What I’ve Learned From Guest Blogging

Guest Blogging

As I sit here responding to comments on Natalie’s post, I am reminded why I love Guest Blogging and Guest Hosting. For me, there is no better way to build community.

It all began with Jill Weatherholt’s blog. This past Spring, Jill extended an invitation for writers and artists to Guest Host on her site. Knowing absolutely nothing about Guest Posting, I raised my hand, took a leap…and wrote my first piece as a Guest Author. Shortly afterward, I received a request to write a Guest Post for ‘The Month of Happiness Series’ at Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond.

In both cases, Guest Blogging strengthened my relationship with the Host Author, brought out different writing than I would have written on my own site and gave my posts a broader reach. Hanging out in the comment section on Jill’s and Sue’s blogs was like being at a party with both new and familiar faces with whom to mingle. A light went off and my missing piece of blogging was found.

Two years prior to leaving my career, I began searching for information on the non-financial aspects of retirement. It was difficult to find what I was looking for. When I did finally stumble upon a couple of retirement bloggers who appeared to address what I was seeking, it took me a long while to find a community of bloggers with whom I could find inspiration, motivation and challenge. As soon as I found this, I wanted to extend it, and to share.

I’ve since gone on to write eight additional Guest Posts (two not yet published) as well as to host twenty-four Guest Authors. Some experts would argue that this equation should be in reverse. Ultimately, each host needs to determine what balance works for his/her site.

Those twenty-four bloggers helped to create a much richer and varied picture of retirement/lifestyle than I could have provided on my own. I am grateful that they have so generously offered their time and voices to share their different retirement experiences as a guest.

Why Should You Consider Writing a Guest Post?

• Networking.
• New audience.
• Challenge – writing outside of your comfort zone.
• Deepen your relationships with fellow bloggers.

What Should You Look for when Selecting Guest Bloggers?

• Bloggers whose writing is a good match for your niche.
• Those who have a track record of writing quality content that benefits readers.
• Writers who engage fully and meaningfully with comments.
• People who enjoy collaboration and working as part of a team.

Should you Consider Hosting Guest Bloggers?

Ultimately, it all depends on what you want to create for your blog. There isn’t a right or wrong. For me, I want my site to be like my favourite coffee shop where regulars and newcomers alike can browse, share, discuss, inspire, encourage and challenge. I want it to be a place where frequent commenters are recognized and missed in their absence. I also want it to be a dependable place that offers quality, thought-provoking content… which continues even when I am away without internet (another very helpful aspect of Guest Blogging).

What is your experience with Guest Blogging and/or Guest Hosting?

Featured Guest Bloggers for Round Two: Sundays at Six will include: Cresting the Hill, Deb’s World, Wagemadness, Adventures of the New Old Farts, Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond, The Glasgow Gallivanter, Second Wind Leisure Perspectives, Boots Shoes & Fashion, Snakes in the Grass, Retirementally Challenged, So What? Now What?, Travels with Fran, Easing Along, Encore Voyage, Hugh’s Views and News, Roaming About, Lisa Dorenfest: One Ocean at a Time, Grammy’s Grid and Shallow Reflections. If you would like to submit a first or second Guest Post for this series, please do not hesitate to let me know.

My Week in Blogging Hell

Blogging Hell

For me, this past week has been Blogging Hell. Literally. You know, the week where you catch your haggard reflection in the mirror and desperately moan to yourself “why did I ever decide to self-host?”

In terms of technology, nothing worked. I spent several days repeatedly clearing my history and restarting my computer due to the dreaded (and frequent) ‘Bad Gateway’ message. Bringing me to the full height of despair, a couple of blogging friends contacted me to say that when they tried to log onto my site, they received a message stating, “This connection is not private. This website may be impersonating www.retirementreflections.com to steal your personal and financial information.”

I’ve been accused of many things before. But a cyber thief? Ouch!

As I was saying, not a good week. #Understatement.

I have a SSL certificate from the company I self-host with, which is supposed to indicate that my website is secure. Despite my Herculean efforts, I could not achieve the coveted ‘little green lock’ (the one beside the URL in the browser) confirming that my site is valid and the connection private. I read articles. I watched YouTube tutorials. I downloaded plugins. I hung out with Blue Host/Word Press ‘Happiness Engineers’. The ‘Engineers’ directed me to more articles and plugins. Argghh!

In desperation, I paid an online technology service to help. After much drama (please don’t ask) they were able to solve the problem by using the free site, ‘Why No Padlock?’ Double Argghhh!! Why hadn’t the Happiness Engineers, or YouTube, told me about that one?

Turns out, I had a badge on my site (yup, one single image) that was listed as ‘http’ instead of ‘https.’ And that teeny-weeny missing ‘s’ caused all this commotion!!

So now I have the coveted little green lock nestled neatly beside my blog address. And, because of my nerd-like tendencies, I also have a small ‘shield’ logo, showing that ‘Firefox is blocking domains known to track users.’ (This added protection also claims to load pages “44% faster”!) Since you can never be too cautious, I have recently added Antiviral Software (free with Sophos) on my MAC. Nothing like a week in Blogging Hell to cause a little paranoia!

So, how was your week?

Palm Desert: A Blogging Holiday

blogging holiday

When you hear the expression ‘blogging holiday’ you might imagine a break from online reading and writing. For me, my most recent experience with this term was the exact opposite. After a summer on the Camino Trail, followed by a September devoted to 70th birthday celebrations (my husband’s not mine), Richard and I headed to Palm Desert for a six-week long home exchange.

blogging holidayThe first three weeks were sheer relaxation. Daily yoga, lounging beside this beautiful pool, catching up with my favourite blog reads and participating in much-missed writing link-ups.

 

 

 

blogging holidayblogging holidayThe next week brought a first-time meet-up with fellow bloggers, Kathy from Smart Living 365 and Liesbet from Roaming About. It is incredible to me how two people, whom I had never met in-person before, were instantly recognized as long-time friends by my eyes, ears, and heart. We spent two days together talking, laughing, eating and getting to the core of issues that were important to each of us. Oh, and as the photos show, there were many antics and messing about!

blogging holiday

 

Then it was off to Riverside WordCamp 2017 to experience my first Bloggers’ (WordPress) Conference. I know what you’re thinking.  “A WordPress Conference? What the heck??”  Actually, it was pretty cool. $40 got me two full days of sessions, plus continental breakfasts, lunches, snacks, drinks and ‘swag’! Many of the WordPress conferences are very technical and targeted to those using WordPress for the core part of their business (developers, designers, etc.). However, more and more WordCamps are including tracks for bloggers. My most significant takeaways included beginning to understand just how big WordPress is, and receiving some rationale and strategies for growing blogs/social media. I also met some interesting people, so for me, it was worthwhile.  Check here to find an upcoming WordCamp in your area.

blogging holidayFinally, it was the weekend that a few of us had begun planning many months ago. Unfortunately, Liesbet was unable to join us, but she was there in spirit. As the photos reveal, Kathy (Smart Living 365), Janis (Retirementally Challenged) Terri (Second Wind Leisure) and I continued the eating and the mucking around. We also grappled with those pesky blogging topics of social media, photography copyright, sticking to our niche, encouraging  comments, managing our time and so much more.

Kathy, Janis, Terri, and Liesbet have also written posts on this topic that  will publish  at the same time as this one. I highly encourage you to check out their blogs to read their different perspectives on our gathering.

We have already begun discussing meeting up again in October/November 2018 either in Indio/Palm Desert or San Diego.  Watch this space for more on that. I eagerly await my next blogging holiday!

Summer Sundays Series is Almost Here

Summer Series

I wrote previously about creating a Summer Series: Favorite Retirement/Lifestyle Bloggers. For quite a while, I’d been trying to find a personal and effective way of highlighting favorite bloggers in my niche. A ‘Summer Series’ seemed to be the perfect solution. It would help share blogs that I love. It would also bring fresh content to my site for some of the time that I am away this summer…without access to the internet.

Thank you to all who have responded so positively to this series. Due to your overwhelming replies, I am delighted to be able to initiate this feature a bit earlier than originally planned.

Starting next week, I’ll begin sharing some amazing bloggers. Hopefully you will find several ‘old favorites’ here…and a few ‘new favorites’ as well!

First up, is Marty from Snakes in the Grass with ‘Torrid Romance and Sensual Escapes: A Retirement Primer.’ Try not laughing at his witty writing. Go ahead; I dare you!

The following week we’ll be visited by Leanne, from Cresting the Hill. Not yet retired, Leanne’s catch phrase is “actively transitioning.” In her post, ‘The Transition to Retirement — Smiling All of the Way’, Leanne offers many insightful thoughts on preparing for this change process. I wish that I had known about her blog before I had retired!

After Leanne is Sue from Sizzling Toward Sixty and Beyond. Through her post, ‘Retire From Work But Not From Life,’ Sue shares her insights on the art of positive aging. Some of you have visited a guest post that I wrote for Sue’s blog. She has made June her ‘Month of Health and Wellness.’ I’m sure that you will find Sue’s tips and reminders to be very valuable.

On Sunday, July 9 we’ll hear from Kate from Views and Mews. Kate shares with us ‘A Backward Glance At Retirement.’ Once again, humor is the secret weapon…and Kate knows just how to use it!

In a post inspired by Sue (above), Pat Doyle from Retirement Transition will share with us “17 New Things in 2017”. I’ve mentioned before that building relationships, sharing ideas, connecting, and motivating each other are just a few of the amazing benefits of blogging. Pat’s post is a perfect example of this!

On the remaining Sundays, I will highlight the following blogs (not necessarily in this order):

Retirementally Challenged
My Life Lived Full
Hugh’s Views and News
The Glasgow Gallivanter
Roaming About
Profound Journey
Grammy’s Grid
Gideon Sock Puppet
Smart Living 365
Easin’ Along
Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

Don’t see the site of a retirement/lifestyle blogger whom you adore? Let me know, and I will gladly stalk them! Don’t see your own site in this niche and would like to join in the fun? Please let me know that too… you cannot hide for long!

As there are so many remarkable retirement/lifestyle bloggers out there, I would love to keep this chain going for as long as possible. When reading many of these bloggers, my recurring question often is “Where were you all when I was contemplating my retirement?” Hopefully, this series will help others to connect with a little inspiration.

If you have agreed to write a guest post and can get it to me by the end of June, that would be most helpful. I will then ensure that I have all articles ready to go before I set off for the Camino Trail.

I’m excited! (Yes, both about this series…and about the trail!) Don’t forget to tune in next Sunday!

Feature Photo

Summer Series: Favorite Retirement/Lifestyle Bloggers

Summer Series: Favorite Retirement Bloggers

The Joys of Blogging

So far on this site, I have written a fair amount about blogging. If you are passionate about on-line writing (either as a reader, a writer or both), you know how blogging can take hold of you and fill a void that you never realized you had.

The real-time sharing of ideas, the dynamic interaction, the connection with others…all stimulate the soul. On top of this, is the building of community. I’ve previously mentioned how regular visitors to a blog take the writing to a new level. Commenters, many of whom have their own blogs, immeasurably enhance and extend the original ideas shared.

I’ve also written before that following retirement bloggers is what got me interested in on-line writing in the first place. (Following these bloggers also significantly aided my transition into retirement!)

Many of these regulars, you have seen in the comment sections of my posts. Which got me thinking, wouldn’t it be great to highlight these generous contributors further? Thus, the summer series ‘Favorite Retirement/Lifestyle Bloggers’ is born.

The Plan

The plan is simple.

1) Leave a comment below and jot down one or more of the commenters whom you would like to know more about. I will then contact them and use my persuasive talents to ask them to write a guest post.

2) If you are interested in writing a guest post yourself, please also leave me a comment or drop me a line privately.

There are no strict guidelines, and the guest post needn’t be long. The intention is simply for fellow bloggers to let us know a bit more about themselves and their writing. Hopefully, this will provide an additional resource to guide others who are searching to read more on retirement/lifestyle.

To practice what I preach, I have recently written guest posts for Sizzling Toward Sixty and Jill Weatherholt’s ‘Summer Spotlight.’ These posts are set to publish on May 29 and June 9 respectively. I will reblog both posts on this site once they are published. I also encourage you to drop by Sue’s and Jill’s websites. They are well worth the visit.

Finally, please do not be shy. Remember, I am still a teacher at heart. I know how to call on those who have not raised their hands!

Feature Image: Canva

Almost Wordless Wednesday: A Week in the Life of a Retiree

The most common question that I have been asked since retiring is “What do you do all week?” The short answer is “no two weeks look alike”. Here’s a sample from this past week using an Almost Wordless Wednesday format. (I do realize that it’s Monday…and this post is not exactly wordless…thus the ‘almost’!) I’ve also included both weekends to give you a broader cross-section of possible activities and events. Enjoy!

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Saturday Coffee
After a week-long stay visiting family in Kelowna, we made an overnight stop in Vancouver. There are so many great places to linger with a coffee and a good book, like The Boulangerie La Parisienne in Yaletown.
Wordless Wednesday: Sunday Walking Group
The Mid-Island Walking Group meets Wednesdays and alternate Saturdays/Sundays. It’s a perfect way to get outdoors, get some exercise and engage in great conversations. Just ask Jake (who has taken the lead)!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Meeting of artists/crafters
Meeting of Artists, Crafters, Photographers…and a Blogger! This newly formed group seeks to have surrounding companionship, inspiration, and unbiased opinions while working on art-related activities.
Tuesday: Yoga, Dog-Walking and Dinner
Morning yoga, afternoon dog-walking for the SPCA, and evening “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner'(a monthly feature of our Newcomer’s Group). Busy day!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Hiking and Book Club
A shorter hike today with our Walking Group (5K) followed by Book Club. These are two of my favorite things to do (as long as they include coffee and snacks afterward). BTW – Please do not ask why it looks like I am praying in this photo…I honestly have no idea!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Euchre and Board Meeting
Today I officially ‘graduated’ from our beginners’ euchre clinic and was ‘accepted’ to join the regular Monday euchre league! The excitement must have made me forget to take a photograph (both of this historic event and the Newcomer’s Executive Meeting later that evening). Being resourceful, I made due with similar photos that I had on file. In the bottom photo, simply ignore Richard, the excessive wine glasses and the seasonal cards/lighting and you pretty much have the image of today’s meeting down to a tee!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Coffee after Yoga, Bookfair and Happy Hour
Another busy day in the life of a retiree. Coffee after yoga followed by volunteering at the SPCA Bookfair, followed by our neighbourhood Friday Happy Hour. Somebody’s gotta do it!!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Flea Markets, Coffee Tasting and Dinner with Friends
Spring on Vancouver Island is abloom with bright colours, flea markets, and cool/quirky events. Today I took a quick browse at our neighbourhood rummage sale before heading back to work at the SPCA book sale. During my lunch break, I snuck off with friends to a local coffee/tea tasting. Richard and I then topped off the day by having dinner with a couple that we met in Palm Desert this past October and feel we have known forever. (I LOVE when that happens!)
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Pajama Day
A common saying among retirees in “when did I ever have time to work??” For me, this past week was a great example of this. Hence, I have unilaterally declared today to be ‘Pajama Day.’ I seriously need to catch up on my rest, reading and computer-related stuff like ‘Blogging Grandmothers’!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Blogging Grandmothers Network
Yes, you read correctly. I have been asked to be one of the co-hosts for ‘Blogging Grandmothers’ twice-monthly blogging link-up. Our recent link-up just went live. Although you do need to be a grandmother to add a post, you do not need to be a grandparent, or even a parent, to read the links found there. The posts include great stories and tips for all. Some of these ‘grandmothers’ just may surprise you! Click on my last post to take a peek!
So how was your week?
Photo collages made with Canva .

Life Before and After Retirement: Same Same But Different

I have a confession to make. I love blogging. I seriously do. I love everything about it (well…almost everything)! I love reading the thoughts of others who are in similar stages of life as I am. I love reflecting on what they have to say. I love having the freedom to send my voice into the blogosphere to be read and perhaps reflected upon by others.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a post by Kate (Views and Mews). In it, she discussed her changing outlook in retirement that was often polar opposite to how she felt during her career life (e.g. “Friday yay, Monday blah” suddenly morphed into “Friday blah, Monday yay!”).

When reflecting on Kate’s post, I had the sudden realization that I am the exact same person in retirement that I was in my work life. This shocked me. Somehow, I was expecting someone totally different!! Okay, so I do get more sleep, am more relaxed, have less stress (and fewer emails). But deep down, I’m the same ol’ Donna. You’d recognize me! Same values, same beliefs, same attitudes, same distinct habits (like my love of detail, my tendency to attack small tasks immediately and my ability to post pictures of an event on Facebook…even before everyone has arrived home from said event!)

While mulling this all over in my mind, I wrote last week’s post, A Retiree’s Job Description. I was overwhelmed by the thoughtful and insightful comments that I received from readers. You guys are good!! I was especially struck by Joanne (My Life Lived Full) who wrote that she “is not the same person today that she was six years ago.” Then Janis (ReitrementallyChallenged) suggested that maybe in retirement we “discover someone who has been inside of us waiting for permission to come out.”

So who am I now? The exact same person? Not the same at all? Or someone who was inside me all along…waiting for permission to be herself?

And then I realized that Janis was on to something! These bloggers were all on to something! Upon this reflection (which was A LOT OF INTROSPECTION even for me) I suddenly knew. It wasn’t that I am now the exact same me. Rather, I am more ‘me’ than I have ever been before. My career robes have been removed taking with them many expectations that had been placed upon me (a large number of them self-imposed)! I no longer need to be so acutely focused on a specific area. I’m less worried about disappointing others. This, in turn, has allowed me to be more open, less guarded and has given me additional time and freedom to…well…be ‘me’!

My work life (which I LOVED and for which I am eternally grateful) also helped to nurture and shape the ‘evolved me.’ (Seriously, where do you think I developed my hyper-focus on detail and my tendency to multi-task?!) But like a benevolent parent, work has released me to spread my wings and reconnect with areas of myself that sat dormant during my career.

In preparation for this post, I browsed through a pile of work photos to compare to my most recent shots. Definitely still me…but even more so!

“Same Same But Different”: Something that is substantially the same as something else but differs in the details.

For Whom the SEO Bells Toll

What is ‘SEO’ and what is it doing to our writing?

If you share your written work on-line (and care about anyone else ever reading it) you are probably quite familiar with the term SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization.’ SEO ranks your posts based on what search engines consider most relevant to internet users.

More and more, as on-line writers, we are encouraged to improve our SEO scores. Cyberspace is now teaming with advice, apps and plugins to do just that. But what are the consequences to the the uniqueness of our voices, and the depth and purity of our words? Is all of this ‘search engine hype’ helping or hurting our writing?

Going hand in hand with checking the SEO friendliness of your post, such plugins as ‘Yoast SEO’ analyze the ‘readability’ of what you have to say. This is done by checking the length of your sentences and paragraphs. It is noted whether you’ve used transition words or subheadings and how often you’ve used a passive voice. On top of all this, Yoast calculates a ‘Flesch Reading Ease’ score. To obtain the highest possible Flesch score, you must limit yourself to short sentences and use only one or two syllable words. Also, your writing must be easily understood by the average 11-year old. (Yoast)

And Yoast is not the only plugin or app out to change our writing. The Hemmingway App claims to keep your writing ‘bold and clear’ (and thus SEO friendly). And Grammarly, although not specifically SEO-centered, sets out to “improve” your spelling, grammar, sentence structure and word choice…all of which the creators claim will also optimize search engine results for your post. (Source)

Overwhelmed but curious, I decided to try out all three apps/plugins. As they each have ‘free versions,’ what did I have to lose? Oh, and I need to mention, I tried them out not only on my writing but also on the Big Pappa’s. I was most interested in reading Hemmingway’s (the app’s) critique of Hemmingway (the writer). As many of us studied For Whom the Bells Toll in high school English class, I used the first page (346 words) of that novel. You remember:

“He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay….”(you can read more here).

So how did Hemmingway, the author, do? That was interesting!

On Grammarly, he scored 79/100. Come on, Ernest, in most University grading systems, that’s only a C+! Points were deducted for:

“• Squinting modifier in second sentence, “The mountainside sloped gently.”
• Repetitive word ‘road” in opening paragraph.
• Overused word ‘solid.’
• Missing commas (on two separate occasions) before the coordinating conjunction and in a compound sentence.
• Unusual word pairs.
• Suggested to replace the word ‘pass.’
• Repetitive word ‘post.’
• Wordiness in one sentence.”
• (Also, Grammarly didn’t recognize the word ‘photostated.’)

On Yoast, Ernest received three ‘bad SEO’ ratings, one ‘okay’ and two ‘goods.’ Below are Yoast’s exact comments:

“• Bad SEO score: The text does not contain any subheadings. Add at least one subheading.
• Bad SEO score: 1 of the paragraphs contains more than the recommended maximum of 150 words. Are you sure all information is about the same topic and therefore belongs in one single paragraph?
• Bad SEO score: 11.5% of the sentences contain a transition word or phrase, which is less than the recommended minimum of 30%.
• OK SEO score: 11.5% of the sentences contain passive voice, which is more than the recommended maximum of 10%. Try to use their active counterparts.
• Good SEO score: The copy scores 87.4 in the Flesch Reading Ease test, which is considered easy to read.
• Good SEO score: 24% of the sentences contain more than 20 words, which is less than or equal to the recommended maximum of 25%.”

And finally, how did Hemmingway, the app, score Hemmingway the writer?

Concern was noted for:
“• 7 adverbs used. Aim for 4 or fewer.
• 4 out of 23 sentences were hard to read.
• 1 sentence was very hard to read.”

Strengths included:
“•Grade 6 Reading Level (good).
• Met the goal of 5 or fewer uses of the passive voice.
• 0 suggestions to use simpler sentences.”

My takeaway was that each of these plugins/apps do have their place. They can offer useful insights and provide much convenience. The caution is that they MUST be used as ‘suggested guidelines’ and not completely replace human proofreading. Surpassing all search engine mathematics, writers need to remain true to their own voices. I would hate to see appropriate 3+-syllable words, intricate paragraphs, and complex/compound sentences stripped from the internet. I would also hate to see emerging Hemmingways restrained by fear of the SEO police!

Oh, and what were my SEO scores for this post?

Grammarly assigned me a score of 93% (woo hoo… A- !)

The Hemmingway app rated my writing at a “Grade 7 Readability Level” (‘good’). This app liked my conservative use of both adverbs and a passive voice. It did, however, suggest that I use “simpler phrases” (e.g. recommended I use the word “greatest” instead of “maximum” (….which, as you can read above, would not make sense). This app also suggested that I make some of my sentences easier to read.

The Yoast plugin is never going to like me because I don’t tend to use subheadings in my blog posts. It gave me one big, negative, red circle for that! It also wanted me to use more transition words and gave me a cautionary orange circle for that. (Hey, what if I randomly inserted meaningless transition words into this post? Moreover. Likewise. Additionally. Similarly. Amazing, that worked! Goodbye orange circle!) The good news is that I did receive four positive green circles (for my short sentences, short paragraphs, restrained use of the passive voice and good Flesch reading score). I also snagged an additional green circle for cheating on my trasition words. And wait for it….

‘Subheading’

Ta Da!! Due to that stray, frivolous subtitle, Yoast just gave me my sixth green circle…and a ‘perfect’ readability score!

How does your writing rate? You can check it out here, here and here! What are your thoughts on all of this? All comments are appreciated.


Title photo made at Canva.com

Blogging Frustrations

You know when you work and you can easily pop next door and have Madeleine or Muhammad (or their counterparts) help with your tech related problems? I so miss that– especially when running a blog!

An ongoing area of blogging frustration for me has been finding the best way to let readers know when I have replied to their comments. Since this comment notification feature is standard in the free version of WordPress, this should be easy to add to a (not so free) self-hosted WordPress site, right? Wrong! Very wrong!

Being a risk-taker, I tried a popular comment plug-in called ‘Discuz.’ Perhaps it was just my site (or my set up?), but for me, Discuz included an overly active captcha. This meant many readers could not comment on my posts at all. That kinda was the opposite of what I was going for!

Being nothing if not tenacious, I tried again.

A few bloggers that I follow have been using CommentLuv. With this plugin, readers can leave a link to their most recent post. What was not to love? Well…a few things actually. Although readers could leave a link, the free version of this plugin has not been updated in WordPress for almost a year. And although I am sure I read a review otherwise, readers still were not notified when I replied to their comments.

Ahhhhhh!

I tried additional comment plugins. On some, readers wrote to say that they could no longer see where to comment on my site. (I am very thankful when readers take the time to let me know these things.) Other comment plugins, which seemed simple enough, had a confusing ‘must subscribe’ email checkbox. That would definitely prevent me from commenting if I saw this on a blog.

I tried writing on help forums. Nada. I tried asking other bloggers what they used. (I discovered that I have many blogging friends who either do not use WordPress or use the free version with that wonderful comment notification feature already included…lucky them!) In the meantime, I received numerous comment-related emails from readers (thank you again!). Some said they still could not find the comment section on my site. Some said that they assumed I was not replying to their comments (I honestly was)! Others asked what the heck had happened to CommentLuv (turns out that many readers did like that feature)!

Insert Me: Banging head on desk.
Insert Richard: “Why don’t you just do things the easy way, and switch to the free WordPress version?” (Seriously, has he met me before?)

Rarely doing things the easy way, I researched. I looked at some great blogging sites (like this and this). I kept on trying.

So where did I end up? For now, I have installed “Comment Approved Notifier,” which automatically sends an email to individual readers once their comment has been approved. Since I always reply to comments at the same time as approving them, this will be my sign to readers that I have replied to their comments. And, since this plugin plays nicely with others, I have also re-added CommentLuv.

Please, let me know what you think. Does this solution work from your end? Or is there a better alternative that I should be trying?

And what about you? What are your blog-related frustrations (as either a reader or writer of blogs)? Perhaps we can help each other (or better still, perhaps there are ‘tech experts’ reading this blog right now who are willing to help us.

#FridayBookShare: Cutting for Stone

One of my favorite aspects of blogging is the connection and interaction with others. I love finding new blogs that share similar interests. I also love how one site often leads you to other great sites on related topics. Comment sections have provided me with engaging exchanges, provocative ideas, and new/renewed friendships.

Through the Australian blog, Deb’s World, I discovered British author/blogger, Shelley Wilson, and her #FridayBookShare. This link-up provides a simple format (spelling out FRIDAY) that allows bloggers to share what they are reading and offers readers a quick peek at a wide range of books.

I’ve just finished reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and thought that I’d give Shelley’s format a try. Here goes!

First line of the book:

“After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.” Okay…so there are arguably better lines in this novel, but this one is effective at introducing us to the main character’s unique voice…and chatty style!

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Being a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of gal, I decided to write my own blurb instead of presenting the one from the book’s jacket (as I believe we were intended to do). If my words below don’t convince you, please check out the blurbs on Amazon or Goodreads. The reviews, although mixed, are predominantly glowing.

Set in India, Ethiopia and inner city New York, this moving tale of twin brothers vividly unfolds its landscapes, histories, and characters with unforgettable humanity and compassion. I became so absorbed in the story that I could taste the injera (spongy Ethiopian bread) and smell the incense that was lit each morning. There are many aphorisms woven throughout the layers of the novel, most notably “The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.” I do recommend this book to others, but caution that it can be exhausting at times.


Introduce the main character using only three words:

Narrator, Conjoined, Betrayals

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book):



.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.


Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):

Written in 2009 by an Ethiopian-born medical doctor, by 2012 this fictional novel had been on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and had sold over one million copies. (Source) As this novel contains numerous stories within stories, including key themes of family, identity, betrayal, suffering, political unrest, medicine, compassion and forgiveness…this book would likely appeal to a wide range of readers. I believe that it is also an excellent choice for many book clubs. I read this novel with one of my book clubs (shout out to Seaside Sirens). Once again the reviews were mixed, but the discussion was very stimulating.

Your favorite line/scene:

Throughout the novel I found myself underlying small sections of text that spoke so meaningfully, and often uncannily, to our current times.

After struggling to find my absolute favorite marked section, I decided to quit torturing myself and narrowed it down to three. Okay, okay…the final quote is really my favorite, but I thought that you would get a better sense of the wisdom of this book if I included additional excerpts.

Favorite Quote #3:
“The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

Favorite Quote #2: “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.”

Favorite Quote #1: “The uneventful day is a precious gift.” What a brilliant reframing of “ordinariness” and a great reminder that our days do not need to be “a nirvana of extraordinary adventure” to be a blessing.

As I finished copying down these quotes, I could hear the television in the other room blare out the non-stop ‘Reality-TV-Syndrome’ of our current times. That made these quotes even more meaningful to me…and made me grateful for this sleepy, snowy February afternoon.

If you’ve read Cutting for Stone, what were your thoughts? Let’s talk!

Why not join in the fun? Use the above format to share your favorite novel. Be sure to add #FridayBookShare. Always in search of a good book, I look forward to reading your review.