A Good Way to Be

With all the seriousness and emotions running rampant in the world today, I think everyone should give this little article a good read.

Patsy Porco's Blog: Free and Worth It!

Whenever I sit on our sofa, I always lift the bottom cushions and check under them before sitting down. It’s become a habit, but tonight I caught myself doing it and wondered why I did it. Then I remembered.

I have a friend who is very smart and very introspective. Sometimes she’s so deep in her thoughts that you have to nudge her back to the conversation you’re having with her. She is also very calm amidst chaos. And that was a conscious choice she made.

She has experienced two life events that would send most of us into a tailspin, but she told me that she refused to allow them to interrupt her life. She said that she was available to support the people who were in trouble and she would continue to help them when they came out on the other side of their problems, but she would…

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Day 2 of the Bradbury Program

Tonight’s short story was the science fiction classic “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison.

Continuing through my massive Langston Hughes collection, my poem for the evening was “Aunt Sue’s Stories”.

Going back to my Ellison chapbook, I chose Harlan’s “Memoir: I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.”

20 Questions for John Siebelink, the Blogger

(This is the second part of a game of 20 Questions I have been playing with myself, each one focusing on a different side of myself. This one is about blogging.)

What is the name of your blog, and what was the inspiration for it?

My blog’s name is CrapPile. When I first created it a couple of years ago it was called The Novice Student of Writing, because writing was going to be its primary focus and also because after writing off and on since I was a kid I felt like I still had not gotten very far writing-wise. Towards the end of 2017 I took an extremely long break from blogging, and when I decided to reenter the blogosphere back in May 2018, I felt I needed to start from scratch. I still felt that everything I was writing was crap, and if I were to actually keep blogging and not stop as I had done way too many times over the years, it would be a bunch of crap piling on top of each other. Hence the now popular moniker, CrapPile.

Why did you decide to start a blog?

Years back when I created my very first WordPress blog it was simply so that I had a website for when I finally published and became an author. Over time I realized that a blog would be a great way for me to practice writing and building a reader base so that when the time came for my first books to be published, I’d already have a format to do some advertising with and potential buyers already lined up. On top of all that, blogging is just fun.

What do you blog about?

Unlike a lot of blogs, I write about whatever I feel like blogging about. I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been talking a lot about writing and some of my own personal projects, but I try to vary my content as much as I can. I have written several political commentaries, some personal stories, humorous bits, and various updates as to how my blog is doing and posts answering questions a lot of my commenters throw at me. Writing about different topics not only is a challenge for me to step outside my comfort zone, but also allows an even greater audience to come visit me. And again, it’s fun.

Are there any topics that you WON’T cover in your blog?

I don’t think any topic should be considered off-limits to the intelligent writer. There are obviously a lot of things that I have not yet gotten to in my own blog, but it is not due to a prejudice against any particular subject. For instance, I have yet to write about religion or philosophy. I also have not written any pieces that involve research or statistics, mainly because that takes up too much time and I have yet felt the urge to write anything really objective. But who knows? The blog is still young, so in the future there’s a chance I will have covered every conceivable subject known to man. It’s just whatever I feel like churning out at any given moment.

How often do you post?

My only stringent requirement that I set for myself is that I post daily. I average anywhere from three to five posts a day, sometimes more if I decide to post mini updates about anything. I also make sure to post at different times throughout the day, because I realize that with viewers and followers from all across the globe and with lives of their own that they log in at different times. Spreading the posts out helps reach people better.

What have your most popular posts been about?

As of right now, my two main political posts have gotten the most views, as well as the most comment activity. The first “official” post I made after I rechristened my old blog as CrapPile was on the NFL instituting a policy on kneeling during the National Anthem and my thoughts and opinions on that. The other was my reaction to the recent Morgan Freeman allegations. Others have started to gain more traction, but these two towards the bottom of the list keep getting the views.

Do you ever post fiction or poetry to your site like many other writers do?

I have posted a few sonnets I had written a while back during an experiment with iambic pentameter, but I am extremely hesitant to post any fiction because doing so constitutes self-publishing, and many of the magazines and venues I hope to appear in in the future have strict rules against publishing previously-published work, including one’s own blog page. The only reason I decided to post the poems was because I honestly have zero interest in poetry and was not planning on editing or fixing up the poems to try and get them published. I am far more serious and protective about my fiction. If the day comes when I finally post a story on my website, either I have exhausted all other avenues of publication OR I wrote the piece specifically for my blog readers. Other authors have done so in the past, so chances are good that I will get around to it myself, but it isn’t a priority right now for me.

Are you an active follower of other blogs?

I am! There are many good blogs that I follow and comment on on a regular basis. It’s becoming harder and harder to do as my fan base continues to grow, but I do make an effort to read what my other bloggers have going on. I’m also always on the lookout for new blogs to follow.

What are your thoughts on guest blogging?

I think guest blogging is a great way for bloggers to help each other out. A blogger allowing another blogger to borrow his or her audience gains a unique perspective to the site from whatever the guest blogger is posting about. The guest in turn is afforded another platform for his or her writing and potentially more exposure.

Have you ever been a guest blogger on another blog?

I have not been asked to do so yet. If and when the time comes, I’m more than happy to discuss it with the other blogger. It all depends on what the blog is about and what they want me to try and contribute to it.

Will you ever allow guest bloggers to write for CrapPile?

Right now I am so busy blogging myself that adding any more content would be overkill. I’m not against having a guest blogger, there is just no point right now. I don’t think my blog is popular enough or has been around long enough for it to do other bloggers any good posting for me.

How do you feel about re-blogging?

I actually feel flattered when I see that people re-blog some of my posts. A good thing about WordPress is that as long as it is done correctly it automatically gives me credit as the author and the link back to my site. Only once did I ever catch somebody copying and pasting something of mine without citing me as the author, but after I got onto them they fixed themselves. I have only shared something from someone else once, because I thought it was a great article that I could 100% relate to. Why take the time to write a similar post when someone else already did it for you? I’m hoping the amount of likes that re-blog got also translated into hits for that author’s blog. I love helping other bloggers out, if I can.

Do you have an official commenting policy like some of the more veteran bloggers do?

I am one of the most easy-going guys in the world, both on and off the internet. People can comment whenever they want and as often as they want on any of my posts. Comments usually go straight into the moderation queue, but at the first possible second I always approve them. I’m not going to approve death threats or any other kind of discriminatory jabs at myself or other commenters, but so far my audience has been the best possible so I have no problems at all with the comments.

Do you use images or media in any of your posts?

In the entire run of my blog, I have only used one single image. The only reason I did that was because it was a perfect example of what I was talking about and it saved me having to come up with words to explain it. Other than that, I usually don’t find pictures or videos necessary. I realize that this is a stark contrast to a lot of blogs, with some bloggers even going so far as to say that part of their success is because their blogs aren’t just words on a white background. As a blogger with a fairly plain template (black words on white background) I am a little offended, but at the same time 550 followers in two weeks with an average of 400 views a day just shows that images aren’t everything. Besides, I’m a writer. Unless you are a children’s book author, most books that adults read do not contain pictures. If you don’t expect the books to have pictures, why worry about whether or not the blog has any? I will admit, though, that the blog is still VERY new and I am still working on figuring out what is working and what isn’t working. Maybe down the road I will add more color to the blog, but for now everything is working just fine and I see no need to change it.

Have you ever thought about having multiple blogs?

I think the only real need for someone to have more than one blog is if they want to have a separate blog for different purposes. I do not. My one blog is dedicated to whatever I want it to be. When if all goes as planned and I become a published author with books and upcoming projects to report, CrapPile will serve as both my blog and my author’s website. It will be both convenient and time-efficient to do so. I don’t judge anybody else for having more than one blog. It is not only none of my business, but those bloggers have found something that works for them and their purposes and that is great! Whatever works for you. Having one blog is just what works for me, that’s all I’m saying.

What has been the reception from friends and family to your blog?

My girlfriend is beyond thrilled that I’m plugging away at it and that it is growing and slowly becoming popular. She loves how happy it makes me and how I feel much less stressed and down because of it. My best friend has been hesitant to take a look at it because she is a liberal and saw several of my Trump posts, even though I keep telling her that that is not all I write about. I am not sure if any of my family knows about it yet, though since every post is directly uploaded on Facebook I’m sure they’ve seen it. It isn’t the sort of subject that comes up in regular conversation. Several other Facebook friends told me they love it and complimented me on my writing skills, which has led me to put even more effort into blogging in hopes of becoming better and better at it. So on a personal level the support has been amazing.

Are there any bloggers that you look up to?

John Scalzi. I wouldn’t be the kind of blogger I am if it weren’t for the other John S. He is not only a top-notch blogger but also an increasingly major figure in the science fiction community. He and I are both very different individuals; he has strict commenting and contacting policies and takes his time VERY seriously, where as I am the easy-going, I don’t care kind of website administrator. But our styles of writing are very similar, even though I tend to ramble a whole lot more than he does. He is pretty much the only veteran blogger I look up to, although recently I have begun following other, smaller blogs that have been a blog influence on me. Blogger Liv Foster is the first that comes to mind.

What is the best blogging advice you have ever gotten?

I learned from Scalzi’s blog Whatever that it was his blog and that he can do whatever he wants to with it. That mindset carried over into my blog entirely. I guess you could also translate that into “blog for yourself first, not other people.”

What is some of the worst blog advice you have ever gotten?

When I was getting CrapPile going I was reading blogging advice articles from other established blogs. A lot of them said to focus on one really good post a week instead of daily posts, to use a bunch of pictures and to not worry about views or followers. No offense to them but I hated all of it so I purposely ignore it and do the opposite. It’s worked out for me so far.

If you could give new bloggers a single word of advice, what would it be?

I’m not sure if I am qualified yet or not to be giving out blogging advice, but I’d say choose a catchy title. There’s no better way to get people to want to take a look at your site than a title that catches their eye.

 

Why It is NOT a Good Idea to Blindly Follow Blogs

Someone sent me a private message last night asking me if the reason my blog has grown so quickly and has continued to grow and grow and grow is because I follow so many blogs. The lady asked me if I felt that searching around WordPress and following as many blogs as she could would help her “catch up to me” in terms of views and followers.

My answer was a capitalized NO! For several reasons.

For starters, I read that if you spam the Follow button too many times WordPress will lock you out for a few hours, which a) makes you look like a common spammer, b) shows that you care only about the potential gain a follow would give your own site, not the content of the blog you are following, and c) will prevent you from immediately following a blog that you really are interested in because you’re in the penalty box for following too many times. It’s just obnoxious.

Secondly, if you don’t take the time to read the blogs and see what it’s about, you’re just wasting your time. I’ve come across many blogs that were just a name; there was no content whatsoever. It was simply a blank template with the usual WordPress “This is an example of a blank page” prompt. Chances are extremely high that if you follow that blog hoping for a follow back, it will never happen.

Going along with this second point, many of the blogs I have looked into were last active years ago. This means that the blogger has either quit the blog or has taken an extremely long break, as I was notorious for doing so many times. Or perhaps they simply created a different site and did not deactivate their old blog. Whatever the case may be, you are not likely to ever get a follow from these inactive blogs so following them is just a waste of a click.

One big risk of just scrolling through the feed and following blogs you are not already following is that you run the risk of following a blog you probably don’t want to follow. For example, my girlfriend and I are into horse racing. It is not in my best interest to follow any of the few anti-racing blogs I’ve come across. Sure, I might get a follow or two from them, but I’m not sacrificing the integrity of my blog and my own personal values just for a statistic. And I’m sure the woman who asked me of blindly following blogs was a great idea would NOT want to end up following blogs of groups and ideals that she is not a supporter of, which is what can easily happen if you do not take the time to know what you are getting yourself into.

Perhaps the biggest reason I myself have to give her is that it just doesn’t work that way. Clicking the Follow button time after time does not guarantee a follow back. Yes, my blog has grown quite a bit in a rapid period of time, but I attribute my minor success to a number of factors, which I will not get into here since it is enough content for a post of its own. I will say, however, that when I do follow blogs it’s because I have a big interest in them. A good amount of them have been writing and movie blogs, since those are two of my biggest interests and love reading about those topics. But even some that I’m not necessarily a fan of, such as “mom blogs” or about biking or whatever, I follow because there is good writing and they post on a regular basis. As a writer I want to follow good writing. I am not going to follow something that is poorly written or where the blogger obviously doesn’t put time in effort in making the blog a decent one. Again, these are all things you run the risk of being a contributor to if you just randomly follow blogs.

So to sum it all up, don’t just follow just to follow. Be intelligent and actively get involved in the blogosphere with blogs you actually have an interest in. The authors of those blogs will appreciate you far more than others will. I will bet you money on that.

20 Questions for John Siebelink, the Writer

People have been asking me in comments about my writing style and things like that, so I thought I would post this here to answer a few of the more frequently asked questions I get.

I want to thank Liv Foster (livfoster27.wordpress.com) and

MistressoftheInk (inkblotsandicebergs.wordpress.com) for their inspiration.

And now, twenty questions!

What do you write?

I currently write fiction and nonfiction pieces for my blog. I have aspirations to write screenplays, comics, and scripts for the stage, as well.

What are your preferred genres?

Science fiction and crime fiction make up the majority of my fiction writing, but I have also dabbled in fantasy and literary fiction.

Are there any genres you don’t like to write?

I’ve never been fond of literary fiction, although ironically my first fiction sale fell into that category. If you could call the personal essays and memoir-like pieces I write for my blog and the stage plays I eventually want to write as literary fiction, then I guess this point goes out the window. The one thing I do not write and most likely will never write professionally is poetry. I do not understand poetry and it has never done anything for me. I refuse to ever consider myself a poet.

How long have you been a writer?

My first attempts at writing for publication started around 2000, when I was in fifth grade. I would continue sporadically over the next many years until only a few weeks ago at the end of May, 2018, when I decided to “officially” become a writer and start putting for the most serious of efforts. So in a way one might say I have only been writing now for two weeks.

Have you been published yet?

In 2014 I had a very small story published in an online magazine, Nanoism. Apart from that my writing has only appeared in blogs.

What were your earliest attempts at writing?

I shared this story in my blog not too long ago. When I was in elementary school I was inspired by Dr. Seuss to write a “book-length” poem about antics on a field trip. I was so proud of it that I conned my mom into giving me a stamp and envelope, scribbling the Random House address from the front cover of Green Eggs and Ham on the front and mailing the thing to Dr. Seuss, cleverly assuming that he’d love it and set me up as his own rival. He never responded. Apart from that, I also vaguely recall writing a couple of stories about a noble knight and another about a haunted house during that same time period.

Why did you decide to become a writer?

Being a writer was my childhood dream. I’m guessing I loved seeing pictures of authors on books and their names on the front cover, and wanted that for myself. I didn’t even know that writers got paid back then; I just wanted to be famous. As I got older and found that the dream stuck, I started to think about it more deeply and realized that writing was just about the only sort of skill that I had. I couldn’t sing worth a dime. To this day I still can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. Despite many passionate attempts to learn guitar, I could never get my hands to work properly. One thing that was easy for me to do, though, was come up with good stories. Lately I’ve been reading things in the magazines and online and wondering why the hell the editors would pay money for such crap. I knew for a fact that I could do better and possibly end up getting paid better if I offered better work so I decided to make that fifth grade poet’s dream a reality.

Is it hard finding time to write?

Not at all. It’s actually become harder and harder for me to find time to do things besides write. I usually blog from my phone, which is quite literally attached to my hip, so whenever I have something I want to write about and have a spare minute I will get on my WordPress app and get it down. For some reason I prefer writing fiction at my computer, so that usually happens at the end of the night or right when I wake up.

Do you have a writing playlist?

I prefer quiet when I’m working. Music interrupts my thought process.

How do your family and friends feel about you writing?

My family has always been extremely supportive of my writing, particularly my aunt and uncle who are both English majors. My girlfriend has been my biggest rock when I started again, and without her I don’t think I ever would have started seriously again.

What is your favorite part about writing?

My favorite part in the entire writing process is when I hit the period key for the final time in a story. Staying committed to writing and finishing what I start has always been a big challenge for me, so watching myself finish something gives me a great “Hey, you did it!” feeling. It does wonders for your self-esteem.

What is your least favorite thing about writing?

Plotting, outlining, designing characters, and world-building are all my least favorite parts about writing, which is why I don’t do any of it. When I have an idea for a blog post I can usually write it without any effort in a matter of minutes. For stories, I start as far back in the plot as I can envision and just go from there. I don’t worry about location or character names or anything like that unless they’ve already been decided on in my head. More often than not a character will start out named “Character” and will stay that way until further into a story a great name will pop into my head, or I get to the end and see that he or she still don’t have a name so I make one up on the spot. It’s a lot different than what most writers do but it works for me, and that’s all that matters.

What do you do if you get writer’s block?

Ray Bradbury always said that if you get writer’s block then you’re obviously doing the wrong thing, and to stop and work on something else. Whenever I feel like I’m struggling too much with a story, I stop and start a new one. I just keep going until I’ve let my mind relax a little bit and then I go back to the first story. But I don’t stop writing.

How do you find motivation as a writer?

When I ended the last writing dry spell that I had, it was because my girlfriend and her little sister had read some of the older stories that I had written and were pushing me to get back into it. They both knew that I had my heart set on being a writer so ever since then I have kept them in my thoughts whenever I sit down at my computer. As my blog has grown and people have started reading it more and more, I have received further encouragement from my followers, which is even more of a motivational push for me every day. Knowing that I have an audience cheering me on and excited to read more of my writing ensures that I’m always working on something they will enjoy.

Who are some of the authors that have been a major influence on you?

John Scalzi and Ray Bradbury are my two greatest influences. John’s short fiction in particular has influenced me deeply because they often employ the unconventional and experimental styles that I always seem to practice with, and because his geeky nature permeates through everything that he writes. Bradbury’s versatility and refusal to be classified into any category won me over early, and his heart-felt works and incredible joy of reading and writing can be felt in every single one of his works. An answer such of this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King, and Michael Connelly.

What are some of your favorite books?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is easily my favorite book of all time. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (ironically another Dracula tale) is a very close second. I find it fascinating that someone whose primary love is science fiction to have his two favorites be gothic supernatural novels, but I guess in the end good writing trumps everything.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

I’ve heard it in so many different ways, but every writer I have ever looked  up writing advice from said in some form or another, read and writer as much as you can. Ray Bradbury went even further; “Write every day of your life.” I hope to follow that advice to the letter.

What is your current writing goal?

 Since it has been my biggest struggle my entire life, my only goal is to not stop writing. Even if I don’t have time to do a lot, I plan on writing something every single day.

What projects are you working on now?

My first book, a nonfiction work, is in progress. I am also in the process of putting together a plan for a written project I am going to be doing with the publisher of Amazing Stories. Beyond those two and blogging every day I will always try to have at least one story that I’m pecking away at. I want to build up to a goal of one short story a week, but I have to figure some schedule stuff out with work first.

If you could go back and give fifth-grade John Siebelink one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

NEVER. STOP. WRITING.

 

 20 questions

Day 1 of the Bradbury Program

For the short story, I read Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” which turned out didn’t seem very happy at all.

For the poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes.

John Scalzi’s essay “Being Poor” is the first piece of literature to ever bring me to literal tears. I could relate so much to it, and am now more determined than I ever have been to pull myself out of that life and on to better things.

Restarting the Bradbury Program

I’ve had a bad habit of starting, stopping, and restarting many things in my life. Playing games, reading and writing spells, workouts…blogging. It’s a wonder I’ve gotten anything done at all the last several years.

Now that CrapPile is officially taken off and I have broken my blogger’s block for good, I have decided that the time has come to follow some advice I got a while back from the great Ray Bradbury.

Lecturing at a university in California, he spelled out an entire to-do list for new writers or those that had fallen on hard times composition-wise. One of these major pieces of advice is what I decided to dub as the Bradbury Program.

It’s simple. For the next one thousand nights, I’m going to read one short story. When the story is done, I’m going to read a poem. After the poem I am going to find a good essay to read, and repeat these three steps every single night for a thousand nights. In his mind, it will help the writer learn to pick out metaphors and fill their heads with “pomegranate ideas.”

There are other things he encouraged that I will work on incorporating into my daily routine later, but for now I have to get started on some reading…