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!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Week's Blogging Secret: Be Quirky - Be You!

Lisa Yee's business card

Have you met Peepy?

Award-Winning Author Lisa Yee has created this amazing character of the stuffed animal creature Peepy - who she carries around with her and who hob-nobs with the luminaries in the world of children's literature.

Peepy is her adorable companion on her adventures, and features prominently in her blog's accounts of events - check out all the shots of Peepy from the faculty dinner at this past weekend's SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference!

Here's a shot I took of Peepy at the Golden Kite Luncheon during the Conference:

Now, not everyone can take a stuffed animal creature and imbue it with personality and have it make sense with their overall market identity - but Lisa Yee's Peepy is a great example of how you can be whimsical, and have fun, and truly, it adds to your brand, to your blog, to your image.

So, think about how you can let your individuality shine through on your blog in a way that's quirky and synergistic with who YOU are and what you're all about.

And when you see that adorable-plush-yellow-big-eared Peepy, say "hi!"


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who's the first person who has to take your blog seriously? YOU!

Blogging is this amazing opportunity to show the world that YOU are a professional. That beyond your passion, you have a commitment to your voice and your world.

Getting visitors, and interviews, and other opportunities all stem from YOU taking your blog seriously.

Have a schedule - and keep to it. (Even if it's only one post a week - or a month.)

Follow through on your stated intentions. (If you have a survey for your readers, post the results!)

Be the kind of employee of your blog that you'd hire (Remember, in a one-person blog operation, you're the boss and the worker!)

And remember that if you act like a professional, you're on your way. After all, the first person you need to convince that you're serious is yourself.

On my journey, I blogged for more than a year at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read? before the tide started to shift and other people saw me as a professional, too.

And now, I get to blog professionally, as part of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrator's SCBWI Team Blog. (I'll be leaping into action once again starting tomorrow when the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference begins! Check out all the fun at the Official Conference Blog here.)

That's pretty awesome. And it all started because I believed in myself and my blog, first.

So Believe In Yourself.

...and Keep it Zen.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

Who Can You Interview? Another Secret To Build Your Blog Expertise and Audience

Think about the world that you explore in your blog.

Now think about who you might interview from that world.

Make sure to read their previous interviews (and know their work well) so you can make your interview questions (and the whole interview) really stand out.

One of the coolest things I've been able to do on my main blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?, as part of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators TEAM BLOG is interview luminaries in the world of Children's Literature.

From literary agents like my recent interview with Josh Adams, to Newbery Medal-Winning Authors like Paul Fleischman, to tomorrow's interview with the incredibly successful and funny author M.T. Anderson, my interviews add to the cool unique stuff people can only find on my blog.

As much as they've built my expertise and brought me additional traffic, these interviews have been a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and grow as a writer - and connect with some fantastically kind and gifted professionals in my world.

So, consider the question: Who can you interview for your blog?

Do your homework, and then send them an e-mail...

Who knows what you'll learn?

Namaste, and Remember to Keep it Zen,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This Week's Blogging Secret: Be Helpful

One of the ways to make your blog successful is to figure out how you can be helpful to your readers - is there something you can do for your community that could make your site a resource for others?

A great example of a blog that does this beautifully is Author Casey McCormick's blog, Literary Rambles.

Casey has an Agent Spotlight series covering literary agents that represent Children's book authors. What Casey has done so well is that she's compiled much of the available interviews and internet sources on the agents and then made them available as a resource on her blog - making her blog one of the first places writers go when researching agents. Casey has done other writer's homework for us, and by providing this service, she's created enormous good will (in addition to traffic and platform and stature) for herself.

On my own "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" Blog, I've made being a comprehensive listing and source of information on all the GLBTQ Teen novels one of the major pillars of my blog (the entire left hand column) - and it's made my blog a unique resource for Teen readers, Librarians, and everyone else with an interest in GLBTQ Teen fiction.

So take it as a challenge: Is there a way you can provide a resource on your blog for the members of your community?

Namaste, and Remember to Keep it Zen,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Short and Sweety or Deep and Meaty? How Long Should Your Blog Posts Be?

There are two ends of the spectrum:

Super-short, like Claudia Harrington's blog

of inspirational short quotes from professionals in the world of Children's literature are like inspirational tapas - just little tastes, and don't take a lot of time to either create or read.

Super-in-depth and thorough posts that are almost like great magazine articles. A number of bloggers take this approach, and Colleen Mondor at her Chasing Ray blog does a lot of this -

a great example is her blog post series called "What A Girl Wants" which asks the same question of a number of female authors - and is fascinating reading. These posts take more time to read, have more substance - and often inspire more comments.

Certainly not every post on your blog needs to be the same length - and in fact, variety is kind of nice. But whether it's short or long - make sure you're offering something of value to your readers. Inspiration. Thought-provoking analysis. Resources. Something you care about and offer to share that no one else does in the same way. That's what makes for good reading - of a blog or anything else for that matter!

Remember to have fun, and keep it Zen.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

How To Make Your Blog Stand Out And Be Noticed? Be Quirky, Fabulous YOU.

So I was talking with my friend David this week about his so-far pretty serious Men's Family Law blog, and separately, he told me this funny story about how he had put out a press release with an offer of a free prenuptual and eventual free divorce to Raiders Quarterback Kyle Boller - given that on July 2nd Boller is set to marry Carrie Prejean, the anti-gay marriage-ousted-Miss-California who wasn't quite able to keep up the "traditional" values she spouted about...

SANTA MONICA, CA – Internationally recognized family law attorney and gay rights activist David Pisarra, who specializes in representing Husbands and Fathers ( in divorce and custody hearings, is offering to provide Raiders Quarterback Kyle Boller a free prenuptial agreement, and to represent him throughout any divorce proceedings from his betrothed, the infamous Carrie Prejean who lost her Miss California crown for breach of her duties.

I thought the press release was LOL funny, and I asked him if it was something he'd put on his blog.

He hadn't... But happily, he has now.

And it IS funny. Go read it, and come on back!

What I learned from our conversation is that the quirkier and more unique we allow our blogs to be - the more they reflect who we are - and the more appealing our blogs will be to our readers.

So David, congrats on putting the free divorce offer story up on your blog!

And for the rest of us - let's remember to be our quirky, funny, selves. It makes for great reading, and fabulous blogging!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

PLUG IN - A metaphor for blogging (and life) that keeps on working!

So this week, I challenge you to figure out how you can better "plug in" to your target audiences - to your blog readers and to your potential blog readers.

In my world of children's literature, there's a monthly event called "The Carnival Of Children's Literature." The idea is that every month there's a different host, and many bloggers share their favorite blog post of the month - and the "carnival" is a giant of a post, with links to 30 or more wonderful posts from all across the world of children's literature.

I've watched this event for years, and finally, I signed up to host.

The June 2010 Carnival of Children's Literature takes place tomorrow, and I've literally invested two whole days of what would have been writing time to make this happen in a way that's artful and organized and hopefully very professional.

And tomorrow, hundreds of new readers will come to my blog to find out about all the wonderful things going on in the kidlitosphere, and while they're there, they might check out the things I've been talking about on my blog.

It will be a lot of traffic and, more importantly, community coming by to visit - for me and for everyone who sent in a link and a blurb to participate.

It's a wonderful opportunity, and I'm grateful to have the chance to be the Carnival Ring Leader for this month.

So here's YOUR challenge - where is there an opportunity in YOUR world to plug into what's going on with your community?

Think about it, and feel free to share your ideas in comments! (Oh, and check out the carnival at 12:01 AM Pacific Coast Time, June 25, 2010!)


Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Can You "Contribute To The Conversation" When You're Overwhelmed? Finding Balance in Blog Commenting

Get it? Constant Comment?

So recently a consulting client shared with me their dilemma when it came to commenting on blogs. They felt that they wanted to truly add to the conversation, and not simply leave "Yes, I hear you" type comments.

The problem? Composing their in-depth comments, responding to the blog posts of others, felt overwhelming and extremely time consuming.

It is a common enough challenge that I thought I would share my strategy here with all of my readers:

I try to find a middle ground. Sometimes, when I read an awesome blog post, all I have time for is "Thanks for sharing this!"

Other times, for that same level of awesome, I can wish I had an hour to compose a full-on blog post of my own, responding to their post, to leave as a comment.

But most of the time, that hour already has too many claims on it - so I compromise. I try to find ONE point I can add to the conversation. ONE element of the blog post to which I can respond substantively - and having done that, I feel the job's done.

It's not ideal - but it's a practical strategy, and it works for me. You want to engage your blog readers in a conversation, and you want to be part of the conversation over on their blogs... But life is busy, and it's counter-productive to let blog commenting be an additional source of stress in your life.

Remember, this blogging thing is supposed to be fun. You're finding YOUR community, and sharing with people who are passionate about what you are passionate about. That kind of community-building is beyond cool.

So when you comment, Remember to keep it Zen.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quality or Quantity? Your blog readers, facebook friends & twitter followers

Okay, I think I need to make a point here about the competitive and somewhat demoralizing "game" I find myself and others playing with our statistics.


You will always find someone whose blog is bringing in more readers than yours.

You will always stumble upon a facebook "friend" whose "friends" out-number yours by the thousands.

I have seen tweeps with hundreds of thousands of followers, which can temporarily make me feel like a twitter failure.

But you know what? It doesn't really matter what anyone else has going on.

Here's the secret: While it's nice to be able to throw out a nice round number of how many people visit your blog, if none of them come back, or stay to read what you've written... you may have traffic, but you're not really building a following.

I think it's much better to have 100 loyal involved readers than 10,000 people who click in and click out and really couldn't care less about what you do or blog about.

Traffic without quality is, well, just traffic.

But over time, a loyal quality following will build from something small... into your platform.

And that's something to aim for.

Just something to think about the next time you find yourself hyperventilating about your blog visitor / facebook friend / twitter follower numbers not being higher...

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why Blog In The First Place?

So a friend of mine talked to me recently about wanting to start a blog. She had all these wide-ranging ideas for content, and I asked her:

What's your goal with blogging? What do you want the blog to do for you? Why do you want to start blogging?

And her answer surprised me.

She said she wasn't looking for new clients. Or even to build her audience. Or to establish her expertise. (All three are already well established.)

She explained that she thought a blog would be the perfect way for her to organize information for her existing clients in a way that streamlined her interactions with them...

One example being that she wouldn't have to answer the same question via email multiple times to different clients - she could simply write up a post that addressed that topic, and share the link to the blog post when asked the question in the future.

And I thought it was a really great use of this amazing new medium.

I hope she'll start blogging soon.

And our conversation inspired me to ask: Why are YOU blogging in the first place?

Is it to build an audience for what you do?

Is it to establish your expertise in your area?

Is it to make a difference in the world in some way?

Is it to provide a service?

Is it to organize information that you want to share?

Is it to have your voice heard?

I think these are all great reasons to blog - but each reason requires different approaches to HOW you blog.

Consider the reasons YOU blog, and please share them with us in comments!

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,


Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Will Make Mistakes... And That's Okay. (It can even be a GOOD thing.)

You can't really erase things from your blog once they're posted.

So this week on my "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" Blog I made a mistake.

I shared about a story that had been in the news that I felt sure my readers would care about - 2 men who were arrested for falling in love with each other and were sentenced last week to 14 years hard labor.

And then the very first comment I got told me that I'd missed something HUGE to the story. That I'd fallen into the same mistake many others had made - that it wasn't 2 men, it was a man and a transgendered person who had fallen in love. Suddenly, after reading a great news analysis on a blog, and really reading closely the NY Times reporting, I understood that rather than this being a story about homophobia in Malawi, Africa - it was a story about transphobia in Malawi and here in our culture, too. Our Western media being too quick to accept the "two men" line provided by the authorities who wouldn't acknowledge the self-identified female gender of the transgendered prisoner.

I felt terrible. First, I'd presented the story inaccurately - and while I hadn't meant to, I had still made a mistake.

Second, I wondered what I should do. Should I retract my post and re-write it completely? Could I delete it and my mistake? (Although all the people who get my blog posts syndicated would see the original.) Could I just add to my original post and explain?

What I decided to do was something I hadn't had to do since I started blogging: I published a second post as a correction. (I also explained my mistake in an new addendum to my original post.)

I was nervous at how people would react. I had made a mistake. Would my readers be mad at me? Would they feel let down? I've published over 750 blog posts and have never been in this situation before. Would they continue to trust me moving forward?

Here's one comment after I published the correction that was representative:

Lee, I love that you took in feedback from your readers and corrected your mistake so quickly. That puts you way ahead of the New York Times and many other news sources! There is a lot of trans-phobia even in the gay community and I'm so glad that your blog is combating that. Thank you for reporting this awful story and reporting it accurately.

It turned out my readers weren't angry at me for making a mistake. On the contrary, they were happy to see me learning from the experience, and grateful that I "got it."

So it turned out that my mistake actually improved my relationship with my readers!

My lesson from this:

Don't freak out about being perfect. You're human, like me. Mistakes will happen. When they do, be honest about it.

And hopefully your readers will be cheering you on, too!

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,


Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Quick Blogging Tip - Schedule Blog Posts In Advance

Here's the automatic time and date the computer entered when I wrote this post:

...And Here's the NEW time and date for when I scheduled this post to publish.

One of the important things to consider is that while inspiration doesn't arrive in consistent bursts, it really helps a blog build a following if there is a consistent pattern of posting.

So, in general, it's better to have one post a week for four weeks than four posts one week and nothing for the next three weeks.

Life, though, can make keeping that kind of schedule a real challenge in the long run. And it is the consistency and quality of your blog posts will build your audience.

Enter a little technological trick:

Scheduling your blog posts to go up in advance.

I'm actually writing this post at 6:04AM Wednesday. It will go live tomorrow morning. But I have time now.

There have been times when I've scheduled posts a week in advance!

I blog here at The Zen of Blogging blog once a week, every Thursday.

And I blog over at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read? Five days a week, Monday through Friday.

Scheduling lets me be consistent as a train schedule with my blog posts, yet flexible as an artist in the time I put into blogging.

In blogger (the host for my blogs) you click the little triangle "Post Options" under the composing window and adjust the "Post Date and Time" to whenever you want it to go live. Then, when you hit "Publish Post" it won't go live right away - it will wait and go live when you've scheduled it to.

Scheduling posts in advance is a great tool for any blogger, and can really take a lot of the stress out of blogging.

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are You Conflicted About Conflict In Your Blog Posts?

So I've been working with the fabulous Rita Crayon Huang, my friend and co-coordinator of the SCBWI Westside Writers Schmooze, on preparing this week's discussion on conflict and villains in writing for children and teens.

And not coincidentally, I spoke with my kid about the fairy tales she's studying in school, and we talked about how a story isn't much of a story unless there's a problem to overcome.

If the main character wants an ice cream, and goes and gets an ice cream, and it's delicious - well, that's a lovely afternoon, but it's not much of a story.

So in stories, we have challenges, and adversity, and obstacles our characters have to overcome to reach (and sometimes fail in reaching) their goal.

I've been thinking about how (and if) that applies to blogging. Should we blog as if there's no conflict regarding our subjects? Is it best to be all black or all white when talking about something we're passionate about?

Or can we be open to the greater shades of gray - can we recognize that there are pluses and minuses to everything, and use our blogs to engage our readers in a conversation?

I'm going to argue for the conversation. Standing up and doing a stump speech has it's moments, but there are times when an issue is murky, and yet you can have passionate feelings about parts of it.

A great example is the post I did over at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" about the gay character Kurt in the hit TV show "Glee" playing at times into the stereotypes of a Gay Teen.

Even the title of the post, Why the Gay Teen on "Glee" Drives Me Nuts... And makes me want to sing at the same time showed my conflict, and yet - it is among the top 10 most commented upon posts ever on that blog. It engaged my readers in a dialog that they weren't finding anywhere else...

And because I was honest enough to share the complexities of how I saw it, I invited their participation.

As one commenter put it,

Can I just say that I love every single comment here? I've been dying for some real conversation about this show, but most people seem to come down as either totally hating it or totally loving it - I love that all of us here really like the show but understand it can have problematic elements :-D

And that kind of participation on your blog is exciting.

So don't be conflicted about including conflict in your posts.

After all, ice cream is more delicious if you've had to earn it.

Namaste, and Keep it Zen,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Articulate Your Theme: A Play-Along-At-Home Zen Exercise

So two weeks ago we talked about how your blog posts can dance and be noticed if there's a common thread, or theme, that links them all together.

A great exercise (and one I assign to all my consulting clients) is to articulate your overall theme.

If you're a writer, what's the driving reason you write?

Recently in a Twitter conversation, Kathleen Duey, the National Book Award finalist author of Skin Hunger, said about her writing:

"I want to wake kids up to their power."

I thought that was profound, and so well distilled.

So think about it. If your passion is cooking, or comics, or hiking... What's the bottom line of why you're blogging?

If you had to distill it down to one sentence, what would that be?

In my home blog, "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" my theme is empowering GLBTQ teens and their allies. In this blog, The Zen Of Blogging, my theme is empowering bloggers. And in the books I write, there's the consistent theme of empowering kids and teens to be real and honest about who they are.

Empowerment is the theme that ties all my blogging and writing together. And I aim to express it in a fun, informative and entertaining way.

Now you don't necessarily have to state your theme explicitly in your work or even in your blog posts, but having that through-line with what you do and what you blog will create synergy and help you build a following.

So, I wanna know. What's your theme?

And once you've articulated it, consider how it can be the thread through all your blog posts. And hey, look at what threads can do when woven together:

Namaste, and keep it Zen,


Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Jingle Bells," karaoke, and what every blogger can learn from American Idol

Adam Lambert (of last season's American Idol)
was so awesome, in part, because he never did it "karaoke-style."
He understood that every time he got the microphone,
it was his opportunity to be unique. To be remembered.
We bloggers can learn from him.
Every time we sit down to write a blog,
it's like someone's handing us a microphone...

So I was cooking dinner the other day, listening to a favorite song on my playlist, and my hands were all goopy rolling up non-meat-meatballs so I just let it play on from the songlist in alphabeltical (get it?) order. And I discovered that I had 3 versions of jingle bells. And I listened to them all. In a row.

Now, outside the fact that it's nowhere near Christmas time, it got me thinking - what a great lesson in the importance of "voice."

It's what Simon and the other judges are always saying on American Idol - don't just sing the song the way we've always heard it. If you do, it's too "Karaoke," and while karaoke is fun to do, it's not so much fun to listen to (unless it's one of your friends, dancing on top of a table, humiliating themselves.)

So now it's your turn to Play Along At Home (or on the go) with these versions I found for you. Listen to these:

Ella Fitzgerald's version of Jingle Bells

Barbra Streisand's version of Jingle Bells

Kyle Massey's version of Jingle Bells

Diana Krall's version of Jingle Bells

Melinda Doolittle's version of Jingle Bells

And go ahead, sort your playlist alphabetically by song title and see how many versions of the same song you have (it doesn't have to be jingle bells - any song you have multiple artists' versions of will do.)

Listen to them all in a row.

Note how each artist really puts their own spin on it. And for those artists that don't put their own spin on it, think about how ultimately forgettable their efforts are, in a sea of versions of the same song.

This is a good lesson to think about when blogging.

It's very possible that you're going to be blogging about something other people are blogging about, too. Whether it's about American Idol, or wishing Raven had won RuPaul's Drag Race, or even the new gay character in the Archie comic book universe, often we're blogging about stuff that's already been discussed elsewhere in the blogosphere or on the web.

Whatever you're blogging about, make sure your version is unique - an expression of you and your voice.

Otherwise, it'll just be Karaoke.

Oh, and will someone let me know when Adam Lambert puts out a version of "Jingle Bells?" I can't wait to see what he does with it!

Namaste, and keep it Zen,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

1 Minute To Blogging Greatness, Episode #3: It’s Earth Day. You Wanna Blog About Holidays? Here’s what you need to know.

So I’m hiking, and leaves and gravel are crunching under my feet, when an eye-height spot of yellow catches my attention, and I get An Earth Day Inspiration...

One blogger who is a master at threading their theme through each post is my friend and writer Sara Wilson Etienne, who blogs about things in her life in a way that always brings it back to the process of writing. Check out how her insights and humor are anchored to her theme, which lets her blog posts dance!

Happy Earth Day, and like me, I hope you get inspired by Nature.

Namaste, and keep it Zen,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Blogging and Social Media Secret: Butt OUT of Chair

I know, you're all thinking, "Lee, you got it wrong, it's 'butt IN chair' because you have to write your books, create your art, make your products. You have to create your "real estate" before you try to sell it, right?

Well, yes. You do need that "butt in chair" time.

But for your blogging and social media efforts to truly pay off, you need to get your butt OUT of the chair, too.

You need to get out of the house and go to some events. Meet some people. To borrow a phrase from social media guru Greg Pincus, let those "happy accidents" occur.

Here's a double example of what I'm talking about:

This past weekend, the Los Angeles Region of SCBWI had it's annual "Writer's Day" conference. I went, and decided to wear my blog logo t-shirt.

Me and the amazing Eve Porinchak at Writer's Day,
photo taken by the wonderful Rita Crayon Huang

At the conference, a woman approached me because she recognized me (maybe my t-shirt, maybe my profile photo) and asked if I was the fellow behind "The Zen Of Blogging."

I smiled and said, "Yes, I am."

And then she said "Oh, The Zen Of Blogging saved my life!"

I asked her if she'd say it again, on camera. She graciously agreed:

So it was good for me to get out in the world, because lo-and-behold, I got an amazing testimonial out of it. On video, no less.

But look at it from the other perspective.

Diane Browning is an author with a new book coming out. She got her butt OUT of her chair, went to this event and had her book right there in her hands. She said hello to a blogger she recognized, and shared her appreciation for what he was doing.

And then, lo-and-behold, she got the opportunity to plug her upcoming book (Signed, Abiah Rose) and her blog on HIS blog. (Right here - you just saw it.) On video, no less.

So Butt OUT of Chair worked rather elegantly for both Diane and myself.

And it can work for you, too.

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

1 Minute To Bloging Greatness, Episode #2: Twitter For Bloggers - The Top 3 Things You Can Do!

I was honored to premier this second episode of my blogging tips series over at the unstoppable Tina Nicols Coury's blog, Tales From The Rushmore Kid!

Tina is running a series called "Cyber Tip Of The Day" and I'm in good company, what with Anastasia Suen and Greg Pincus being the previous Tip-Givers.

So here's my tip:

And here's another tip for you - check out the great stuff Tina's up to (agent interviews, author advice and wacky hats to name just a few) on her blog!

Namaste, and remember to keep it Zen,


Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Great Video About The State Of The Internet

It's fun. It's animated. It has a great soundtrack. And this short video has a fantastic overview of just how BIG the internet and our world of bloggers has become...

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from JESS3 on Vimeo.

While the numbers can seem overwhelming, remember, we each just need to find OUR Zen path to blogging.

You need the one thing that can distinguish your blog from the 126 million other blogs out there.

And you already HAVE that one thing. It's YOU.

Here's the secret:

Be yourself when you blog.

Your passion.

Your perspective.

Your voice.

Now that's Zen.

Thanks to Jess3 for creating this video, and to

Greg Pincus, my friend and social media guru who shared this video on his social media blog, The Happy Accident, which is where I saw it for the first time.

Greg has the incredible ability to make the whole world of social media (including facebook, twitter, blogs, etc...) more comprehensible and less overwhelming, and his blog is a Zen must read.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to deal with the urge to make your blog posts perfect

So originally this post was going to be my kanji disclaimer.

In fact, in response to my facebook launch party invitation, a few kind souls pointed out the mistakes in the Chinese character for "Zen" that I used as the cover image of my e-book and featured in last week's blog post.


Not-so-perfect Zen

I knew that image wasn't perfect. And I could have used stock imagery, or paid an expert to do it for me.

But I wanted this endeavor to be personal, messier, and to feel more expressive and artistic... So I did them myself. I had a friend write the characters out properly for me in my journal, and then I spent a few wonderful afternoons trying to capture the spirit of each symbol with ink, brush, and the thinnest of rice paper.

Now I knew my kanji characters were possibly cringe-producing-kindergarten-level efforts for a native speaker of Chinese, but I chose to accept that.

Could I have studied Chinese calligraphy for years to perfect my brush strokes and the alignment and form of each character? I suppose, but to what purpose? I might have looked more accomplished and the art would have been more polished, but it would have delayed my e-book and this blog launch by years.

And I felt (and feel) that I have so much to share about blogging that people could forgive the imperfections and go with the overall spirit and beauty of the big idea: Blogging can be Zen.

In the math equation in my mind, it was better to be imperfect.

Now I'm not saying to post stuff you haven't given thought to, or to tweet when angry, (as Social Media Guru Jenn Bailey famously says, "Trying to get something off the internet is like trying to get pee out of a swimming pool.") but the way I see it, we can get frozen into doing nothing because we're afraid of it not being perfect. And it's better to do something good than hold out forever to do one thing without flaws.

Many authors say that when they read their published books, they find things they would still change. At some point they had to let go and put their story out into the world.

Same with blogging.

Get some stuff out into the world.

It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to be perfect.

I know. Because I'm not.

And you know what? It's okay.


ps - my thanks to Julie Sullivan in particular for keeping it real, and whose critique inspired this post!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Welcome to my New Blog on... Blogging!

Take a deep breath with me.


(hold it)


The idea behind blogging being "Zen" is that you don't have to panic.


Like this blog. My goal is for it to be Zen. And Fun. And really useful.

Here's the big idea: This is my new on-line home for sharing weekly inspiration and how-to tips about blogging with you.

Once a week, so no one gets overwhelmed.

Ideas about blogging to get you thinking.

Cool stuff about blogging and social media that I *have* to share.

Great links to get you exploring the blogosphere.

And encouragement to help you on the path to YOUR "Zen" of Blogging.

So take off your shoes, click around, and check it out as it unfolds...

Oh, and to celebrate the launch of this new blog, for the next 30 days there's a $5.00 discount for buying The Zen Of Blogging e-book.

Just use the discount code:


But this is no hard sell. Hang out. Talk blogging with me and each other. Watch me wear a different T-shirt in every video. It'll be fun. And very, very Zen.


Let's take one more deep breath.



Feel better? Yeah, me too.

Thanks for being here.


1 Minute to Blogging Greatness, Episode #1: The Top 3 Reasons Why Blogging Is Awesome For Authors

Well you might have guessed that I couldn't very well launch this blog without something substantive to get us started.

So here goes:

This is the first in what is going to be a series of video blogs (also called "vlogs.")

This video originally premiered over at Shelli Johannes's "Market My Words," a blog all about offering marketing advice to authors. Shelli is a marvelous marketer and her blog is a wonderful resource!