Get Squared Up for the New Year with Becky B.

I am so proud to introduce today the hostess of the Squares Photo Challenge, Becky B. of Becky of Winchester on my hobby blog, Always Write. I met Becky through my Photo Challenge friends, Cee Neuner of Cee’s Photo Challenges, and Terri Webster Schrandt of Second Wind Leisure last summer or early fall. I love the word games Becky B. plays with her photo challenges. She’s so popular with many of my readers that I was thrilled when she said, “YES,” to an interview.

What prompted you to begin to host a photo challenge? – Squares didn’t actually begin as a photo challenge! The very first one began because I need a focus for a month. I was still reeling from the death of my Dad, and with what would have been his birthday in September and a busy month for my first ever festival I wanted something to keep the blog alive and myself distracted. So Square in September was born, and within hours a few friendly bloggers decided to join in the fun. By the end of the month there were around a dozen joining me daily, and I realised there was potentially a great challenge in my hands. So Squares as a challenge was born! I must at this point shout out to a few other amazing bloggers who run challenges such as Debbie from Travel with Intent, Jude over at Cornwall in Colours, Restless Jo and her Monday Walks and the Queen of Challenges the incredible Cee. I have learnt so much from all of them and other great challenge hosts.

What is your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it support photographers? – I hope to provide a friendly place where photographers can make new blogging friends and find inspiration as well as having the opportunity to share their photographs, thoughts and lives. By making it a requirement that every shot is square it levels out the playing field and so every photographer, whether brand new or experienced, faces the same challenge of creating a great photograph in a square. And it seems to be working as not only has my photography improved, but Squares has become a community. There are now between 50 to 75 bloggers taking part every week during the challenge month, and some of those have become great friends.

How long have you been hosting Becky’s Squares? Have you hosted other challenges? – Squares began in September 2017, and it takes place once a quarter. To date there have been 14 square challenges with the themes of flowers, sky, circles & squares, roofs, in the pink, time, spiky, blue, lines, words ending in light, top, perspectives, kinda and up. I have tried hosting other challenges, namely ‘Past Meets Present’ but as I host two blogs for myself as well as organising a major festival, managing website and multiple social media for a charity I volunteer for I now focus just hosting Squares.

How much time does it take from preparation to follow-up each week? Everyone’s challenges run differently. What steps do you take to get your challenge ready?  – ooh that’s a tough question! I guess each theme takes a few days or even weeks to be born, and then once I have decided upon it I have to start collating my own photographs. Prior to the pandemic I would decide themes months in advance and so I could easily take new photographs specially for the challenge as well as drawing upon the archives. In this new world however I tend to decide much nearer the time and need to dig deeper into my extensive photographic archives. Up to 6 weeks before the start of the challenge month I will share teasers and then an official announcement. Then a week or so before the challenge begins I will set aside a couple of days to prepare the photographs and then schedule every square post in advance. Occasionally the last few days won’t be scheduled until the end of the first week as I like to be inspired by everyone else’s fabulous squares. Everyone is so brilliant in fact that quite often once the challenge starts I will tweak posts or throw in new squares. Once the challenge starts I will spend up to 3hrs each day visiting other posts and responding to comments, and then there are my galleries. These have evolved over the years, but I now keep a record of every participant and my technique of creating prose for each one seems to have become a favourite for everyone. I have such fun collating the galleries, and the half day or so I spend on them is always a pleasure.

How did you attract people to participate rather than to just leave comments on your post? The trick it seems to me is to have a really simple challenge idea that just takes off on its own accord, however I admit it does help if some of the major league bloggers take part! Other things that seem to help is to connect with others both during and outside of your challenge, and this is best achieved by taking part in other challenges yourself and regularly leaving comments on other posts. I love taking part in other challenges so even when Squares is happening you will often find I am also taking part in others. 

Supermarket Views – The UP doesn’t have to mean the direction.

What do your participants say they like most about your challenge? What do you like most about hosting the challenge? It is an honour to host Squares; everyone is just so lovely. You’d probably have to ask all of them though why they like it. If I had to guess I suspect there are three possible reasons 1) there is only one rule your photograph has to be square, 2) it takes place for a whole month x4 per year and you can post as frequently or infrequently as you like, and 3) I collate a gallery so everyone can visit everyone else at least once.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021? Having the vaccine and being able to get out and explore again, and in particular meet up in person with some of my blogging friends and non-blogging friends. It has been so long since I saw them in person.

Do you have anything else to share? Tips for readers, advice for blogging? Take time to understand how your blogging tool (WordPress, Blog, SquareSpace etc) works, it will pay off in the long run, and most importantly have fun with your blog. Not only is it your voice, and a great creative outlet, it is a fabulous place to make friends.

Thank you again for joining me, Becky. I’m sure that my readers, many of whom are mutual friends, will love getting to know you better.

Becky’s Contact Information

BeckyB as in ‘Becky in Portugal‘ and ‘The Life of B‘Twitter – @BBWinch and @beckyinportugal
Instagram – @lifeofbb and @beckyinportugal

Other Photo Challenge Interviews

The Versatile and Prolific Robbie Cheadle is my Guest Author with something for Kids and Adults…

Robbie Cheadle has been a good friend in the blogging community for quite a while. I had no idea she was so prolific, though. She still takes the time to comment on her friend’s blogs and participate in Blogging Challenges. Wow! Way to go, Robbie.

Jane Risdon

I am so pleased to have Robbie Cheadle as my guest author at last. I know, you expect crime writers to be my guests. but today is an exception. Just look at her body of work.

Let’s find out about Robbie.

Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes that are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations.

Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions that children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

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Featuring Blogger & Author Marsha Ingrao @ Always Write

Thank you, Yvette for featuring me on your blog. It is such a great honor. To my readers who don’t know Yvette, please go by and explore her blog, Priorhouse Blog. She is full of wisdom and wit. Her photo challenges are so much fun to look at and read, and she connects with you rather than just pressing “LIKE.”

How to Blog to Photo Challenges Sylvia in Paradise Tells All

One of the best photo challenge bloggers, Sylvia from Another Day to Paradise tells all about how she makes photo challenges work for her.

Welcome to Always Write, a hobby blog promoting and supporting hobby bloggers.

Sylvia from A Day 2 Paradise Tells All About Blogging

Hi Sylvia,

When I first met you, I did not know your first name, as is often the case with bloggers. You were “Another day in paradise,” and now “Another day 2 paradise.” I remember when you started your latest site, and I told you all about knowing a lady who was “another day in paradise,” thinking what a coincidence that was. You kindly said, without making me feel like an idiot that I was talking to the same person – you.

It’s been such a privilege to me to know you. We’ve become close because of our blogging and Facebook; it’s almost like we’ve been friends forever. You have agreed to let me use one of your posts as a chapter in my upcoming book, Because of Blogging as well, so thanks for that too!

Paradise tells all

You have taken some amazing pictures in your travels, and you also specialize in animal pictures that crack me up. I love the way you give them personalities and develop stories around them. You have had a couple of blogs and post daily just for the pure fun of it, but you’ve developed a large and loyal readership. 

How did you get started blogging and what do you get out of blogging personally?

Thanks so much Marsha for inviting me to do this interview and for your kind comments about my blog  I started blogging about seven years ago on  Blogs24, which hubby saw advertised on our South African news site. He suggested that as I enjoyed writing, I might like to give it a go. I soon became hooked, although it took me a while to work out what it was all about, because at first, I didn’t know how to communicate with my commenters. Once I got it figured out, though, I was well away. Most of the content on this site was only of interest to fellow South Africans, as the politics and daily goings on in the country were favorite subjects. Because all the bloggers were from South Africa and many of them knew one another, it did get a bit personal at times, and it was not unknown for insults to start flying across the blogosphere.

Paradise tells all
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I tried to keep my blogs more about my travels, as I was lucky enough to be doing quite a few overseas trips during those years. People found my experiences and photos of trips to the US and the UK quite fascinating. In 2010 we did a tour of Wyoming and Yellowstone Park, from where I managed to blog almost every day, even though it meant going to bed extremely late after sorting and downloading all my photos.

Paradise tells all

Hubby was a constant help, and nothing was too much trouble for him. When the internet wouldn’t work, he fixed it for me as well as proofreading my posts. I also blogged a lot about my family, and especially my mom who was quite a character and always having little ‘adventures’, like driving her car up the garage wall, closing the garage door before she’d driven in properly, or accidentally taking off her friend’s car side mirror with hers after they’d stopped next to one another for a quick chat. My dear mom with her marvelous sense of humor was an endless source of blog inspiration, and I can laugh now just thinking of some of her antics. If she happened to feature in one of my posts, I would phone her in the evening and read it to her. She loved the way I wrote about her escapades.

I love the way you write about her escapades as well. She is an amazing woman.

Tell us a little more about your blogs.

Towards the end of 2011, the South African blog site started to disintegrate; the editor resigned, and gradually people became disinterested. We were given a chance to move over to WordPress, but very few of us made the transition. For a while, I really battled to be relevant and to get followers and comments on this international site, but gradually it all came together, and I’ve never looked back.

You’ve specialized in relating all your beautiful photos and adorable stories to photography challenges on your blog.

How do you do tie a story to a challenge and make it work?

I have so many photos from all our travels, and also lots of memories of our lovely seaside town in South Africa.

Paradise tells all

The challenges seemed just made for me, and as soon one appeared, I’d be going through my photo albums to find the appropriate material. I find it very difficult not to write stories about my photos, as I’m a bit of a wordaholic, but my kind readers seem to indulge me, for which I’m very grateful.

Creative and inventive vocabulary – a wordaholic – I love it! Your photographs are fabulous. You like bright colors, they are well framed and have interesting content.

What advice do you have about taking pictures and using them on your blog?

Paradise tells all

I take photos of anything and everything, both with my camera and iPhone, as one never knows when they might come in useful. I’m really fortunate that there is so much interesting wildlife in Florida where we are now living. I can’t resist giving names to all my newfound friends both feathered and scaly, and they seem to develop personalities of their own in my posts, sometimes surprising even me; like Iggy Jnr. The Rockstar, and Basil the basilisk lizard.

The names and personalities are what make your animal photos come to life. I love your recent one about the Tri-colored Heron. You always seem to know what they are. “Probably just a small minnow went down the hatch, but he strutted off looking very well pleased with himself.” And of course, he looked like my favorite college president who strutted across campus. We all loved him and imitated his walk just as Mr. Tri is doing.

Paradise tells all

 I always come away from your blog with a smile, if not a guffaw.

What opportunities do you feel have come your way in life that you would attribute to blogging?

I’ve connected with many amazing and exciting bloggers over the years.  Although we haven’t met in person, I feel that I know them. If we do eventually meet one day, we will be comfortable in one another’s company with lots of stories to share.

What advice do you have for new bloggers?

Blogging can be very time-consuming, but I would advise new bloggers to post regularly and to answer each and every comment that comes your way. Visit other people’s blogs and try to leave a comment, however, brief it may be. We bloggers can’t survive on likes alone. If someone I’ve never seen before or haven’t heard from for a long while, suddenly leaves a dozen likes on my posts in the space of a few seconds, I’m afraid it means absolutely zilch to me. I feel that blogging is very much an interactive thing. If you don’t give, then you don’t receive, and people will lose interest in visiting your blog, so establish a friendly relationship with your followers.

I agree with that, although when I was new to blogging, I garnered every as I could get and held it close like a big hug. It took a while longer to get comments and months that grew into years as we developed friendships.

What else would you like to add that I haven’t asked you?

If you are going to take a break from blogging for a while, it’s only courteous to let your followers know. When people who I consider to be my blogging friends just disappear without a word, I do worry about them.  

Thank you so much, Sylvia, for taking your time for this interview. It has helped me get to know you even better, and I’m sure my blogging community is going to want to run out and get better acquainted with your blog anotherday2paradise as well if they do not know you already.

Readers, It’s Your Turn

If you enjoyed this post, please forward it to your friends.

Thanks again for joining us here at Always Write for a cup of coffee and a great interview with our guest blogger, Sylvia Shaw. Don’t forget to give her blog a peek! 🙂 To be a guest on Always Write or read other interviews, click here.

If you host or participate in a blog challenge of any kind, and would like an interview on my blog, Always Write, contact me below

The Memoir Challenge: Enjoying the Similarities and Differences Between Generations and Locations

Welcome to Always Write, Irene Waters. I met Irene in June reading one of her marvelous book reviews. We chatted a bit and I found out that she was interested in photo and writing challenges. She agreed to tell you about her favorite challenges and also what it was like for her to host a challenge.

Thank you for for being here.

Irene Waters Interview

by Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

What prompted you to begin to host a writing/photo challenge?

When the memoir challenge ended it left a hole which I decided to fill by running my own challenge with a twist. @Irene Waters


I enjoy participating in both photo and writing challenges. For photos I love Cee’s challenges as well as Lens-Artists and Paula’s Five word challenges. Although these are predominantly photo challenges I can’t help but weave story, often memoir around the photos I post. I came to writing challenges later. The first was a memoir challenge (no longer happening) and then I found Carrot Ranch’s 99 Word Flash Fiction. When the memoir challenge ended it left a hole which I decided to fill by running my own challenge with a twist.

Was this one of your dreams?


I can’t say it was a dream to run my own challenge although it was a dream to share memoir with others who perhaps hadn’t considered memoir a pursuit of interest.

What was your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it help photographers or writers?

 I had hoped that the challenge would give us social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location. The prompt could be responded to in any form the participant enjoyed – prose, poetry, flash, photographs, sketches or any other form. I hoped that it would give both writers and photographers a way of writing/ displaying memoir and finding value in reading the differences and the similarities between generations and locations. I love it when a conversation starts and one post prompts memories in a reader/viewer previously forgotten. 

How long have you been doing this?

The first challenge was in January 2016 and I stopped in 2019 when my husband and myself were both diagnosed with and undergoing cancer treatments.

How much time does it take? 

I made it easy on myself and made the challenge monthly. I knew how much work was involved and I knew I was time poor. Don’t be fooled – people who run challenges put a lot of work into them.

If you stopped hosting the challenge, why was that?

As I have already mentioned I stopped due to health challenges but it was getting difficult to keep going anyway. Although it was only monthly it was difficult coming up with topics that would not cause anybody any angst.

Did you start a different challenge?

No.

What would you do differently?

Do as the Lens’Artists – find a team of memoir enthusiasts and take turns in setting the challenge.

What steps did you take to get your challenge ready? 

It was simply a matter of coming up with a topic and writing to the topic myself, posting and inviting people to join in. The challenge had been running only a short time when Charli from Carrot Ranch invited me to write a memoir piece monthly on her site with an invitation to readers to participate in my challenge. This certainly created an audience for Times Past which helped immensely.

How did you follow up with your participants?


I would get participants to leave a link on my site in the comments and then visit each of them leaving a comment on their site. Hopefully other participants also dropped by and read their work as well.

How did you attract people to participate? / How do people usually find out about your challenge? Are you a part of a group on social media that picks up your challenge and promotes it?


I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to social media. I have facebook, twitter and instagram accounts but I rarely visit them. I relied primarily on word of mouth so to speak and having the article on Carrot Ranch linked was a big plus for me.

Do you determine winners? If so, how?


I didn’t determine winners. I think everyone who enters any challenge is a winner – we all have our own stories and none are more worthy than the other. I must admit it is a buzz when you are chosen by Cee or Lens Artists as an example of work that appealed to them – but I don’t know that either of those challenges would consider them winners.

What do you do with the entries? 


I have a Times Past page where there is a link to every challenge. It makes it easy for people to find them and follow links if they wish.

Given your experience with both hosting a challenge and participating in challenges do you think they are a valuable tool for writers and photographers?

Absolutely. Firstly for many challenges are a way that a writer or photographer can have their work viewed by others. It is also a way of honing skills and getting the creative juices working. Most importantly it is a way to meet like minded people and have conversations that you can only have with another writer or photographer. It may just be a meeting of minds that sees a friendship begin.

I hoped that it would give both writers and photographers a way of writing/ displaying memoir and finding value in reading the differences and the similarities between generations and locations. @Irene Waters

Bio

Irene Waters published her memoir Nightmare in Paradise in 2019. She blogs at Reflections and Nightmares She is interested in memoir having completed a Master of Arts with her research thesis examining the difficulties a sequel memoirist faces. Another passion from childhood is photography. She enjoys combining writing and photography on her website. She lives with her husband and two dogs on the Sunshine Coast of Qld in Australia.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am – 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.

View all posts by Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist →

Thank you, Thank you

Thanks again Irene for participating in the Blogging Challenge Series on Always Write.

As a side note, Irene is collaborating with me in the Rodeo Flash Writing Contest.

Watch for Carrot Ranch Signs along the way.