#Blogtown Tuesday: Interview with The Live Script

Today’s #BlogtownTuesday guest was a toss up – she’s a maker and a blogger, so should she be on #MakersMonday or #BlogtownTuesday?? I asked her. She thought about it, and she picked #BlogtownTuesday. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out her handmade soap. It smells so good I’m always tempted to take a bite. However, rather than eating soap, I’m asking Sarah at The Live Script my 5 questions, and these are her beautiful answers.

How did your blog get its name?

The Live Script name comes from my sense of being every moment within a narrative taller and wider and deeper than what meets the eye.  Script means not only handwriting, but also a crafted story, and adding “live” speaks to the experience, the immediacy of being present within the story and observing it closely.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

This question is quite hard for me to answer.  I know that when I write I am sort of “waving over” the one that comes to read, saying, by my words, “Here, look at this with me.  Experience this scene, this thought; do you see what I see?”  Topically I range from poetry to theology to parenting to cooking, and many stops in between.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

I greatly appreciate having a place to spill some of the thoughts that otherwise bang around my head and heart until they’re assembled and given a home.  Writing is crucial for my own understanding and processing and the blog format allows feedback that writing in my journal does not.  Thus far I haven’t experienced any negative aspects of blogging; I’m not well known so I’m not a target for trolls.  My obscurity has been a gift.

You’re a member of #Blogtown, a Social Blogging Collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

Though it can never replace the intimacy of a face-to-face conversation, there is value in the regular reading  of each other’s work.  Even if it is only our thoughts that reach across the miles, there is still connection and community.

Tell us 3 things we would know about you if we’d grown up with you.

  1. I am happiest in or near water, be it the ocean, a creek, or the river in Montana that runs through my parents’ land.  The sound, the smell, and the refreshing buoyant coolness of it never fails to delight me, and I am always the last one out of the water.  
  2. I would rather be up in a tree, or on a bicycle, or sitting in the woods, than playing organized sports or pursuing success or seeking entertainment (movies, concerts, plays).  My parents didn’t know what to make of me; I was not motivated by money nor achievement, but just wanted to be up in my tree, writing and thinking.  
  3. There was never an art form that I wasn’t interested in trying.  Growing up I loved drawing, painting, sculpting, doing collages, sewing, and photography.  As an adult that has expanded to soap making, candle making, miniature pottery, quilting, watercoloring, jewelry making, weaving, and soon, carving wooden spoons.

Thank you, Sarah!

You can connect with Sarah at The Live Script. See you in #Blogtown!

#bloginstead

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with On Faith and Life

Today’s interview with Charla at On Faith and Life is extra fun for me because Charla started blogging BECAUSE of #bloginstead! We met in a book review group I administer for work, and now she’s got a great place to publish those reviews. As I do every week, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s how Charla responds.

How did your Blog Get Its Name?

I started this blog on a whim, and I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into writing on one specific subject—so I named it in the most general way possible. I’ll be writing a lot about my conversion to Orthodoxy, but I hope to do so in a way that connects with people of all faiths; and I’ll also be writing about life—being a mom, daughter, wife, and beyond.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

I’m just starting out as a blogger so I’m not really sure yet where this is going. It’s pretty exciting to have such an uninhibited space in which to write. Basically, I can write about anything I want, any time I want, and I think that’s pretty amazing!

I really like the idea of having a conversational-style blog where I can write and share things that are relevant to my Orthodox Christian faith. I want to be able to connect with others without limiting it too narrowly—for example, I’m a mom and a homemaker, but I don’t want to connect only with other moms and homemakers. I want the conversation to be Deep and Wide {old Southern Baptist hymn reference there!}.

You’re not likely to find deep theological discussion here—I will not be hosting a book club discussion on the Philokalia—but you are likely to find everyday theology, and things such as book reviews, as well as links to articles and resources that have resounded with me. And maybe a recipe here and there. And perhaps some discussion on liturgical living. Stay tuned.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

So far I love the actual writing and I love connecting with other bloggers, but I’m already starting to feel the pressure to post on a regular schedule, develop a format, etc. (To be fair, this is internal pressure.) I feel like there is a huge push to market in the blogging world, and that’s just not on my list of priorities right now.

You’re a member of #Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

I simply love being able to connect with other bloggers. I’ll be honest—it’s especially wonderful for me to connect with other Orthodox Christians, because sometimes our “world” can seem pretty small. Coming from the Protestant world, where everything these days is very connected and virtual—and there are just so.many.options—it’s nice to be able to build a network of like-minded thinkers, writers, dreamers. But like I mentioned above, I want to be able to connect widely, also—as a convert I think it’s a wonderful challenge to present the Orthodox faith and life in a way that’s accessible to others.

Tell us 3 things we’d know if we’d grown up with you

  1. The first thing I ever drove was a tractor.
  2. When I was 10 years old, I won the blue ribbon at the state fair in the cake decorating category.
  3. I grew up in a 100+ year old Southern Baptist church where my grandparents and great-grandparents were members. Many of my family still attend that church.

Thank you, Charla!

You can connect with Charla at On Faith and Life. See you in #Blogtown!

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Metanoia Bum

It’s #BlogtownTuesday – time to meet another member of our community. Today we’re visiting Nic at Thoughts of a Metanoia Bum. As I do each week, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s how he answers!

How did your blog gets its name?

In college, one of my favorite books was Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, which was largely about Kerouac and his friend, poet Gary Snyder, wandering in the mountains and exploring Buddhism, amongst other things. I loved the book for a long time, but when I became Orthodox, I joked that the Orthodox version would be a “metanoia bum”- metanoia being the Greek word for “change of heart.” I’ve used the phrase ever since as a social media username, and it seemed appropriate when I started this blog in 2017. 

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

I would say that a characteristic feature of my blog is that it contains a strong sense of observational wonder about the world around me. Things often happen out of nowhere, and I write about them to highlight the glory and joy of how we are truly connected as children of God.  I’d also say that a willingness to be open about struggle, emotions and conflicts – largely with myself! – is also a standard part of the experience. The blogs are for the world around me, but also, in some cases, essays to myself. 

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

I love two things: (1) being able to help people through sharing my own experiences; and (2) the challenge of trying to say something really meaningful within a short format; it has challenged me to think about how I communicate ideas to the world. The thing I dislike is when I have an idea, and it gets stuck. Not being able to get it onto paper, and then often realizing that it may not be ready for the world, is hard. But it’s also helpful.

You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

I have built a really strong community because of blogging, not only virtual, but also in-person. Things I have written become centers of conversation in my own home community, and virtual connections have become in-person physical friendships that are real and tangible. It’s fun to see who likes things, who comments, who shares, and how those shares reach other people outside of my own world. My most-read piece, “Guys, You Don’t Have to Be a Priest,” made it outside of the Orthodox world, and was read by Catholic, Anglican, and many other denominations. That impact allows me to feel connected to the bigger world. 

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

My notebooks are full of cars, imaginary cities, and maps. That is still the case.

I started college with the idea of being a physician or a physical therapist. 

I was a tech theatre and classics geek in high school, and once got a 1st place award nationwide for one of my projects!

Thank you, Nic!

You can connect with Nic at Thoughts of a Metanoia Bum. See you in #Blogtown!

Bloginstead

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Anna at The Brown Dress Project

In today’s edition of this #Blogtown tradition, we’ll be visiting with Anna at The Brown Dress Project. Anna is someone I know in real life, in part because she’s one of the co-authors of my story-telling devotional, Seven Holy Women, coming out this fall. As always on #BlogtownTuesday, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s what Anna says!

How did your blog get its name?

The Brown Dress Project came from the life and work of St. Marcella of Rome (325-410). During her widowhood, she drew together other Christian widows and unmarried women into a collective who focused on living simply despite their wealth. They adopted a sort of proto-habit of plain brown linen or woolen gowns to mark their ascetic choices. I adopted the title to show that living one’s faith as a woman in any era is attainable.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

The overall goal for my blog is to bring the stories of women saints into the broader conversation of the Orthodox Church. I want to help women identify with the broad expressions of our lived faith. Wherever a woman finds herself, at whatever age or station, there are saints who have walked that path before her. As a historian, I am fascinated with how the Church remembers the saints in a unique story-telling pattern called hagiography. How we tell the lives of the saints is as important as what we say about them. 

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

My favorite aspect of blogging is being able to work out ideas in writing and finding connections between past and present. My least favorite thing is the writer’s perennial struggle to translate the ideas into text.

You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

I thrive on feedback for my writing. It is like beacons along a rocky coast, pointing me to the good harbor of truth. I also enjoy hearing requests for specific saints’ stories or a thank you for highlighting an obscure saint. I have met and made more Orthodox friends that way through word of mouth than through regular social media.

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

The Chronicles of Narnia were my bedtime stories with Dad from age 6 until 9. Mom read the Anne of Green Gables series to me in the morning before school. Thanks to my parents, I am a confirmed Anglophile and ruined for common literature. 

I began collecting hobbies from a young age. I was fascinated with baking, sewing, knitting, spinning yarn, growing gardens, etc. Not your average childhood in the Midwestern suburbs! I begged Dad to get a goat or chickens. He did build square foot garden boxes as a compromise. 

Ballet and dance in general were my main after school activities up through high school. I still love to dance, though more sedately, in historical English Country style, like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. 

Thank you, Anna!

You can connect with Anna at The Brown Dress Project. See you in #Blogtown!

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Orthodox Trucker

Today I’m starting a #Blogtown tradition! Every Tuesday (God willing!), I’ll share a 5-question interview with a member of #Blogtown. My first guest is Ian at Orthodox Trucker.

How did your blog gets its name?

I first started Orthodox Trucker in the fall of 2013. It was just after I graduated from Commercial Driving School and had earned my CDL. I then created a (now deleted) YouTube channel where I talked about Trucking, life on the road, and the Orthodox Christian faith. I was an Orthodox Christian and a trucker, so calling myself Orthodox Trucker seemed like a no-brainer. This initial version of Orthodox Trucker lasted for about a year before it was discontinued.

See, after a year of trucking, I actually quit and got out of the industry. I actually hated it. Since I was no longer a trucker, I saw no need to continue the Orthodox Trucker persona. It was more than a year later when I finally got back into a truck in order to support my then-pregnant wife. It would be another four years before I finally decided to resurrect Orthodox Trucker. Around this time last year, I started having observations about the faith in everyday aspects of my life and in my job and started writing about them. I had no blog at the time, so I just shared them to Facebook and the Orthodox Hipster group. With encouragement from my wife and my new internet friends, I finally decided to resurrect Orthodox Trucker. This time in blog form.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

Raw honesty. Everything that happens in my life, and all the lessons I learned, plus everything that I struggle with is fair game. I don’t hold anything back.

Sometimes that gets me in trouble as there are some things that most people wouldn’t share, but if I’m going to have a blog that is based upon my life and my experiences, then I’m going to do my best to be as real and honest as possible.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

My favorite thing about blogging is the excitement I feel when I have finished a particularly difficult post, or when I know I have a really good idea, a lot of times it feels like the blog post just writes itself. My least favorite thing is writer’s block and the struggle to come up with new content 3 days a week, or when my work life gets too busy and I can’t work on my blog.


You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

It’s definitely allowed me to make new friends, and I feel like those friends are more important than just your typical Facebook friend. Here there is engagement driven by human connection. Since joining blogtown, I have felt such love and encouragement from my fellow bloggers, and it’s a really nice feeling.

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

Three things… I was a band nerd in high school playing Alto and tenor sax in concert band and Jazz Band. I got to travel to Hawaii once for an international High School band competition and had the opportunity as a junior to play with a couple Emmy Award winning Jazz musicians. That was pretty cool.

My nickname in elementary school was Speedy, not because I was fast but because the shoes I wore had these large metal buckles on the sides and every time I tried to run, the buckles caught, tripping me and making me fall to the ground. I actually took this nickname to heart though and became one of the fastest kids at PE whenever we did track and field exercises. Sadly I injured my knees and never got to explore that sport in junior high.

I convinced several of my friends to join the Boy Scouts with me and surprisingly nearly all of them including myself made it all the way to Eagle Scout. I like to think that I made it all possible by encouraging them to join hahaha.

Thank you, Ian!

You can connect with Ian at Orthodox Trucker! See you in #Blogtown!

Training the Bots

It has come to my attention that I must train the bots. As I hike the WordPress wilderness in search of kindred spirits, I’m finding the bots need some help deciding what it is I’m looking for. This made me think of Lewis Carroll.

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.’

The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll

The Walrus appears to be ahead of his time, listing off tags and search terms. However, I find I don’t share his interests particularly, although I do like a good pair of shoes.

Sometimes, I browse the WordPress Reader, making up search terms from things I know I like. You can find treasures that way. For example, I like tiny toys and handmade things, and I stumbled across two fun blogs browsing for dollhouses.

Quimper Hitty chronicles the wonderful domestic lives of a set of Hitty dolls. The name caught my eye because I read a book years ago called Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. I wondered if Hitty were the name of a type of doll, not just the name of the character in the book. It is! But the book is the beginning of this custom. The author, Rachel Field, found a little wooden doll in an antique shop, and the book grew from her curiosity about Hitty’s life before she found herself on that shelf.

I discovered Donahey Woodens and Friends on a day when ACorn the Squirrel had misplaced his hat on a midnight adventure involving a bear. The adventure ended well in that the bear was friendly, but the hat was much mourned. This morning, I was pleased to see that ACorn has a new one. ACorn’s human friend is adept at tiny knitting.

I love these tiny worlds, created with such loving imagination. They are a respite from the larger world and they water my story-loving-book-writing mind.

I also love gardens. I never seem to have time to make them in my real life, but I never tire of seeing them, on or off line. When I was little, my sister and I cleared a spot on the top shelf of a sort of built-in bookcase in our closet. It was a good sized space, probably 3 feet by 3 feet, or 2.5. We climbed onto it and pulled the folding doors shut behind us, and we cut out pictures from a seed catalog and taped them up all around us on the closet walls and the inside of the folding doors. It was a secret garden. It remains one of my most treasured childhood memories.

Susan Rushton is one gardener I’ve discovered in my rambles. I followed her for her beautiful photography and for the exquisite sensibility in this bit about susurrus.

I love books (to the surprise of no one), and I encounter many reviewers and book bloggers in my wanderings. Beloved Bookshelf is one I started following recently because I saw a much-loved book from my little girlhood in one of the photos and as I explored the site, it looked like the work of someone who enjoys many of the same kinds of children’s books that I do.

There are other sites – some are interesting because of their topic, some for the voice and personality of the person writing, some because they brush against whatever I was thinking of at the time. But I hope, dear bots, that you are paying attention and will direct your energies more fruitfully after clicking and whirring your way through this post. Should you require further instruction, please consider corgis, small friendly herbivores, home-made bread, daydreaming, literature, tea cups, India, and going to the beach in the fall.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

No thank you to the blog marketing tips

Dear Stranger,

If you are following my blog because you have a blog that’s going to increase my blog following, expand my brand, profitize my prose, et cetera and so forth, please do not trouble yourself.

Your cursory glance at my blog indicates that I am building a community of bloggers.

This is true.

We even have a hashtag. #bloginstead.

Also true.

But you missed something.

I’m building the community because I want the community. You know how you do something because you enjoy it, and then you find other people who enjoy it too, and you spend time together enjoying it?

That’s what I’m doing.

I’m not looking for quick tips on expanding my brand so that my viral blog will attract advertisers and enable me to quit my day job and subsist on sponsored posts.

Big nope on that.

Yes, I write books. Orthodox Christian children’s books, actually. I’m doubtful this is the target market your tips and tricks are intended to reach.

Yes, I will talk about my books on this blog. I like writing my books. I like having them published. I’ll never get over the enchantment of seeing them illustrated.

More than that, I like people to buy my books. I hope they read them till the covers fall off, that they find them again when they’re all grown up and hug them spontaneously for all the good childhood memories attached to them.

I market Orthodox books for a living, and I know for a daily fact that people can’t read a book if they don’t know it exists. I know the value of spreading the word and finding an audience and building a brand. All those things. But I see NO value in doing those things for their own sake.

I don’t want to lose the value of being a human person who likes to write, who enjoys talking to friends, and who wants to recapture the kind of internet space where that was, and could still be, possible.

Life is complicated. Intricate. Interwoven. I can’t separate my writing self from my author self, my community-seeking self from my book-promoting self. Not completely. There is one me, and all aspects of my life connect, one way or another. But I can decide what matters most and choose it every time I have the choice.

That’s what I’m doing here. And that’s why I won’t be following your “how to win big in online marketing” blog.

No, thank you.

P.S. If you know the guys on social who believe that a friend request from a total stranger leads to romance, even from a total stranger who looks miraculously like numerous other total strangers dressed as retired admirals and possessing adorable dogs, please inform them that I already have a more-than-satisfactory retired officer and adorable dog of my own. Thank you.

Welcome to Blogtown, Annie!

In English I hear “be attentive.” In French it means “wait.” In Latin it actually means “to stretch toward.” Sort of like you do when you’re waiting and being super attentive, listening so hard you’re about to fall out of your chair? Ah. That’s the word I’m looking for then. Because I’ve noticed a glaring lack of this in my life.

Annie, blogging at Rural Time Warp

#Blogtown has been up and running long enough that adding a new member on our original list didn’t seem practical. What if you aren’t checking back to the list? You would miss Annie!

Annie’s blog is called Rural Time Warp.

Don’t you already want her Blogtown, just from the name??

Annie said she wanted to join, so I hopped over to Rural Time Warp, and there was a post about being attentive. It fits so well into the whole #bloginstead mindset. Blogging is slower, deeper, more human-scale. You have to pay attention in longer increments to blog than to post on social media, if you want to be coherent. And we do! We do want to be coherent!

So, welcome Annie! We’re glad you’re here! You can find a list of other people to follow HERE, and everybody – please follow Annie!

Remember, you can add neighborhoods to Blogtown. Start your own list. Recruit friends. Follow each other. Talk to each other. That’s how #Blogtownneighborhoods are built.

Why Blogging? — This One Life

It has been interesting returning to the blogging space after a few years of hiatus. I have had to confront my former blogging motivations, why I left, and what has changed. It feels a little bit like coming home again, or wearing an old sweater again, or maybe visiting college well after graduation. Things are […]

Why Blogging? — This One Life

If you’re reading this, you probably know that the original #3daysinthewilds, in which a group of intrepid friends leaped off social media and tried to #bloginstead, has grown like a stream running downhill. Now it’s a river, and it’s one I plan to stay on, rowing along with my eyes open for other small craft making the same peaceful journey.

The post I’ve linked above is from Amber at This One Life, one of the #bloginstead pioneers. This post is honest, and I believe MANY bloggers (and former bloggers) will recognize themselves in her look back at why she started blogging. I’m so glad she came back, and especially that she came back AS SHE IS NOW. I believe our redemption lies in communication for its own sake – for the sake of sharing information, perception, faith and hope and love.

Well, I’ve got a hammer

And I’ve got a bell

And I’ve got a song to sing

All over this land

It’s the hammer of justice

It’s the bell of freedom

It’s a song about love between

My brothers and my sisters

All over this land

If I Had A Hammer – Lee Hays, Pete Seeger