Monday, December 30, 2013

Building Your Blog's Subscriber List in 2014

By Laurie Epps

Every writer becomes aware that if their writing doesn't reach anyone, it's not filling it's purpose. So how 'bout we make a revolutionary new years resolution and grow the audience of our blogs?

Thoughtfully, our book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers by Edie Melson, outlines for us the differences this week between a Follower and Subscriber. This is directly proportional to our effective interaction with our readers and can affect whether people will follow us or not.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Why I Love Poetry

By Laurie Epps

I've told this story before, but today I'll uncover what elements of poetry make it so endearing to me.

So join in, and let me know why you love poetry in the comments sections below. I'd love to hear from you.

Happy New Years everyone! I couldn't have done this without all of you.

Blessings,
Laurie

Monday, December 23, 2013

What Are You Getting Your Blog For Christmas?

Photos Courtesy of Edie Melson
By Laurie Epps

As writers, it's easy to get caught up in the content of our blogs, and ignore our blogs curb appeal. Since my minor is in Marketing, I can say this isn't a good idea! Now whereas, I don't expect you to learn every nuance of making your blog appealing to your readers visually, there are some fundamentals every writer should know.

There are two fundamental methods for following your blog: by email and RSS Newsfeed. I just fixed this on my own blog, thanks to Edie's advice in her book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers.
Photos Courtesy of Edie Melson

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gingerbread for Christmas

By Laurie Epps

There's something about gingerbread that just calls to my five year old this year. Therefore, I cheerfully dedicate this column to my daughter Chloe.

Gingerbread got it's origins in Europe during the eleventh century. In some places it was a spiced cake, but in other regions it was more of the firmer, building material of yummy goodness we think of today. But in it's original form, it was strictly squares or the spiced men.

During Medieval Times, the French perfected it, and used ginger not only for its spiciness, but also it's preservative quality. 

In the nineteenth century, Germans modernized gingerbread and it became the confection we know and love today. Various forms became available and the Germans exchanged it between villages beginning in late fall every year. Gingerbread became popularized by the fairy tale from Brother's Grimm called Hansel and Gretel. The Germans brought their unique recipes and techniques for making gingerbread to colonial America. To learn more about the history of gingerbread, click here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Perfectionism: Does It Have Place With Your Blog?

Photos Courtesy of Edie Melson
By Laurie Epps

There is so much pressure we put on ourselves this time of year. It's not right. We strive to have that "perfect Christmas" but expecting that is unrealistic. Not only is this undue pressure undermining our Christmas joy, it also undermines our writing.

Your "diva" mode may be counteracting the whole point of your blog to begin with. We can be unrealistic by thinking that every blog post must be perfect, or even worse, that every blog post IS a masterpiece.

Let's get back to basics with Edie's book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. She'll show us our pitfalls, and how to fix them. We're in this together.
Photos Courtesy of Edie Melson

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Twas the Night Before Finals

By Laurie Epps

With finals recently over, the topic of this poem is near and dear to my heart. When my girlfriend beamed with pride over her son's poem, I listened to the words thoughtfully. When I stopped laughing, I thought, "Hey, it's pretty good."

Happy Winter Break to all the college students out there. For now, enjoy. Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five Reasons Your Blog Isn't Growing

By Laurie Epps

It's easy to get discouraged when you're blogging. This is for a lot of reasons. I, too, have often felt discouraged about it. 

A big de-motivator for me early on was, "Nobody's reading it, what's the point?" But your blog is like a little seedling, it's not going to be a big tree just a month after planting, and neither will your blog.

Let Edie Melson give you some helpful tips with her book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. We're continuing to learn the nuts and bolts of building your blog.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Saint Nicholas



By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy

When you think of Saint Nicholas, you probably think immediately of Christmas. Actually, though, Saint Nicholas the real person is remembered in the Church on December 6. In many parts of the world, children put out shoes or stockings to be filled with coins, chocolate or otherwise, and small presents. This tradition is alluded to in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis when Father Christmas shows up in Narnia and gives presents to the Pevensie children.

Saint Nicolas was a participant in the first Council of the Church, the Council of Nicaea. We don't have any writings by him, but we know he signed the Nicaean Creed, the definition of the Christian Faith. He also punched Arius in the mouth for saying that Christ was not fully God - in case you want to know what can make Santa less than jolly!




Saint Nicholas was a wonderful man
As you note by his moniker
He might have worn a red suit and hat
As bishop of Myra and Lycia

But he started out as a little kid
Loving the Faith so much
He fasted every fourth and sixth day
And read the Bible in Church and such

Eventually he became a priest
And gave away gold to the poor
(That's where the Santa legend is from)
He hid it in shoes that they wore

We remember him best at Christmas
Which is fitting, because you see
Nicholas punched a man in the face
For an anti-Christ heresy

Let us receive Saint Nicholas' gifts
And I do not mean chocolate or gold
I mean his gift of love for the poor
And zeal for the truth that we hold



Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy is a freelance writer and poet living in the upstate of South Carolina with his wife and four children. To find his daily poetry entries, log onto: 

or find him on Amazon here:

Monday, December 2, 2013

What Defines the Success of Your Blog?

By Laurie Epps


Working with Edie is the experience of a lifetime. Always encouraging, she weaves in her book those moments that we realize, every writer is different, and every blog is different.

We can't expect the same results as everyone else. So I challenge you to ask yourself: how are you going to measure the success of your blog?


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Bird

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy


Turkey Tree
Thanksgiving is here - you can tell by the Christmas decorations and music everywhere! The main Thanksgiving decoration, though, is the turkey. From the golden-brown skin on the table to the slender wishbone on the kitchen windowsill, we revel in the turkey, even if we don't care that much for eating it.

Although the turkey was not Benjamin Franklin's first nor his official recommendation for the symbol on the Great Seal (these were the rattlesnake and a scene of Moses and Pharaoh, respectively), he had this to say about the turkey:


Monday, November 25, 2013

Common Blogging Mistakes


By Laurie Epps

My mentor, Edie Melson, has written a fabulous book that simplifies was does, and doesn't work with social media and blogging.

A public speaker, and author Edie speaks all over the country recognized as an authority about social media.

So follow along with me in Edie's book: Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. Every week, we'll uncover a new chapter to have you on your way.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Writing Challenges

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy



One way to focus on your writing practice is to participate in a challenge. Most are familiar with NaNoWriMo, in which the participants try to write 50,000 words (the length of a short novel) during the month of November. But some write to write something shorter - like poetry. What challenges are out there for them?

For those looking to do something short and sweet, there's NaHaiWriMo, a month with daily challenges in writing haiku. As in all of these challenges, you are provided with a topic each day, and you try to write your best haiku about that topic.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Editing Your Blog Posts

By Laurie Epps

The hardest thing for any of us to do as writers is to edit our own writing. 

There are a lot of reasons for this: including we tend to make the same mistakes over and over again, but we also sometimes are too close to our writing and can't see the mistakes anymore.

Today, let my reflections guide you with my mentor's book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. Edie Melson is well respected as a social media expert, so let's get started, shall we?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Words of Thanks

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy





November has been a month of thankfulness in the United States since the Civil War. Since right from the beginning, Thanksgiving has been associated with war. So it is fitting that we offer thanks early in the month for our veterans - those who have fought for us, and returned to model their sacrifice in their civilian lives or their continued service.




We give thanks for them, and we give them thanks. Unfortunately, it is often all we can give those who have given themselves wholly for us. Let’s use what we’ve been given - words - to participate in some way in the gift these warriors have given to us.


Monday, November 11, 2013

How Often Should I Blog?

By Laurie Epps

Social Media Expert, mentor, and friend, Edie Melson is a forerunner in the industry teaching us what we all need to know about blogging and the basics of social media with her book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. So follow along with me, and I break it down for you. For more detailed information, feel free to ask a question in the comments section, or simply follow along with the text.

Today's topic is near and dear to my heart, so I'm going to break from my traditional form a little, and add my own story. I'm sure Edie will approve!

When I started as an intern with Edie near New Years this year, I was also taking Multi-Media in college. Our professor wanted us to break into teams and create a blog or website. Naturally, the kids didn't want to be on the web with a lady old enough to be their mom....

We were instructed to blog every day, and that just didn't work for me. Not only did the professor shoot down every good idea I had, but on top of homework, being an intern, and a single mother daily blogging just wasn't feasible. 

Almost as if it were scripted, it didn't work out, and Edie tell us why:

  • Daily blogging doesn't work for most people because your readers can't read every day, especially when you're new and they don't know why or what they're reading.
  • Daily blogging causes burnout for the writer. This definitely happened to me, so be careful, it could happen to you too. Edie points out that this is because it's in addition to our regular writing.
  • Posts are generally of a better quality when they're spaced further apart. You give yourself time to reflect and proofread your work this way. 

What dictates your blogging schedule?


  • Your personality. If you get easily discouraged, don't overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations, and just blog once a week. I wouldn't have believed this a year ago, but I can say, my own experience says that this is true. I'm just now hitting the demographics my professor was looking for, and it truly started with my once a week poetry column.
  • Your goals. What are you trying to achieve with your blog? Are you trying to connect with readers? Or perhaps you're developing a platform or network of people. The answer to this question can shape how often you should blog.
  • Your lifestyle. Truthfully, I really set out wanting to make my professor happy, and blog every day, but for me that just wasn't realistic. With my drumroll of titles including single mom, full-time student, and editorial intern that just didn't fit on my to-do list. It was too cumbersome. For me, it was just too much.
  • Edie reminds us that the key here is to be flexible. I would add to that to be patient with yourself, your writing, and your readers. It takes time to develop a platform and you need to find what works for you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Internet

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy
The Original Internet Explorer Logo


We all have a love\hate relationship with the internet. We can’t imagine life without it, unless it’s when we’re telling our kids how bad we had it back in the good old days. I don’t know about you, but I rarely pick up pen and paper anymore, or read a book that isn’t formatted for screen. Virtually all of my writing is done and distributed by bits and bytes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Find Ideas for Blog Posts

By Laurie Epps

My mentor Edie Melson wrote a book about Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers, to follow along with the book, click here. 

Every week, we'll go through her book, chapter by chapter. 

So get ready, we're going to learn some techniques for starting up your blog. (Or re-inventing your old blog.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dress Up Time



By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy
My son Stephen, unintentionally
looking like Edward Scissorhands

Whether you celebrate Halloween or not, it seems like a good day to talk about how you dress up your poems. Do they always “say what you mean, mean what you say”? Or do you use them to get across a different message entirely?

Where you wind up with your poem doesn't have to be intentional. Sometimes heading for a clever twist is a sure way to come off stilted and contrived. I like to be as surprised by where my poems wind up as my readers (hopefully!) will be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Finding Your Focus For Your Blog

By Laurie Epps
Edie Melson is my mentor and friend. She has developed a very easy and simple to read text about Social Media. In this blog, we'll talk about her points, chapter by chapter. So you too can create your own blog, and branding as a writer. To follow along, you'll want to purchase her book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers.

Edie teaches seminars on Social Media throughout the Southeast and the rest of the nation. She's not just an inspiration to me, but to writers throughout the country.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Acrostic Poetry

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy


If you are looking for a challenge, or for inspiration, a fun way to play with words is to try writing an acrostic poem. In an acrostic poem, the first letter of each line is part of a sequence, usually a word or a phrase. A well-known biblical acrostic poem is Psalm 119 (118), in which each stanza has all of it’s lines begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is Blogging Right for You?

By Laurie Epps

This blog is loosely based on a book authored by my mentor Edie Melson. To purchase the book, click here.  

For most, writing a blog seems to be a natural choice for writers, but do you have to start a blog? The answer is no, not really. 

But it's my opinion that you should have some sort of regular online presence. Whether that is on your own blog, or as a columnist for someone else, you should have a regular entry someplace at least twice a month.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to Write Poetry for Children (And Everyone Else, Too)

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy


A young friend read this poem to me earlier this week, and then she read it over and over. It caused me to consider what makes a poem connect with its readers, even when it is something so simple as this:




Kitten, my kitten
soft and dear
I’m so glad
that you are here
Sitting together
just us two
You loving me
and me loving you.”




What can we learn about connecting with readers from this simple children’s poem?


Use a Familiar Theme
Sitting with a kitten in your lap is a common pleasurable activity for nearly everyone, especially every child. Whether you are writing for children, women, theology buffs, or even men ;-) there is always something common to them that will develop that instant interest in what you have to say. I tend to be guilty of writing from obscure ideas that excite me but mean nothing to other people - they can be fun, but they don’t get feedback from the readers that makes writing a communal effort. Writing from the familiar goes to where the reader is and brings her to where you want to go.


Use Simple Phrases
Each phrase of My Kitten holds together alone as an idea to which every child can relate. This keeps the reader engaged and following the flow of the idea. While the phrases are simple, one has a depth of meaning that makes them both functional and essential to the concept of the poem.


Use Feeling Words
Feeling words connect with the reader on a visceral level, both physically and emotionally. Words like “soft and dear”, “glad”, and even “sitting together” help the reader feel your ideas, not just understand them intellectually. And good poems, as with most good writing, are about the feelings that are evoked.


Personalize
Personalization doesn’t have to mean putting the poem into the mouth of the reader as we see in this poem. It does mean connecting with the reader’s experience, and using it to create a new experience in the reading of the poem. We as poets want our work to belong our readers in a way only each reader can experience. This poem accomplishes this in multiple layers, from the familiar activity of holding a kitten to the love we experience by being together with someone.



Here is a children’s poem suitable for this time of year - I hope it connects with you:


Mom called my brothers and me for dessert
We shot in like a cannon blast
I knew she was serving my favorite treat
And I did not want to be last


There, slopping out of our mammoth-skull bowls
Was that yummiest, oozy glop
Three towering dollops of cold eyes cream
With congealed scary on top


I gobbled it up like a monster should
Using all my fingers and toes
I ate it so fast that I choked real good
And gobs of it shot out my nose


I like to sling food at my brothers’ heads
But I love eyes cream so much more
So I used all my tongues and tails and teeth
And I licked it up off the floor


Now that my big furry belly was full
And I had swallowed every slurp
I flopped down in front of the monster box
And let out a monstrous burp


My brothers all burped out loud just like me
Then we started to scream and hop
"Bring us some more of our favorite stuff:
More eyes cream with scary on top!"


Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy is a freelance writer and poet living in the upstate of South Carolina with his wife and four children. To find his daily poetry entries, log onto: 

or find him on Amazon here:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Picking Your Blogging Platform

By Laurie Epps

Picking your platform can seem intimidating, and choosing the right one is vital for your blog's success. But you have to take a step back, and remember that you're going to start by taking baby steps. Just by getting a presence on the Internet, you're going to attract a whole new crop of readers.

Your readers will come week after week to hear your voice, and read your thoughts and ideas. This is powerful. That recognition can help you in a variety of ways from working as a living breathing resume, to finding your audience that you wouldn't be able to reach any other way.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finding Poetry in Prose

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy



One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, primarily known for his short stories, has been called a poet, and actually published several books of poetry. But it is actually his prose 
for which he has been called a poet.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Blogging

By Laurie Epps

Writing for an Internet audience is very different than writing a literary paper. How is different? Where do you start if you haven't established an online presence? Do you you even need a blog? What are the essentials?

We'll talk about picking your platform, and writing for an Internet audience. To purchase the book, click on: http://www.amazon.com/Connections-Social-Networking-Techniques-Writers/dp/0984696997

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to Find “That Word”

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy


So you’ve written a few lines that really grabbed you, and you know exactly where your poem is going, but to get there you need a word that rhymes with “bottle” or that starts with the letter V. Suddenly your mind is blanker than the paper you’re staring at. What do you do?

The two best resources I've found so far for finding a word that starts with a specific letter are http://www.scrabblefinder.com/ and http://www.wordbyletter.com/. Both divide the list by word length. Scrabblefinder lists the words in columns, and Word By Letter lists them in blocks - which you prefer will depend on personal viewing preference.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Connections: Delayed

By Laurie Epps

I just wanted to print a formal apology for not keeping up with my Monday Morning Book Club blog, and starting some new professional endeavors has me uncovering ways to serve you better.

You'll notice that my blog has a new look, and additional tabs with more information to add additional ways for you to cross reference my work. Not only my work, I working towards finding new and more concise ways for you to obtain this same information yourself.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fiction to Film Fridays: Under Construction

By Laurie Epps

Whew! I'm learning so much about Film Adaptations in my Fiction to Film class, that I've decided to wait until I'm actually not in the class to present to you more thoughtful, poignant, and formulated conclusions about book to film adaptations.

Please bear with me, and I'll kick off a more thought provoking column in early 2014. If you have a book/movie column that you'd like to see here on my blog, please share with me your suggestions in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Occasional Poetry

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy


Have you ever heard about an event and said to yourself, “Someone should commemorate this with a poem”? Poems written for the specific occasions are, appropriately enough, called “Occasional Poetry”. An occasional poem we should all be familiar with in America is The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Words in Their Natural Habitat

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy

Words in Their Natural Habitat


Poetry is the natural use of words, even more natural than expressing facts. In fact, the word “expression” describes the purpose of poetry: it is used to communicate a feeling or idea in much the same way that a facial expression is.

The earliest human written document is poetry, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Like virtually all early human writing, this epic poem describes the relationship between man and the gods. Nearly every religion’s scriptures use poetry to communicate ideas about God.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park

By Laurie Bower Epps Sorry I took a week off to plan entries for the holidays. I really hope you'll be inspired. This outing, my y...