decision I’ve ever made. There’s no question that it was also one of the best writing decisions I’ve ever made. If I am fortunate enough to have another book published, I know one of the first things I will start thinking about is how I can work that book into a challenge theme, just as I did with Polar Night.

The opportunities that come along with participating in the challenge are limited only by our own imaginations, and I will always encourage any writers I meet to sign up and participate. I don’t believe anyone will regret it.


About the Author: Julie Flanders is a writer and a librarian who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Julie shares her home with her dog and cat and, when not writing fiction, she loves to write about animals and animal-related issues. Her debut novel, the paranormal suspense thriller Polar Night, is now available from Ink Smith Publishing. Find Julie online at http://julieflanders.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Evaluation of A to Z based on Reflections


     Did you get your Reflections Post done and on the list?  We ended up with 382 links on this year's list.  Not a bad showing I'd say.   Like in the Challenge itself, there were some outstanding posts presenting thoughts on the 2013 Challenge.

        I'm still wending my way through the list and leaving comments at each one I visit.  I hope that more of you will do the same in order to show appreciation to the A to Z participants who took the time to add their thoughts and experiences.

        For the most part the Challenge reviews have been glowing or at least positive.  The usual negatives are there--word verification, commenting difficulties, lack of visits or comments, and not as many new followers as in previous years.   We had less of a problem with non-participant blogs thanks to our teams of helpers.  A big thank you to all of you who were part of that effort.

Here are a few specifics that some mentioned:

Adult Content Labeling:   Nagzilla and a few others expressed concern about the labeling on the list.  Some thought we were practicing censorship, but I emphatically disagree with this charge.   The AC labeling is a warning in the same way the film industry labels films with content adviseries.  And even FCC blocking of such content from public airwaves is probably not considered censorship.  Offhand I'm not sure what you call that, but A to Z is not unique in calling for some sort of screening for content that some find offensive.  We will continue to study this issue and hopefully come to a satisfactory solution.  We welcome your thoughts about this and ask that you try to understand our position on this.   I don't see that we are unreasonable in any way.

Topic Labeling:   Many of you liked having the opportunity to have blog categorizations to make it easier to find blogs that interested you most.   This is still in the experimental stage.  I agree that all of the different labels were difficult to remember.   Many suggestions have been offered on how to improve this.  I will stand by my suggestion from previous years of having a flexible programmable list that requires a few more registration steps.   The Linky List is fine for smaller blog networking events, but somewhat impractical and labor intensive for an event that has become as large as A to Z.   Any expert programmers out there who would like to contact me about this?   Since A to Z is an all volunteer project, we can't afford to pay for a programmed list, but I'm willing to listen to your ideas.

  Creating subgroups and communities:  I was interested in what Corinne Rodrigues organized from her site From 7Eight.   You might want to check out her post.   This may be part of the future of A to Z and the idea of creating communities is something we've encouraged since the event began growing as it did in the second year.  Corinne Rodrigues will be visiting the A to Z Blog on May 20th with more information.

 Comment complications:   My Rite of Passage provided a good overview of the problems some blogs have in their commenting systems or even tracking back to the blog of whoever commented in the first place.   You might want to read this for your year round blogging activities.  Not getting as many comments as you'd like?  This post explains some possible reasons for that.

Highlighting other bloggers:     Rosie Amber is among several bloggers who added lists of other blogs to her posts.   It's a nice touch to feature others and make friends in the process.

Watching stats and recording blog performance:  Katie at Adventuringathome was into stats.  You can check out how she did during April and read about her thoughts on the Challenge.  How was your month?  Did you keep an eye on blog stats?

        Please continue to visit the links on the Reflections Post list.  That list will be accessible all year.  And join us on the A to Z Ultimate Road Trip.  That list will be open all year so you can join us any time, but now is the best time so you can stay caught up.

         Do you have any observations about the A to Z Challenge that you would like to add here?   What do think about some of the points made in this post?



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Sunday, May 12, 2013

British Food ... A salute to all mothers on this the American Mother’s Day!


I'm excited to introduce the very popular Hilary Melton-Butcher as our special guest today! She has a wonderful blog where you always learn something new, and her sunny personality is sure to cheer you up. I was blessed to have her on Tina's Terrific Team for the Challenge. Please give her a warm welcome!


During April and my A – Z posts on Aspects of British Cookery, Marks and Spencer released some information which reveals how over the past century British shoppers received some of the foods we now take for granted with bemusement, scepticism and, occasionally, outright horror.


I remember my father coming back from Waterloo Station with new fruits – the Ugly stands out for me ... a very thick skin and a cross between grapefruit and orange. 


I stand corrected ... it is an "Ugli" – a tangelo (grapefruit, orange and tangerine) coming from Jamaica ... as I note it is a fruit with 'a bit of a complex'. 



The 'Ugli'
They certainly aren’t much more popular today, than when bought by my father from a barrow at the station on his way home to the back of beyond – as west Surrey was in those days ... not the urbanised sprawl of greater, greater, even Greater London that it is today.


We did not have an M+S in Woking in those days ... so we did not experience some foods til we knew how to eat them ... but apparently M+S had to educate the British housewife on how to eat and what to do with these exotics ...


  • Avocado pear: peeled, stewed and served with custard?!  Yes – but the lady, who complained ... was politely told ... preferably serve as a starter with vinaigrette or lemon juice!

  • Pistachios: the dentists enjoyed a resurgence!  M+S had to include instructions: ... please first take the shells off - then eat!

  • Chicken Kiev: the Chairman of M+S (1972-82), Marcus Sieff, who revolutionised the company’s food, personally vetoed Chicken Kiev, saying the British were not yet ready for garlic!  He admitted later ... that he couldn’t have been more wrong – it sold everywhere.


I do remember the clerks serving my mother from her list of groceries ... but when the new “self-service” shops came in they were so disorienting for shoppers that M+S had to publish a leaflet explaining how the “experiment” worked.


Some early "self-service"  M+S stores had personal shoppers accompanying the housewife, as she was considered incapable of choosing for herself – being advised that this product is very new ... we’ll show you how to do it!!


It’s fascinating to think back on how much has changed ... M+S’s food technology department, founded in 1948 while produce was rationed and the economy languished, was given the job of lifting the dismal high street.


Their first forays were into cakes .... we always made ours at home – but again my mother was a brilliant cook ... yet like us many families turned their noses up at a bought cake ... but now, by the 1950s, the M+S advertorial would tempt these aspiring ladies to give bought cakes a try.


The horizons of everyday households broadened, no doubt spurred on by the ‘gossip’ of town and village life ... as women shared, or competed with each other to try new things ...


Look where we are today ... mass marketing, mass catering – yet artisanal foods, farmer’s markets, farm shops are being founded to offer creative and home made selections of foods.


The M+S advertorials, the in-house (back then) staff magazines, the rise of the cookery writer, cookery magazines, articles in newspapers all gave the aspiring, more affluent housewife the impetus and encouragement to try new recipes ...


... we are now a nation of gourmets celebrating the joy of fine food!


I hope today around the world on Mother’s Day, even though in Britain we keep the custom of Mothering Sunday (usually in March), we give our mother bunches of wonderful flowers, prepare a special meal for them and their family ...


... remember their tough times guiding their families through those early years, then celebrating all their achievements and love for their family and with life itself ...


I give thanks to all mothers today - for this Mother’s Day!


Please visit my own blog where I celebrated Aspects of British Food during the A - Z Challenge ... for a wrap up post on the way we eat now ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Friday, May 10, 2013

Casting Call: Guest Post at the A-Z Blog!


Did you survive the A-Z Challenge 2013? You probably did if you're reading this. We already gave you an awesome badge – thanks Jeremy – now we're giving you a stage!

This is a casting call for guest posters here at the A-Z Blog. Over the next month or so we'll be featuring posts by some of the amazing assistants, some great Reflections Posts we've come across, and posts by YOU.

Please email me, Tina, at tndowney at gmail dot com if you'd like to use this stage to reach a wider audience. Your post can be about anything. We'll link it back to your own blog so that you can get more traffic, and ask that you link to us from your blog at the same time. Win-win!

So are you game? Much easier to get on this stage than American Idol...

~Tina

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Want to Join Us for the ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP?

Hi Guys, and welcome to the 2013 Post A-to-Z Road Trip!


Feel free to snag this badge for your own blog!

Despite quite a bit of late snow here in Colorado, including a lovely blizzard on May Day, I'm totally ready to get back on the road. Blue skies, black roads, yellow lines, and the sound of my tires on the pavement. I want to feel the heat, smell the wildflowers and chlorine.

But most of all, I want to visit the rest of the A-to-Z Challenge participants. I definitely didn't have time to visit everyone during the Challenge, so now is the time. 

What are the technicalities? There aren't many. The linky opens today. Sign up if you'd like to come with us on a summer of fun, visiting fellow A-to-Z'ers, discovering new blogs. We'll close the linky in December, meaning you can waffle all the way until then. And though it will be closed in December, that doesn't mean you have to stop. The linkies will still be available for visit up to the 2014 Challenge.

We'll have occasional check-ins, but there's nothing required of you other to make whatever effort you like to visit participants of the 2013 A-to-Z Challenge.

We won't be alone on this road trip. No, Tina will be revising her role as my lovely co-host, and Nicole will be joining us for the first time this year! 

As we get started, Tina has some pointers for you, and Nicole's got something to say, so I'll hand the floor over to them. 

See you on the road!

~Shannon, The Warrior Muse


I'm excited about this 3rd road trip! First of all, did you know that it was because Shannon and I organized the Post-Challenge Challenge in 2011 that we got chosen as co-hosts? Pretty cool. Then in 2012 we renamed it the more apt “road-trip”. History lesson over! We're really glad to have Nicole to take some driving shifts.  The more the merrier the trip!

Tips for the road: you're in charge. Want to visit one new blog a day? Want to visit hundreds of blogs a day? No problem. You're driving. Unless you hitch a ride with a friend, which I think is a good idea. Accountability and all that, not that this is a diet or a competition or anything. It's just some friends hanging out and continuing visiting.

Some strategies you might want to try:
Visit all the blogs with your same category
Visit all the blogs whose names intrigue you
Visit all the even (or odd) blogs
Start from where you left off and keep on truckin'...

Whatever you do, don't forget that this trip is a journey, not a destination. Signing up on the linky doesn't mean you're committing to visiting ALL the blogs. All you're saying is, “I ain't done yet.” We'll have some encouraging rah rah posts along the way, and a chance for you to share your best “finds” along the road. Personally, I like those little Mom and Pop cafes that are off the beaten road, and the food is real and so is the atmosphere – so cool but unknown blogs that need some customers!

Keep track of your finds, give us a holler if you run out of gas or need your tire changed. We're here as your guides – we've journeyed similar roads in the past! Good luck, and drive carefully.



Maps - Check! iTunes – Check! GPS - Check? Water – Check!

I’m ready to hit the road with Shannon and Tina for this Post A-to-Z Road Trip that’s taking us over some commenting highways, down a few tweeting tunnels, up through subscribing/following bridges and back again. One of the most exciting things about this trip are the fellow drivers and carpools accompanying us as we stop in towns all across the country to find out what each and every person in our alphabet network is cooking up on his or her blog.

Want to know a secret? We’re also taking advantage of some uncharted territory – back roads and routes that have little to no traffic signs – which means there are no set rules for how or where you drive your vehicle, no speeding limit for how fast or slow you go and most importantly, zero guidelines for where you choose to park your vehicle throughout our cross-country journey. I’ll be offering up some refreshments at rest stops, accompanied by tips and tricks that you can use to keep you on course – until we’ve racked up enough miles, stories and traveling buddies that will get us through another 26 days of blogging in April or any other month for that matter.

Honk if you’re packed in, gassed up, buckled up and ready to join us on the road for some sing-a-longs, games, rest-stop snacking and much more cruising through lanes of A-to-Z blogs!

~Nicole, The Madlab Post





Sign up here for the Post A-to-Z Road Trip!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Submissions Open for Your Best A to Z Post of 2013


Sandra Tyler of Woven Tale Press is inviting A to Z submissions from 2013 to appear in an upcoming edition of  The Woven Tale Press:

In honor of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge which annually spurs so many bloggers to persevere in writing daily for an entire month, a special edition of The Woven Tale Press is planned, to highlight some of the best of this year’s A-Z challengers’ posts.

The Woven Tale Press is an e-magazine  an eclectic monthly culling of the blogging web; too many well-conceived and artful posts are relegated to their archives too soon.  Posts ephemeral, but meant to be indelible.

So to prevent your posts from gathering dust in those archives, submit your favorite 2013 A-Z post from 2013 for consideration at:



To read the most current issue of The Woven Tale Press, click on the cover below:




Important Update from the publisher:


The Woven Tale Press has been blessed with so many terrific submissions! However, 
despite so many submissions, many are duplicate letters.

So A-Z challengers who have not already submitted, consider submitting your best of letters:

B, D, G, H, L, O, Q, S, T, U, W

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Challenge Reflections Post Linky List Opens

Be sure to save badge image and download it into your sidebar.

The Linky List went live Thursday night and is now ready for sign-ups.   The List will remain open for the next week and will be accessible in the above tab labeled "2013 A TO Z REFLECTIONS SIGN UP/LIST".


Important Note!!     Please Read


before signing on to the list!!

 
          This list is intended only for those who are posting an A to Z Reflections post.   Please post only the link to your Reflections post and not the URL address of your blog.  If your intent is to add a link to your advertising site or just to get your blog noticed, be aware that those links will be removed from the list when discovered.   If you have any problems with your entry or accidentally enter the incorrect link, please contact us.  Refer to the "Contact Us" tab for contact information:




Remember to add the link to your exact post when entering it on the list!




Be sure to visit others on the list to see how their experience compares with yours.  Leave a comment so they know you stopped by.    Interact and network!   And you can still follow blogs that you aren't following already.  If you do follow a blog, let the blogger know that you've done so and you may get a new follower as well.

Have Fun!



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