Friday, November 2, 2007

Toward a Better Blog

Let’s keep it real. We all dream of saving the world while knowing that we have trouble managing one tiny corner of the blogosphere. (Hmmm… corner? sphere? That can’t be right). At any rate, I’ve been thinking about the blog that I started in September and looking for ways to improve it (in addition to more content, better writing, and more promotion, of course).

The good news is that I’ve shown up pretty late for the party, so there are lots of good bloggers out there, and being who they are, they have written about it on the internet. The collective wisdom seems to be that, unless you are already a celebrity of one breed or another and the masses hang on every word you utter, a blog needs to target a specific audience.

As you might have noticed from my initial posts, I’m all over the place. Professionally I’m a non-fiction writer, so the writer’s life is of interest to me. However, the topics I write about range from native plants to dogs to all sorts of needlecrafts – not because these topics are randomly assigned, but because these are the things that interest me.

Naturally, I don’t write these articles for one publication. They each have a different target audience. Thinking that through was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. Ok maybe it was a slap the forehead, duh moment, but the result is this. Over the next few weeks, I will be launching and posting new content to several new blogs each focused on one of my areas of interest.

Native in the City will provide information about the value and use of native plants in gardening. I have already written many articles on this topic for regional publications targeting gardeners and landscape professionals.

Dog Dialogue will include articles and stories about dogs – their care and training, reviews of products and books and the biased opinions of Lady’s mom (me).

Stitching Times will offer stories and examples of a wide variety of needle oriented crafts using fabric, yarn, threads, beads and found things. These will be from my own catalog and from friends (actual and virtual). It will also provide a venue to gather input for my upcoming series of books called The Home Sewer’s Reference.

Contrarian Chronicles will provide information and opinions on topics local and global – some politics, some social commentary, and all targeted at a fairly broad front page audience. Hopefully this blog will generate some meaningful discussion without starting flame wars.

And finally, Ink Slinger Chronicles will become a place to write about writing and hear from others how they are living the writer’s life.

I may not post as often to any one blog, but readers will be better able to pick and choose which spot to watch. Hopefully we share some interests and you will let me hear from you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What would we do without George Will?

As a former Lit major and sometime writer, I read a lot. I read books mostly, but also newspapers and magazine articles – especially those that I can read online, or that others send to me via e-mail. My husband is a great clipping service sending me links to articles he thinks might interest me. This is how I started reading George Will’s columns.
I knew of George Will before that. I was devoted to “This Week with David Brinkley”. This was a show I considered one of the last truly civil news programs on television. I use civil in the sense of “adhering to the norms of polite social intercourse; not deficient in common courtesy”. Brinkley was always in charge of the discussion and made sure that all voices were heard. This is so unlike the current style of such programs, which seems to encourage one pundit to out-shout the other guests on the program. Apparently, the current thinking is that the loudest and rudest pundit wins. The “This Week” program went downhill in this regard under the helm of Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts and is only now approaching something I can stand to watch under the guidance of George Stephanopoulos. But I digress.
George Will restores my faith in the thinking man (or woman). He is smart and well read, articulate, and fearless. Reading his articles, or listening to him on television I often think, “I wish I could convince everyone I know to listen to this guy.” He just makes sense. It often seems to me that he is pointing out the obvious, but listening to the rest of the media – even those who sit next to him at the roundtable – it is clear that the facts and conclusions he offers up are not obvious to everyone.
Here is yet another article that I read this morning. An Inconvenient Price begs the question of what we should be doing about global warming, if anything. My poor husband has been listening to me rant in a far less articulate manner along similar lines.
It is clear to me that it is foolhardy to put too much faith in man’s ability to control the environment. Can we make a problem marginally worse? Sure. At least we can do so on a local level as happens when someone dumps enough bad chemicals into a river that provides the drinking water for a large city downstream.
Can this kind of environmental impact be stopped? Again, sure. But if you really believe that man can control the environment, take a look at Bill Bryson’s book “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. Read Chapter 15 about Yellowstone National Park.
It seems that Yellowstone is a super volcano. Not some geological relic only of interest to professors at small western universities, but an active volcano with the potential to exert a force thousands of times more powerful than the eruption at Mount St. Helens. And we are about 30,000 years overdue for the next eruption.
When it happens, the ash alone could be enough to halt the production of food in all states west of the Mississippi. The rate of species extinction caused by such an event just makes the current climate change debate sound silly. The last super volcano eruption happened seventy four thousand years ago and brought our race to the brink of extinction. Never mind the polar bear.
So what would we do without a voice of reason like George F. Will? I guess that for most folks we know the answer. We would have devoted yesterday’s writing time to “Blog Action Day” and written many possibly silly articles about the environment and our efforts to control it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tit for Tat

As I mentioned, I had an opportunity to hear the Yarn Harlot speak last week. And, since I knew that there would be a room full of knitters sitting there doing something with their hands that involved yarn and needles, and since, though I have knit in the past, it isn’t one of my current occupations, I determined to take some tatting with me. I’ve been learning how to tat with a needle – that shuttle thing is beyond me – and had an idea for Christmas ornaments. Every year my husband and I throw a big Christmas party. Last year I made ornaments, which leveraged the crazy quilt techniques and fabric I had been using to create a full size quilt, as party favors. I thought I would try to tat some to give away this year. Here is the result.

I actually only completed a couple at the event, and those didn’t have the beads. The plain ones are pretty but as a representation for a wreath, they just seemed to scream for berries. Anyway, these are a great beginner project, and once you are comfortable with the technique and the pattern, you can crank out several in an hour – a good project for time in from of the TV. However, unlike knitting, tatting does require you to look at your work a bit more often. I learned from this book by Barbara Foster of Handy Hands Tatting. Jane Eborall also has a great website with lots of free patterns and links to a whole long list of tatting blogs. Finally, you have to check out Yarnplayer's shop on Etsy. I just bought some gorgeous hand dyed thread there.
Now if anyone out there has an easy beginner’s pattern for a needle tatted snowflake, let me know…

Friday, September 21, 2007

How to Build a Dog Park

*Assemble a bunch of dog owners
Plan a fund raiser*
Repeat * * until you have enough money to

  • Buy the land (or to buy off the politicians so the parks department will provide the land, and for the court battle with the neighbors who have a dog but don’t want a dog park in their neighborhood)
  • To install a fence with double gated entry around the perimeter and to section off an area for the small dogs
  • Install a water fountain with a big concrete pad and sufficient drainage to ensure it doesn’t become a mud pit (it will anyway)
  • Include a spigot for washing off muddy dogs who have lain in the mud pit to cool off
  • Install trash receptacles and waste bag stations (stocked with more little biodegradable baggies than you knew existed in the universe)
  • Print signage with rules (that everyone in the dog park will fail to read and then ask why there isn’t a rule about X. There is. Read the sign)
  • Build a bulletin board that can be used to post useful information about dogs (and ads seeking volunteers for freaky medical experiments)
  • Built a rain shelter (for those days when despite the rain, “this dog is going to get some exercise dammit!”)

You now have a dog park that will be ready to operate for one week. Next, you must

*Assemble a bunch of dog owners, Plan a fund raiser*
Repeat * * until you have enough money to pay for

  • Grass mowing (soon to be replaced by mulching once the dogs manage to kill all of the grass inside the perimeter)
  • Trash pickup and additional waste bags (more than you knew existed in the universe), and someone to clean up the poop (for those special dog owners who apparently aren’t required to do this for themselves)
  • Demolition of the rain shelter (because the urban outdoorsmen thought you built it to provide very low income housing)
  • Someone to monitor the bulletin board and remove inappropriate posts, (and to pick up the 4,000 business cards flying around and being ground into the mud advertising dog portraiture)
  • Air horns to be used when a fight breaks out between dogs (but which are totally ineffective except for their ability to annoy the neighbors)
  • Spraying of weeds and weed whacking to keep the vines from pulling down the fence
  • Fence repair (there is no logical reason that people tear down the fencing in an unlocked gated area – they just do)
  • Security Guards to enforce the rules and break up fights (mostly between idiot dog owners)
And finally, you must find someone to take your job as leader of this pack of dog lovers, because your dog now refuses to go inside the dog park – absolutely parks her butt on the ground and will not be moved in that direction for love or treats.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm a Writer. Really I am a Writer. I Write.

A few years ago, I left the world of high tech marketing, dotcoms, and software, and ventured out on my own. I started a marketing consulting business part time. I volunteered with a native plant society and park improvement groups and considered a career change back to the not-for-profit world. I learned how to train a dog by doing it, took up quilting, and learned a few new creative skills like tatting. I wrote several articles in regional and national publications, and developed a line of project bags and accessories for knitters.
Sound a little scattered? Well after lots of false starts, I finally have an answer when new acquaintances turn to me and say, “What do you do, Kay?”
I say, “I am a writer”. When they say, “what do you write?” I reply, “I recently published a book about my father’s experiences during World War II” (buy it here Publisher Link or Amazon Link)
“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” you say, “but what have you written that anyone beyond your first cousin would care about”. Well let me tell you…
In the October issue of Georgia Gardening magazine will be an article about Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta; A place of beauty and history that you shouldn’t miss if you come here. Get the Magazine or visit the Oakland Cemetery website. This week I’m working on an article about Trees Atlanta and the Neighborhood Arboretum project – that will be published sometime during the winter.
That’s the nature of writing for magazines. I finished the Oakland article in June but it doesn’t appear until October. Makes writing anything with a time component (they will do [scratch that insert did] such and such in fall 2007) somewhat akin to water torture.
And, I have started a new book. No details except to say it will be the first in a series, and useful. The goal is to have it out before the end of the year, but I’ll have to keep you posted on progress.
Anyway, the import thing (to me) is that I can finally say, “I’m a writer.” I get up every morning, take Lady (the dog) for some exercise, eat breakfast, shower, dress, and walk into my office just like a normal grownup. Then I sit down and write. My next goal is to be able to say, “I write for a living”. Not there yet.
Finally, the question of the day is, "why am I blogging", and the answer has to be Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot. Last night I had the chance to hear her speak – not about her new book Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off, but about living the life of a Knitter (with a capital K). The woman is one of the funniest human beings on the planet. Seriously whether you knit or not, go to one of her book signings and hear her speak Book Tour Schedule. Anyway, she was talking about writing and technology and blogging and it made me feel guilty. Here I am a “software person” and “writer” and I wasn’t blogging. A sad commentary. So here it is. Let me know what you think – even if you think it stinks.