Sunday, 30 August 2015

Guests on my blog - Welcome Anita Hunt

How absolutely flattering and heart warming to receive the replies so speedily for my project - Guests on my blog.

After reading all the wisdom in the responses from Jeanette Levellie, I had to re-read and I took notes. It just goes to show how much talent, wisdom and valuable sharing happens with the input from experienced writers like Jeanette.

And I promise you, there is more wisdom on it's way. Fellow blogger and (first) name sake Anita Hunt, from her blog: Gathering the Stones, has also managed to divulge more pearls of wisdom and given insights into her source of energy, ideas and hints for bloggers everywhere.

Enjoy your read

With the utmost pleasure I present;

The 10 answers to questions from:
Anita Hunt from Scattering the Stones

1.     What came first- writing or blogging and how long have you been a blogger?

Writing came first. Journaling was and is still an important part of my personal relationship with God.

I have been blogging for 8 years. During this time, I have read a lot of material on writing and blogging, which has been helpful.

In 2007 I began a small business selling my personalised greeting cards that included my botanical photography and design. I began blogging as a way to complement my cards, and share information about plants and visiting gardens for my readers. I learned early on that blogging is a very important part of your marketing strategy.

In 2009 my children’s novel, ‘Matty-boy and the Secret Pigeon Racket’, was published, which has the underlying message – ‘If you are being bullied, please tell someone’. Blogging complemented this message and helped to build an audience, giving information on where to go for help if you are affected by these issues.

In 2011 I began Scattering the Stones Christian ministry, with a mix of devotions, courses and encouragement.

2.    As a blogger, how do you decide on topics and regularity to place posts on your blog? What would you not share – (e.g. specific topic?)

With each of the three topics I have written about – flowers, anti-bullying, and Christian devotions, I have learned how important it is to know and understand your ‘why’ before you begin. Why do you want to blog about this? If you are passionate and dedicated to the ‘why,’ it will help you write material for your target audience.

My ministry is focused on helping those who are hurting find hope through their difficulties, as well as specific Bible teaching in a devotional capacity. My posts will always be lined up with this focus. Occasionally I may share a post that falls outside of this structure, but will always connect in some way.

In terms of when to post, it’s vital to research when your target audience is most likely to read your posts. In the past I have completed various trials and analysed which specific days and times are best. Consistency is more important, so that your readers know when to expect a post from you.

A question I always ask myself before writing a post is – ‘Will this subject benefit my readers?’ if I’m not sure, I journal about it first. Through this process is helps you to see if it’s more of a private cathartic exercise rather than for public consumption. This helps particularly when going through a difficult time.

3.    Are reader’s numbers and responses important to you? Do these two items influence your writing?

Numbers and responses are always going to be there in the blogger’s life. There are a number of reasons why these may be important to you, particularly if your aim is to find a publisher.

If you read books, articles, and posts by marketing gurus and building your platform experts, numbers and responses will be key in analysing what is working and what isn’t. Sadly, it can either become an ego trip or a trigger for major discouragement.

Balance is key.

Numbers can all too easily become the guiding influence rather than the Holy Spirit.

When I graduated from Bible College, I was handed a piece of paper with the words – ‘For the audience of One’. This is probably one of the best things I received, because if God is leading me to write a post, I must be confident in the knowledge it is for someone or a group of specific people. I have to lay the results in His hands. I just have to trust and obey.

4.    The Blogger’s world has become ‘a place to be’ for non-published writers – I also see that a number of Bloggers now also use Facebook as a writing platform – do you also combine these two media options?

Blogging is important whether you are published or non-published.

If you have written and published a book, the journey has only just begun. No one will buy it, or get the chance to read it, if they don’t know it’s available. Blogging is a vital tool for marketing your material.

If you are seeking to become published, publishers will first look to see if you are building a platform, and whether you have an audience before they consider you, so building your blog first is crucial.

Publishing has changed hugely over the years. Self-publishing is much more common and the internet is the new publishing model. It provides, dare I say it, an accessible platform, to share your message from, but it can also be hard to be seen and heard when there are millions of other websites.

When I think about it, it still amazes me that within seconds of publishing a post, someone on the other side of the world can read it. Blogging can sometimes open more doors than focusing on the traditional paperback. This is where our responsibility as Christian writers is underlined, because what we write about will influence others, so we must be careful with what we write.

The internet has provided us with a number of other opportunities to grow our audience, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc… to video such as YouTube and Periscope, and each of these can be a useful tool in reaching our audience… Just because we have a variety of Social Media avenues it doesn’t mean they are the best for our particular community. We need to be where our niche is. If you don’t know, ask them J.

I do use Facebook, with a page for my blog, and private groups. For me, the groups work best, as a place where you can discuss and grow, building on from your blog posts. As Pages have become more monetary focused, it’s hard to build a follower base and share your content with them, due to Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm.

5.    Publishing- ( a multi question )

5a. Have you considered publishing any of your blog posts?
5b. In what form?
5c. If you have published – what process did you follow in choosing the ‘right’ material?

5a. It’s certainly an area to consider, but needs to be much more than just purely publishing your posts. Platforms such as Amazon prefer new material, or at least built upon work, so using your pre published blog posts as a structure to work from could be the way to go.

5b. I haven’t published my blog posts in book format. If I do, it will probably be in the format of a free report for my subscribers.

In the past I published an Advent Reflections eBook. After publishing it, I then built a specific website to complement the book with extras, and this worked well.

5c. In choosing material to publish, I have done a lot of research, to learn what is either missing or needed in my niche. There is no point in publishing a book no one wants to read, or has been done before, because the market is huge and often saturated with similar content.

6.    What is your motivation to Blog and share?

My main motivation to blog is to share the hope we have in Jesus, and what God places on my heart, to encourage others in their relationship with Him.

7.    Is writing your main activity or a much loved hobby?

It has become my main activity. I am working on building more material in various formats such as podcasting, and providing a range of services such as coaching. I am currently working on developing a Christian blogging website with a coaching format for new bloggers.

8.    Are there unforeseen repercussions due to blogging?

You have to be dedicated to your ‘why’ that I mentioned in a previous question, and put time aside for it. It can be wonderful, but also discouraging and exhausting if you don’t put strategies in place, and lose sight of why you are doing it.

9.    What are (if any) main hurdles to overcome- to start a blog?

·            It takes more time that you think to plan, write, and share.
·            It takes far more time to build a presence than it does to begin a blog.
·            You have to be prepared to persevere if you want to do it well.
·            It can be tempting to compare yourself with other writers.
·            At some point you will more than likely want to give up, so having a good support system behind you will help to look at the pros and cons of continuing.

10. Can you give beginner bloggers your 3 most valuable tips to a successful blog?

1.     Take your time in thinking and planning your blog.

*Why do you want to do it?
*What do you expect to gain from it?
*What does success look to you?
*Are you prepared to pray, plan, and persevere when the tough gets going?

2.    Don’t be tempted to be the next Sharon Jaynes, Ann Voskamp etc… we don’t need a copy; we want to hear what you have to say.

3.    Choose your blogging platform carefully. Free isn’t always best. I recommend a self-hosted blog such as with your own domain name.

Anita Hunt – Scattering the Stones

Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and insights into the world of blogging with me Anita. I have enjoyed getting to know you better. Your tips will also be referred to in future I am sure.

Thank you for asking Anita, I hope what I shared will be helpful to your readers. God bless.

Readers, believe me there is something weird about addressing someone in your own name. It makes me smile though.

Do you want to find out more about Anita and her blog contents- then go to the link:

Anita's blog: Scattering the Stones

Happy reading

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A dream come true!

Down Under
Down Under, as far as I am aware and have always presumed - is Aotearoa / New Zealand AND Australia.  No Aotearoa isn't a place in New Zealand. It means Land of the Long White Cloud.

Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud) was the name given to New Zealand when the first canoes were paddled "Down Under' and the first inhabitants, the Maori, discovered this country which was at that moment shrouded in a long white cloud. The Europeans, the Dutch to be exact called the land New Zealand.

I lived Down Under for 30 odd years, in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
But folks here in Nederland (The Netherlands)  usually only connect Down Under with Australia.

Just as NZ-ers ( kiwis to those in the know) and Australians whom I have met - think Nederland
is actually called Holland and we just pop in to friends living in Norway because, " that's close isn't it?"

Nederland has 12 provinces - and only a few belong to the part most people call Holland. And just as in all countries, governments keep bringing about changes to provinces, borders and flags - so too are plans beng formulated to alter our provinces' structure. But no more on that - just to say, not only are Europeans not that well informed about Down Under issues - so too are the facts about Europe not that well know Down Under.

Why is that important to me? Because I am a dutch - kiwi. Half my life was spent in New Zealand and the other half here in the country of my birth, Nederland. And I am proud of my status I can tell you.

I actually feel myself a bit of an Australian too. My son, daughter in law and grandsons and other family members  live in Australia. I visit there when I travel Down Under to hug, hold and be near my children and grandchildren.

And I have a dream - I dream that my children ALL are whisked away on a plane together and arrive on Schiphol Airport to share, love hug and hold me here. In my country of birth. My home, where my roots are deeply entrenched.

As it happens, my daughter, son-in-law and three of my grandchildren are making part of that dream come true. I realise that my dream is a wee bit of a ' too hard basket' type of dream and am totally thrilled with the prospect I now am rocketing towards.

Another 6 weeks to go and I will be able to bike, eat pancakes, croquettes, visit the windmills, got to the market, the Efteling, Open Lucht Museum in Arnhem, Safari Park Beeksebergen to name a few prospects.....!

Oma ( that's me) is going to be rushed of her feet, swell with pride and smile the biggest smile for the duration of their visit. By the time the sightseeing is complete- they will find it hard to leave - and I will find it hard to say goodbye!

But memories will have been made, times shared, tears spilt and laughter heard. Oh what an awesome prospect. I feel so enormously blessed.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The next generation

A few years ago I started blogging - and wanted to post a message every day while in my 60th year ( 59 going on 60), but that seemed a very naive call for a starting blogger. Time and good planning was my worst enemy.

I also started in English, with the intention of communicating in a more public way wanting to reach my children and my English speaking friends and relatives.

My blogging life has increased in volume- I write in both Dutch, my native tongue but not that of my children, and in English my second language.

Over time I have 'met' some wonderfully talented people who inspire, guide and amuse me simply by me being able to read their work, send messages, sometimes respond and as of late- have guest bloggers on my page.

I have no idea how often my children read what I write because I don't want it to be a MUST DO. They have hugely busy lives, families to run and rear and other important 'stuff' as I did when I was a mum raising three children. So I don't ask " what did you think of...?" or " have you read...?"

Today I did come across a blogpost of someone whose words I read and style I can admire - and that is blogger James Watkins.

He committed to paper things I think about but haven't communicated to my darling children - who in turn may share with their children when talking about who oma is/was!

I loved the post so much I want to share it with you. So here it comes:

by James Watkins
Visit his page and read what other gems he has placed. A humoristic and fun-loving blogger


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Guests on my blog - Welcome : Jeanette Levellie

When I came up with my guest project for my dutch blog, I automatically thought- "oh but I can't not invite my English language blogger friends"!

My guest project came about as I started 'meeting' more and more bloggers through their work.. and wanting a wee bit more of an insight into the person behind the posts. Not to mention their ever so important tips and experiences. Those are invaluable to a 'newcomer on the blog' so to speak.

And so the translation to my questionnaire into English evolved, my list of bloggers created and a few invitations sent. At times I may even add or alter some of the questions. I will play that by ear. Bit more exciting reading maybe - if the questions aren't standardized. And the tips will also vary.

How do I select my guests and fellow bloggers?

Firstly, and I think naturally, those whose Blogs I read and admire.
Secondly, I want a mix of male and female guests so that means having a good look at my reading list and also my casual blog visits.
Thirdly, I want to involve some bloggers from Down Under ( NZ and Australia) as their writing style, their insights and lifestyle is recognisable to me as I spent 30 years in NZ, and possibly a fresh breeze for others.

So my search for a diversity of guests continues. I will not be posting on a set day or date as I know how fickle everyones' diary can be. Unforeseen glitches taken into account, I will take all sorts of hurdles into consideration and do promise though to pepper my posts with guests so as to spread their works and give you insight into their world at the same time.

For the opportunity to be informed on my posts - I have placed a mailing option on my blog where you can sign in on. What is also of real value to bloggers are the signs 'someone' has dropped in. This can be done in various ways including commenting on the post or by ticking some of the reactions boxes under the post.

One of my goals is to 'expose' these excellent writers to my readers. To share links and to allow their comments and ideas to help enthuse those maybe just needing that bit of encouragement, a tip or two, or insights needed to give a boost to a budding blogger. 

My first guest is Jeanette Levellie. I have followed her blog for some time now and have also purchased one of her books called The Heart of Humor. And it sure is - full of humor and a lovely read. I realised Jeanette would have some valuable experiences and insights and am delighted to be able to introduce her to you.

For those of you who already know Jeanette- maybe you too will know more about her after reading what she has written. Readers, it gives me great pleasure to introduce -

The 10 questions and answers from:
Jeanette Levellie

1.     What drew you to start using a blog to share and develop your writing urge and how long have you been a blogger?
I started blogging in 2008, to develop my writing “platform,” so more people would be aware of me as a writer. I also wanted to get to know others in the blogging world, to expand my knowledge of writing, and to have fun!

2.    As a blogger, how do you decide on topics and regularity to place posts on your blog?
When I first began blogging, I wrote mostly about writing topics, like trying to find an agent and getting a book published. I connected with other writers that way, but it soon grew apparent that so many writers had blogs focused on the writing life. So I decided to personalize my blog and have it reflect me better, and the focus of my life, which is GRACE. I call my blog HOPE SPLASHES because I think we can all find God’s grace and hope, even in the puddles of life.

3.    Are reader’s numbers and responses important to you? Do these two items influence your writing?
I don’t look at the numbers as much as I did at first, but they  do influence my writing, in that I see what types of posts garner the most hits. I like comments, because those give me a way to connect with my readers.

4.    The Blogger’s world has become a place to be for writers – what other options were available to you or would you have used should Blogging not have been available?
I think either Facebook or Pinterest, although neither lend themselves well to what blogging affords: images and a piece of writing. I don’t use Twitter much, as it comes across to me as a huge billboard, where people advertise their newest book or blog post, and that gets old fast.

5.    Publishing- ( a multi question )

5a. Have you considered publishing any of your blog posts?
Yes, several of my blog posts became articles for my inspirational/humour newspaper column and/or chapters in my books, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, The Heart of Humor, and Shock the Clock
5b. In what form? See above.
5c. If you have published – what process did you follow in choosing the ‘right’ material?
I just know “in my heart” when a blog post is worthy to be published in my column or as a chapter in a book. The writing is a cut above the normal blog post in both content and style, and it’s usually either super funny or very transparent.

6.    What is your motivation to Blog and share?
I like to keep my writing skills sharp, and blogging every week forces me to do that. I also like to connect with friends and readers of my books and articles, so I don’t lose touch.

7.    Is writing your main activity or a much loved hobby?
Writing is my #1 passion. I love my cats and I garden in the summer, but most of my free time is spent either writing or reading.

8.    Are there unforeseen repercussions due to blogging?
It takes a lot of time and discipline. And you might get your feelings hurt if someone “unfollows” your blog or makes an unkind comment.

9.    What are (if any) main hurdles to overcome- to start a blog?
If you are someone who loves to start new projects but do not follow them through in the long run, blogging might not work for you. If you gain many followers, they will want to hear from you regularly, or they’ll quit following your posts. Consistency is the key, even if you only blog once a week.

10. Can you give beginner bloggers your 3 most valuable tips to a successful blog?
A. Keep them short—I try to shoot for 300 words or less, and include at least 2-3 images in each post, to keep the readers’ interest.
B. Be transparent and let us know how you feel and what’s in your heart, but don’t share so much that we get uncomfortable. I know of one blogger who shares her marital problems, and I feel awkward reading about that.
C. Focus on a theme or two or three, like pets or cooking or your family or the Bible. If you talk about everything under the sun, it’s hard to gain a steady following. I try to focus on hope, humour, and book giveaways. This way my followers know what to expect of me.

Thank you SO very much Jeanette for sharing your thoughts and insights into the world of blogging with me and my readers. I enjoyed getting to know you better.

Do you want to know more about this author? 

Thanks for you visit.