Posts Tagged: writing

Creative Ladies: Katie Cotugno

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I was so excited when Katie Cotugno agreed to be this week’s Creative Lady. She’s the author of the awesome YA novel How to Love, and can I just say that I’m SO excited about her next book? You’ll read about it in a second, but seriously, it combines all my favorite things. Katie was nice enough to take the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and the challenge/nightmare that is public speaking. You can find Katie on her website, her Tumblr, and on Twitter @katiecotugno.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I write contemporary YA fiction–specifically HOW TO LOVE, which is out now from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. It’s a character-driven romance that’s told in alternating before and after chapters about a couple falling in love twice, three years apart.

My next book, 99 DAYS, is about a girl who comes back to her hometown in the Adirondack mountains the summer before college to face the mess–and the two boys–she left behind. It’s kind of an homage to some of my favorite 80s movies–Dirty Dancing, Mystic Pizza. I’m having such a ball with it–I can’t wait to share.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

I bake a lot of no-knead bread, honestly. I hate the kind you have to knead.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Rambly walks around my neighborhood. George Strait pandora. Cop shows about partners who are Partners.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Messy, realistic romance.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

I’m the slowest writer ever, oh my God. I write a paragraph, I go look at Kilim rugs for sale on Craigslist, I write a little more, I get up and make a pb sandwich. I delete what I wrote the first time, I creep on some random stranger’s Pinterest board for their four-year-old’s birthday party decor and sometimes judge them a little. It is excruciating, I’m so slow. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

HOW TO LOVE being an actual book in the world that people can buy.
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What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

A thing I think I wasn’t counting on when I sold HOW TO LOVE was that then I’d have to go out and actually talk about it. I’m terrible at public speaking, I hate it, and I also think that as ladies we’re kind of conditioned to not want to talk about the things we’ve accomplished. Having to get comfortable saying, hey, I made this and I want to tell you about it has absolutely been the toughest thing about this journey for me.

(Also hey, if you want to hear me talk about stuff I made, I’m out and about on the Story Crush winter tour March 1-5! Details are here.)

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Shonda Rhimes. Barbara Kingsolver. Kathleen Kelly. Tassie Cameron. Nora Roberts. Every last member of the Fourteenery. Olivia Pope. My mom.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I tend to work in stuttery little pockets all day long, but I’m definitely not an up-all-nighter. I’m totally useless after like eleven or so. I melt down like a small child.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

I watch a lot of TV, which I know is supposed to sap your creativity, but that’s not been my experience at all. I drink kind of a fair amount of beer. I recognize that I just described Homer Simpson.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

I’ve heard such great things about Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and haven’t had time to get to it, so let’s all just read it together, okay? Okay good talk.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Don’t be afraid to ask for things. Don’t get discouraged by rejections. So much of this job is just pressing on a little at a time.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Shut up and write, Cotugno.

Creative Ladies: Adalena Kavanagh

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Adalena Kavanagh is a multi-talented Creative Lady–she’s a writer and a musician. She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer my nosy questions, and I’m so glad she did. She talked to me about handling rejection, “everyday weirdoes,” and finding pot vaporizers in her practice space. You can find Adalena on her website, her band Early Spring’s website, and on Twitter @AdalenaKavanagh. And if you’d like to be featured in Creative Ladies, please send me an email at welcometoladyville@gmail.com.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I work as a high school teacher-librarian, and while I find the work rewarding and fulfilling, it doesn’t tap into my creative side or intersect with my creative work very much. My main creative gigs are my fiction writing and my drumming in Early Spring. I don’t get to do either every day but on the days that I do, each task is very different. I play drums a couple hours a week when Early Spring practices. I suspect other bands banter and drink during practice, judging from what we find in our practice space (last week I found what I thought was a high tech flashlight that upon further inspection turned out to be a pot vaporizer) but we’re all business. I don’t write the songs in Early Spring so the bass player and I take our cues from our guitarist/song writer. We usually run through songs that he’s still working on and we figure out which arrangements work best. On writing days I try to get down to the work with minimal distraction. What can I say about that? I sit in a chair and try to make scenes and sense or nonsense depending on what I’m writing.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

I like to work with my hands. This has included origami, making small notebooks, making small felt animals (panda, fish, teddy bear), knitting, soldering my guitar (well, I did that once), and making zines.

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What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

I’m inspired by everyday weirdoes and uncomfortable situations. In addition to majoring in English in college I also majored in Chinese studies and I’ve always been interested in Chinese folk tales and certain aspects of Chinese religion, even though I am not religious. Some of this is because I grew up hearing ghost stories from my mom, who is Taiwanese, but Chinese culture is interesting even if you’re not Chinese, so I suspect I would be a bit of a Sinophile even if I wasn’t part Chinese.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

humor, irony, juxtaposition

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

I like to listen to music when I write and I obviously listen to music when I play drums. When I’m writing a short story I usually mull over the plot a while and write around certain scenes and images, but then as the writing progresses I’m always surprised by the turns I end up taking. Though I have a home office, a real luxury, I often write in cafes and libraries because I like the illusion of being out in the world even though I am engaging in a very solitary activity. A lot of my writing time seems to be spent avoiding the Internet so I sometimes have to deploy Freedom or Antisocial. I’m a big believer in getting to it so I don’t have any rituals except having a beverage at hand. I think if you believe you cannot work without certain talismans you are giving yourself an excuse not to get down to the work.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I wrote a book length series of short stories and have published most of them. The last time my band played at a club called Muchmores (in Brooklyn) a guy we’d played with before drove past the club, heard us playing, recognized us, and decided to park his car and come see our set. That felt like a real accomplishment. We can (but won’t) say that we stopped traffic.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

I had a short story published and many months later a journal I’d submitted to mailed me a rejection letter for that very same story I’d already published. I had tried to withdraw my story from their journal but I could not get in touch with them. Anyway, the editor explained that while he admired my story, he ultimately felt it wasn’t “literature”. What a blow! I laughed it off, but I’m not sure how I would have reacted if I hadn’t already published the story. I suppose the lesson I learned from that rejection letter is that after you’ve worked your hardest to make your art “good,” how it’s perceived by others is out of your hands and taste is subjective. Your rejections are based on subjective opinions but so are your acceptances.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

I want to honor my high school English teacher Debra Schmitt. She was the first feminist mentor I ever had and my first writing teacher. When you’re young the most important thing a writing teacher can do is tell you to work hard and that your stories matter. She did that and more. I can still recall the passion with which she introduced books by women writers, and the way she illustrated certain writing techniques. She understood the power she had as a teacher, and while she was a cool teacher she never forgot that she was an adult and we needed guidance and encouragement, not friendship. In my role as a teacher I try to emulate her kindness, generosity and engagement with life. She died a few years ago and I wish I could tell her what a profound influence she had on me.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

During the summer, when I am not working as a librarian, I am a night owl. During the school year I work best right after school, around 4pm.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Read, listen to music, enjoy the view from the train as it crosses the Manhattan Bridge going into Manhattan or returning to Brooklyn.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
The Old Filth Trilogy by Jane Gardam
Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta
Shirley Jackson’s short stories
Who’s Irish by Gish Jen
Bone by Fae Myenne Ng

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

If you want to play an instrument, pick one up and just do it because no one is going to expect you to. Don’t be afraid! If you can afford to take lessons, do so. Practice. Play with other people. Start a band.

If you want to write, you must read, and then you must write. If you can’t afford an MFA program (I didn’t go to one) there are plenty of workshops available and they can be really instructive. I also strongly encourage people to share their writing with a writing group because they give you feedback and that’s important if you want to improve your writing.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Be open to improving your work but have confidence in it. You can’t get published if you don’t submit your writing, and you can’t get a show if you don’t approach concert bookers.

How Do You Find a Writing “Day Job”?

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The lovely Erin from Take Comfort Project recently emailed me wondering something: how do you find an actual job in writing?

I talk a lot about writing here on WTLV…because, uh, that’s all I ever do. But I tend to talk about my freelance work or my creative work, the things that bring in supplemental income or no income at all. Although I do freelance work, I’m not living a freelance lifestyle…I have a day job that I go to every weekday! And it’s a writing day job, which is honestly something I wasn’t sure I’d ever get. While I can’t give broad advice about how you can get a writing job, I can tell you guys my job story. I’ve definitely learned some things since I graduated from college, and maybe my experience can help someone else.

I majored in creative writing in college, which I loved. I wouldn’t recommend the major for everyone, but it was great for me. However, if you guessed that majoring in creative writing meant I wasn’t exactly practically-minded, you would be right. Although I loved my writing workshops and loved doing the “work” for those classes, I wasn’t at all motivated then like I am now. And I had no idea what you were supposed to do to get a job. I graduated with no internships, no contacts, and no idea what I should do. Lesson #1: You should get an internship!

When I graduated, I moved back in with my parents. They live in an area of Ohio that already doesn’t have a lot of employment prospects, and things were especially bad in 2008. I had absolutely no clue what I should be doing or even what I wanted to do. I thought about applying for grad school for a hot minute (lesson #2: you don’t have to go to grad school if you don’t want to!), but thankfully I decided against that.

I was jobless and completely miserable. My parents did not let up on me about finding a job, which they sort of had a right to do, because they paid for my college (something I’m grateful for every single day of my life). They made an investment in me, and I was turning out to be kind of a shitty investment, since all I was doing was skulking around the house and crocheting a lot (I got really into crocheting when I was unemployed…don’t worry about it).

Eventually, I called my old friend the temp agency and got a two-week job filling in for a receptionist who was out of the office getting foot surgery. I was so much better at being a receptionist than the other woman that they gave me her job, moved her into a corner desk when she got back from surgery, and fired her a few months later. I would’ve felt bad, but she was very mean and she fell asleep sitting up every day (not an exaggeration–sometimes she would snore).

So clearly I was taking the employment world by storm. But getting a narcoleptic woman fired wasn’t enough for me…I wanted more. “Was this job even tangentially related to writing?” you’re asking. Well, no! It was not. Which is probably why I felt so depressed.

I stayed at that job for years, you guys (well, I got promoted a couple times, but I was at the same company). I felt stuck because I didn’t know what to do with my career and I didn’t think I could just quit a job. Lesson #3: If something is pushing you in the wrong direction, QUIT DOING THAT THING. You are never really stuck.

Eventually, I wised up and realized I needed a job in writing. Duh. So here’s where my actual advice starts (hope you enjoyed that rambly beginning about how miserable I was!). I knew I wanted a writing job, but I didn’t know how I could do that or what I should be looking for. I hadn’t been in college for a few years and I had no connections and no one around to give me any advice.

So I just started writing. I decided I would get writing credits in any way possible. I would say yes to EVERY writing opportunity, even the ones that sounded dumb. I wrote for websites, I wrote for newspapers, and I applied for weird, sketchy freelancing gigs that I eventually didn’t do because they involved, like, writing about limousines using SEO tactics. I trusted that if I worked constantly at writing, something would work out.

I wrote for free a lot because I knew I needed to get credits, make connections, and prove that I knew how to write. I know some people are very against writing for free, but I think it’s a good idea and sometimes necessary, especially if you don’t have an internship. I mean, don’t write for free forever, but if you really want to prove yourself, it can help.

Eventually I had plenty of writing credits but I wasn’t making any money, so I was still at my day job that made me miserable. I had to use phrases like “butt hinge” and “nipple” every day, and it was rough. People constantly referred to me as “young lady.” Some guy named “Mike Hunter” kept calling and every time I transferred his call I insisted on referring to him as Michael. Oh, and by this point I’d moved to Columbus and I was driving an hour each way. I needed a change. So I started looking for a new, writing-related day job.

You know how people say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know? While I think that’s true, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have a single connection at anyone at my day job. Do you know how I found it? On Craigslist. Yes, Craigslist, the site used by murderers and people selling coffee tables. And one of the reasons why they hired me (besides the fact that I did well on the writing sample they asked for) was because of my HelloGiggles column, that thing I do for free.

I now work for a nonprofit curriculum developer, where I write about business and marketing for high school students. It involves my two favorite things (research and writing) and I get to flex my writing muscles without cannibalizing all my creative energy. It’s fun, interesting, and it doesn’t burn me out. But there was no way for me to look for this job because I never even knew it existed! I think that writing jobs are all over the place, but they’re in weird and unexpected locations. Sometimes you have to look past all the fake ads on Craigslist to find the real jobs.

This is a bit of hippie advice, but I suggest writing down what you want out of a job. Before I found my job, I made a very specific list of what my “dream job” would have. I mean, I wrote down everything…close to my apartment, a mostly-female environment, a casual dress code, etc. I’m not saying writing stuff down is magic, but I found a job that fit every single one of my requirements. Honestly, it worked so well that it was sort of weird. Writing stuff down helps you narrow your focus and realize what you really want, even if you’re not sure where you’d like to work.

If you’re all “TL;DR,” here’s my advice, boiled down into a few points.

1. Look EVERYWHERE for writing jobs. Tell everyone you’re a writer looking for work. You really never know where you’ll find a job. It could be on Craigslist! It could be on Twitter! You never know!

2. Go with your gut. The people in your life might want what’s best for you, but they don’t necessarily know what’s best for you. You do. I wasted a lot of time doing what I thought I “should” or taking advice from people who knew nothing about the type of career I wanted.

3. Just keep writing! Seriously, write EVERYWHERE, because you never know what will lead to a full-time job. I never would have thought my HelloGiggles column could’ve helped me get a job, but now I get paid to write for high schoolers!

So that’s my long, convoluted story. Finding my job definitely wasn’t a short or straight path, but I learned a lot along the way (and perfected the art of waking up a sleeping woman by coughing loudly). I truly believe that, if you have the talent and you’re willing to work really hard, you can absolutely find a writing job that pays your bills. Writers don’t have to starve and they don’t have to be miserable!

I hope this was at least semi-helpful to someone! I’m always here if you have any questions about writing, working, or whatever (seriously, I just want to be Dear Abby…give me your etiquette problems!). You can email me at welcometoladyville@gmail.com.

Image via Natalie Dee

Creative Ladies: Gina Abelkop

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I’m so excited to feature Creative Lady Gina Abelkop on the blog today. She’s a writer who also runs a DIY feminist press. She took the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and her role models. I really loved her advice for other creative ladies. Thanks to Gina for the interview! You can find her on her blog, at Birds of Lace, and on Twitter @themoonstop. And remember that I’m always on the lookout for Creative Ladies! If you’d like to be interviewed, email me at welcometoladyville@gmail.com.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

My main creative endeavor is writing (poetry, prose, something in-between), but my day job is in circulations & marketing for an institutionally-funded literary journal. A normal work day involves me getting up at 6:15am, blearily reading some of the internet before work, and then getting to my desk at work at 8am. From then until 5pm I’m on Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for my day job as well as doing other things that would be uninteresting to write about here. When I get home, if I have the will/energy, I’ll sit down with some poems I’ve written and edit, or work on a current project which involves creating poems out of mixed-up interviews from one of my favorite artists; I’m also working on tiny poems that respond to her sculptures and paintings. My creative time happens in starts and spurts throughout any given day with not much of a schedule to it.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

I run Birds of Lace, a DIY feminist press that I founded in 2005. I do layout (by paper & scissors, still!), design, photocopying & mailing of chapbooks by exciting writers whose words I love. This year I’m printing all the chapbooks and broadsides with a letterpress, which is really exciting! I’m enrolled in an 8-week letterpress class at a local studio, in which I will learn the ins-n-outs of letterpress while also having access to their equipments and ink. I also love making collaged postcards to send to friends far and wide, and have also made wire-wrapped jewelry, created linocut prints and built funny objects out of whatever’s around just for the fun of it. The older I get the lazier I get (sad but true), but I also love creating glamorous encounters on my own body via make up/clothing/hair etc. Additionally, I co-edit Finery, the online journal-arm of Birds of Lace, with Carrie Murphy, so I’m often reading submissions.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Lately it’s been the following, a mix of all-time favorites and current obsessions:

Visually: The Flintstones, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Rachel Feinstein’s paintings & sculptures, the Yuba River (specifically Edward’s Crossing), Utah desert, the Italian film ‘The Great Beauty,’ Pedro Almadovar’s ‘I’m So Excited!’ (specifically a choreographed dance routine scene), the ocean, dank/overgrown forests
Sonically: Blood Orange, Sky Ferreira, Dum Dum Girls, Four Tops, Tori Amos, Joanna Newsom, Erykah Badu, a local radio station called EZ FM that plays lots of swoony ’50s ballads, Rufus Wainwright, Beyonce, Marina & the Diamonds, Rasputina, Sly & the Family Stone, Dixie Chicks
Words: Alfred Starr Hamilton, Danielle Pafunda, Lucas de Lima, Anna Joy Springer, Carrie Murphy, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Emily Dickinson, Jennifer Tamayo, Magdalena Zurawski, Tavi Gevinson

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In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

fetid, femme, uncomfortably-bright

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

I’ve never been very good at structuring my creative time, so I generally just work when I feel moved to work. Staring into space happens for sure, and also being sidelined by a song or video or my dog or a tabloid story. So far my timeline for producing a poetry manuscript seems to be about three years, and during those years traveling, seeing live music, going to museums, swimming in natural bodies of water, dancing with friends and various other activities inform the way I write and what I write about.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

Birds of Lace is the thing I’m most proud of and find the most easy joy in. I’m proud of the friendships that have happened via BoL, the networking of like-minded feminist artists, a loose knit community of sorts. I’m proud to be a part of something that helps proliferate voices and words I find absolutely necessary, both pleasurable and useful for living. I’m proud of the writers whose work I get to publish and I’m proud to offer a space for writing that may have trouble finding a home elsewhere due to being too messy/emotional/gross/psychotic.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

Oh gosh. I fail and embarrass myself all the time in my writing, but thankfully it’s rarely public. There are old poems of mine online that I wish weren’t there anymore, which has taught me that a.) one is always rapidly changing their feelings about work they make and b.) not to rush into publishing new work. A creative challenge that ended up being really empowering was making a short video for the release of my book Darling Beastlettes. I’d never made anything with video before and totally winged it– created the music by using a tape player to record music looped on my record player, and had the tape playing live as I shot the video, and also asked a friend to play improvised piano behind me when we shot in her bedroom. Enlisted the help of another a friend and built a backdrop in her yard, made fake blood from a recipe off the internet. Then used iMovie to edit which was incredible– I’d never used it before and it was SO EASY. To feel like you could just do this thing you’d never done before and didn’t know the first thing about doing: yes! Make it up as you go along. It doesn’t have to look “professional”, it just has to look like you made it.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

My friends are totally my heroes. To name a few: Elizabeth who just worked her ass off for several years to become a nurse, Aerin who created Praxis, a community space in San Francisco, Carrie Murphy who doulas and writes and lives with an honesty and sincerity that knock me out, Rhani who offers free queer & trans yoga classes in her apt. Juliet Cook & Margaret Bashaar & Kristy Bowen & Gina Myers & Danielle Dutton & Susanna Gardner & Belladonna* collective & Roxane Gay & JD Scott & Shanna Compton & Joyelle McSweeney & Kimberly Ann Southwick & all the magical others who run indie/DIY presses/journals for wayward words. Joanna Newsom, Laverne Cox, Marina Diamandis, Kate Bush, Annie Clark, Erykah Badu, Carey Mulligan, Rachel Feinstein, Jane Campion, Sarah Silverman: all famous-type folks who make work I find vital to my ability to keep believing in and loving this world.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Definitely night time. My ideal schedule would involve going to bed at 2am and waking up closer to 11, as I enjoy staying up and putting a movie on while I bind chapbooks/collage/look through magazines and books for inspiration, write along to music etc. As it stands I generally try to be asleep by 11/11:30 since I get up around 6am, so I’m learning to adjust my creative time-clock!

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Walks with my sweetheart & dogs, naps, movies, teevee shows, dancing, reading, vaccuming (ha! but seriously), swimming when it’s the right season, reading lots of trash and not-trash on the internet.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

The Vicious Red Relic, Love by Anna Joy Springer (for combining so many written/visual forms)

Lorna Simpson’s photography monograph (for mind-alteringly brilliant photographs that tell wild, important stories)

It’s So Magic by Lynda Barry (to restore your faith in humanity when you need to)

Collected Essays by James Baldwin (Baldwin teaches me how to live in a world that is terrible and difficult and beautiful)

Dance Dance Revolution by Cathy Park Hong (an example of how one can create a world totally their own– make your own rules)

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (non-didactic self-help to learn how to live with less shame about who you are)

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Do it! Do it however you can/would like to. Photocopy zines, start an online journal, make videos with your shitty camera, collage using discarded magazines, start a press, write write write. You don’t have to show anything to anyone if you don’t want to: keep it locked up in your room or post it online, whatever feels right. Ask to trade your zine with people you admire. Write letters to people you admire/appreciate. Nothing has to look or read or feel a certain way. You need very little to write: pen & paper. Send postcards with tiny poems on them. Make beautiful meals for yourself and your friends. There are so very many ways to be creative and all of them are important and often fun and gratifying (though also often difficult and/or frustrating). Appreciate your creativity and the ways it contributes to the world; appreciate the many creativities of others and try and let that be generative for you too. Be a part of the exchange of creative energy in this world.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

It’s a long one, and less a motto than words to live by but:

“Art has to be a kind of confession. I don’t mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I’m sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true for everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos.” –James Baldwin

Photos by Keith Aguiar

My Super Basic Blogging Tips

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Every once in awhile, a cool lady emails me to ask for some advice about blogging. This is sort of funny to me, because I do not think of myself as an expert. I don’t have an insane amount of readers, I don’t do advertisements, and I don’t make any money from blogging. But I have had this blog for almost 3 years (whoa) and I’ve posted almost every weekday ever since my first post, so I guess I do know some things. And since I’ve already posted my advice on writing and submitting to websites (take all my advice at your own risk, guys), I figured I could share my advice on blogging. Some of this advice is general, and some of it directly contradicts advice I’ve heard before. These are just my personal thoughts, so feel free to disregard them or disagree with them or print them out and set them on fire. I can’t control you.

1. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr…it doesn’t matter.
People ask me a lot if they should use Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, or whatever. I honestly don’t really think it matters. I like WordPress because it seems cleaner and more professional, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Just as long as you’re not, like, trying to promote a Xanga page (does that even exist anymore?) I think you’ll be fine. The actual content or your blog is way, way more important than the URL. I like being a .com, but I used to be a .wordpress.com and it was fine! People still read the site!

2. Brands are for products. You are a person.
Obviously, this one depends on what you’re using your blog for. Are you actually trying to promote a product or a business? Then yes, you need to consider “branding.” But nothing makes me cringe more than personal bloggers talking about their “personal brand.” Does your blog go along with your photography business or your Etsy company? Brand away! Is your blog a place to put your pictures or write about your life? THAT IS NOT A BRAND. I don’t think about this blog in terms of a brand, and that may be to my detriment! But I’m not selling anything here. The point of Welcome to Ladyville is twofold: to connect with you wonderful ladies, and to practice my own writing. Neither of those things require a slogan. You aren’t a product.

3. Be consistent.
It’s important to blog regularly. If you update your blog once every few weeks, you might as well not have one. What’s the point? I update every Monday through Thursday and some Fridays. Wednesday is always links. Thursday is always Creative Ladies. That consistency is important, not just for your readers, but for you! If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will.

4. But it’s okay to take a break.
I’ve taken breaks from the blog when I got married, over the holidays, and various other times when I’ve just had a lot of work to do. That’s okay. As long as you make a post saying that you won’t be around as much as usual, there is no problem at all with taking a short break! After all, I’m not getting paid for this. The blog is a big priority for me, but mama needs to make some coin, you know? Of course, if you are making money from your blog, you probably shouldn’t really take a break. But if you’re making money from your blog, you’re probably not reading my advice.

5. Just keep going.
This is basic advice for anyone trying to do anything new. You’re going to feel like no one cares at first, and that’s because no one does. No one read Welcome to Ladyville when I first started it. Like, no one. But my annoying, bullheaded stubbornness made me keep going, and now a few people read it! SUCCESS! The internet is just a graveyard full of sites that people started and abandoned. You’ll never get anywhere if you give up immediately. People might not respond for months…or even years. You should still keep going.

6. Remember that likes and pageviews are ultimately not that important.
Does it make me really happy when a “real” website links to Welcome to Ladyville, or when someone shares a post on Facebook or Twitter? Totally! And I check my stats and get excited when they go up. But that stuff, while fun, is ultimately not the point. I feel good about the blog when I know I wrote something funny or created a post that expresses what’s going on in my head. I feel good if I made a connection with a reader. And when I get an email from a lady who says that something on the blog really spoke to her? That’s the best. There’s no better feeling than when my writing connects with someone. That’s the point of blogging for me.

So that’s my advice. It’s based on my experience and my blogging philosophy, but maybe it will help you, too! If you ever have any questions about blogging, writing, or anything else (seriously, I love pretending to be a therapist) that you’d like me to answer on the blog, send me an email at welcometoladyville@gmail.com.

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