Category Archives: Writing

My Blog Won a Liebster Award

Thank you to Bread from Queer Little Family for nominating me for this award. Bread and I met on Twitter earlier this year. She lives with her wife and son in Wales, and she blogs about everything from the funny side of parenting to what life as a member of the LGBT community is like.

The Liebster Award is given out to small blogs on the Internet that deserve more recognition. They’re used to thank bloggers for their hard work as well as to introduce audiences to new bloggers they may enjoy.

The rules for nominating someone for this award and accepting it are spelled out here.

When Bread nominated me, she included a list of questions that she wanted me to answer. My replies are below.

Why do you use to blog?

I started blogging because I truly enjoy the instant feedback you can get from publishing a post and because it keeps me in the habit of writing in general.

What animals do you have?

I don’t have any animals at all.  I’m allergic to many common pets, including cats and dogs.

When did you last have a pizza?

The last time I had pizza was last night. My spouse wanted a treat, and I agreed with him that it was a good idea.

What was your favourite television show as a kid?

My family didn’t own a television at all for a few years of my childhood, and for several other years there we had a television that only picked up the handful of channels you could get if you didn’t have cable. I watched a lot of PBS documentaries back then. Once we signed up for cable, my favourite show would have been Total Request Live on MTV. I enjoyed seeing which music videos made it to the #1 spot each day.

The best blogging advice you’ve received?

Always proofread before hitting publish.

How would you spend a big lottery win?

I’d give away some of my winnings to family members and charities, but other than that I’d spend it carefully and slowly. My current minimalist lifestyle suits me just fine. There are very few things I’d have any interest at all in buying even if I did have the money for them.

What is the best pie filling?

Lemon meringue. It is so light, tangy, and fluffy.

If you could, would you be famous?

Being wealthy would be nice, but fame isn’t appealing at all. I’ve seen the way famous people are built up and then torn down by the media. I’d want no part of that lifestyle.

What is your spirit animal?

If I had a Patronus, it would be a rabbit without a doubt.

What else did your parents consider calling you?

Phillip was the name they’d tentatively chosen for a baby boy. I believe they may have also briefly considered giving me names like Lorelei or Hanalore to honour our German heritage, but they ultimately decided that Lydia would be easier to spell and pronounce.

If we’d lived in Germany instead of North America, I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents had gone with much more Germanic names for their children in general. They seemed to like them.

I’d like to nominate the following bloggers for this award:

If they accept this award, these are the questions I’d like them to answer:

  1. What is the most creative story, poem, song, or other piece of writing you’ve created so far?
  2. Where, if anywhere, do you volunteer? If you don’t currently volunteer, where have you donated your time and skills to in the past or hope to donate them to in the future?
  3. How do you like your coffee or tea?
  4. What was the last song you listened to?
  5. If you could only watch one genre of movies for the rest of your life, which genre would it be?
  6. Do you have any hidden talents or surprising hobbies? If so, what are they?
  7. What is the furthest distance you’ve ever traveled from home? Why did you go on that trip?
  8. Which do you prefer: sweet, salty, sour, or savoury snacks? Why?
  9. How many languages do you speak? Which languages are they?
  10. What did you have for breakfast today?

The Endless Summer of 2017: A Review

Title: The Summer That Refused to End: What Really Happened to Ontario in 2017

Author: Gaia Terra

Publisher: Cosmos

Release Date: June 21, 2017

End Date: Unknown

Rating: 3 Earths out of 5

Review:

Just when you thought summer had ended…it came back for more!

The summer of 2017 definitely started out innocently enough. Without digging too much into the backstory here since it isn’t strictly necessary to know in order to enjoy this instalment, every season has been full of surprises for us these last few years. None of them have been particularly normal. After a strangely warm winter and cold, rainy spring, I was looking forward to seeing what the weather would do next. It was so hot and dry during the summer of 2016 that I honestly had no idea what to expect for 2017. It was nice to see this summer begin so gently. I felt like we were able to reclaim some of the mild spring days I would have loved in April or May once they decided to pop up in June instead.

Wow, were there bumps in the road along the way, though. Yes, we had about the same number of the heat waves I was expecting to find. We also had far more rain than was usual, especially in the months of July and August when it is usually much drier here. I certainly didn’t mind the extra precipitation, and I don’t think our crops did either. What did bother me was how it ended. Normally, daytime highs of 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit for the American fans out there) have mostly faded away by mid September. When this kept happening over and over again even as we galloped from the end of September to the beginning of October I was beyond perplexed. I’m all for mixing the seasons a little bit during the transitions between them, but shouldn’t summer gracefully give way to autumn at a certain point in the plot?

I did love the rain, though, and am grateful for how often summer fell back onto this device when her other tricks weren’t working out as well as she had hoped. Once she decides to pass the baton onto autumn, I hope her predecessor will continue this tradition for the next few months. There is nothing quite like a rainy autumn afternoon to set the mood when you’re reading a scary book or trying to finish cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Speaking of Thanksgiving, summer, is there any chance you’ll be retiring before then?

By now my readers are probably wondering if I’d recommend the summer of 2017 to them. There certainly were plenty of upbeat moments during it, especially for those of us who love a strong thunderstorm. What it really boils down to is how much time you’re willing to invest in such a thing. This one was a little long for my tastes, although I can see how it would appeal to true connoisseurs of this season.

Previoius posts in this series:

A Review of Today’s Rainy Weather

10 Pictures That Are Begging to Be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

I come across so many unique images when I’m searching for stock photos for this blog. It always makes me a little sad when I realize that nothing I’ve written so far fits them in any way.

They’re the kind of pictures that demand an audience, so today I’m sharing ten of them with you in the hope that you’ll be inspired by them. If anyone uses one of these photos as a writing prompt, I’d love to know how you interpreted it! Send me a message about it on Twitter.

I will include brief descriptions of the images in this post as well for readers who aren’t able to see the pictures I’ve found.

This is a picture of a man who has tilted his head back and closed his eyes. He has a neutral expression on his face, and he is balancing a pineapple on the top of his forehead.

It makes me giggle every time I see it. I could see it being an eye-catching opener for a post about meditation, healthy eating, or alternative uses for pineapple for those of us who don’t like the taste of them.

 

This is a picture of a man wearing the kind of thick, white makeup that clowns and other performers wear. He has an American flag draped over his left shoulder and he’s slung a stick or weapon across his other shoulder. We cannot see the end of that item, only its handle. His face has a menacing expression on it.

What a frightening image. It would make great fodder for any kind of horror tale, but I’d personally use it for something that revolved around not realizing a person or situation was dangerous until it was too late. Not every scary thing in life announces itself that way immediately.

This is a picture of a skeleton wearing headphones, sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer, and typing on a keyboard. 

There was nothing alarming about this to me at all. The skeleton looks and acts just like a living person, so I’d imagine them in a completely innocuous setting whose conflict has nothing at all to do with the fact that skeletons shouldn’t actually be able to move around.

For example, maybe everyone else sees a normal person when they look at this character. He or she is the only person who knows their true form, and they honestly find it kind of a boring topic.

This is a picture of a woman grimacing and biting the pages of a blank, open book.

Honestly, she looks hungry. Someone give her an apple before she starts devouring her tale from the inside out before its even had a chance to end.

 

This is a picture of a viking who has a long, brown beard and moustache. There is a small mound of brightly-coloured confetti covering his facial hair.

If this isn’t the perfect image to use for a story about an uncanny parade, I don’t know what is. Perhaps Ivar was magically awoken from his eternal rest, and was terribly disappointed to learn that his new role in modern times was as nothing but the main attraction in parades, festivals, and other large community gatherings. He’d give anything for one serious conversation about who he was, where he came from, and how he died.

This is a picture of about a dozen cellphones that are nailed to a wall. The sign on the wall reads “Please destroy cell phones before entering.”

A luddite lives here, and they have zero patience for cellphones of any sort. This could be horror as easily as it could be a romantic comedy. So much depends on how the luddite reacts when he or she meets someone who refuses to give up their phone.

 

This is a picture of the face and shoulders of a woman who is wearing nothing but a towel on her head. The expression on her face could either be read as shock or surprise.

I find this image unsettling. Is the woman thrilled or frightened? What could she have possibly seen that would make her feel both emotions simultaneously?

This is a picture of a laptop, book, computer mouse, and smart phone being wrapped up in chains.

“Security” was one of the keywords labeling this image on the stock photo site I found it on. To me, though, it looks far more like it’s about limiting nearly every kind of information that’s available to the average person. How could someone learn about the world if they were denied the use of books and the Internet?

This is a picture of a pair of wind-up toy teeth biting down on a few 5 pound British bills.

I giggle every time I look at this image. The first thing that popped into my mind was that dental bills can be very expensive. Maybe it’s a reminder to take good care of your teeth?

This is a picture of a man sitting at a table. One of his arms is robotic, and he is holding his flesh-and-blood-hand in his robotic one. 

Is this futuristic or something happening now? From what I’ve read about replacement limbs, they have begun to be able to do all kinds of things they weren’t able to do before. I’ve heard of people being able to clench their fists, hold a glass of water, and do so much more with their artificial arms.

If I were going to make this a scifi story, the entire right side of this guy’s body would be a machine. Maybe he was in an accident and lives just far enough into the future that machines can take over the work of some of his internal organs as well as his right arm and leg?

For a contemporary setting, I’d go with something more ordinary like him forgetting to charge up his limb the night before and needing to sit quietly until it had enough juice in it to keep him going for the rest of the day.

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

Can a Blog Post Be Too Short?

Eliza tweeted this to me last week in response to Why I Don’t Agree with Padding Out Blog Posts. I thought it would make a great idea for a follow-up post today.

In order to answer that question, I must ask you a few more questions first: How short is a poem allowed to be? Is there a specific word count it must have to be counted as a poem?

The shortest poem I’ve ever loved was five words long. I’ve also been thrilled by other poems that are six and sixteen words long respectively.

Despite their minuscule word counts, at least one of them has become so famous that children study it in school because the people who created them spent so much time packing many layers of meaning into every single word.

The same can be said for blog posts. Just like some of them are meant to be thousands of words long, others can be much tinier than you might imagine.

For example, there is a blogger who regularly challenges himself to write 100 word blog posts. He’s written dozens of them so far, and all of them are thought-provoking because of the close attention he pays to making every single word in them has a purpose and can’t be reduced to a simpler, shorter explanation.

When you’re writing something that small and concise, there is no room for error. If you don’t cover all of the material that your post was attempting to cover, your post will be too small. If you’re able to do justice to your topic with your word count, how big it is won’t matter.

What about blog posts that are smaller than 100 words? I have heard of people blogging nothing but photographs, but I have yet to come across anyonewho has tried to limit their post count to less than 100 words. It would be fascinating to see what you came up with if you gave yourself a 70, 50, or even a 10 word limit as an experiment, though.

The Connection Between Poetry and Blog Posts

With that being said, Eliza, I’d strongly recommend reading and writing poetry if you want to routinely create very small blog posts. It’s not easy to condense your thoughts down into such a small amount of space, especially for topics that aren’t clear cut or incredibly narrow.

Figuring out how poets handle conflicting emotions and topics that could easily be expanded into a full-length book will give you all kinds of tools for trimming out unnecessary words, sharpening your vision, and making sure that what you see is also what your audience sees.

If you or anyone else is interested in learning more, start reading as many different types, styles, and lengths  of poems as you can. The hashtag #Haiku and #Poetry on Twitter are great places to start for the contemporary stuff. There are hundreds of amateur and professional poets who use those hashtags to share their work and introduce everyone to other wonderful poems that they’ve discovered.

I’m purposefully not sharing any specific usernames of Twitter poets with you because of how important it is to seek them out yourself. Poetry is a subjective field. What speaks to me might not have the same affect on you, and vice versa. I’ve also found that my favourite poets have shifted wildly over time, so I’d recommend occasionally seeking out new poets and styles of poetry even for people who have been immersed in this genre for years.

Now I will end this post with a picture of cactuses. They were my original metaphor for blog post lengths in my first draft of this post, and I can’t bear to stop typing before I show you just how much they can vary from each other as well.

May your poems, cactuses, and blog posts always be exactly as big as you need them to be.

Why I Don’t Agree with Padding Out Blog Posts

As I promised last week, today I will be discussing why I’m so against the idea of padding out a blog post in order to reach a specific word count.

One of the most widespread trends in the blogosphere these past few years has been to write incredibly long posts. Yes,  I know that this is happening because longer articles give a site a better chance of being highly ranked by Google search engines, but I don’t like how this trend is changing the blogosphere.

 

Clean It Up

I really don’t like it when a blogger stretches what could have been a concise, 500-word post into something several times larger than that.

Not every topic is going to require that much explanation, and readers can tell when you’ve stretched out your points or repeated the same idea in several different ways in order to reach a specific word count.

When I run across posts like this, I skim them. I’m also much less likely to share them because It’s  irritating to read something so padded out.  The pacing of posts like these often becomes sloppy and uneven no matter how well written they are otherwise.

Many of my posts hover around the 1000 word mark, but some of them do not because the topic I chose for that day didn’t require that many words. I’ve read spectacular posts on other sites that only needed a few sentences to get their point across. If you genuinely require 2,000 or 5,000 words instead for a complex topic, that’s also wonderful.

The important thing is to match your ideas to how you express them.

Mix It Up

Some of my favourite blogs are the ones that mix up their writing styles. They might write 2000 word essays most of the time, but they’re also not at all afraid to push out something much longer or shorter than that if their subject requires it.

I trust them so much that I don’t hesitate to read whatever it is they publish. If they’re giving me a 3000 word post today, I know every paragraph in it is going to be crisp and concise.

 

Basically, this all boils down to looking out for your audience instead of worrying about SEO analytics in situations where bigger isn’t better.

 

 

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