Meeting a blogger, and showing off the countryside, traveling with a friend – two of my favorite things to do. Taking pictures, it doesn’t get much better.
#Sunday Stills: Theme Yellow
Exploring Sunny California
Meeting up with my blogging friend, Terri W. Schrandt made my week. We had such a great time hiking through the foothills in the Sierra Nevadas as we drove a short way into the Sequoia National Park.
What a joy it was to finally meet my blogger friend Terri. We don’t live too far apart now, but we are both moving in opposite directions, so I was super happy to spend a few hours with her.
The overwhelming impression you get from this picture is not yellow, but the golden hour sun warmed our skin and made our hair sparkle with yellow and strawberry highlights.
You can see the double/quadruple double yellow line in this shot, so you know that I stopped in the middle of the highway as the bear lumbered across. The car behind me didn’t honk and probably had his camera out and ready to go faster than I could find my phone and snap the picture.
The bear headed into the grass that nearly matched the color of the yellow lines. You can see a much better shot of the bear on Terri’s Sunday Stills post today.
Scouting the Housing Market in Prescott, Arizona
A mere two or three days before my friend Terri came to visit, I was gallivanting around Arizona, a mere nine hours and forty-one minutes away from home. My husband sent me on a house hunting trip, and my friend Patty Decker agreed to go with me.
Yellow must be the newest color in new housing. My friend Patti and I saw this stunning home called the Marigold in Prescott Valley in a development called Proghorn Ranch. We both wanted to unpack our bags and stay. The skies were clear and blue instead of dusty and the bathroom was golden.
In monsoon season it rains and cools off twenty or more degrees in the Arizona Desert. After a brief downpour, we enjoyed a relaxing yellow walk around the most artistic shopping mall in the country.
I thought these Javelinas on Parade display were cute, brightly painted pig statues, but no, they are not even related to the pig family. The Javelina (Tayassu tajacu) or collared peccary, are medium-sized animals that have short coarse salt and pepper colored hair, short legs, and a pig-like nose.
They look cute in the statues, but so do raccoons. So even though they are classified as herbivores, I don’t think I’d want to run into one in the middle of the night.
Back Home in Safe, Sunny California
As these two yellow squash grew together, Terri slept peacefully in the cabana in the back yard. I had no clue that our tiny dog would incite the wrath of a mother raccoon when she went out at 3:30 in the morning. Terri woke and thought a band of coyotes were howling in the nearby foothills surrounding our house, but it was me screaming at the raccoon.
I overcame my yellow-squashy tendencies and rescued my dog with my coyote yelps and a swift kick to the raccoon’s mid-section. She then got off the top of my dog and stood up and started to lunge at me. I jumped back but not quite fast enough. She snagged me once with either teeth or claws, I couldn’t tell which. There was a yellow stripe going up my back. I was sure she was going to attack me again as we faced off, but she scurried away
My husband woke up when my poor dog screeched her way to the bedroom telling him how scared she had been. I zipped off to the hospital to get the necessary rabies and tetanus shots.
Some of you might also know her as one of Carrot Ranch’s Rodeo Judges.
She’s also a prize-winning author as well as a superb editor and tutor. If you need editorial services, she comes highly recommended, and trust me, if you’re an author, you need editorial services. So, with no further ado, I proudly present Esther Chilton.
I’d like to firstly thank Marsha for having me on her blog. I haven’t ever been interviewed about any of the challenges I run so I’m very excited! 😊
Q. What prompted you to begin to host a writing challenge?
When I first started a blog, it was for my students at The Writers Bureau. I wanted to offer a few extras in addition to the writing course, such as writing tips, publication news and writing examples. Gradually, I started to post all sorts of different writing related posts, from some of my short stories, to funny typos you see on signs or in newspapers, to unusual words and their meanings.
I can’t quite remember how the first challenge came about. It may have been a comment left on my blog about one of my short stories, so it got me thinking about holding a short story competition. I did a couple of those, before deciding upon some shorter, weekly challenges. I currently have a Five-Word Challenge on a Thursday, where I give a word prompt and the challenge is to write a story in five words, using that word somewhere in the story.
The limerick challenge is a more recent one. Who doesn’t love a limerick? They make us smile and so I thought with lockdown, and all the worries surrounding that, we needed something to cheer us up and so that sparked my limerick challenge, which takes place on a Monday. Again, I provide a word prompt, but it’s not a requirement to use the word, unlike my Thursday challenge.
I find that the shorter ones attract the most responses – people are busy and so have time to write a Five-Word Story or Limerick, rather than a lengthier challenge.
I’ve been blogging since 2013 and started my first challenge the following year.
Q. How much time does it take? Is it all-consuming so that you don’t blog about anything else?
The two challenges I currently run don’t take too long. I love reading all the responses and then coming up with a fresh challenge for the next week. Some of the challenges I’ve run in the past, especially for longer stories, take up a lot of time and I found I was struggling to have time to blog about anything else. With the current two, I still have time for other blog posts, featuring guest writers, book reviews and all sorts!
Q. How did you determine the genre of writing for the challenge? Do you have more than one?
I’ve had all sorts of challenges. Some have taken up a lot of time, as I mentioned, while with others, I’ve sometimes found that fewer people take up the challenge and so I try something new. I find that the shorter ones attract the most responses – people are busy and so have time to write a Five-Word Story or Limerick, rather than a lengthier challenge. At the moment, I’ll stick with these two challenges. I love them! But I’m sure they’ll change at some point in the future.
Q. What steps do you take to get your challenge ready?
I prepare my blog post challenges by adding in everyone’s responses from the previous week and then I’ll set a new challenge. This sometimes takes a while – I try and think of a good word that will spark ideas and entice people into participating. I can always tell when I haven’t come up with such a good prompt as I get fewer responses – so I always try and come back with a good word for the following week!
If you’re tempted to give a challenge a go, then go for it!
Q. How did you attract people to participate? / How do people usually find out about your challenge?
As my blog has been going for a few years now, I have my regular followers who participate. They will often share the challenge on their blog or on social media, so I sometimes get new participants that way. Some people stumble on the challenge by accident and then they’re hooked! Many of my participants are my students, while others are authors, fellow bloggers and people from all walks of life!
Q. Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post?
No. It’s just an ordinary blog post at the moment.
Q. Do you have help reading all the entries?
No. I read them all myself. As my challenges are short, it’s manageable. When I’ve held challenges that have a longer word count, it’s been more difficult, but those challenges have tended to be held over a longer period to make it easier for me to read them all.
Q. What do you do with the entries – like do you ever publish anthologies, award widget certificates?
For the current challenges, I just publish the responses on my blog the following week. But for the longer challenges I’ve held, I’ve offered prizes such as an Amazon voucher or book.
Q. What else would you like to tell my readers?
If you’re tempted to give a challenge a go, then go for it! And if you’d like to have a go at any one of my challenges, or to read others’ responses, you’ll find them on: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com
Esther has regularly written for writing magazines such as Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. She has also had her work featured in a diverse range of magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian, Best of British, Your Cat, Prima, My Weekly and The People’s Friend, to name a few.
Winner of Writing Magazine, Writers’ News, The Global Short Story and several other writing competitions and awards, Esther has also judged writing competitions.
For over ten years, Esther has been a tutor for The Writers Bureau and after requests from students, she put together a collection of her stories – The Siege. Esther’s latest book of short stories, A Walk In the Woods is out now.
Esther has been working on her first non-fiction book to help writers get published – Publication Guaranteed (Well, Almost!). It’s the first in her A Helping Hand For Writers series and is available as an e-book. A paperback will follow shortly.
How many pictures do you have that sit unused and unseen in your files? Hundreds, thousands? Be creative and put them to use where you and others can enjoy them time and again.
Allow me to introduce you to my friend Terri. When I started this series on hosting challenges, the intent was to focus just on writing challenges. However, many bloggers do some of their best writing in response to photo challenges.
If you host a writing or photo challenge, please contact me. I’d love to set up an interview/guest post with you.
Please, give Terri a huge Always Write welcome with tons of comments and likes. Don’t forget to participate in her challenge, Sunday Stills.
Guest Post by Terri Webster Schrandt, Second Wind Leisure Perspective
My Blogging Journey
I began blogging consistently in Fall 2014, as I neared retirement from my 32 years with a public parks and recreation organization. Like any blogger, I wanted to write interesting content and meet other bloggers. As I neared retirement, I thought I would start a consulting business and blogging seemed like a good fit for promoting it. Once I went back to university lecturing, teaching 15 units a year, I found I lacked the time to sustain a side business.
I blog on the WordPress hosted platform which sponsored several blogging how-to’s and challenges. Some readers may remember the Blogging University which taught new bloggers about the basics of blogging (Blogging 101) and Photography 101. In 2014, not only did I meet and follow new bloggers, but I also grew a set of followers as a result of the community that developed around the challenges.
It was during this time I realized I had a knack for photography and used my background in art and journalism to write posts about recreation and leisure using my original images.
I learned quickly that including an image with a blog post created visual interest and attracted more readers. Over time I was inspired to write my first short book Better Blogging with Photography which continues to sell worldwide on Amazon.
Like any blogger, I wanted to write interesting content and meet other bloggers.
What prompted you to begin to host a photo challenge?
Challenges bring new readers, interest, and engagement to any blog. Challenges fit well within the framework of hobby blogging.
I always enjoyed the WordPress Weekly photo challenge early on in my blogging journey and I discovered other challenges and participated in link parties. This was during the time I was building my readership and meeting new bloggers. I enjoyed the Sunday Stills Photography Challenge, but the original host announced he was through with blogging and called it quits.
My own blog morphed into photography with emphasis on fitness, leisure, and recreation. After a lengthy blogging break in early 2018, I woke up one night with the idea that I could reinstate and host Sunday Stills myself. The timing was rather interesting. I jumped back in with Sunday Stills in May 2018 just as WordPress announced the end of its ridiculously popular weekly photo challenge.
What is your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it help photographers?
The purpose is simple: to inspire others to create images related to a weekly theme. I am challenged, too, as I select each month’s themes in advance. Many photo challenges out there are very specific to photography techniques and their hosts are not only a wealth of information about photography techniques, but accomplished photographers in their own right.
Photobloggers help each other in this way by sharing techniques, ideas and continuing support and enthusiasm for each other’s work.
One photographer in northern California went so far as to recommend a camera to me. For that I am eternally grateful for his advice and support.
I also believe that images help create the idea for the story when inspiration is lacking.
Bloggers are not limited to posting only on Sundays, as they have all week to share their own post and images.
How much time does it take to create a blogging challenge?
It can take 5-10 hours a week. Just creating my own post and prepping my images for publication often takes me 3-5 hours. Being that this has a weekly theme, I first decide on each month’s set of themes. I publish this on my Sunday Stills page so the planners of the blogosphere can plan their images and posts in advance. Of course, I must find my own images for each theme, post-edit them, and write a post that not only showcases my images but provides examples for other participants. I comment and share each post on Twitter and Facebook when possible. Bloggers are not limited to posting only on Sundays, as they have all week to share their own post and images. Some of the time spent is checking daily for new pingbacks and approve, comment and share.
What steps do you take to get your challenge ready?
At the end of each month, I choose themes and post them one month advance on my Photography page. I choose photos that highlight the theme while writing a title and post that is general but inspiring to other bloggers.
How do you follow up with your participants? I post every Sunday at 7:00 am Pacific Time and bloggers read and many link to the challenge. I approve links, read and comment on each post and share on social media.
How did you attract people to participate?
I have a good following and many folks seem to enjoy my photography. Sunday Stills had been popular, and many were excited to see it come back. As I join other challenges, other bloggers find my blog and participate in my challenge.
Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post?
Not really, but I have a Sunday Stills image widget on my sidebar where bloggers can click to the page for more information.
Do you determine winners? If so, how?
No, everyone is a winner! I share posts of new bloggers in the first day of the month’s post with links to their blogs.
I also grew a set of followers as a result of the community that developed around the challenges.
Do you post or promote the results or links anywhere?
I share Sunday Stills posts to my Facebook Page or Twitter, sometimes on Pinterest. When I began Sunday Stills, I hosted a link-up on INLinkz for a few months. Not as many linked to it, so I stopped after a few months.
Terri is a writer, self-published author and retired recreation and parks practitioner living in Northern California. As a university lecturer teaching various courses in the recreation and parks major, Terri takes leisure very seriously because it involves one-third of our lives…really!
Her active lifestyle involves stand-up paddling, camping, hiking, reading, writing, gardening, walking the dogs, traveling, and photography.
Second Wind Leisure Perspectives is her blog about leisure, fitness and photography.
I added five of my favorite images that represent milestones on my photography journey and some good luck!
This one titled Autumn in Quincy, taken with a point-and-shoot digital camera in 2010, was the first image where I received many compliments and suggestions for entering it into contests.
I captured the plumeria with my galaxy edge mobile phone. It was the first plumeria I grew in 2019.
The sunflower with the bee was also captured with the same mobile phone in 2019, truly a lucky shot!
The windsurfer and my dog Brodie were taken in July 2017, with my Lumix FZ300, my beloved bridge camera with a long travel lens. Both represent action shots that were taken in major zoom mode but details still stood up to the wind and action.
Thank you so much, for participating in this series on writing and photo challenges, Terri. It was great having you here.
There are over 150 authors in the Cafe and Bookstore and I wanted to keep it to key pieces of information such as buying links, recent review, website and covers. However, I know that readers also like to know more about the background of authors.
In this series during June and July I will share the bios of all the authors in the cafe in a random selection. I hope that this will introduce you to the authors in more depth and encourage you to check out their books and follow them on their blog and Twitter.
Meet Kevin Cooper
Kevin Cooper is an eclectic author & songwriter. His works are multifarious. He has published fantasy, sci-fi, memoirs and drama in the form of novels, novellas, short stories, poetry and song.
Some of KC’s major influences in literature are JRR Tolkien, Philip Pullman, C.S Lewis, Terry Brooks, and J.K Rowling.
This is one of my favorite book reviews of all times. The joy of reading simply leaps from Irene’s reviews into your heart. I’m a slow reader so I’m still working through her recommendation a few posts back. So enjoy.
Printed in 1965 What’s New Pussycat is probably no longer available in book form although the DVD remains available to purchase. I found this copy in…