Sally Cronin reviews and promotes new authors like me on her beautiful website. I am so honored to be promoted here.
Welcome to the Cafe and Bookstore New on the Shelves and today the featured author is Marsha Ingrao who is enjoying her retirement from teaching and as History Consultant for the Office of Education for Tulare County in Central California. Her local history book tells the story of the Western town of Woodlake. Marsha also provides excellent ‘how to’ posts on blogging for newbies and experienced writers alike.
About the book
Known as the area “within the magic circle,” the Western town of Woodlake, along with its surrounding valley, is rich in both natural resources and hardworking citizens who are proud of their heritage. Most Tulare County towns sprang up along the Southern Pacific Railroad. Woodlake, designed as a tourist town, drew together farming communities, consisting of people too busy raising fruit and cattle to create a town. Starting with Thomas Henry Davis in 1853, settlers established farms and ranches, which attracted Los Angeles millionaire Gilbert Stevenson when he arrived in 1907.
An English and creative writing professor at Hope College, Janzen takes her readers on a romp into new territory. With chapter headings like Lady Problems, The Ghost in the Tub, and Whippersnapper, the author reveals a serious health diagnosis, a haunted bathroom, and revelations from stepson Leroy.
If Janzen’s storytelling rivals that of Nora Ephron, her take on faith recalls Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. In the most unlikely congregation with “hand-clappin ’hallelujahs,” readers observe her spiritual transformation from skeptic to faith-filled: “But I had left Texas. I was in a different state now, a weird one, where I’d actually rather have cancer than a grudge.” About suffering, she poses the question, “ . . . if we didn’t suffer, would we still be human?” In so doing, she invites readers to examine their own beliefs.
A New York Times best-selling memoirist, Janzen has also published a collection of poetry, Babel’s Stair. I found the cadence of her lines often magnetizing like her use of metaphor, “Some sisters only pretend to like each other. When they speak of each other, their lips thin like pressed leaves and their tone takes on a crunchy sugar coating. ‘My sister? Well, her choices aren’t my choices, but she’s still my sister, Of course, I love her.’”
Once Janzen seemed to go off on a tangent when she discussed the GiftQuest report at her church and I lost interest. But soon she looped around to stories of weddings and marriage in her family and I was again hooked.
If you fancy an author who can use the words anagnoritic, jejune, and salvific adroitly in her text and then go spinning off a tale about silicone panty packs, Rhoda Janzen is the author for you.
Read the original post here. Thank you so much for letting me share this post on Always Write, Marian.
Author’s Biography on Amazon
Rhoda Janzen holds a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was the University of California Poet Laureate in 1994 and 1997. She is the author of Babel’s Stair, a collection of poems, and her poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Yale Review, The Gettysburg Review, and The Southern Review. She teaches English and creative writing at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
Some of you have joined my friend Maria Perez and me on our new Facebook group Networking Bloggers. I have learned so much since I have met the community of bloggers that share ideas in that group. One day Maria suggested that she needed to change her links on her blog.
That sent a chill up my spine. I knew my blog wouldn’t pass inspection. What Maria suggested implied an enormous amount of work changing thousands of links. So before I plunged into unproductive seat time, I wanted a second opinion from other “blog doctors.” As it turned out, they did not agree with each other. So now I want your opinion both as a blog reader and writer.
Experts differ on setting link defaults in a blog post. Some suggest never to open links in new tab. (user’s choice) Others say “Open external links in a new tab.” (blog owners choice)
The Reasons For Opening Links in a New Tab
Google Analytics drives most of the reasons self-hosted bloggers make changes to their posts.
When a new tab opens, your blog stays open. Hobby bloggers who monetize their blog desire higher Time on Page numbers. The longer the Time on Page the better your blog stats look to a potential affiliate. You probably will not be able to monetize your blog without having a low Bounce Rate and a high Time on Page.
When the user has finished with the link and closed the tab, they’ll find your page still sitting there. And the clock is still ticking on your Time on Page statistics. Sweet. But maybe not entirely accurate. Some suggest that this is a trick.
Always Write sets external links to open in a new tab because I read somewhere that was the correct thing to do, not because it was a trick. Looking at my Time on Page stats as I write this post, Time on Page, do you suspect me of trying to trick you?
My guess is that few people research or are interested enough to read the links in addition to my article. Links are like reading every reference in a research paper, scientific, or historical novel. It’s important they are there. They show that writer has done his or her homework. However, unless a reader is writing a master’s or doctoral thesis and chasing more sources, he or she will probably not check the references.
I can hear Carol’s voice in my ears right now.
“Who cares about Time on Page anyway? I’m just going to read the blogs I love. I don’t care how long it takes. I don’t care about how long they take.”
She’s right. It comes down to what is easiest for your readers.
Easier for Reference Typically viewers come to blogs for information.Bloggers use links as references. For example, if I am writing a post about my trip to visiting the Healesville Sanctuary in Australia, I want to know more about Tasmanian Devils. So for me, having an open tab or several open tabs is like having my books and papers spread all around me on the table. I like being able to bounce from one reference to another when I study.
Remember writing with 3×5 note cards? My open tabs are like my note cards. I can click from one to another without having to use the back button as I write. For that reason, when I write my post I make links to external information open in a new tab. Many of you are authors. How do you do your research?
Hobby Bloggers may not include any links. Entertainment or opinions blogs might have a higher Time on Page. People come to visit and stay to chat. However, blogs that provide information may have lower Time on Page because once someone skims through the article and finds what they need they move on. End of story. Some experts suggest that having a post open in a new tab tricks people to stay longer and gives false data.
Have things changed?Darren Rowse of Problogger wrote on this topic in 2007. Comments continued mostly for leaving the link default blank ended in 2009. Have internet viewing habits changed since then? Are people using public computers as much as they did then?
Anthony, web developer and Editor-in-Chief of UX Movement wrote in 2012, “In the early days of the internet opening new windows were hard for users to manage. But the introduction of browser tabs has changed this. Instead of opening up new windows, you can now open links in new tabs. The big difference here is that browser tabs are easier for users to manage than browser windows.”
Do you think opening in a new tab is a trick?
The Reasons Against Opening a Page in a New Tab
It removes the power of choice from the reader. Look at the picture above. The default when you create a link is blank. I changed mine so that Darren’s page opened in a new tab. It’s much easier to leave it blank. Leaving the box blank saves time when you write your blog. If readers know how to do it, they can open a link in a new tab.
The way to open in a new window is to middle click on the link. That opens it automatically. I don’t have a middle click on my mouse. If I right-click, I get a choice to open the link in a new tab. Research does not exist for how many people know to do this. I didn’t until I started researching this topic.
With the link default blank, the back button rules. According to the Neilson Norman Group in 1996, the back button was probably the most frequently used part of a browser. The writer of that post suggested that breaking the power of the back button is almost criminal. Forcing the reader to open in a new tab, then would be grounds for putting you in internet jail and never visiting you again. At the very least forcing the reader’s hand to open in a new tab is a grievous mistake.
Think about your internet usage. Do you get so mad when an external link opens a new tab that you never visit that blogger again? It may depend on what and why you are reading a post. For example, a reader looking for information to a solve a problem could open too many links. In that case, clicking the back button becomes a burden.
As a reader, I get mad waiting for the back button to work! Of course, the user can click on his or her browsing history to find the site again. In my case, I get distracted and may have moved to another task suggested by a different link. For the “pro reader’s choice” blogger the best case scenario is to hope the reader won’t get lost and will backtrack and finish the post they started.
Don’t click away forever! In the end, both professional and hobby bloggers want their users to come back. Honest bloggers know they can’t trick users into becoming loyal. Since there is no agreement on what is the right thing to do about tabs, your opinion determines what you do with links. You have lots of choices.
Don’t use ANY links. Problem solved.
Let all your links default to blank and readers can choose to open a new tab if they want. Using an empty box default assumes the reader know how to open the link in a new tab. I suspect that most people do not.
Open external links in a new tab. You have to check the edit box and make a choice for the reader. I do this because I like new tabs, but some experts disagree vehemently with me.
Open all links in a new tab. I hate this. Opening new tabs every few seconds is time-consuming and annoying.
This award-winner is one of three to be nominated for a Pulitzer Award.
A Functional Book about a Dysfunctional Family
Memory is not particularly linear – it is associative, repetitive, subjective and porous. But the writer needs to convey disorder and dysfunction without making the novel itself disorderly or dysfunctional. Dana Spiotta
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is anything but disorderly. In Anne Tyler’s favorite book, the reader meets a dysfunctional family raised by a single mother, Pearl. The story unfurls like a flag in a gentle breeze, from the perspective of each character in the household, starting and ending with Pearl’s death.
Tyler stated “I’m so attached to the characters, I still miss them, even all these years later. Like the reader, Tyler is “addicted to the sensation of living lives I would not experience in reality.”
Each Character Shares His or Her Perspective
The daughter in the story, Jenny says that “marriage is like a disaster movie; it flings people together and exposes their true characters.” The tornado of Pearl’s struggle to cope with the pressures of raising her children alone trap Cody, Ezra, and Jenny in a never-ending whirlwind. They survive the story in their unique way. Ezra, Anne Tyler’s favorite character, built his life around his dream, the Homesick Restaurant.
In the beginning, a dying Pearl reminisces over her life. The reader meets her lean, rangy love, Beck. The smart young fellow with wavy black hair “paid her compliments that made her uncomfortable till she could get off alone in her room and savor them.” Against her parent’s wishes, she married the man six years her junior. Immediately following their marriage, they moved away from her family. The reader senses her disappointment as the necessary move never allowed her to “enjoy her new status among her girlfriends.”
They moved often. After six years, the couple started building their family. Pearl was thirty-six. Over the ensuing years, Cody, Ezra, and Jenny complicated her life with doctors and school transcripts. In the process, she lost contact with her extended friends and family. Anxiety puckered her forehead. Then Beck left. Pearl felt “she was sinking in at the center…”
Issues that started early seemed to plague the characters throughout the book. Cody tried hard as a child to please his father. He remembered his younger brother Ezra with a touch of jealousy.
“All right Ezra … Just don’t get carried away like Cody here did. …There was no one as clumsy as Ezra. …It seemed his attention had been caught by a cloud formation over to the south. … (Yet, his) arrow (not Cody’s) sped in a straight, swift path, no arc to it at all. As if guided by an invisible thread… It split the length of the arrow that Beck had already jammed in and landed at the center of the bull’s-eye, quivering.”
Pearl and Beck’s children turned out in a way that society would approve, acceptably successful, which pleased Beck. He could not see that under the surface of their successes, their hearts and souls were frazzled and not knit all the way through. Tyler portrays neither Beck nor his wife, Pearl, as evil people. Their behaviors toward each other and their children left scars and scandalized readers. Pearl never quit loving Beck, nor did he stop caring about her. The children lived through the book long enough to make their own mistakes, and not replicate their parents’ mistakes. Ezra dedicated his restaurant to what might have been the unexpressed desire of each of them, homesick.
In my opinion, Beck did not give a satisfying answer about why he left them at the beginning of the book. One reviewer stated that the end was “strong and not saccharine.” Strong probably meant the reader wanted more. Tyler did not answer all of my questions. Even so, I finished Homesick Restaurant, understanding the deserting father, in a way I did not expect.
For those, like me, who came from a broken home, this book brought a measure of understanding and forgiveness for the humanity of my parents. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant helped me understand why some men and women need to escape from home and the oppressing responsibilities. They are forgivable even though they justify leaving with pathetic excuses.
As adults, most of us realize that it is almost impossible to quit loving someone you are meant to love no matter how much hurt has passed through your heart on their account. Furthermore, parents or other loved ones can not be what you expect or want them to be no matter how hard they try. They can only be themselves just as each of us can only be who we are.
Anne Tyler (born October 25, 1941) has published 20 novels and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for Breathing Lessons. Her best known of which are Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), The Accidental Tourist (1985), and Breathing Lessons (1988). Because of her believable quirky characters and accurate details about their inner lives, she has also won many prestigious awards. She writes about the American family celebrating the unremarkable Americans and the ordinary aspects of their everyday lives. Growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, she now lives in Baltimore, Maryland and is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Today I have the privilege of interviewing my friend and superb travel blogger, Carol Sherritt. She blogs as The Eternal Traveller from Toowoomba, Australia.
It’s not often that bloggers from around the world spend time together. The amazing thing about this online interview is that these two bloggers from across the hemispheres have met because of our blogging. Before we did, my teddy bear, Manny traveled with Carol, her beaver, Justin Beaver, and her husband all over Europe and Australia, then went on a cruise with her daughter before returning to us. Carol sent us tons of pictures for Manny’s Travel Blog. Justin Beaver has a travel blog, The Adventures of Justin Beaver.
Welcome Travel Blogger, Carol Sherritt
Thank you for allowing me to interview you about life as a travel blogger. I’m sure you have some valuable advice for new and struggling bloggers.
Before we start, I want to say congratulations. As a travel blogger, you’ve just recently had a travel article published in “Queensland Smart Farmer Magazine.” I’m excited for you. We’ve been blogging friends now for about five years. It’s been such a privilege to me to know you. I have a few questions to give a new travel blogger a feel for what they are getting into when they start to blog.
M. First, how did you get started blogging and do you think that led to your getting published
C. At the beginning of 2012, I completed a five-week course on travel writing through the Australian Writers’ Centre. I decided to start a travel blog as a way of putting into practice the techniques and skills I learned in the course. Since then, I’ve had travel stories published on the Wyndham Travel website and HitchHikersHandbook.com and in the Fernwood Members’ Magazine’ The current story in Queensland Smart Farmer magazine is my third for them, and another story will be included in the July issue
M. That’s wonderful, Carol. I know being a travel blogger published in travel magazines fulfills a dream you had before you ever started to blog.
Tell us about your blogs.
C. My main blog is The Eternal Traveller, which features stories about our travels in Australia and around the world. I also write The Adventures of Justin Beaver, which is a lighthearted look at travel from the point of view of Justin Beaver, Yodeling World Traveller.
M. We’ve had a lot of fun interacting with Justin Beaver over the years. Too bad he’s not here today to have an A+ interview as well. It was fun to see how people reacted to him in person. You’ve specialized as a travel blogger, and you have another blog as well. This next question is one that I struggled with so much as a new blogger.
How do you manage to maintain a regular, consistent schedule of blogging and work full time, and travel so much as well?
C. I aim to write one post a week for each blog, and sometimes I add an extra post for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge as well. I work as a Primary School Teacher in Special Education, and we usually travel in school holidays. I enjoy quilting, baking, and growing roses as well as writing, and I often joke that if I could do everything all at once and not have to sleep, I would be able to achieve so much more. I even wrote a picture book manuscript about that idea!
M. We took the picture book class together. We both struggled “with the show don’t tell strategy.” Neither of us has pursued having any of our drafts published. There’s not enough time to do everything, and we make choices! Your photographs are fabulous, by the way.
What advice do you have about taking pictures and using them on your blog?
C. Use a good quality camera. I have a Panasonic Lumix TZ60, and I love it. It’s lightweight, and I can carry it all day around my neck. It has a quick response and some great features and settings. When we are on a road trip, I like taking photos while we are driving, and I put the camera on sports mode to reduce blurring and fuzzy pictures. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve got some fantastic photos that way. Before I use photos in my posts, I always reduce the size so that they will upload quickly. I used to add a watermark, but I don’t worry about that anymore. I only use just my best photos to enhance my story, and I don’t put too many photos in a post. And I always make sure my horizon is straight. I try to use my photos as much as possible, but sometimes my husband has taken the perfect picture which I can’t leave out. It’s often the one who gets the most comments, which pleases him greatly. M. What are the best things and opportunities that have come your way that you would attribute to blogging?
C. The best thing I’ve done is meet up with you and Vince on Maui last January. We had a wonderful holiday and felt like we’d known you forever. It was such a privilege to meet you and your friends in a beautiful setting.
M. Thanks so much Carol. That was incredible, to me too! My highlight was coming to Australia to see you, Glen and Leanne, and meet so many of Glen’s family in Ballarat
C. Another wonderful opportunity which came about through blogging was a caving adventure in Western Australia. We had to wear overalls and helmets with torches on the front, and we went into a cave that is not open to the general public. There are no boardwalks or tracks through the cave. We had to clamber over rocks and crawl through narrow tunnels. It was an amazing experience, and I wrote about it in this story.
M. What advice do you have for a new travel blogger?
C. It’s exciting when you first start writing to look at your stats and see how many views and followers you have. But it takes time to build an audience and the best way to do that is by producing quality writing and positive stories.
M. What else would you like to add that I haven’t asked you?
C. Beware, blogging is addictive, but it is worth the effort. I have made friends all around the world, and we have been lucky enough to meet up with several international bloggers on our travels. After four years of writing and blogging, I am still constantly amazed and thrilled that people all over the world, who don’t know me, enjoy my writing and come back for more.
M. That is the truth, Carol. Thank you so much for joining us today, and for being my first interview, and a great friend.
Readers, It’s Your Turn
If you enjoyed this post, please forward it to your buddies.
Thanks again for joining us here at Always Write for a cup of coffee and a great interview with our guest blogger, Carol Sherritt. Don’t forget to give her blog a peek! 🙂 To be a guest on Always Write or read other interviews, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.