Friday, September 24, 2010

The End of An Experiment. And The Beginning of...

So this will be my final post here at The Zen Of Blogging Blog. It's been a grand experiment, and 7 months ago, when I started this blog to talk ABOUT blogging - I wasn't sure where it would go.

I heard something the other night at a Start Out LA Event that gave me some clarity about my path forward. Oliver Luckett, Co-founder and CEO of DigiSynd Inc., a social media agency, and Corporate SVP, The Walt Disney Company, was speaking about the road to success, and he said,

"You're gonna fail a lot. So fail fast."

The idea being that you have to get through and past the things that aren't working - that aren't getting you where you want to be - and try something else to see if that will work.

Which makes me think of that story about Edison and how many ways he found out NOT to perfect a lightbulb before he figured out how to actually do it. He famously said (and there are many different versions of this quote):

I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.

And then he figured it out, went on to pioneer the entire electric industry, and changed our world forever.

And that's the amazing thing about our new social media like facebook and twitter and blogs - this new way we're all connecting. Innovating and experimenting as you shape your path forward has never been more accessible, or more doable.

And part of innovating, and experimenting, is knowing when you need to end one venture and move your focus to something else.

There's a part of me that doesn't want to say this blog was a failure. But if I'm being honest, it isn't taking me where I want to go. And I couldn't have discovered that if not for taking the Zen of Blogging Blog journey over these past 30 weeks. While I enjoy talking about blogging with others and sharing blogging secrets, I understand now that my true passion lies with my original blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?

I'm also truly passionate about the books I'm writing, the essays I'm crafting, and the empowerment I see taking place in the vast community that I'm lucky enough to be part of - the community of Children's Literature, and the community of Teens (GLBTQ and Straight Allies) and those who care about Teens.

Where those worlds come together is my "sweet spot," and while I really believe in the insights I distilled in "The Zen Of Blogging" e-book, and the secrets of how to blog successfully here at The Zen of Blogging Blog - it's time for me to move on from the meta-conversation (about how to blog) and focus on the content of teen empowerment - through my main blog, where I talk about GLBTQ Teen Books, Culture and Politics, through my fiction and non-fiction writing, and through my work in high schools teaching SMASHING STEREOTYPES! workshops.

I'll be sharing lots more about all these continuing and new ventures over at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read? in the future weeks, but for now, let me thank the thousands of readers who've found value here. Thank you for being part of my community.

The Zen of Blogging e-book will continue to be available (And hey, I've put it on sale through the end of the year, as a finale present!) And I'm sure there will be times when I can't resist talking about Search Engine Optimization and other fun blogging stuff... And when that happens, hopefully I can do those as guest posts and videos at other wonderful blogs about social media.

For now, I'm declaring the END of this experiment, and I look to the future with a true sense of excitement and hope. After all, I've successfully figured out that this blog is not going to take me where I want to go. And there's so much I want to do!

I thank you, each of you, for sharing this part of the journey.

I hope to see you on twitter, facebook, and my main blog!

Namaste, and Remember to keep it Zen,

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Special Friday post: My New Author Photo! (And what your Profile Pic can do!)

So I just hit my three year blogging anniversary over at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" and I felt that while I liked my old author photo,

it was really just a candid shot, and maybe it was time to update it a bit.

As Alice Pope and Greg Pincus advised in their breakout session on moving your career forward with social networking and blogging at the SCBWI Summer Conference, an author photo is a way to "brand" yourself across platforms. Their advice was to use the same photo on facebook, on your blog, on twitter... everywhere people would see those little profile photos - and it's true, I've had people walk up to me at events and ask, "Are you that guy that does the Zen of Blogging?" and I'm sure it's because I'm recognizable from my profile photo on this blog.

So I got my amazing writer friend and photographer Rita Crayon Huang (she takes the professional photos at the SCBWI summer conference - check out her flicker feed here! and incidentally took that original candid shot I used for the last few years) and we talked about what the new photo would be.

We were really trying to capture the spirit of empowerment (which is my underlying meta-theme of pretty much everything I do on-line and in my writing.) Heck, even this blog's theme is all about empowering you, my fellow bloggers!

So we decided to try something a little bit crazy. I'm leaping through the air, and Rita snapped the photographs mid-leap. Yup. I'm flying...

Kind of like the logo for my main blog,

we wanted the new photo to say "I'm Here To Empower YOU!"

And I think we accomplished that. Here's the original:

And the close-up:

That's what great photography (and a great photographer) can do.

I'll be changing this to be my new profile pic all across the social media landscape!

Another thing to take into consideration is how Ellen Hopkins handles her profile pic - it's not a photo of her at all - it's the cover of her newest book! Here's her twitter profile, and you can see how she's used the cover of her lastest book, Fallout, as her profile pic.

The way Ellen does it, little pictures of her book cover are popping up everywhere she comments on the internet - on facebook, on twitter on blogs... and it reminds people "Hey, Ellen has that new book out! I want to read that!"

So I encourage you to think about what your profile pic says to the world. Is there a chance to be more consistent? More inventive? A picture, the saying goes, speaks a thousand words. What does your picture say?

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This Week's Blogging Secret: Showcase Others ...and the "I Love My Librarian 2010 Award"

I think in the realm of blogging and social media, there are times when you can be at a loss for what to talk about. Do people really want to hear more about YOU? About your book/project/recipe? Again?

Unless you're a celebrity, the answer is probably 'not really.'

You can't repeat yourself endlessly about your new article, or book, or recipe... people will stop coming to your blog to read it if that's all you offer.

The best way to solve this is to talk about other people doing great stuff... Showcase people and projects you can celebrate, and that your blog readers will be interested in as well.

Take my world of children's literature. I talk about books and censorship and the world of GLBTQ teenagers (and teens in general) a lot on my blog - but I don't often focus on librarians.

So there's this cool contest called "I Love My Librarian" - and it's all about celebrating librarians who make an impact for the good on their communities. You can check out last year's winners (I loved reading their nominations!)

And you can nominate your own librarian who has made a difference to you and in your community - the deadline's September 20.

So go toot someone else's horn. It will make you and your blog more of a resource of cool stuff... and it will make you feel awesome.

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's a New School Year... What Are You Doing That's NEW On Your Blog?

Ahh, the school year calendar. Even though it still feels like summer outside, the idea of back-to-school resonates for me - sharpened pencils, notebooks with crisp blank pages, a new backpack to hold all my stuff...

And so, for my "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" blog, I've been thinking about a slight re-design. A stream-lining. A make-it-more useful and easier-to-find-what-you're-looking-for re-thinking.

So I'm experimenting on a private test blog. Trying new things out.

Feeling a bit like a mad (but friendly) scientist.

Einstein -
Just what is the relation between genius and silliness?

Tabs here. No, here.

Add a button. Maybe two.

Move those links...



Simplify some more.

And I'm having fun!

It's all work happening behind the scenes, but I groove on the idea that I'll be unveiling something fresh, something new and cool and awesome for the new school year...

And I'll be revealing it to everyone coming up on Sept 15, 2010.

So I challenge you to think about it, too - whether you're in a field that relates to children in school or not, we all went to school once, and the rhythm of the school year is imprinted on most of us. How can you make YOUR blog feel fresh and new for the new school year?

Namaste, and Remember to Keep it Zen,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If You're Not Failing Occasionally, That Means You're Not Taking Risks...

So I guess I'm taking some risks.

Last week I teamed up with the fabulous Katie Davis, who's launched her new podcast series all about the world of Children's Literature. Katie's an innovator - she's passionate, and smart, and she came up with an iphone app to let people listen to her podcasts seamlessly with their iphones while on the go.

I loved the idea, and when we spoke, I thought it would be fun to do a contest here on this blog to give away a free copy of her iphone app. Now, at $1.99 it's not the kind of prize - like the chance of winning a new car - that will have people dressing up funny. (Anyone else remember The Price Is Right?)

But as the investment was simply to leave a comment with an idea for Katie to cover in an upcoming "Brain Burps About Books" podcast, and no one had to dress up in a chicken costume, we thought it might get a number of people to throw their proverbial hat in the ring.

And we did get a number of people. That number was 1.

Now, at first, I have to admit, I was pretty bummed out about this. I mean, it was my first contest, and it felt a bit like I'd thrown a party and no-one showed up, you know? But the comment/entry we did get was awesome.

Karen from said...

You're right, this is a wonderful podcast! And I definitely have a topic I'd love to hear about in the future: I co-manage a website aimed directly at kids, so it's difficult to reach them. We've been trying to spread the word about our site to educators, hoping that they'll introduce our site to kids. But is that the best way to do it? Or would parents be a better channel? Or are there some strategies for reaching kids directly that others have discovered? Would love to hear any words of wisdom on this topic! Thanks!

The contest, and Katie's podcast, really connected with Karen- she became engaged in a wonderful way - and her show idea is great! And that's really the goal of all of this social networking and blogging... to build community, to build your following, to engage with people who are interested in exactly what YOU are talking about - a community of people with a shared passion.

And yeah, while it would have been nice to have had 20 entries, or 50, or more... I'm delighted to announce Katie as the completely randomly selected winner of our contest!

Like building an audience, a platform, and a community that shares your passion, having a contest with a bunch of people entering takes time. And experimentation.

And you know what?

Like a number of editors and agents kept saying at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference,

If you're not failing occasionally, that means you're not taking risks.

And when it comes to blogging, can't we all afford to take some risks?

So think about it: What kind of experiments can you try with your blog?

If you succeed - great! Congratulations, keep at it!

And if you "fail," like I did with this contest - guess what? You can always try something else.

I know I will.

Namaste, and Remember to Keep it Zen,

ps- I found the photo of the "Play at your own Risk" sign here. I love the idea that if you don't risk anything, then you don't get to play. And what kind of fun is that?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

5 hours left to enter Katie's iphone App contest - She scooped Ellen Hopkin's offer to the TX Teen Lit Festival, what will she scoop next?

Katie did a special podcast this week, featuring Ellen Hopkins and two of the authors who were also invited to a teen lit festival in Texas in January 2011. In short, Ellen - a New York Times bestselling author whose work shows teens making hard - and sometimes bad - choices and then having to face the consequences of those decisions - had been invited, and then dis-invited. Four of the other authors who had been scheduled to attend withdrew in support, but a few thought they should still attend.

Katie interviewed Ellen, and scooped the kid lit world by having Ellen saying that at this point, if her invitation were re-instated, she would attend the festival for free and pay her own way there!

The festival announced they're canceling the same week (also a Katie scoop) but could there be a chance Ellen's offer could tilt the balance on this and bring it back? Or is this just a lesson for the future...

You can hear the whole special episode podcast here.

And you can still enter our contest (4 hours 45 minutes left!) to win a free iphone app for Katie's podcast "Brain Burps About Books!"

The winner will be announced tomorrow!


Monday, August 16, 2010

A Contest! Win a Free iphone App for Katie Davis' "Brain Burps About Books" Podcasts!

Children's author/illustrator Katie Davis is a great model for being innovative.

"I was trying to promote my own books but after awhile, it gets pretty boring to only be talking about yourself. I started promoting other people's books, which ended up being more rewarding - though it's still selfish since it makes me feel good to do it!"

Katie has a regular gig on her local ABC affiliate's "Good Morning, Connecticut" where she recommends great books for kids.

She started a newsletter with author interviews that goes out to thousands of subscribers.

She produces an amazing series of podcasts (internet radio shows) called "Brain Burps About Books," which are all about kid lit!

And now, Katie is launching an iphone application to let people subscribe to her podcasts and seamlessly listen to them on their iphones! The App costs $1.99 - but you have a chance to win it here for free!

Katie's Brain Burps About Books Podcasts cover great content - like this week's

"How To Promote Your Book In New And Innovative Ways"

You can listen to it by clicking here:


on her podcasts, she does interviews with authors like:

Newbery medalists Rebecca Stead and Linda Sue Park;

author/illustrator Peter Reynolds (The Dot, Judy Moody illustrator);

graphic novelists Jenni Holm (BabyMouse) and Jarrett Krosoczka (Lunch Lady);

writer Jane Yolen and illustrator Mark Teague, (the How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? team)

and Edgar-Award-winner Nancy Werlin...

Oh, and did I mention she's even interviewed ME for one of her shows?

Katie even has the incredible author, School Library Journal Blogger, Reviewer, and New York Public Children's Librarian Betsy Bird giving an exclusive regular book review on the podcast!

So here's the contest, for your chance to win a Free iphone app for Katie Davis' Brain Burps:

Leave a comment with what you would like Katie to cover in a future podcast. Wanna more about school visits? Wanna have her interview a specific author? Have a question for an editor you'd like Katie to get the answer to?

The winner will be randomly drawn from those leaving comments next Wednesday (August 25th) at 8pm Pacific Time - so click on down to comments, and put in your 2 cents - you may win a great return on your investment!

And, just as important, let Katie inspire YOU to be innovative in how you approach your passion, your career, and your blogging. I know she inspires me!

Good Luck, and Remember to Keep it Zen,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Zen Blogging Exercise, Inspired by #LA10SCBWI: What's your One Word?

So one of the fun things that happens at the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference that I attended (and blogged and got to be a last-minute addition to the faculty for as well!) was the parade of words.

The first morning of the conference, all the speakers get to line up and introduce themselves to the more than 1,100 attendees, and share the one word they want people to associate with them for the four days of the conference. It was a parade of luminaries in the field of Children's literature, but it was also a parade of mantras. Focus words. Mission statements, boiled down to one word.

Sure, some people teamed up and got in a phrase, but mainly, it was an exercise in Extreme Editing.

How succinct could you be?

SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver started everyone off with "Showtime!"

Editor Bonnie Bader, who was leading a workshop on beginnings, said, "Start!"

Agent Ken Wright shared that he was "Thrilled - as in thrilled to be here."

One faculty member cracked the room up with his word, "Cocktails!"

Author Kathleen Duey inspired us with, "Stretch!"

Publisher Jennifer Hunt, "Kid-Friendly!"

Author Ellen Hopkins, "Banned!"

Editor Nick Eliopulos, "Break The Rules!"

It was so much fun, and we learned a lot from those single (Okay, Nick, 3!) words.

And then a tweet yesterday inspired me to ask all of you,

RT @kimwayans: RT @bookgal77 #la10scbwi What's your 1 word?

Mine would be "Empower!"

And I know that's really a statement of my mission, and the theme of my "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" blog (to empower GLBTQ Teens and their Allies) as well as the theme of this Zen of Blogging blog (to empower other bloggers). Empowerment is a theme in pretty much everything I write. And even what I facebook and tweet!

So, me, and @kimwayans, and @bookgal77 want to know, What's your 1 word?

If you were in a parade of words at a conference for what you do, what would you say?

Go ahead and share your word in comments!

And now that you have that word, look at your blog... Does it resonate? Does it make sense?

I think it should. Unless of course, your word was 'cocktails'... Though even that could make sense, if that was the passion you blogged about!

Whatever word you come up with, thanks for playing along!