Monday 30 April 2012

When Life Gets Rocky, Add Some Scotch

Karen DeLabar has a diverse blog that covers everything from from twitter tips, to shoes, to snowboarding. Each post is independent, lively and enjoyable. With so much variation, though, do you find one topic is more well received than another?

I started blogging last year with a friend of mine, Susi Nonnemacher. Our intention was to write posts focusing on writing: how we write, what we write, what inspires us and the like. Before we decided to split up and blog on our own, we had a very good following and reception in regards to the topics we were writing about. However, my best received posts were ones where I put more of myself into them. Posts about my family, my crazy antics (like leaving the house without any pants on… by accident, mind you) and other personal stories brought not only people to our site but the comments, too.

With my own site I don’t really have a theme; I probably should and I guess if you press me for one it would be: me. I’m not a person with one niche. I’ve tried to write about one thing and I went batty. My posts became stale, sterile, and boring. I get inspiration from anything and any one, be it for professional or personal reasons. If it’s interesting to me I’ll share it. My two best received posts last year was one about how to be a person on Twitter and not just a book seller and the other was about my scare with breast cancer. One professional, one personal. So, I guess you could say that people like my diversity, which is good, because I’m too lazy to change. :)

I don't know if I'd equate diverse post to lazy posts! I suspect I know the answer to this next one, do you plan your posts in advance?

I am normally a very organized person, yet when it comes to blog posts, I just can’t plan ahead. When I blogged with Susi, I would sit down and plan out a month of posts. Then I would sit back and look at my pretty organized columns full of ideas for the weeks ahead before closing the notebook and forgetting it existed while I tried to come up with something I really wanted to write about.

For being a very organized person, I also have a spontaneous streak. It usually isn’t until I sit down at the computer that I actually write a post. If I like it, it goes up immediately before I start second guessing the coolness of the post and don’t post it. That’s why my posts can be very spaced out between weeks or I may post several in one week. I’ve been told to be consistent with blog posts so people know when to come back, but honestly, I never listen to what “they” say why would I start now? ;) What I should do in those particularly inspiring weeks is schedule the posts out instead of putting them all in one week. Live and learn, right?

Scheduling might be an idea, but really, people, you want to know when to come back, use RSS! Best thing ever. I use Google Reader for my RSS feed and adore it.
I noticed a lag in posting lately. What's the cause? Something awesome and top secret? Have your children driven you crazy?

Well first off, for me to have gone crazy one would need to assume that I was sane to begin with. Since we all know that is not the case, I can blame this latest lag mostly on life, which is the usual culprit. With the nicer weather there is more things to do around the house, outside the house, taking the kids to the park and whatnot. We're also doing some major renovations to the house which makes sitting down in front of the computer and trying to be witty just too darn hard at the end of the day.

Inspiration also is playing its part in my inconsistency. Inspiration happens for me when I can take a second and really look at the world around me and that kind of time hasn't been on my schedule this past month. However, Eric and I sat down the other week and reworked my schedule and with his help (chores, kids, back massages) I see a creative peak on the horizon.

When life stepped in the way in the past I tried writing through it, but just like writing in one theme, my writing became lifeless and forced. While I agree that you should write everyday, sometimes the creativity isn't there. Instead of trying to knock out posts or ideas, most days in this past month I just wrote what you would consider journal entries. They're not meant to be shared but at the same time I could work through some things and get my words down for the day.

How did you build your following?

Honestly? I have no freaking clue. I get my blog following mostly from Twitter, and it still gets me to this day that I have close to 4,000 Twitter followers when I have nothing to sell but myself. I guess that’s my answer; I built my following by being me. I interact with people on Twitter. Since I don’t have a book to promote, I promote conversation. Twitter is a social network, so I use it socially. Instead of thinking everyone I meet will one day buy my book, I look at it as, today I’m meeting someone new, someone with different ideas, different outlooks than me.

Twitter is an extension of my blog. I tweet about a post and thankfully I have a very supportive following that retweets and helps bring people to my site.

I don’t put on a front. You can ask the numerous people that have met me in real life. The Karen you get a taste for on Twitter and the Karen that reveals her secrets on her site is the Karen you get in person. I think that has a lot to do with building your following. Be yourself and TALK to people, not at them.

Agreed. People are interested in people, not facades. Speaking of people, small ones, you include your family in your blog. Do you think they get to see the results/photos? Do they like being in your blog?

My girls are very young, 4 and 2; they don’t get it. When I’ve posted pictures or when I posted the Christmas card on my blog, I showed it to them and they loved to see themselves on the screen but they didn’t understand that everyone and their stepmom could see it.

I’ve had people suggest that I not put pictures of my kids or my family on my site, but I wouldn’t know what to write about. They are my life and a majority of my inspiration or ideas comes from them.
I used to have a nickname for my husband Eric when I wrote about him, but he’s a big boy who has is own following, albeit on the computer technical side. Still, he can handle the press. However, for my girls, I still use our real nicknames for them, Peanut and Trouble, when writing about them. I question that as well because anyone can find out their names if they really want to. We live in an informational vortex, the information is out there swirling around us, all we have to is hold out our hand and grab it. It’s scary. However, at the same time that is another reason why I release the information I do; it gives me some illusion of control by putting out there what I want. Eric sometimes raises his eyebrow at what I choose to reveal, but he respects my choices and I’m thankful for that.

Many of the pictures on your blog are taken by you. Where do you find the ones that aren't?

Google is my best friend. I google everything. I was actually nervous when I started meeting people in real life because a majority of the time I had no idea what they were talking about, so I would google it. (Damn. I think I just gave away my secret.) Luckily for me, I can bullshit with the best of them.
In all seriousness though I use Google Images and just go through the pics there. However, Eric doesn’t like me using from there because of copyright issues. (Yep, married an Eagle Scout, what? I did! I was there for the ceremony.) If I use pictures from Google, I do my best to note or credit the site where the original pic came from. If I can’t find something there I use Flickr: The Commons where you can find public domain photos, pictures that are not copyrighted or out of copyright.

I use the Creative Commons image search myself. The Flickr commons are included there. 
You have a second blog, Writing on the Rocks, which features indie authors and publishers. Where do you find the authors you feature? How do you choose the books to review?

Writing on the Rocks was set up to be an online magazine featuring indie or small press published authors. Authors would submit their work and we would find reviewers to review them. In the beginning we had a lot of interest but unfortunately it fizzled out and it was just Susi and I doing the reviews. When we decided to call it quits on the formal side of Writing on the Rocks I transfered a smaller version of it onto my blog where I still do reviews, interviews and let the author write a guest post if he/she chooses.

Do you ever have trouble writing up interview questions?

I don't think most people realize the effort most interviewers put forth in coming up with questions. I always look up past interviews the author has done to see what others have asked and how the author responded. I check out their website to learn more about them as a person, where they came from, their other interests. If the information isn't there then I have questions right there to ask. I try to ask questions that open the author up so the reader can learn more about the author and the way they work. I find a creative mind fascinating and I love learning how other creative people create.

Yeah, finding interview questions can be hard, especially if you restrict yourself to blogs rather than books. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about your blog. Good luck with your work in progress. Any updates?

The only thing exciting about my current WIP is that I've brought it back from hiding and am currently working on it again. It's set up to be a three book series involving magic, war, heartbreak, love, you know, the usual stuff. I've been rereading some of the chapters I wrote this past November that I'm really enjoying and I'm thinking of sharing a couple snippets here and there on my WIP page so definitely check it out.

You can find Karen on Facebook, Twitter and Google+