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??)

Two upcoming writing events very worth your time

I think I could write a story every week about some awesome person I know who’s doing something fabulous that I want more people to know about. (And what’s stopping me, I suppose?!)

This week is even more fabulous-er than usual, because I have not one but two admirable friends’ events to shout out, AND they’re both really useful and enjoyable writing events!

Tracy Sayre

A picture of Tracy that is unrelated to the conference, but that is super fun

Coming right up, next Saturday, April 9 in Manhattan, I can recommend Tracy Sayre‘s fifth Writers Work conference to writers of many stripes: novelists, short story peeps, anyone curious to learn more about the publishing world, and on from there.

I’ve been to at least two of Tracy’s epic conferences and spoken at one, and am happy to say with utmost surety that you will get your time and money’s worth. Tracy is uber-connected, super-serious, and hardcore-dedicated to her mission of helping writers develop their craft, career, and community.

The April 9 conference will include a pitching workshop, an online marketing tutorial, and talks by a former New York Times editor, a multi-bestselling author of thrillers, and publishing industry mavens galore. See lots more info and sign up here.

Danielle DeTiberus and Ryan Schenck

Danielle and her pardner Ryan outside my apartment before her reading at The New School with Sherman Alexie last fall!

Coming up a little later, June 18 to 25 (which is good, because you’ll need time to pack your bags and get a base tan!) is the Best American Poetry-anthologized, Charleston School of the Arts-teaching, Program Chair of The Poetry Society of South Carolina Danielle DeTiberus‘s first writing retreat! With yoga! In COSTA RICA! If I weren’t already getting married this year, taking a trip to Russia, and possibly trying to buy a house, I would be there in a heartbeat.

“Whether delighting in the view from the mountain top, coming to the mat, or giving your breath a voice on the page,” reads the event info, “we will find our strength, our creativity, and our intuition.” Plus the whole thing is called “Elevated Union: A Yoga and Writing Retreat. Shifting Perspectives on the Mat, on the Page, and on the Path.” Sounds dope, right?! You can see some mesmerizing photos of the tropical venue and surroundings, read more about the retreat, and get sign-up info here.

Lastly it wouldn’t be April Fool’s Day without a little fun for fun’s sake, right? Well, as usual, you’ve come to the right place for that! Anyone who’s still reading this far down is cordially invited to Neil Totton‘s and my joint birthday party in Hell’s Kitchen tomorrow night!! Here’s the flyer. Bring your A game! (Or your B game; we’re not picky.)

Neil Totton April Greene aries birthday party

Getting around, mentally and physically

Like Tupac and The Beach Boys, I get around—with my writing work, that is!

One of the things I love most about freelancing is the unexpected places it takes me, topically and geographically. Last year, I trundled to the Bronx to cover a conference all about wood; wrote about a Taiwanese modern dance company‘s rebound from a devastating loss; and spoke with grassroots leaders in L.A. who are making their streets happier places to walk, bike, and even play—and that was just the beginning!

Pete, Justin, Bikash

Justin (center) with post-earthquake rebuilding partners Pete (left) and Bikash, plus a friendly clothesline

This year, I’m happy to be starting off with a similarly far-flung (to me) gig: an interview with Justin Den Herder, a senior structural engineer at NYC’s Silman Associates, about his experience volunteering for the Pilot Projects initiative Co-Build Kathmandu. Our story ran in the latest volume of cross sections, the magazine of the Structural Engineers Association of New York.

Justin is a smart, fun guy with miles of great stories to tell about his trip. Here’s a sample nugget:

“We wound up purchasing and donating 75, 70-pound bags of rice to people in a small village in Nagarkot,” he said. “One of the most impressive illustrations of Nepalese resiliency I saw during my trip—among many—was the image of old women coming to claim their bag of rice. I’d ask who was there to carry it home for them, and they’d just smile, take the bag from me, throw it over their shoulders, and walk straight up the mountain! I can’t imagine my grandmother doing that. I was struggling trying to lift these bags myself.”

Peep the whole interview here, and let’s give it up for getting around!

Last week’s Mashable Social Good Summit was pointless

I’m sort of cringing at that snippy, click bait-y title, but it really was not good.

I’d heard about this annual social good event for the past few years, but hadn’t had occasion to go. Then a friend of mine, who’s launching a new design and social good conference in Portland next year, asked if I would attend this year’s program in her stead and give her notes.

I was genuinely interested. Also, I’m sure I don’t need to say that when you offer a freelance writer a free ticket to something, she’ll always go. So I went.

A (good) freelance writer will also always try to show-not-tell you about their experience. So here’s what I saw, as reported to my notebook during the event:

At least they had one of those celebrity backdrops you could stand in front of.

At least they had one of those celebrity backdrops you could stand in front of.

  • “Objectively meaningless two-minute video where the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal flags are waving around groups of ethnically-diverse children.”
  • “Opening ceremony = brief introductions to each of the SDGs by celebrities Victoria Beckham, the clock/”bomb” kid, Adrian Grenier, a taped speech by Jennifer Lopez… This is not helpful or interesting! Just a parade of celebrities.”
  • “The Digital Media Lounge appears to be a room with a bunch of tables where people are using laptops and there’s a screen projecting the live program happening in the auditorium. The lounge is where the coffee and snacks are, too, which was not explained to us before.”
  • “Did the conference website crash, or is the wifi in here just getting deluged? Been 10 minutes and it hasn’t loaded.”
  • “Moderator: ‘These kids will be leading this summit 15 years from now.’ Yawn.”
  • “Panel participant: ‘Social media is used by young people, who are going to be the ones driving change for the next decades, so we need to use and pay attention to social.’ Is this news??”
  • “There is a panel called ‘Champions of the Earth.’ “
  • “I see people with pizza, and I smell pizza. I guess we got pizza! No instructions or explanations. It’s like a secret!”
  • “I’m not sure who’s here, or why. There was no chance to network—other than waiting in line for the bathroom, which I did—and I’m left with no sense of who would come to this. Starting to think it was just a bunch of UN moles!!”
  • “Closing remarks were compassionately brief. We were asked to leave the auditorium immediately afterward.”

I could go on, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone, exactly. And there were some gems:

A deservedly tired Bill McKibben spoke about, among other things, the similarities between tobacco and oil companies when their jigs have been up.

Moxie Marlinspike issued the very interesting thought that laws should be difficult to enforce: “How would we know that public opinion and demand was swaying in support of same-sex marriages if no one had ever seen an ‘illegal’ same-sex relationship in public? Same goes for marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado. We need to see how people act outside of what they’re told to do by laws in order to see what they’re really like; what they really want and need.”

Lara Logan was a tough and smart moderator who brought needed rigor and vigor to her discussions.

But overall, I was surprised by how much time and care went into something that wound up being so banal and providing such little value. My peanut gallery tips to conference organizers of the future:

  • Make it concrete, not conceptual. Statistics and stories can be useful; platitudes are not.
  • For the love of god, build time to network into your schedule. No one wants to go to a conference, sit for six hours, then go home. Networking is half the point.
  • Either tell us to bring a lunch, or tell us there will be food (and preferably what and where and when, too). Also for the love of god.

That’s it. No hard feelings, Mashable (although I can’t recall seeing anything on your site that’s really grabbed me, either). Just… sayin’.

How writing conference organizers embarrass themselves

By asking me to speak!

Oh, I joke. I’m really hoping to not embarrass my friend and fellow writer Tracy Sayre at her next awesome Writers Work conference, coming up on Saturday, June 27 in Manhattan.

Her excellent conferences provide newb and experienced writers alike with opportunities to network, hear useful advice from interesting speakers, and sometimes even take a few minutes to write on the fly and share what happens.

I’m super touched that Tracy asked me to hold court on the topic “How to Pay the Rent with Your Writing”—something I suppose I have been managing to do for a while! Now, I just have to think of what to say…

There are still a handful of tickets left as I type this. Git yer hands on ’em now and I’ll see you there!

AFG

Writers Work