Last night was the final panel for Orem Writes. They had three local bloggers come: Jaime Richardson (Sophistimom), Kerri "Suey" Jensen (All About Books) and Chris Kux. It was a good variety of writing topics and styles. It's kinda funny to get to hear writers speak. Some of them sound just like their writing, but others are completely different. Sometimes I wonder if I sound completely different in real life than I do when I write. Anyway, on with the good stuff.
How they got started
Chris started blogging because he couldn't find the information he wanted on the internet (about accordions and music). He felt like there was a hole and he wanted to fill it. Suey started because she had come across reading challenges on other blogs and wanted to join in. She felt like she had this obsession with reading and didn't have people in real life to share it with. For her, blogging is an elaborate hobby. Jaime started out wanting to make money. She heard about girls in Utah who were making money as mommy bloggers so she started her own blog.
Writing outside of blogging
Chris has written for newspapers and magazines and Jaime is currently working on a cookbook that will be published next year. She also writes novels (although she didn't mention that any of them had been published).
Chris likes to visit message forums and see what people are interested
in. He will write about a topic and then post a link in the forum so
that people can find the information more easily. He also mentioned that
he likes to do interviews.Suey finds that as long as she is reading, she always has something to blog about. She really likes to use memes as inspiration. (Sidenote: I always hear the term meme and I had a general idea what it was, but the librarian explained that it comes from social theory to explain how an idea originates with someone and then passes from person to person.)
Jaime had her brother help her in the beginning. Later she designed it on paper and then took it to someone who knew HTML and could create what she wanted. Suey said she just sticks with blogger and does pretty basic templates.
Driving traffic to your blog
They all suggested Twitter, Facebook, Google Analytics, and, if you use Wordpress, Thesis (I use Blogger so I don't really know about Thesis). None of them really worry about SEO. They really stressed commenting on other blogs as a way to drive traffic to your site.
Getting over the feeling of thinking people won't care about what you have to say
Suey said it took a long time to get over the feeling, but then she realized blogging was cool and she was a part of it. She said after that she was finally able to tell people "I blog. Go read it!"
Starting a blog
Jaime said that before you announce you are starting a blog, force yourself to write for thirty days straight. Then you can have a big reveal. Chris said that having a back log of posts that people can visit makes them want to continue to follow you. He also said it's important to stay relevant and pertinent.
Frequency of blogging
Chris said he only blogs about once a month. Suey blogs at least once a day, but never on Saturdays (people don't read blogs on Saturday according to her Google Analytics). Jaime would like to blog at least once per day, but she's closer to once per week.
Labels and tags
Suey said to keep your labels and tags for posts consistent and contained. Think of them as a table of contents or index. Chris said he does the opposite. Blogger let's you use up to 20 labels on each post and he uses all of them. He even uses common misspellings so people can easily find his site.
Chris and Suey don't have advertisements on their blog. Jaime uses affiliate programs. She is part of Martha's Circle (which I hadn't even heard about). I guess it is 50 blogs that Martha Stewart has contracts with to advertise on.
Chris always keeps a notebook with him. Suey said that her blog is part of a huge community of book bloggers so she writes as part of a conversation. Jaime likes to review vintage recipe books to get inspiration for her posts. She also said that she has more ideas to blog about than she is ever able to get to.
Interaction with readers
Suey said that interaction with readers is why she blogs. Some of her readers have become friends in real life. (She mentioned that the other day she watched Midnight in Paris with a blog friend over Twitter.) Jaime said that the fastest and easiest way to interact with readers is on Facebook. She also talked about people leaving rude comments. She said that you should feel free to delete them because your blog is like your living room and you are inviting people in.
Time spent blogging
Chris doesn't spend a ton of time reading other blogs. Suey said she spends a lot of time, but does it as the mood hits her. She said it's important to decided what you can and cannot do. Jaime said that she reads a lot of posts, but doesn't spend a lot of time reading because she mostly reads food blogs and they are quick reads.
Overall this was a really good panel. I think blogging is an interesting topic these days and everyone seems to have an opinion about what does and doesn't work. If you want more information, Suey is actually participating in Blogiesta--an event this weekend where bloggers are coming together to discuss ways to improve blogging. It looks kinda interesting.
I'm a little sad that Orem Writes is finished. I really enjoyed attending these events (and was sad I had to miss a few). Hopefully they will do it again next year. Also, hopefully I'll be able to embrace all this information in my own writing.
And just to make things easy, here's a list of links to the other posts: