Blog Squad interview with Problogger Darren Rowse


The fine ladies over at The Blog Squad will be interviewing Darren Rowse, six-figure blogger and all-around great blogging guru, in a teleseminar this Thursday evening, 5pm Mountain/7pm Eastern.

The specifics:

The Blog Squad Interviews Darren Rowse,
Thursday, June 26, 2008
7 p.m. Eastern Time
Free – Registration Required

Blogging for dollars: Can you really make 6-figures?

You’ll learn:

> How to determine the right monetization method that’s right for you

> The difference between active and passive income

> How to optimize ads for your blog

> The design elements you must have for your blog to be an effective money-maker

> Some of the secrets that make a blog successful

> Plus much more!

Register now at this site.

I’ve already registered myself and am looking forward to it. I do think that Darren’s situation is quite unique, and six-figure blogging is more the rare case than the norm. I mean, the guy makes his money largely from blogging about blogging for money. Still, if you’ve read his blog at all, you’ll know that he’s very upfront and enthusiastic about his vocation and is genuinely interested in helping people make a decent living out of blogging. If nothing else, you’ll learn more about how to promote your blog and increase your audience.

Hope you’ll sign up!

Blogging for pennies?


I’m seeing a ton of blog-job ads that recruit writers for blog networks, most of which pay literally pennies, if at all. Some promise $2-5 per post, which isn’t too bad if you’re being asked to review, say, beauty products that you might get for free from eager-beaver publicists. But if you’re asked to write 500-word articles 10-20 times a week on complex issues like personal finance, technology, or interactive media, you’re looking at a rate of return that a Taco Bell crew member would find insulting.

Yes, I realize that blog networks have low overhead precisely because of the relative ease of starting up that kind of business. They rely on advertising revenue and marketing to hundreds (thousands? millions?) of eyeballs to surf over to their sites to make money. Still, it does seem to be to be just the online version of for-profit startup magazines that refuse to pay their writers. Their argument is usually along the lines of “we can’t afford to pay right now because we’re just starting up,” and they promise “lots of exposure,” a byline and a “generous bio.” None of that will pay my rent, of course, and it’s doubly insulting to see that kind of pathetic argument when you see how much advertising revenue they’re generating. They can afford to pay salaries to their staffers, their printers, their circulation reps, their advertising reps, and the rent in their office building, but they can’t/won’t pay the writers who create the content that serves as their reason for being?

Now you have blog networks started by Internet-millionaire wannabes who have heard about the fortunes to be made on blogs and blog content, but who don’t want to actually pay for that content themselves. Ugh. I figure, if I’m going to earn a measly $5 for two hours of work (which is approximately the minimum that I calculated I would need to research and write a decent post about a substantive issue like personal finance or politics), I might as well start my own blog and keep all the ad revenue for myself. Or even better, write for well-paying publications — both off- and online — who understand that writers are also professionals and that they have just as much of a right to make decent money off their talent as anyone else in the biz.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from writers for blog networks who can refute what I just wrote above. Is it worth it to hang your star to an “up-and-coming” blog network for pennies, or is it better to own your own blog and content? Inquiring minds want to know!

Secrets and Surprises and New Careers


You know what I find irritating? When bloggers write something like, “I’m working on a big project right now that will change my entire life and possibly make me a multi-bajillionaire, but I’m not ready to share it with the world yet, so you’ll just have to wait until I have all the facts in order, my hair is in the right place, my lipstick isn’t smudged, and my stars are all aligned, before all is revealed.”

Or something to that effect.


If it’s such a big secret, do us a favor and don’t tell us about it until you’re ready. And telling us that you’re not going to tell us counts as telling us. Copy that? You’re not Master of the Universe, the center of all that is good and holy. Please don’t act as if we’ve nothing better to do than to wait breathlessly for the next installment of Your Life. So spare us the suspense and just share the news when you’re ready to do so.

Hmm. If I sound a little grouchy, I’m probably just coming off a quick M&M-induced sugar high. And I’m doing this work in the lobby of the local hospital while I wait for B. to get off work. The custodian emptying the trash keeps wanting to chat with me, which I don’t mind except I’m working. And he keeps calling me “Sweetie.” **slow burn**

V-Day in New Orleans, Pinay-style


Ever see Eve Ensler’s fascinating, over-the-top, and unabashedly in-your-face multi-character performance piece, The Vagina Monologues? B. and I saw it with a couple of our friends a few years ago at my alma mater, and boy, was that…interesting. Not in a bad way, but definitely in a thought-provoking, what-the-hell-is-this, hmmm-this-is-awful-awesome-heartrending-terrifying-utterly damning kinda way. You can’t walk out of it without your head spinning one way and then another, like the earth out of orbit, whacked out of its own axis. A million variations exist, as each company that performs it inevitably — hopefully — takes it apart and puts it back together again with its own unique interpretation. But it all comes down to one single, singular theme, that of reclaiming that which makes us women, that center of our bodies and souls that terrifies men, inflames passions and provokes war. Yeah, we’re talking the vagina here, but more than that, it’s about the woman who possesses it and the power she holds but is often too afraid to wield.

Check out the V-Day Web site of the New Orleans staging of the show. Jane Fonda, Ali Larter, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Hudson, Faith Hill, and many other celebrities joined thousands of New Orleans current and former residents to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Vagina Monologues. Many women of the so-called New Orleans diaspora returned specifically for this event, and the site showcases dozens of photographs of the event and the parade. Plus, bonus here: renowned Filipina stage actress Monique Wilson (who served as understudy for Lea Salonga in the original London/West End production of Miss Saigon) performed alongside three other international actors in a segment praising — in four different languages, including Tagalog — Cunt (Engish)/Cono (Spanish)/Fica (Italian)/Puki (Tagalog). You can see the video here.

Plus, I also found Washington, DC-based Code Pink’s blog. Code Pink, of course, is a global, grassroots peace movement with the goal of ending the war in Iraq and “all future wars.” I found the DC site primarily from my Google Alert for “comfort women,” and found a lengthy report of Ret. Col. Ann Wright’s speaking tour of Japan. I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says — I think that Japan’s Article 9, while admirable, won’t work globally, if only because there will always be rogue state leaders and military honchos who will take advantage of another country’s lack of defense (that’s the realpolitik student in me coming out) — but I understand the appeal and still believe in its principles. I suppose as a young ‘un I would have been right up there alongside Col. Wright as an ardent pacifist, but now I prefer to think of myself as a peace activist, one who would like to see a world governed by wise stateswomen and -men with the intention of maintaining peace at all costs but without succumbing to the naive belief that it can be achieved solely by a unilateral laying down of arms. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

I was happy to see, though, that she also met with representatives working on behalf of the Japanese comfort women, and that she has singled out in particular the horrendous abuse inflicted on the local Okinawan population by the American military. I was living in Japan in 1995 when the gang-rape case involving American servicemen and a 12-year-old school girl exploded all over the news media. I’ve no idea how much attention it received here, but it definitely dominated the Japanese media for months. From what I understand, it’s still very much a raw wound in Okinawan society today.

For more info on this case and many others like it involving the US military on Okinawa, check out the link to Wright’s travel report above.

Planner Death


Dear God, I’ve become a Planner Person again. I read something the other day (can’t remember where) about how women tote Day Planners while men have those little pocket calendars that literally can fit it one’s pocket. Hell, B. has gone through at least 2-3 the last five years, all of which he’s promptly lost within days after getting it. I think he’s given up on the process. Either that, or he was just doing it to please me and my incoherent rants about his need to “organize stuff.” Somehow, though, he still manages to make his appointments.

I swore in my last day job (for the umpteenth time, but whatever) that I. Would. Not. Carry. Another. Damn. Day. Planner.

But sheesh, they sneak up on you like some infectious disease and won’t let go until you’ve surrendered your freedom to its relentless need for complete control. Arrrrggghh!

Mine isn’t so bad. It’s about the side of a small hardback, only a little thicker. But I can’t carry it in my pocket, and it can be kinda unwieldy and, well, corporate. Precisely the last thing I want to be right now.

Welcome to the world of The Man.

Anyhoo, speaking of defying the man, check out this awesome blog of a very cool Austin-based artist and illustrator named Travis Nichols. I found him months ago but have only now gotten back to following his latest exploits on his site. His art isn’t necessarily my cuppa, but his personality and writing style are very appealing. Plus, he lives in Austin! And hates corporate America! And he’s really funny! And probably doesn’t carry a Day Planner or even a pocket calendar. My hero.

Also, here’s a new corporate site I found called PluggedIn, featuring HD music and concert videos, including that of my fave contemporary artist, Rufus Wainwright singing my never-get-tired-of-it song, Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk. Seriously, the video quality is way better than what you can find on YouTube, although the selection is very limited. What? No Sugar Ray? Hurry up and upload them already!

Organizational Savviness


Awesome post — one of the best, most informative I’ve read — about one man’s organizational system. Trent Hamm runs a personal finance Web site called The Simple Dollar while juggling a full-time job, a family, hobbies, not to mention all the other things that life demands of us. Unlike many of us, though, he’s hit upon an excellent time-management system that anyone can implement. The post includes links to a list of organizational management books that Hamm recommends (and others he doesn’t care for).

As a freelance writer who juggles a novel, tons of research, freelance articles, a budding screenplay (with B.), a play (…that I haven’t touched in a few months, but I’m hoping to get back to it in the next few weeks!), 4 blogs, a one-day-a-week job, a household, family, friends…the list goes on and on and on…I need to be able to organize everything with a system that makes sense to me and which doesn’t end being overwhelming. Otherwise, it’ll immediately go by the wayside.

I was already using Mozilla Thunderbird and Lightning. Thunderbird is Mozilla’s free email client and is an excellent (and did I mention free?) alternative to Microsoft Outlook. Those of you familiar with Outlook will be comforted by Thunderbird’s interface, as it’s very similar to that of Microsoft’s version. Unlike Outlook, however, it doesn’t have a Calendar option, so you’ll need to download Lightning. An add-on specifically created to integrate seamlessly with Thunderbird, it’s also very easy to use. You can switch back and forth between the Mail and Calendar windows with a single click of a button, and there’s even a viewing pane on the right side of Thunderbird where you can immediately see appointments for that day, the next day, and/or soon, as well as your Task List.I haven’t tried Sunbird yet and don’t know if I should go with that or stick with Lightning. My understanding is that Sunbird is a stand-alone client and therefore won’t integrate with Thunderbird. As I almost always have my email open and like the idea of being able to just view all of what I need to do (including emails to respond to) in one glance, I think I’ll just to Lightning.

By the way, all of these software programs are super-easy to download and (especially if you’re already Microsoft versions) even easier to use. All of my Google emails (I have 4, one for each blog) download directly into Thunderbird, so I can organize everything into separate files and see all of my emails all at once. I’ve programmed Thunderbird to automatically check emails every 5 minutes, so I immediately know when a message comes into any of my Google accounts without having to open each one into a browser.

It’s not hard at all to configure Thunderbird to do all of this. Google supports Mozilla software and vice-versa, so you’ll just need to follow Google’s step-by-step instructions on how to configure your email client program (i.e., Thunderbird) to handle POP mail. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them for you.

The only downside that I can think of is that, at this time, you can’t synch it with your Palm Pilot or Blackberry. Hopefully the folks at Mozilla will be able to work with the PDA guys to get that fixed.

I also have two little notebooks that I keep in my purse at all times. One is more of an idea book where I dump everything that pops into my head — blog post ideas, novel ideas, book recommendations I read or hear about, to-do lists, etc. The other one is more of a general household idea book, reserved mostly for to-do lists for the home (e.g., go to Target, call property manager to fix fence, get oil change) and shopping lists.

In addition, for those times when I need to jot down something critical while I’m driving and don’t want to have to pull over, I have a Sony digital voice recorder that I bought at Best Buy for less than $50. This particular one is super-small, maybe 5″ long, 2″ wide and 2″ thick, requires 2 AAA batteries (spares of which are always in my purse), and will hold a charge for hours and hours. Each recording can be filed into its own separate folder, and it even comes with software and a USB connection so that I can download the audio files into my laptop. (If only it could transcribe it, too!) It’s easy to use, very light and can be slipped into your pocket, and doesn’t require tapes, so you’ll never have to stop what you’re doing in order to flip over a cassette. Or worse, you run out of time on a cassette. This one purportedly can record over a 100 hours of audio.

I mostly use it for interviews, where it comes in handy as it’s small and unobtrusive (unlike old cassette recorders of old) and can run on and on and on.

Next to try out: Google Notebook! I’ve already sampled Google Docs, but I haven’t had much occasion to use it. Someone did recommend uploading my novel as another backup option, though. I already backup my novel on a data stick, and I email a copy to myself every time I make a change in it. (If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and haven’t been backing up your novel every time you work on it, you’re setting yourself up for a really nasty heartbreak if your computer craps out on you. For the love of God, please back up your novel! Email it to yourself, get a data stick, or upload it to Google Docs or another online office app. You’ll never ever ever regret it. Trust me on this one. I know from whence I speak.)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


The Halfway Mark and Feminist Blogging


I didn’t realize until I posted my latest numbers on the NaNoWriMo Web site that todays the halfway mark. Woo hoo! So I guess, technically, I’m not actually behind if you consider that I reached 26,000+ today. If anything, I’m just a wee bit over.


My goal is to write 2,000 words/day, which breaks down to 60,000 words by midnight, November 30th. (NaNoWriMo only asks for about 1667 words/day to total 50,000 at the end of the month.) So I’m still about 3,000 words behind. Oh well. That means I just have to ring up 3,000 words over the next 3 days (through Sunday), and then I’ll be caught up and can relax. Sorta.

Why is this about numbers, you ask? ‘Cause if I worried too much about quality of output, I’d be writing this damn book until I qualify for Social Security.

Oh wait. Right. Never mind. Like it’s still gonna be there in 30 years.

I’m hitting another stumbling block here, albeit not something I can’t handle. As my character’s a doctor, it’s obviously in my and my potential reader’s interest to throw in some suspenseful “operating room scenes,” especially since it is a bloody war novel. But as someone who tried majoring in Nursing twice and failed miserably both times, I’m having a difficult time slogging through what few episodes I throw in there.

Fortunately, B. is in the medical field, so even though my doc’s in a completely different specialty, I can glean some info from him.

On a different note, this is a little old (November 2006), but I did come across these interesting archived videos of a panel discussion about feminism and blogging, featuring some fairly well-known feminist writers, bloggers and activists. Jessica Valenti is among the panelists and is probably the most prominent among them. Stephen Colbert fans among you may remember Valenti appearing on The Colbert Report [Go Stephen!]):

Anyhoo, this panel discussion offers some fascinating (if somewhat esoteric) insights and opinions on feminists who blog as well as the subject of women and blogging in general. The discussions frequently veer towards the academic, and I would have liked to have heard more questions from the audience, but for the most part it’s a great overview of where we are (or were, anyway, as of a year ago, although I don’t think things have changed much) in terms of welcoming more women and girls into Web 2.0.

By the way, note that the discussion is divided into two videos, each of which is at least a half hour long. If you don’t have time to watch it on your computer, a PDF transcript of the video is available. The latter may be a good option if you’re looking for something more portable, especially since the audio quality can be iffy at times on the broadcast.


Writers Guild Strike, Week Two


John August, who wrote the screenplays to Big Fish, Corpse Bride and Charlie’s Angels (among many, many others), has a great blog on which he posts everything from tricks of the trade to updates on the current Writers’ Guild strike. If you’re in the LA area and want to meet some TV and film stars, take him up on his offer to meet him on the picket lines. Sounds like he’ll even give you some career advice if you’re a screenwriter wanna be.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, please do so soon! And encourage your friends and everyone else on your contacts list to do the same!


More Ways to Suck Up Your Time


About 150 links on making money from writing online. Guess I know what I’ll be doing next week, aside from researching and writing the projects I currently do have.

By the way, did anyone read the Poets & Writers column this month by Katherine Dykstra entitled “Literary Laryngitis?” She writes about her struggle to maintain a unique voice in her own work at the same time that she’s required to imitate the “voices” of the different publications for which she freelances. Freelance writers will recognize the conflict, as magazines have their own style and require their stable of writers to adhere to them. It makes it easy to target their specific audience or niche, but it’s hell on the writers who have to don various personas in order to get published (and paid!). I know that when I work on The Novel, I have to be careful not to sound too dry, too chatty, too informal, too formal, too analytical, too distant, etc etc etc. I’ve written for a running magazine, a wedding magazine, a women’s magazine, and various other publications, each of which necessitated switching to a different style, rhythm, and choice of words. By the time I get back to my own, personal writing, I have to switch gears and remember where I left my own voice. Not easy. And I don’t know if it ever will.

I do enjoy freelance writing, much as I sometimes hate the pressure. I like getting paid, and I like working with editors (most of whom are a wonderful bunch). But there’s always the stuff you work on on the side, the manuscript that no one ever sees, and that no one ever will see if I focus too much on the bread-and-butter assignments. How do you balance the two so that one doesn’t completely overwhelm the other, especially when The Other — while it doesn’t feed your mouth for now — is the one that feeds your soul?


Writing Update 2


A post in a fellow writer’s blog inspired me to list the things I’m going to focus on in the coming months with regard to my writing:

  • Submit at least one query a day.
  • Submit at least two queries each week to a high-paying market.
  • Write at least two pages a day in The Novel.
  • Update blogs at least every other day, if not every day.
  • Join a writing group.
  • Re-vamp Web site.

I’ve already submitted one query today, albeit a very short one. I may try and crank out another this afternoon. I also have been very guilty of targeting the lower-paying markets ($50 here, $25 there), which does wonders for the portfolio but little for the bank account. I need to strike a balance between the two ends of the writing business spectrum so that I can build both my portfolio and my income!

I’ve been dabbling in some copywriting lately, specifically doing advertorials both for local businesses as well as for the local paper. It can be lucrative work, although as it’s still a small market, the pay is very small compared to what I could make elsewhere. I tentatively checked out this site where you can sign up to bid on freelance writing projects posted by various companies. I won’t even mention the name of the site, not just because I can’t remember it (natch), but also because the rates the companies offer are positively abusive. The only people who can afford to bid on them are those who live in places like India, where $20 can go a long way. Otherwise, fuggeddaboutit. The vast majority of projects I saw up for bid quoted ridiculous rates like $1-2 per 500-word article. Nope, that’s not a typo. And most companies required at least 10-15 articles a day.

Which means that I could bust my ass writing for 5-6 hours (most of the articles would require a bit of research on the part of the writer) and get a whopping $30 at the most. Uh-huh. Right.

So no, I’m steering clear of those kinds of projects for now and am focusing on magazine and newspaper writing instead. So far, things are humming along, but I don’t plan on taking anything for granted, as the work could disappear at any time.

The Novel has been stagnant of late, but I’ll be returning to it this afternoon. I hear my characters screaming at me (“Good God, why have you abandoned me in this freakin’ limbo??? Get me out of here and start the damn war already!”), and it doesn’t help that my self-imposed deadline of finishing the first draft by December 31, 2007, is looming ahead. So far I’m at about 100 pages, but with the way this is going it’s liable to be a monster epic to rival The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Oh well. Deep breath.

And yes, I have more than one blog. The other one, Pinay Journal, I mentioned earlier, but I’ve two others that I write under a pseudonym for a variety of reasons. They’re not difficult to write, as they’re about subjects I’m passionate about, but they still take time.

I had a Web site for a few years that I designed using Microsoft Publisher, which was a mistake. The software can be used for Web design, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than simple desktop publishing like newsletters and flyers. In any case, I took the site down last year and have yet to do anything about it. Of course, my business card still has the URL listed, so I try to remember to tell people I give the cards to that the Web site is still Under Construction. Otherwise, they visit and discover this rather ominous-sounding page screaming: “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname).” Eek. Must. Get. Site. Up.