Category Archives: Blogging

The Blogging Plateau

canstockphoto23123007Over the last year The Green Study blog has hit a plateau. There’s been very little growth in readership, commenting activity has been slow to middling, and I really haven’t improved as a writer. This is interesting to me. If it were a diet plateau, I’d have to make a few more changes to see progress on the scale. If it were a career plateau, I’d go back to school or attain some new certification. What do you do for a blogging plateau?

The first step in defining any problem, if it is one, is to know what you are trying to accomplish.

Reasons for Blogging

My blogging goals go through a regular review once or twice a year. Since writing blog posts takes time and is not financially rewarding, the intrinsic reasons need to be solid. Generally my reasons have been that blogging has kept me writing regularly for 5 years and I have connected with a group of interesting, smart, funny, and thoughtful people. That sounds nice and reasonable.

canstockphoto11177261If I were to really going to dig deeper, it would be that because I write in isolation, having outside, regular input on my writing soothes my insecurities and urges me forward. And frankly, too much time alone makes me super weird. Not in a kidnap-strangers-torture-cellar sort of way, but in a way that when I enter the world, everyone else seems like an alien and I engage awkwardly. Take me to your leader. Meep-meep. Engaging with others online seems to take the edge off, because writing me can do.

Metrics and Engagement

I used to be more aware of the numbers, the stats, the pings. At least the ones I understood. Whether it be a development issue or spam season, there have been several periods of time over the last 5 years when every new subscriber was a spammer. You lose interest pretty quickly in your numbers when they’re a tourist company trying to drum up hits or to sell you knock-off handbags.

canstockphoto9986430My metrics tend to be engagement – the comment section. Two things changed over the last year on my blog. I stopped answering comments in a timely manner, sometimes missing them altogether because I forgot to return to them. Secondly, I wrote more political posts and decided to institute a comment policy. While I don’t think this necessarily had a deleterious effect, it did slow down the social aspect of engagement, by not engaging in real time and by suggesting that there would be some level of curating.

The goal was to be less distracted throughout my day. Stopping one task to engage in another or getting caught up in ruminations about someone’s comment could throw me off-track for a good hour. It hasn’t worked well. I’m still distracted by one thing or another and am coming to terms with the fact that those are hard habits to break.

I think, too, I’ve been less attentive to commenters. When people take the time to write a comment, it is my hope that I can give it my full attention and respond in kind. But there is certainly a degree of burnout in these exchanges. They’re not full conversations, just interactions that connect only briefly as we move throughout our day. I found myself adding “Answer blog comments” on to-do lists which is a sure way to take the fun out of anything.

The Changing Environment

canstockphoto19233296Culturally, social media is not moving in favor of long form posts. Instantaneous feedback, things that don’t require focus, click bait that revs up our emotions, and content that adapts easily to mobile devices is where we’re at. Perhaps we can hope, like slow living or tiny houses, blogging becomes this hip, retro thing to do for people who have a lot of time and disposable income (hence the time). It doesn’t seem promising, though.

I tend to hunger for longer thoughts, developed ideas, and something with a little more staying power. Maybe there is still room for blogging, as long as we don’t compare it to the lightning fast zeitgeist of other platforms and without the expectation of winning a popularity contest.

A Non-Conclusion

These are some of the things that I’ve been mulling over. I know that growth is important to me, but haven’t figured out what that means in terms of blogging.

Do I change content? To me, this is like trying to write for an audience. I like the organic approach – people come here for the subject and sometimes stick around for the voice. Until I write something that irritates them.

Do I run another contest? Contests can be labor, and sometimes dollar, intensive. I’ve enjoyed the five I’ve done over the years, but I’m a little burned out. As the number of readers grew, so did the number of submissions and while I enjoy promoting others’ work, I don’t enjoy “judging” it.

Do I start allowing guest posts? I’ve never done that because I follow blogs for specific reasons, mostly for a writer’s voice. I’ve always felt it better to provide a link to the original work and let it and the author speak for themselves.

Without a profit angle or a willingness to actively use Twitter or Facebook, there are really no gimmicks, click bait titles, or fads I’m willing to engage in that will promote blog growth. There are only a few areas that I can work on: engaging more fully in comments, visiting more blogs and engaging there and lastly, but most importantly, working on my writing game. If it’s not improving, that bit’s all on me.

Have you reached a blogging plateau? Have you made changes to deal with it?

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Filed under Blogging, Personal

The Next Five

canstockphoto5233804It’s been five years since I wrote my first blog post and I’m feeling a tad somber about that. Since then, I’ve written on a wide range of topics, mostly in regards to personal development and writing. I wrote an angry political post yesterday and it was a lesson as well, getting chided by a couple of commenters. I expended a lot of energy trying to be measured in reply and not devolve into personal attacks. I lay awake last night and decided it’s not worth it, so I am making a slight adjustment.

The idea of writing a public blog is both grand and petty at the same time. There are a million plus blog posts published every day on the internet. That I would presume to be one of those voices, after a lifetime of flying under the radar is pretty amazing to me. When people respond, you start getting the idea that what you say matters. Until you realize that you’re in the middle of a rancorous crowd, whispering read me, read me.

canstockphoto16878678I don’t want to write about little things all the time. But I don’t want to spend my time arguing. No one has ever argued me into changing my mind, so I don’t expect to do that for someone else. I change my mind slowly, on my own terms. Arguing just makes me feel the need to either run away or get unnecessarily aggressive. While I’ve been reading about how to be rational and reasoned in those situations, when push comes to shove, my frustration wins. I know it’s something I have to work on, but I’m not going to do it here. There’s better places to have conversation.

Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time, knows how I feel about the current state of politics and about our new President. So, I’m learning to become an activist. I’m learning more about my government and how it works. And I will use my writing skills to protest, persuade, and make my voice known.

canstockphoto6393530There’s a question of complicity. If I don’t use this established platform to raise my voice, am I failing in some way to honor my values? There is a particular flavor to the internet. I don’t think minds are being won over here. It is the mindlessness, the reactive nature of political commenters. No argument is advanced, but the same old tired back-and-forth memes are recited until eventually they’re calling each other stupid. It’s pointless.

It is unlikely that I’ll endear myself to the public at large, anyway. I’m not a believer, so I don’t care for religion. Any discussion usually lands me in hot water. I’m an unrepentant feminist and don’t have patience arguing about what it means or why some whackadoodles in the club have done what they’ve done. I don’t claim responsibility for anyone but myself.

I don’t watch TV. I don’t enjoy sports. I hate shopping. I don’t actively use Twitter or Facebook (my posts robo themselves over). I don’t like crowds of people, recycled sound bites or hugging. I can be quite bad-tempered when pushed. I like to spend loads of time alone. And I read indiscriminately. In short, I have very limited appeal online and in person.

With politics, I don’t see the advantage of starting dialogue with people who are dug into their trenches. It takes much more effort on my part than theirs to engage, because I don’t always assume I’m right. I have to critically think about and counter my intemperance. I’d rather engage people on other things and not go head-to-head on politics all the time. This is the only way we can remind each other of our humanity.

I get a little sensitive to the accusation that I’m intolerant and not open-minded, because those are held up as virtues. I’ve decided to get over that. We’re all intolerant and close-minded about some things, just not the same things. This is my blog and I should make a conscious choice how I engage and how responsive I want to be. And if a reader prefers all engagement, all the time, I’ll get over that, too, because there’s 999,999 other blogs that they could comment on.

canstockphoto5307402From here on out, I’ll continue to write what I want to write, but on hot button posts will turn off comment sections and Like options. I appreciate engagement, but with some topics there’s just no way it’s going to be enjoyable. I don’t enjoy squabbling and being told how stupid I am by total strangers. Who does? I enjoy reading editorials with no engagement, no Like button. I like to mull things over without the social media tug, so maybe some of you do as well.

My writing, when it comes to politics, needs to take on a more journalistic bent. As I engage in editorial writing to papers and magazines, the up-close-and-personal perspective that I write from at The Green Study will be absent. I’m great for blurting out my flaws and vulnerabilities, but I am also capable of a different kind of writing. And it may be more useful than me calling someone a douchebag here.  Although perhaps not as satisfying.

I don’t know how things are going to play out over the next five years. But I’m going to keep typing along in the hopes that something worthwhile emerges. canstockphoto10829751

An added comment policy can be found here.

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Winners of The Green Study’s “Positive Happy Nice Story” Contest

canstockphoto14284461Thank you to everyone who submitted entries to The Green Study’s “Positive Happy Nice Story” Contest. What I enjoyed most about reading the entries were the diverse perspectives in what brings joy, not just in the experiencing of something, but in the retelling as well.

In addition to the top three winners, I’ve added 3 honorable mentions and thrown in some prizes for fun. The six essays selected will be published on this blog over the next few weeks.

1st Prize goes to Kiri at The Dust Season for “A Happily-Ever-After Story Involving Break-ins and Police Action”. She will be sent one Green Study Coffee Mug and a cheesy Minnesota postcard. I will also make a $100 donation to her local American Red Cross Chapter.

2nd Prize goes to Ross at Drinking Tips for Teens for “The Secret Side-Effect of Kindness”. He will be sent one Green Study Coffee Mug and an extraneous Minnesota postcard. I will also make a $75 donation to the Canadian Red Cross.

3rd Prize goes to Cezanne at Pugaddinilgab for “The Love of a Grandfather”. She will be sent one Green Study Coffee Mug and a silly Minnesota postcard. I will also make a $50 donation to the Red Cross International Disaster Response fund.

Honorable Mentions: These three entries, listed in no particular order, included a philosophical storyteller, a doctor who cares, and a paean to love. Diverse and expressive, I couldn’t leave them out. I will publish each of these as guest posts to my blog, send them a Green Study Coffee Mug, goofy Minnesota postcard and donate $25 each to the American Red Cross on their behalf of their local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

Bill at pinklightsabre with “The Expectations of Joy”.

Catherine at Healing Through Connections with “Don’t Give Up!”.

Alison at Adventures in Wonderland with “Sometimes We Take for Granted Those Who are Most Important to Us”.

Thank you to everyone who participated in my search for a little sunshine during this gloomy political season – enjoy the upcoming posts over the next few weeks!

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Filed under Blogging, Contest, Uncategorized

Here We Go Again: The Blog Dilemma

canstockphoto14284461 The Green Study’s Positively Happy Nice Story Contest is a great way to win for your local American Red Cross and there’s a mug! The deadline is Monday, October 3rd, 12:00pm. See here for details.

I took the summer off in hopes of refilling my word reservoir and bringing needed engagement back to blogging. In September, I kicked off an annual contest, dipped my toes into politics, attached my face to the blog, freaked myself out by doing an inept podcast, tiptoed around other people’s blogs and flopped around with no direction or sense of purpose. I baited the hook, but nothing in my brain is really taking the bite.

At least once a year, if not more, I have to justify my reasons for blogging. They’ve shifted over the last five years, but this year seems to be tougher than most. Part of the reason is that I’m seeing longtime favorite bloggers close up shop or disappear in the vapors of the ethernet. It begs the question: what do they know that I should be paying attention to?

canstockphoto12000846Since it’s an election year, I’ve exhausted myself reading political articles with the accompanying online antics of partisan citizens. My online time has been spent engaging less and being indignant more. I’ve tried to disconnect, but at least once a day, I check The Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight (which feels like playing political roulette). And an angry hour later, I get up in disgust to go rake or do dishes – anything to shake off the sense that we’re about to implode as a nation and that humans are awful.

I made a halfhearted effort to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, cussing through the entire process and attempting to change settings so that any public contact will be highly unlikely. It all feels like dilution of my soul and I have started thinking about the idea that maybe my writing is suffering simply because I am incapable of talking, blogging, twittering and bookfacing so damned much. Maybe our word reservoirs have a limit, especially if one is an introvert.

Anna Quindlen, a Pulitzer-winning writer, suggested the possibility in a lecture I attended last week. She never talks about ongoing work, because she felt, at times, that she only had so many words. I’ve thought about this a lot since. I sometimes conflate social platforms with writing, which is fine, if that kind of writing were my goal. It’s not, but some days it seems it’s the only kind of writing I’m capable of: 700-1000 word personal essays that often feel like me chasing my own tail.

canstockphoto18118414There are successful bloggers who have transformed their blogging into writing careers, but they are few and far between. Some sell compilations of blog posts and make a little money that way. Some sell advice on how to transform blogging into money or job opportunities or social media mega-stardom. And I think, good for them. Not so good for me.

It’s too easy to get confused about purpose and therefore start spinning off in a thousand different directions, as I did last month. I learned what happens when I don’t give the intended impression. I think it was expected that I’d be more bombastic, more entertaining for a podcast interview, but I was just me, moderate in most ways and not interested in flame wars or Twitter beefs. The narrative became disjointed and despite my excitement about trying something new, I ended up feeling deflated.

Writing or speaking publicly means giving up an element of control. You cannot control how you will be presented or interpreted. That’s a problem for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime trying to control my moods, my words, my intentions. I’m as much a wingnut as the next person, I just usually know how to parse myself a little better.

This is all to say that writing a personal essay blog is not a platform from where I launch Michelle 2.0. It doesn’t serve a marketing or branding purpose. There is no gain that is immutable and no loss from which it is impossible to recover. This is a good thing, because traffic measured by those standards means I’m likely to file WordPress bankruptcy at any moment.

canstockphoto15203159Over the years, in comment exchanges with other bloggers and writers, we talk about purpose and why we continue to blog. Perhaps my blog has simply matured and without mixed media, cross-platform branding, purchasing power or magical blogging pixie dust, this is it. Writing, commenting, and watching other bloggers come and go.

My discouragement at this point is also related to my disappointing lack of growth, as a person and a writer. My blog posts over the years bear witness to the topics I return to over and over again, personal issues that are on a rinse-and-repeat cycle. It’s like reading my teenage diary and realizing I’m still as awkward and insecure as ever – a caterpillar that never fully metamorphosizes.

So the challenge lies before me. What purpose does writing a public journal serve? Is it an obstacle to writing goals offline? Does it dilute writing quality? At this point, the only thing weighing in favor of continued blogging is you. I’ve made connections over the years that I value – writers, photographers, readers, up-and-coming millennials, stay-at-home parents, retirees, humorists, people coping with mental illness, people just coping with life.

I can’t imagine disconnecting from you. Blogging opened up a world for me in years when I worked from home and only had contact with someone who ate crayons and wanted me to sing that dinosaur song again. Now, as I struggle to finish writing a novel, it has kept me from becoming too isolated, churning too much in my own compost. I don’t know if that is reason enough, but it is reason enough for now.

So thank you.

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It’s the End of the World as I Know It and I Feel Fine

canstockphoto14284461The Green Study’s Positively Happy Nice Story Contest is off and running. I saw a wonderful post by Cate that is exactly the sort of thing that would be a contender. The deadline is October 1st October 3rd. See here for details.

It started with a simple request.  I was invited to participate in a podcast. The podcast is a relatively new app that was launched to facilitate conversations on a variety of topics. One of my posts caught their eye. It’s out of my bailiwick, something I’ve never done before, so sure, sign me up.

In order to participate, I had to log into the app through Facebook or LinkedIn. For years, I’ve refused Facebook. Since Facebook is only  12 years old, it’s lining up with my schedule of hipness. In with Facebook, out with cassette tapes.

On top of hell freezing over and me creating a new Facebook account, it became apparent that my avoidance of posting a picture of myself was starting to become an awkward hindrance. It was time for a professional head shot. Or at least as professional as someone in a department store photo studio could take.

I loathe pictures of myself. I find appearance to be the least interesting thing about myself and generally, the least interesting thing about other people. It’s a weird disconnect, but one I’ve nurtured over the years with considerable success. If by success, I mean avoidance and/or being completely disagreeable when people try to take my picture.

Then, there was this makeup thing. If I’m going to put my best fake face forward, I’d better learn how to put on makeup. The lady at Walgreen’s was very helpful, as were the 352 YouTube videos I watched on how to make things on my face “pop”, which, if I recall from my teenage years, was something to be avoided.

I followed the directions on the back of the eye shadow. 1. Put bottom color on majority of eyelid. 2. Put middle color in crease of eyelid. 3. Put light color everywhere else, then blend. 4. Wipe shit off with tissue if you look like a raccoon. Stuff makeup in back of closet with that never worn pair of heels and a skirt I thought I’d wear to cocktail parties I was never invited to in the 90s.

I made myself look in the mirror and practice smiles. I don’t often look at myself in the mirror. The translation was startling. What I thought was a sardonic and bemused look was off the mark. Apparently, I just look pissed off at the world. When I smiled a big grin, I looked like a donkey braying – gums ahoy. Okay, okay. Maybe I’m better with a serious look. Maybe I look smarter. Nope. Just look mad. Thoughtful? Nope, still mad. It’s my resting pissed face.

Now for the wardrobe. I should wear something that I’m comfortable in, since that will give me confidence. Why is everything in my wardrobe black? No, it’s not that “thinning” angle. It’s the “I only know it’s dirty if it smells” laundry saver. Spaghetti stains in witness protection.

I research what colors I should wear. I’m a fall personality. Okay, brown pants and green top. I wave my hands in the air to Morris Day’s “The Oak Tree”. Pumpkin blouse, brilliant yellowy squash pants. Peach and mocha. Now I’m hungry, which likely explains why none of those things fit right.

Props. Hmm. Pen? Weighty tomes stacked around me? Jewelry? Do I even have any? I look up “author photos”. I need a typewriter, a pack of cigarettes and a tweed jacket. Ooh, maybe a little purse dog with bows in its hair. Oh crap, I’m going to be late for the appointment. The only accessory I have time to grab is a lint roller.

So, it’s done. The pie hole here at The Green Study has a face. You’re welcome and I’m sorry.

p7-edited

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The Green Study’s “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest

canstockphoto28843846Months ago, I had decided to run an autumn contest here at The Green Study. It will be my 4th contest in 4 years, so longtime readers here are familiar with the patter. At first I thought I’d dispel some political gloom and make it the “If I were President” Contest, but frankly, I’ve lost my sense of humor about it all. And I don’t have the energy to rein in political rants running amok on my blog.

Instead, I’m looking for good news – the news that aren’t click bait, news happening in your life or in your neighborhood. We the people aren’t just political affiliations and labels. We have stories – stories that remind us of what is good and kind and generous and decent about being human. They could be something that happened years ago or something that is happening now. We need joy. Stat.

Welcome to The Green Study “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest. Here are the canstockphoto16178005guidelines:

Write a previously unpublished blog post or if you’re not a blogger, an essay (with title) 400-800 words long about a positively happy nice incident, an admirable person in your life, unwitting luck or fortunate consequences.  Submit it through my Contact page by Saturday, October 1st, 2016, Monday, October 3rd, 12:00 pm, Midnight (US Standard Central Time). Please note that your formatting is retained when I receive it – the Contact page makes it look like it has disappeared.

One entry per person please. The contest begins as soon as this post goes public.
The winners will be notified on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by 12:00 am (US Standard Central Time).

Shipping of the prizes and donations will take place by October 12th, 2016. Guest blog posting will occur between October 15th and November 1st, 2016.

All entries will be judged by me, myself and I. It’s entirely subjective.

canstockphoto23327111st Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $100 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

2nd Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $75 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

3rd Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $50 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

All participants will receive a priceless, irreplaceable postcard from Minneapolis (although it actually cost $1.00 and can be bought at the airport, in large quantities).

I will ship prize winners’ mugs stateside or internationally (with no guarantee that it will arrive or that it will arrive in one piece), just because I like to hold up the line at the post office because I haven’t filled out the right forms.

If any former participants and/or winners read this post, please feel free to comment on the veracity of The Green Study contests. Please let readers know that you’ve received your prizes and that I haven’t shown up at your front door looking for a place to stay or spammed your email. Previous winners are allowed to participate and an updated mug is in production.

Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.
Hunter S. Thompson

Administrative Note: There will be no fondling or diamonds involved in this contest. 

canstockphoto14284461

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Silver and Gold: Blogging Gratitude

canstockphoto0135822I’ve been blogging long enough that there are people here I’ve exchanged comments with for years. I get a little blasé about blogging, skimming through my reader, hitting the Like button, making pithy comments. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling more gratitude and perhaps, sentiment. These familiar voices, from some people I’ve never met, have accompanied me over the years, whether they knew it or not.

I’d like to say thank you to some old friends and introduce you to a few new ones.

canstockphoto11405315.jpgMy friend, Ross over at Drinking Tips for Teens wrote a touching and funny post this week about giving up drinking. He’s a Canadian humorist with heart. Thanks to his CBC “Breakaway” broadcasts (his first album is a classic), I know what his actual voice sounds like and can now read all his comments in that voice, instead of with a faux French accent or a patois that includes “hoser” and “eh” at the end of every sentence. Which is how I read anything written by Canadians. Sorry, eh?

In regards to Canadians, I’d like to say thank you to Fransi over at 365 and Counting. She comments early and often, which kicks off some great conversational threads and I really appreciate that. She’s currently working on a memoir and blogs about a wide range of subjects, including getting fired up about American politics. It’s an unhealthy spectator sport at this juncture, but we need all the friends we can get.

canstockphoto1542595Alison over at Adventures in Wonderland, always adds to the conversation. While she doesn’t know it, I think of her as one of my Zen people – someone who shows us a life well-lived. She has a wonderful blog with her husband, Don, as they document traveling the world with wonderful descriptions and photographs. They did a lovely interview at HuffPo – it was great to see and hear them.

Bill and I have exchanged emails over our writing and the challenges of being gainfully unemployed. His writing appealed to me right from the start at pinklightsabre and his travels with his family over the last six months have added further dimensions. He’s one of those people who unintentionally challenges me to read harder and write better.

John (Pastor John Coleman) at A Napper’s Companion is a kind commenter and brings a valued mindfulness to his blog. He wrote a book a couple of years ago, which sits on my reading table: Your Grandmother Raised Monarchs and Other Wonders Before Your Time. It’s a narrative to his grandson and I enjoyed the gentle vignettes about life as a pastor. For me, it also serves as a reminder that the extremist religion we now see in public life is not representative of all religion or of all Christians.

I’d like to thank a couple of real life friends, one of whom I’ve known for years and another who stepped out of the ether world into my real one.

My friend, Kiri, over at The Dust Season has evolved with me over the years, especially in the last few as we try to carve out space for our writing, in spite of ourselves. She’s a science fiction writer with several book drafts under her belt, a penchant for wordplay and an ability to make me laugh at the darkest things.

Sandy came into my world despite my online antisocial antics and vitriol against hugs. She’s a creative, wise person with a warm heart and a great sense of humor. She writes about her life living with bipolar disorder over at A Mind Divided. She is hitting the road with her artistic cards, but her Etsy shop will reopen on April 16th.

*****canstockphoto28086007

There are so many new and interesting writers and readers who I’ve “met” over the last few months, that there would not be enough space to share them all here. But I’d like to start somewhere.

Kim at Wobblenot.com blogs about a wide range of subjects for well-being and a balanced life. I enjoyed her post The Worst Obituary I’ve Ever Read. From her comments alone, she strikes me as an engaged and engaging person.

Dave at A Nomad in Cyberspace writes about a wide range of topics. I enjoy writers who can traverse culture under a unifying theme, as evidenced in We Can Be Together.

Lisa at Lisa Pomerantzster: Are We There Yet? is a mentsch and a yiddisher kop, which I learned by going to the Yiddish links on her site. She is one of two moms, raising two girls and writes about parenting, liberal rants and does it all with a sense of humor.

Jim at Snippets of a Traveling Mind started blogging in the fall of 2015, in order to share his travel experiences during his retirement years. As a yoga practitioner and retired teacher, his posts reflect curiosity and thoughtfulness.

I’m going to stop there, because my novel is not, despite my fondest wishes, going to finish itself.

Thank you to new friends and to my continuing friends.

You have my gratitude and I look forward to conversations in the year ahead!

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