Making peace with the sponsored post

Given my historic predilection for writing about (allegedly) unsexy topics such as congestion pricing, volunteering in retirement, and participatory urban development, it’s no wonder that when Katarina “Don’t Wait for Permission to be Awesome” Hybenova, founder of Bushwick Daily, needs someone to write a sponsored post about a local credit union or end-of-life planning, she rings my bell.

Think unsexy thoughts Simpsons Barney

“Think unsexy thoughts… Think unsexy thoughts…”

I will admit that the idea of writing sponsored articles sat a little uneasily with me at first, because I’m generally angered and saddened by advertising’s incessant and ever-deepening march into every aspect our lives. That said!, if boss little publications like Bushwick Daily are to keep the lights on (and I sure hope they do), someone’s got to foot the bill. If that boils down to a choice between giving readers free access to the site in exchange for throwing some sidebar ads and commissioned stories into the mix, or making readers pay individually to fund BD‘s work, I’ll go with the former.

You know what, though? In this case, it’s not even as doom-and-gloom as that. The kinds of organizations that support BD are pretty much the best kinds of organizations: they’re grassroots neighborhood staples, self-made small businesses, international nonprofits—even startups on a mission to make clean power cheaper! So really, how could I complain?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need advertising—but heck, we wouldn’t need money, either! So until Reverend Billy & the Church of Stop Shopping become our president and congress, respectively, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about these boss organizations on one of the best little blogs in Brooklyn, and that you’ll support your own local micro-journalism outlets in whatever way best floats your boat.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

A reluctant blogger finally gets into blogger-hood

If you know much at all about me, you know that I’ve never had a Facebook account or an Instagram account. I signed up for Twitter in 2009 so I could join Medium, but I’ve so far tweeted exactly once (to my local NPR morning show host so I could recommend he do a story about the awesome combination washing machine repair and rock collecting shop in my old neighborhood). I have been on Flickr for the past decade, and have somehow posted over 18,000 photos there in that time, but I have also accrued only 18 followers, which says something about how much I care to advertise it. The list goes on thusly.

Galah bird in Onkaparinga, Australia

One from the Flickr archives: 27-year-old me about to receive a finger bite from a gas station owner’s pet Galah bird in Onkaparinga, Australia. That’ll learn me to poke!

All of it to say that as long as blogs have been around (probably 20 years), people close and not so close to me alike have suggested that I start one. Of course I understood the idea (I’m a writer! we have the Internet! therefore, I should write on the internet!), but my reluctances ran several:

1) I’m not particularly techie, and wasn’t particularly interested in learning how to blog from the software standpoint.

2) While I have come to love writing in many genres and spend a lot of my days doing it, my most favorite writing pastimes involve composing personal work for specific audiences (journal entries that only I see, letters and emails for friends…). I didn’t want to feel like this supposedly-fun pursuit was actually work.

3) Conventional wisdom holds that the best blogs are somehow focused—on food, travel, relationships, the world’s largest collection of taxidermied frogs depicted in various everyday life situations*, etc. Since I like to write about all of those things, and many more!, how would I ever imbue my blog with a sense of focus, purpose, and cohesion?

Most of those reasons finally stopped stopping me in January of last year. At that time, I was a half-year in to my new full-time freelance writing life, for which I’d already gone through the learning pains of setting up an entire website (with a lot of help from friends like Claire here!), so the tech thing was no longer so intimidating. I found I was actually enjoying challenging myself to write in different genres, and slowly became more and more curious about how blog writing would compare to the other types I’d recently gotten practice with (including ghostwriting, post-translation polishing, and drafting static pages for websites). Plus I now had a natural focus for my blog: my life as a freelance writer! And since that in itself encompasses a lot of topics, I felt I could justify squishing them all into one blog with “freelancing” as the overarching umbrella.

Blog tags

A screenshot of my blog post tags. Too eclectic? Nah.

Since the start of 2015, I have come to enjoy these weekly diversions from writing blog posts for inspiring nonprofits and newsletters for unique conferences to reflect on the work I’ve recently done and life I’ve recently led.

As a (somehow unexpected) side benefit, I’ve also found myself crossing paths with some awesome fellow bloggers. Here are two I believe are worthy of sharing with you now: they also got roped into the Liebster Award madness recently, and both (to my amazement) took the time to post responses to the 11 funky questions I posed when I nominated them!

Have a look?

  • Nicholas Peart, aka The Slider, a British-born painter, musician, songwriter, poet, filmmaker, photographer, and traveler who wrote some stuff about his time in South Africa that I very much enjoyed.
  • Neil Scheinin, who goes by the handle Yeah, Another Blogger, a fellow self-described dabbler who writes thoughtfully about a range of fun topics, including pizza, beer, and rock music (mmm!).

In response to their responses, I will just say:

  1. Nicholas, one of my favorite popcorn toppings is a solution of garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper. Heat that up in a pan while the kernels are popping, then drizzle it over the bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt, and you’re golden!
  2. Neil, regarding the number of seconds by which you’ve been known to extend the three-second rule (“thousands and thousands”), I can only say: NICE WORK.

Thank you both for your camaraderie, and your good writing, in this big old Internet world. Knowing I’m in the company of such excellent dudes makes me a less reluctant blogger every day.

*Okay, Froggyland is a website, not a blog. But I’ve been dying to mention it, so I just shoehorned it in here. Apologies to the purists. (But aren’t you also speechless??)

I got some kind of award!

It’s called the Liebster Award, and the entirely-too-kind Pooja Gudka at lifesfinewhine nominated me. Thanks a ton, Pooja!

Liebster Award 2016

The certified seal of approval

For the uninitiated (which included me until this happened), here’s a little primer courtesy of Jen There Done That:

What is the Liebster Award?

“Liebster” is a German word meaning beloved or dearest. In the blogging world, the Liebster Award is online recognition given by bloggers to other new bloggers for enjoying or valuing their work. It is meant to highlight and credit favorite new up and coming blogs within our writing community.

Once nominated, a blogger is asked to answer 11 questions provided by the nominating blogger. They are then expected to nominate 11 other favorite new bloggers and come up with a list of 11 new questions for those nominees. This keeps the love going!

If I’m about one thing, it’s keeping the love going, so let’s do this!

Here are Pooja’s 11 questions for me, with my answers:

1. What is your greatest achievement in life?
Buying a studio apartment in New York City as a single 20-something lady. I hope this accomplishment will be usurped by the eventual production of my Magnum Opus.

2. What is your favourite movie?
The Big Lebowski.

3. Who is your biggest role model?
So many! Lately I’ve been super into Elizabeth Streb (whom I had the great good fortune to interview in 2008).

4. Where do you want to travel to most?
For perspective-upending culture shock, I’m intrigued with visiting more of Africa and the Middle East. For soul-breathing hikes and eye-expanding vistas, I’m drawn to the Bavarian Alps and Scandinavian coastlines. Oh, and a friend recently introduced me to these crazy mountains in China that positively beg a visit!

5. Who is your favourite musician and why?
Another stumper! I’ve been super into Beck lately, particularly the track “Beercan.” Also Bowie’s “Fame.” Because they’re so deeply good.

6. If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
Hmm… Could we try… No more greed? Just for a day or two to start. Take ‘er for a test drive.

7. What is your favourite T.V show?
Since I haven’t watched much TV since the ’90s, I have to say The Simpsons. Though that answer might not be different even if I’d kept watching.

8. Who inspired you to start writing?
I don’t think it was a person as much as the desire to commune with my experience of the world in a (sort of) tangible way.

9. What is your favourite time of day to write?
Those reflective bookend times: morning and night. And any time the itch strikes in between.

10. What is your biggest goal in life?
To feel like I’ve met my potential creatively and altruistically.

11. What is your favourite quote?
I hate to pick just one! But here’s a beaut, I believe from A. S. Byatt: “The writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone together.”

Here is a non-inclusive montage of some of the people and things referenced above:

Now, here are my 11 nominees!

Samantha MacLeod
Sarah Van Buren / Mototripping
Mirka Knaster / exploring the heART of it…
LJ Gormley / My Latin Notebook
Jem Arrowsmith Designs
Nicholas Peart / The Slider
Neil Scheinin / Yeah, Another Blogger
Wandering Wives
Masala Vegan
M.Funk : Photography
Amy Deneson

And my 11 questions for them:

  1. What’s the coolest award you’ve ever gotten? (You can say the Liebster Award if you want.)
  2. When did you last ride a public bus?
  3. Have you ever slipped when getting out of the shower and felt older than you actually are?
  4. Which of your childhood friends are you saddest to have lost touch with, and what you do think they’re doing now?
  5. Honestly: Do you really consider it the three-second rule? Have you ever extended it to more seconds? If so, how many?
  6. Why do you think all those houseplants have died under your care?
  7. Please describe the time you sung most humiliatingly in public.
  8. Best popcorn topping. Go.
  9. Would you rather dream of a spider infestation or a snake infestation? Why?
  10. What is your least favorite color? Explain.
  11. Should 7-Eleven have discontinued their Sour Patch Watermelon Slurpee flavor? Why or why not?

Lastly, I am obliged (and happy) to provide the rules of the award in this very post:

What are the rules for the Liebster Award?

Once you accept a nomination, you are expected to complete the following steps:
– Thank and link to the blogger who nominated you
– Create a post on your blog, displaying the Liebster Award logo
– Answer the 11 questions assigned by the blogger who nominated you
– Provide rules/instructions for accepting the award
– Nominate 11 new favorite bloggers for the Liebster Award
– Come up with a list of 11 new questions for your nominees
– Notify the nominees
– Post your Liebster Award blog post link in the comments of your nominator’s Liebster Award Post

That should cover it. Thanks again, y’all! I am proud to be among ye.

Crunk & White’s Elements of Smile

HT to my witty boyfriend for coming up with the perfect editorial in-joke to accompany this Facebook post commemorating a super-fun bloggers reunion I just attended in Portland, Oregon:

Editors Extraordinaire

Celeste, Becky, and I met a couple years ago writing for the blog Idealists in Action (here are some of my clips).

Today, Celeste is a mom to two beautiful girls and still manages to write her face off (and spearhead the occasional amazebees cash mob for a beloved neighbor that turns into viral video). Becky is a writer and marketing diva at Portland Community College, and I think she’s taking a woodworking class. And I, well, you know what I do.

The three of us had a ball writing, editing, and generally klatching together, and I’m so glad I got to see them for approximately 2.5 more seconds while briefly visiting the west coast.

Onward and upward, ladies! With any luck, life will see us crunk and smiling again before too long.