How to Lasso a Wild Carrot in 99 Words – No More – No Less

As a hobby blogger, participating in writing and photo challenges is a great way to build skills while you build community. Today Always Write introduces the 99-Word Flash Fiction at Carrot Ranch.

Interview with Charli Mills creator of Carrot Ranch.

Hi Charli. Welcome to Always Write, networking hobby bloggers worldwide.

Thank you, Marsha. It’s a pleasure to be here. So hobby bloggers are your niche. How do you define a hobby blogger?

Charli Mills

 The UK Domain defines a hobby blog as “essentially a blog that is set up and populated with content for the blogger’s personal enjoyment as a hobby, rather than to promote goods or services, or as a money-making endeavour to earn a meaningful income from the blog itself.”

The article presents a robust definition and is well worth the read. For me hobby bloggers create an atmosphere, a culture, either on their own or with the aid of a professional web designer that is welcoming and homey. 

That’s why I’m passionate about this series of interviews with hosts and hostesses of writing and photo challenges. Always Write is a place for hobby bloggers to find resources.

Your website is so clever. When and why did you start Carrot Ranch and the 99-word Flash Fiction Challenge?

I left my job to write a book in 2012 which I’m still working on. Then I started blogging, creating Carrot Ranch in 2014. In 1998 I graduated with a degree in creative writing, and I’m working on my Master of Fine Arts now.

Carrot Ranch is not about me or my opinions. In fact, I try to be neutral when I write. Sometimes I publish stories on the blog, even in the anthology that don’t agree with my views.  An opposing story fits within the greater world view.  The hope is that Carrot Ranchers will write from their own perspective. 

This online community is not an echo chamber. I don’t just want people of the same mind to come and write stories every week. When people come and go, it’s actually good. Carrot Ranch has an influx of people, people taking a break, working on a book. I want diversity. It is also nice when people know each other as well.

Charli Mills

I’m not against profit but I want to see literary artists making careers out of their creativity and not blocked by the barriers that have existed. 

How did you come up with the theme of Carrot Ranch? It doesn’t seem Michiganesque.

My family heritage is ranching. I’m a born-buckaroo from Northern California and still have family ranching in Nevada and Eastern Montana. I have lived in every western state except Colorado and Wyoming, so it was natural for me to want a ranch. 

Instead, I took my writing degree to Minneapolis where I worked in marketing communications for the natural and local food co-ops. Back in the ’70s, the Twin Cities co-ops used a fisted carrot as a symbol of social justice — food for people not for profit. 

Charli Mills

Wow, that explains it! Names are so interesting. We used to live in a walnut orchard with the sign “Fox Farming” hanging at the entrance. I imagined foxes growing out of the soil. It turned out that the previous renter’s last name was Fox. Carrot Ranch had sort of the reverse connotation for me – a herd of carrots, so It’s great to have that cleared up. Go on.

When I think about how literary art is controlled by academia and capitalism in the US, I feel like it needs to be in the hands of the creators — words for people. So, Carrot Ranch is a pairing of my past and future.

I’m not against profit but I want to see literary artists making careers out of their creativity and not blocked by the barriers that have existed. 

Indie authors are pioneers, but we still need to overhaul the big systems that shut out marginalized voices or only promote elite connections. Carrot Ranch is a literary community with a mission to make literary art accessible to all hobby and career writers, even to people who don’t identify as Writers. 

Charli Mills

Writing becomes art when it is read and commented on.

Wow, this is deep. In this interview series my quest is to find out why bloggers, like yourself, take the time to create challenges. Your blog, Carrot Ranch is an amazing operation. The way you organized it impressed me. Do you have help with the contests or the website? 

I had help from a graphic artist to design the website although I took the picture of the horse and bird but the organization of it is all me. The Rough Riders help me run the ranch.

Charli Mills

I love the way they are listed on your menu. Are they paid staff?

Not at all. A Rough Rider wants to take part in collaborative work. They are worker bees, though. 

Charli Mills

So when you say they take part, what do Rough Riders do? 

Rough Riders don’t have to just write, they can be readers. They just have to be willing to participate. Rough Writers maintain the community, engaging with one another. They aren’t doing jobs or maintaining the site, but they do the work of creating an authentic community.

For example, D. Avery is a Rough Writer who runs the Saddle Up Saloon. She writes ranch yarns between fictitious ranchers “Kid and Pal” and others who are aware of themselves. They have heard that they are the creation of D. Avery, but they don’t believe it. Jim Borden, a retired teacher makes comments, Becky Ross she makes comments. 

Participation is anything that has to do with literary art. Writing becomes art when it is read and commented on. That is the definition of literary art. It belongs in the hands of the people who read and write. That’s why the mission of Carrot Ranch is to make literary art accessible.

Charli Mills

I love that definition. That’s why I love blogging so much, it’s the comments of the readers. Your website has a menu item for patrons, are Rough Riders also your patrons?

Some of the rough writers are patrons, they don’t have to become patrons to support the community. Although patrons intended to support the infrastructure of the community, they don’t have to be writers.

We have several nicknames going on at the ranch, so I’ll try to clarify! 

Charli Mills
  • Rough Writers are the ones who write to the prompt and hang around long enough to get roped into Anthologies, Rodeos, and writing columns. 
  • Some writers are in a group online where we post goals, share information, ask group questions and play story games. I refer to that group as the Carrot Ranchers. Some are Rough Writers, too. 
  • And, if that’s not confusing enough, the community has also informally dubbed Carrot Ranch “Buckaroo Nation.” I think it would make a fun title to a lit magazine from the community. 

I love it! But it is confusing!

But that’s the thing about an authentic community — it can be messy, but we are there to play, write, and support each other in an industry that includes hobbyists and professionals. We wear different hats, sometimes. Publicly, I refer to the published work of Carrot Ranch as writing by the Rough Writers whether it’s the weekly collection or an anthology.

Carrot Ranch writer’s challenges and subsequent anthologies give opportunities for Carrot Ranchers to publish their work. Ranchers, and you are a rancher because you have submitted a story, have different goals. Writing for Carrot Ranch builds credibility and confidence no matter what your goals. The point is for the community to learn to use the 99-word Flash Fiction as a writing tool. 

Charli Mills

I find fiction writing difficult. It’s hard to get away from real people and real incidents.

Wallace Steger, one of first American authors to receive an MFA in the U.S., said something like, “You can go to therapy, you can pay to be on someone’s couch, or you can write. No matter how much you fictionalize, you are writing into your own truth. The minute you put yourself on the page, that person becomes fiction.”

It’s impressive that you published an anthology. Do the profits go back into the community of writers?

What we make covers Rough Riders’ travel scholarship and expenses for Vol. 2 or whatever the next volume is. The Anthology Volume 1 was a test. You don’t make much money off of online or book store sales. Sherri Matthews won the scholarship from the Volume 1 profits to go to Bloggers Bash. 

Charli Mills

That’s cool. Sherri is a good friend and former Californian, too, if my memory serves me. Congratulations to her! 

Part of my vision for Carrot Ranch Rough Riders is to teach them to use the book to stage speaking events. You have a better opportunity to sell books if you go to events. Of course, that’s on hold right now. But when things return to normal, any of the Rough Riders can purchase the books for cost and can sell the book themselves. So if the book costs $6, they can sell it at an event for $10, and they keep the profit. 

Charli Mills

The more you understand the trends and where you are in the landscape, the more you realize that there are tangible techniques to learn. Publication is not the luck of the draw.

That’s awesome. One 99-word fiction could earn a Rough Rider some big bucks if they work at it!

We help writers find where they fit in the publishing ecosystem. Ninety-six percent of all manuscripts get rejected. What are your chances of becoming the 4%? The more you understand the trends and where you are in the landscape, the more you realize that there are tangible techniques to learn. Publication is not the luck of the draw. Those who can take the time to learn the industry and apply what is going along socially, have a better chance to succeed. 

 Women’s fiction is big. Women  want to read about women’s issues. Relationships are big. 

The reality of being an author is you have to invest in it. Nobody is going to pick up your book without some investment on your part. You can go to school, spend $40,000 for an MFA (Masters of Fine Arts), go to workshops, or hire editors. The reality is that you are going to spend money to publish your work. Every writer needs editors, both developmental and line-by-line-proofreading even if you attend workshops and have a degree.

Charli Mills

How well I know about that! According to your website menu, your 99-word Flash Fiction is not your only challenge. What about the Rodeo Contests? 

Rough Rider writing a book.

In October of each year we host the Rodeo Contests to get people geared up for Nanowrimo. It’s play, it’s practice. Some people work on it as though it were to submit to a literary contest, but mostly people do it for play. You have to imprint the 99-word pattern. Ninety-nine words are the smallest element of a scene. If you can write a 99-word scene, you can write a chapter.  If you can write a chapter, you can write a book. 

Charli Mills

Everything you do is 99 words, then?

Everything except TUFF, which stands for The Ultimate Flash Fiction. TUFF is also part of the October Rodeo. Ranchers start with a 99-word piece, then they reduce it to 59 words. Finally they take the 59 words and reduce them to 9 words. That gives them the heart of the story. Once they realize what the story is about, then they rewrite the 99 words. 

If you can get that process going, it helps you get unstuck. The goal is to see a writer use the 99-word write as a tool. I love to see them being brave and changing their story as it goes and letting it evolve. That’s why revision is hard. We don’t want to let go. 

Charli Mills

Writers have different paths and expectations with what they want to do and the workshop is for people who want to publish their work. We help them figure out what path they are on and how to jump from one path to another.

99 words no more no less picture of eggs.

You mentioned that the 99-word-story benefits the community. How does that work?

Anyone can write a 99-word-story in ten minutes. 

Charli Mills

No way! Mine sure took longer than that! 

You can, though. I present library writing programs. We did Carrot Ranch sessions in three libraries and a bookstore during our retreat. I challenged participants to five minute writes and five minute edits. They looked at me like I’m crazy, then BAM, ten minutes later they were done.

Charli Mills

Of course, I did that all the time in my classroom and as professional development with teachers and aides. We called them Quick Writes. But they weren’t ready for publication in ten minutes.

That’s not the ultimate point. When I do a reading from Volume 1, I ask people I meet at Farmer’s Markets, book fairs, libraries and bookstores where I am set up, “Can I read you a 99-word story? It will only take 45 seconds.”

They almost always say okay. Then I read a 99-word story. It catches their attention. The anthology brings the power of people together. It’s anthropology because they write their individual story about the prompt. It is so human to bring the stories together and put them into a collection. Some stories go together and other times they are polar opposites. There is usually an anchor story. Those who read the stories are responding to human conversation. 

The last line, when I’m reading in public is , “Do you want to buy a book?”

Charli Mills

Funny! What a marketer. You’ve got to have a close. I want to stray a little from talking about writing challenges. You mentioned a retreat, Charli. Tell us more.

Rough Rider, D. Avery hosts the retreat in Vermont. Writers have different paths and expectations with what they want to do and the workshop is for people who want to publish their work. We help them figure out what path they are on and how to jump from one path to another. We instill that there is no shame in what you write. Even if it’s not a best seller. The annual retreat honors the work writers have done in a year. 

The retreat counts as professional development as an author. It may take 3-12 years to get published traditionally. It will help you have things in your platform so it gives you an edge.

Charli Mills

Is this your ultimate goal?

No, no, no, no. I am developing an educational program to provide the platform for teaching literary art under the Carrot Ranch Brand. 

Along with my MFA, I am earning a certification to teach online creative writing. I will use that to add the educational component to Carrot Ranch and to invite interested community members to participate as instructors. I need to train them first, but then they can develop and sell their own online classes. 

That’s all I’m saying for now as I work toward finishing my degree next year and developing this education program.

Charli Mills

That sounds so exciting, Charli. I want to be on board for that! Teaching was my career and my master’s degree is in curriculum and instruction. We are getting off the target of writing challenges a little here, but I’m curious about your book and writing clubs. 

We have one writing group on Facebook. The question you have to answer to join the group is, “How has Carrot Ranch impacted your writing?” I want to know if people know what Carrot Ranch is. It’s not open, it’s a writers group for Carrot Ranch. On Monday’s I call for goals. It’s a place where writers can have accountability, if they want that. Some ranchers post occasionally, others post regularly. On Tuesdays we have started something new. We are doing an open mic on Zoom. Attendees get five minutes to introduce themselves, their work and to read. It happens on the third Tuesday of the month at 11:00 am Eastern time, 8:00 am PST, 5:00 pm for people in Great Britain. 

Charli Mills

Charli, it has been a pleasure to chat with you today. We’ve covered a lot of territory – typical ranch life! Good thing we held our horses! I look forward to collaborating with Carrot Ranch very soon. Your mission strummed the creative strings in my internal gee-tar. 

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What to Do When Your Muse Disappears 60,000 Words Into Your Book

You don’t give up when your muse leaves town. You start a new challenge. Join me in giving author Suzanne Burke a warm Always Write welcome!

Always Write Series: #Bloggers Hosting Writing Challenges

Writing Challenge hostess #1 Suzanne Burke AKA Soooz

Have you wanted to write fiction and struggled to get started? Or maybe you wrote a book, and your muse disappeared or you got snagged somewhere in the process of publication.

If this sounds like you, read on.

Author, Suzanne Burke hosts a flash fiction challenge and supports her participants with multiple social media shares. 

As I read her posts, it occurred to me how much goes into hosting a writing challenge of any kind. She responds graciously to every comment in her inbox. 

After exchanging a few comments and emails, I feel like I have known her forever. 

Suzanne agreed to write the first guest post/interview for Always Write to tell authors everywhere how she started and what it is like to host a writing challenge. 

Take it away Soooz.

Firstly, my grateful thanks to Marsha for inviting me here today. I hope I have given you a glimpse into my experience hosting a visual writing prompt. 

Q: What prompted you to begin to host a writing challenge? 

A: It all came down to the timing. I was already 60k into my latest WIP (work in progress) when my muse decided to grab a stagecoach and get out of Dodge. It’s happened before and the frustration and procrastination genies were warring with each other for dominance. I needed to commit to something creative, something I would also need to contribute to. That’s when the idea was born. 

Soooz

I can feel your pain. I have never made it to the end of a fiction publication. Grrrrrr.

Q: How long have you been doing this? 

A: It’s only been six weeks since the first prompt went up. It’s been a huge learning curve. But I’m having a marvelous time with it.

Soooz

Q: How much time does it take? Is it all-consuming so that you don’t blog about anything else?

 

A: I must admit that I underestimated just how time-consuming the process would be. I spend many hours scouring the internet for free to use images. Images engage the creative juices. We writers tend to be intensely visual creatures, taking mental snapshots of everything that catches our muse’s attention. 

Soooz

The marionette image evokes some strong emotions. Your 750-word example kept me on the edge of my seat. 

I heard recently in a class that a blog needs some type of image every 100 words. I use Canva.com and have tried Unsplash.com as well. They both have thousands of images you can sort through in the click of a search word.

Q: How did you determine the genre?

A: I chose not to impose a genre restriction. That tends to isolate some folks from participating. I’ve been lucky to have had some wonderfully diverse entries, yours included, Marsha.

Soooz

Thank you, Soooz, with three o’s.

Q: What steps do you take to get your challenge ready? 

A: Because it can take almost a week and sometimes just before the deadline before the entries start coming in. I write my own contribution during that time. 

Then I share all the entries over the course of the week. 

Soooz

That’s a benefit for your participants to build the traffic to their blogs. 

I check daily for comments on the Author’s blogs who have shared the challenge, respond to those. 

Another great benefit to those who submit, Soooz. I found my entry that you shared on Twitter. How fun! I also found a typo in my customized excerpt. I need a better proofreader.

I’ve had a great response doing that. Finally, I put up the next week’s prompt. I’m determined to still make time to write and post Book Reviews and support other authors on my blog. 

Soooz

Q: How did you attract people to participate? / How do people usually find out about your challenge? 

A: I have been so fortunate to have met some wonderfully talented and supportive writers since my first foray into writing. Many belong to an online book club I’m a member of, and still others I’ve met via Twitter, all have been amongst the most generous and supportive folks I’ve ever met. These folks share my posts via tweets and the word begins to spread. I find Twitter to be a very effective platform.

Soooz

Q: Do you have help reading all the entries?

A: No, I enjoy reading all of them.

Soooz

Q: What do you do with the entries – like do you ever publish anthologies, award widget certificates?

A: I’m keeping it as simple as possible at the moment. I may use some of my own entries in an anthology in the future.

Soooz

In Conclusion

Thank you, so much for this wonderful post, Suzanne, Soooz, S., Stacey. It’s been a super pleasure to have you as the first interview/guest post in the Always Write #Bloggers Hosting Writing Challenges Series.

I hope you will come back to write another guest post again.

Links

Contact Suzanne at …

Her author page on AMAZON.

On Twitter.

On Facebook

On Goodreads.

Biography

Suzanne Burke resides with her daughter and grandson in a small country town located hundreds of miles to the west of her previous home in Sydney Australia.

Life interrupted her routine and allowed her to begin her journey into the world of writing in her early fifties, a journey she’d wanted to start for many years.

You can find Suzanne’s memoirs under the pen name of Stacey Danson.  Search for her powerful thrillers Acts Beyond Redemption and Acts of Betrayal and her paranormal anthology Mind-Shaft under the name S. Burke. 

Both of Suzanne’s non-fiction books, Empty Chairs and Faint Echoes of Laughter, have ranked in the top one hundred paid in Kindle on Amazon and continue to earn wonderful reviews.

Welcome Suzanne with your comments and check out her #6 Challenge.

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Why Blogging is the Best Weight Loss Program

Interview with Carol Cormier

Most of us don’t think of blogging as the fast track or best weight loss program. But one blogger shows us what happened when she started blogging. In this short interview, my friend Carol will share with readers two ways blogging helped her lose 32 pounds blogging. As a bonus, she explains what has made her blog grow as well.

Welcome to Always Write, a blog for newbies and fun bloggers, writers, and photographers. Hi everyone, Marsha Ingrao here.

best weight loss program
Carol before losing 32 pounds.
best weight loss program
Carol after losing 32 pounds

Today I’d like to introduce Carol Cormier from Toronto, Canada, one of my blogging friends and a fellow teacher and administrator.

Carol, you lost thirty-two pounds blogging. WOW!

I didn’t know that blogging could help you take off weight. I’m impressed. Maybe you can transfer your weight loss success over to  Always Write, and readers who need to lose weight can just plug in their computers and let the pounds come rolling off!

In addition to losing weight, Carol, you have had some blogging success as well. There must be a connection there somewhere.

1.  What is the ONE thing that you do, that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your blogging successes, so far?

When I started blogging I was hoping to use it as an incentive to lose weight. I thought if I put it out there in the blogging world I would be more likely to succeed. I also wanted a platform to share stories with my family about my life.

I soon discovered that more people were interested in my weight loss journey than my past.

I lost 32 pounds and found the support from other bloggers very helpful. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been at blogging, Marsha, since it’s taken me four years to attract 1000 followers.

That makes sense because so many of us are overweight. Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how difficult it is as we pass 40. So your weight loss came as a result of how much support you had from your readers. Experts tell us that we need the encouragement of friends and family to help us lose weight at least in the short term. Studies have shown that people who lose weight with friends keep the weight off longer than people who try to do it alone. 

2.  You have gained a good number of followers for someone who blogs as a hobby. Why do you think that is?

I think my success is due to a number of factors:

  • visiting other blogs and leaving a comment
  • replying to comments left by other bloggers on my posts
  • participating in a number of challenges
  • trying new things – I do mostly photo challenges now but I have tried writing challenges
  • posting regularly – I try to post daily but sometimes life gets in the way
  • not getting too political or writing about religious issues

I think 1,000 followers is great, Carol, but the important thing is that you are doing what you enjoy in the blogging world having what most would consider positive results.

3. How do you balance your time between your personal and career/blogging life?

My blogging life is my entertainment.

Just to be clear, not bungee jumping, correct?

Right, I watch very little television since I started blogging. My family comes first, my career second and my blog is third.

So blogging took the place of watching television. It’s harder to eat and blog. No wonder you lost weight.

4. Can you walk us through how to be wrong?

If you’re going to be wrong you have to admit to yourself and the world that you made a mistake. If you can’t do that you’ll quickly lose respect from your readers. I have the same philosophy in my personal life.

I’ve always apologized to my children, my students, my husband, my colleagues, and close friends when I’ve said something inappropriate or behaved badly. Sometimes it’s difficult to do but in the end, it is worth it.

Admitting when we are wrong takes the wind out of our opponent’s sails for the most part. It’s hard for them to argue with the statement, “You’re right, I’m wrong.” Realizing that we are on the wrong track with our weight is another important factor in starting to lose weight, too. 

Carol, your background is much like mine. You have been a teacher and administrator and not a professional writer. Tell us a bit about your career.

5. What concerns or obstacles have you overcome in your career?

Later in my teaching career, I decided that I wanted to take on more of a leadership role and become a vice-principal. I took numerous leadership classes and applied for positions that would help me further my career plans. Sometimes I felt that I waited too long to make these changes and that my age would be a deterrent to reaching my goal.

I decided to forge ahead anyway and took some risks that I probably would never have attempted at a younger age.

I discovered that I was very capable and I quickly found a confidence that I never knew I had.

I successfully became a chairperson, with added responsibilities, and loved the position. I’m still a chairperson today and decided several years ago not to pursue the position of vice-principal. The job had changed in many ways and you are no longer able to be a teacher and a VP. Since I loved teaching as much as I did, I never regretted the decision to remain a teacher with some additional responsibilities.

I’m also very much a person who likes change and a challenge.

Five years ago I took an online course so that I could earn the qualifications needed to become a teacher/librarian. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do but I learned so much and today my role has gone from being a grade 5 teacher to being the librarian for the school and having contact with all the students from Kindergarten to grade 5.

What an inspiration, Carol, to take on this challenge toward the end of your career. It’s good for young people to see that they don’t have to stop learning when they finish high school or college. They can start something new and exciting even at the end of their career. 

Continuously learning new skills keeps our lives exciting and vigorous. Writers and bloggers do a lot of journaling and Carol has a cute idea for us. To make a very simple gorgeous art journal out of one sheet of watercolor paper, click the link to her blog post which includes video instructions.

best weight loss program
Evah does not want you to read her diary!

6. Tell us about something that you are not good at doing. 

I’m not good at diving. It’s something I’ve regretted not learning. It’s possible that it has something to do with my fear of heights. You will never see me standing in line to bungee jump off a bridge or sign up for sky diving.

LOL, you had to scroll to the bottom of the list of personal successes to find that handicap, didn’t you? 

best weight loss program
Your humor is starting to bug me, Marsha! (One of Carol’s macro photographs)

8. If your blog or career ended today, what would be the legacy that you left behind?

I’ve never thought about leaving a legacy.

I know that I’ve inspired some people to take out their cameras and start using them again. I’ve also encouraged some very talented people to pursue their art when they didn’t think they could paint.

I guess my blog could be considered a personal journal of my life and perhaps my grandchildren will get to know me a bit better when I’m no longer here to share my stories.

Carol, thank you again, so much for sharing your story with us. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you better. I wish you continued success in your blogging journey and thanks for being part of my life.

If you enjoyed this interview,  you could connect with Carol on her blog, Mama Cormier, …. my journey to a healthy life, making new memories and so much more.

You will find some beautiful photographs, and if you’ve ever wanted to paint, she has some instructional painting videos, too.  Here’s a sample of acrylic painting.

best weight loss program
A painting Carol auctioned

Your Turn

If you enjoyed this post, please forward it to your friends, especially teachers and parents or grandparents with elementary-aged children.

best weight loss program
Carol’s cup of Irish coffee

Thanks again for joining us here at Always Write for a cup of coffee and a great interview with our guest blogger, Carol Cormier. Don’t forget to give her blog a peek! 🙂

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How to Get Published As a Travel Blogger: Interview

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.

A+ Interview travel blogger
Manny and Justin with a map of Australia during their travels

 Welcome Travel Blogger, Carol Sherritt

Hi Carol,

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.

A+ Interview, travel blogger
This beautiful Walking Iris is straight from one of Carol’s posts on the Eternal Traveler.
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?

A+ Interview, travel blogger
Carol’s sense of humor keeps her blogs fun as well as interesting.

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!

A+ Interview, travel blogger
Carol stops to shoot pictures everywhere.

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?

A+ Interview, travel blogger
No camera left behind, even in the Glaciers of New Zealand.

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

 

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A+ Interview, travel blogger
Cup of Irish coffee

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 tchistorygal@gmail.com.

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Carol’s Recent Trip to England

My Trip to Australia

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Glimpses Author Hugh Roberts: Interview

Glimpses Author Hugh Roberts Shares His Story

Glimpses Author Hugh Roberts and my blogging friend, came in today to tell us about his life particularly about being an author.
Glimpses author Hugh Roberts
Glimpses Author, Hugh Roberts

Hi Hugh, I am so excited to have you here on Always Write. You write from your heart, and when you answer a comment, I feel like we communicate. One of the first things I read about you on your blog Hughs Views & News is that you struggle with a mild form of dyslexia. I never was tested, but I love to blame my typos and oodles of mistakes on that problem. You haven’t let it get the best of you, have you?

“Not at all,” Hugh answered

What is the ONE thing that you do, that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes, so far?

Glimpse Author Hugh Roberts
Hugh Roberts

Without a shadow of a doubt, Marsha, it has to be blogging. Yes, like you, many of my readers know I’m dyslexic. For a very long time, I allowed the condition to get in my way of wanting to write and become a published author. I managed to hide my dyslexia very well because, from the age of 18, I was always in full-time employment (apart from a short spell, which is another story that I hope to tell one day). My dream of publishing a book was born at the same time as me. It stayed with me and then, on February 12th, 2014, I discovered the world of blogging and published my first post.

I was hooked immediately and went on and participated in an online blogging course that WordPress ran for those new to blogging. One day, we were asked to write and publish a post about something which the rest of the class did not know about us. I picked up the courage to declare to the class that I was dyslexic. I hesitated a lot before pushing the ‘publish’ button and, when I finally did do it, I went out for a long walk and wondered if I did the right thing. When I came back, there were lots of comments on the post waiting for me. All of them said ‘well done’ or something very similar and that’s when I finally stopped allowing dyslexia get in my way of writing and publishing a book.

It took a long time for you to come face to face with this issue. But you set your mind to doing something and you dive right in and make learning your goal. I admire that in you, Hugh. It is wonderful when bloggers validate your efforts. That is what makes many of us try so much harder at blogging.

Glimpse Author Hugh Roberts
What could be wrong in Venice?

Can you walk us through how to be wrong?

There are lots of reasons I could give here, but the biggest thing I get wrong is not to believe in myself. We all suffer self-doubt. We wouldn’t be human, would we, if we never allowed self-doubt into our lives? However, there have been many occasions when I have allowed self-doubt to stay in my life for far longer than it should.
I’ve shouted and screamed at people when I have had self-doubt and learned that it doesn’t get me anywhere. When we get angry, we produce negativity and that, for me, only feeds our self-doubt even more and makes it stronger. I asked myself if those I was shouting and screaming at really wanted to see me like this. Is this how I’d want to see them if they were coming to me with the self-doubt I was having? No! I soon realised that I’d want them to sit down with me and talk to me calmly about what was going on. Having somebody listen to your problems does help, but not when you are screaming and shouting at them. 

It sounds like you learned that lesson the hard way, Hugh. It almost seems like blogging was something like the movie Anger Management for you. I probably should not even ask this next question because you say you have a lot of self-doubts. But it sounds like you have come such a long way. I can’t even imagine that other Hugh.

Glimpses Author Hugh Roberts
Hugh Roberts

Tell us about something that you do not do well.

I’m not good at Beta reading. I get asked to beta read a lot but have come to realise that although I’ve managed to stop letting being dyslexic from stopping me write, I’m not at all good when it comes to spotting mistakes in books and stories. I’m not an avid reader, which I know many writers and authors will frown upon, but I do read every now and again and enjoy the relaxation it brings. For me, you must have something very special to be an excellent beta reader and to be able to spot the mistakes or the things that don’t add up in a story. Some say that reading more books makes you a better beta reader, but I can vouch that it doesn’t work for everyone. For me, watching T.V. movies and going to the theatre help me with my writing.
I’m a terrible Beta reader, too. I love to read, but I miss details. I gloss through books. Now I cheat when I write my reviews and read other reviews before I start writing. Many times I realize that I missed a cogent point. Here’s a story that should sound like a familiar scene to you. I was a proof-reader for a very short period for Walter Drake, Inc. They printed custom Christmas cards. One day the supervisor called me into her office. 
“What does this say?” She did not look or sound happy.
I look at it carefully.

Brain

“Brian,” I answered.
“Look again.”
“Brian.” I answered again.

Nobody would sign his name Brain on purpose. So my “brian” reversed the letters and made it right. She changed my job that night.

Hahaha. OK, so you DO understand my problem. 

Yes, I think I understand, Hugh. But let’s skip forward a few steps. You’ve been blogging almost three years. You’ve written a book. You have hundreds of new friends. You get at least 65 comments on every post you write.

Glimpses Author Hugh RobertsIf your blog or career ended today, what would be the legacy that you left behind?

My short stories and the twists and turns contained in them. I’ve always been a big fan of T.V. shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’, and ‘Tales Of The Unexpected.’ Rod Serling, who created and wrote many of the episodes in ‘The Twilight Zone’ is somebody I look up to and admire. I want to follow in his footsteps and produce stories that have the reader and viewer guessing all the way to the end; being led up the wrong path, and taking that sharp intake of breath when that twist at the end of the story is revealed.
I also like to think that my stories have readers in suspense. For this, I look at somebody like Alfred Hitchcock who, for me, is the master of suspense. I’d love to be able to jump into a time machine and go and visit Mr Hitchcock and try to persuade him to do a class on creating suspense in writing and movies. How cool would that be? My dream now is to have one (or more) of my short stories made into an episode of a T.V. show or even a movie. Yes, I’m already thinking Hollywood!
Wow, you dream bigger than I do. I’d love that for you, Hugh! Let’s go back in time to see where Glimpses author Hugh Roberts started to make this dream of writing a T.V. episode or movie.
Glimpses Author Hugh Roberts

What was your first job?

I was an Office Junior for a steel stockholding company. I helped out with any clerical jobs that needed doing, but the job also involved going on the mid-morning cake and Cornish pasty run and running errands for the Office Manager. In those days, there were no desktop computers and no mobile phones. Each desk had a typewriter, and changing the ink ribbon was one of the messiest jobs I had to do.
One of the secretaries in the office taught me how to type, but it was on a big machine known as a teletext that took up a whole small office of its own. I had to copy type what needed sending and then watched the machine come alive as it typed and sent what I had just written. I was amazed by what this machine could do and how, at the other end of the country, somebody was watching what I had just typed come through on their teletext. Those were the days where we worked to the strict hours of 9 to 5 and had a whole hour for lunch. All the work got done, and I’d never heard of ‘stress in the workplace’ or people working overtime/turning up early for work and not getting paid for it. We had time to relax and enjoy ourselves at the weekends, and everybody had time for you.
That sounds like a rather difficult task for someone with dyslexia, but you triumphed once more. I remember those hours for lunch. I never gave them up if I had a choice. I never minded working long hours, but I loved my dinner and socializing. Now I take most of my lunches with my computer and all of my friends on Always Write.
Hugh, thank you so much for stopping by today. Our visit was lovely. Sixteen hundred words flew by in no time at all. I hope you will come again. If not before, I want you to come when you publish your screenplay!
Thank you, Marsha. I’d love to come.

Hugh W. Roberts Bio

Glimpses Author Hugh Roberts

Hugh W. Roberts is a first time published author, who lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

He gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dog, Toby. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around different parts of the UK, including London where he lived for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after he had discovered blogging, he decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ back in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors, and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of on-line friends he considers as an everyday essential.

Glimpses author Hugh Roberts has now built up his first volume of short stories and is working on the next volume. A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing most evenings with a glass of red wine.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil partner, and Toby, their Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

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