Archive for December, 2015

New year, new blog? Start on the right foot.

Registration for January’s course is now closed – Blogging 101 will be back in February!

Thinking of starting a blog, or re-committing to an older one? Blogging’s more fun with a little help from your friends: join us in Blogging U. for Blogging 101: Zero to Hero this January, and give your blogging skills a boost.

Blogging U. courses combine expert advice with personalized help and a supportive community. Reach your own creative goals, improve your technical know-how, and make new friends!

Blogging 101 is our foundational, get-started course: three weeks of bite-size blogging assignments that take you from “Blog?” to “Blog!” January’s course runs from Monday, January 4 through Friday, January 22.

Here’s how it works:

  • Every weekday, we’ll send you one new, bite-sized assignment to help you publish a post, customize your blog, or engage with the blogging community.
  • You’ll write posts and work through the assignments on your blog, to develop and focus it.
  • When you need a helping hand, you’ll have access to a private site, The Commons. There, you can connect with other participants, share your work, and get support from WordPress.com Editors and Happiness Engineers.
  • You’ll walk away with a stronger focus for your blog, several published posts and a handful of drafts, a theme that reflects your personality, a small (but growing!) audience, a grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new friends.

Whether you’re just getting started or want to revive a dormant blog, we’ll help you build good blogging habits and blogger connections that will keep you going over the long haul. And of course, it’s completely free!

 

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community
Go to Source

What Was Your Favorite Post You Wrote in 2015?

The last few weeks of the year are the perfect time to look back and reflect on our most memorable work, so we asked a few bloggers to tell us about one blog post they put together in 2015 that they especially liked. Here are their responses.

Myfanwy, myf draws apparently

Favorite post: “How I experienced the life of a model, with Gudrun Sjoden”

stockholm-diary-p1-myfanwy-tristram

I think I’d have to say that my favorite post was my account of traveling to Stockholm in Sweden to be an unlikely fashion model; it describes a rare and treasured couple of days, and then I got to relive the pleasure all over again by drawing and sharing it on WordPress.com! The comments were so warm and appreciative that I really got the feeling I’d added just a little bit of joy to the internet.

It was a welcome affirmation that people enjoy my view of the world, even if that view comes from a middle-aged aficionado of thrift shopping. That’s one of the real pleasures of blogging: showing who you are, and finding the people that appreciate that.

Sarah E. Bond

Favorite post: “Searching for the String: Labyrinths in Classical and Medieval Art”

My favorite post is actually about labyrinths. When I was younger, my favorite movie was Labyrinth (1986). The film spoke to my already steadfast love of muppets and no doubt fostered an early appreciation for David Bowie, but it was the movie’s maze — a character in the movie in its own right — that stuck with me year after year.

screen-shot-2015-11-19-at-12-22-22-pmAfter graduating high school, I decided to become a classicist, and began to learn more about the ancient origins of the labyrinth. Although mazes and even the word labyrinth predate the myth, it is the Greek tale of Theseus and the Minotaur that gave us the famed Labyrinth of Crete (as it turns out, Jim Henson was also a fan of the myth.) In Greco-Roman antiquity, the symbol of the labyrinth became popular on coins, in mosaics, and in various literary works. Although you might think the pagan myth would die out in the transition to the early Christian period, it was again adapted for new purposes well into the Middle Ages and again in the Renaissance. The labyrinth, in its various iterations, often served as a metaphor for life in general. Whether a Greek or a medieval pilgrim, any person can relate to the feeling of being lost and searching for the string that Ariadne provided Theseus to allow him to escape.

In my own professional quest, I moved four times in the past six years: Chapel Hill, Lexington, Milwaukee, Iowa City. Along the way, I have gained and lost relationships, lamented how long it would be until I saw my family again, and wondered if there was any real purpose to this academic labyrinth. It took a lot of heartache, but I finally feel like I found the string I am supposed to follow. The reason the labyrinth has remained a malleable symbol for so long is that it speaks to humanity’s persistent questions of purpose, salvation, and creation. At the end of Labyrinth the movie, young Sarah realizes her own power to solve the puzzle and to escape the grasp of Jareth (David Bowie). She discovers that she is the heroine of her own story, and I guess I had to learn something similar. Perhaps that is why this is one of my favorite blog posts this year.

Tommy Tomlinson

Favorite post: “Our Old Dog”

FredYou always hear that you should tell people how much they mean to you before it’s too late. I’m not sure how this applies to pets, but I wanted to write something about our dog, Fred, before he got to the end. He was such a big part of our lives. After I wrote this piece I heard from readers all over the world who shared memories of the pets they loved. It was one more moment of beauty that Fred was responsible for.

Catherine Ryan Howard

Favorite post: “I’ve Been Bursting To Tell You: I Got a Book Deal!”

I remember quite clearly setting up my very first WordPress.com blog in early 2010. A few months earlier, I’d made the drastic decision to quit my awful, soul-destroying office job and use what little savings I had to go “all in” on my dream of being a published novelist. Part of my plan was to self-publish some non-fiction and use the proceeds to keep myself in coffee grounds and ink cartridges (both crucial novel-writing tools, I’ll have you know), and the blog was where I was going to publicly chronicle my self-publishing (mis?)adventures.

I had to admit why I was doing it, which meant I had to publicly declare my goal of being a published novelist. I remember thinking, What if it never happens? What if I never get to write “the” blog post? What happens if the end of this journey is a quiet fade into public failure?

littlecatThe next five years were one hell of a ride. My posts about self-publishing were a hit and they helped make my self-published books hits too. I began to speak on the subject, got a job working with a major publishing house as a social media marketer, and connected, through my blog, with fellow writers all over the world — some of whom became good friends in real life.

Then, in May of this year, I got to write the blog post I’d been dreaming of writing ever since I started my blog back in 2010, the one in which I shared the news I’d been dreaming of having all my life (as evidenced by the photo I included in it, one of me aged 7 or 8 banging away on the typewriter Santa gave me while Barbie’s Pink Magic Van sits to the side). Now I’ll be using my blog to chronicle my next adventure: my debut thriller will be published by Corvus/Atlantic in Ireland and the U.K. on May 5, 2016.

Where will your blog take you?

Sarah Kelly, Extra Dry Martini

Favorite post: “The Beach”

img_4997

Extra Dry Martini is my diary. I document my life, and in particular, the challenges inherent in navigating an uncertain future while trying to heal from tremendous loss and grief. My writing is raw and honest, but also, I believe, hopeful, and ultimately about redemption. This year has been a rollercoaster — with incredible highs and lows — so when WordPress.com asked me to pick my favorite post, it felt a bit like asking me to pick my favorite moment from the whirlwind that was 2015.

I settled on “the beach,” a piece I wrote this summer that’s essentially a love letter to the place where I grew up. It’s a place where all of my happiest childhood memories are contained, but also a place that harbors a great darkness underneath the sunshine and saltwater and sea air. I didn’t realize it at the time of publication, but the beach would also end up being the place I’d travel to a mere six weeks later to see my beloved grandfather through hospice.

In good times and bad, the beach is my constant. Writing this post made me realize just how important this place is, both in my life, and in my writing.

Anne Thériault, The Belle Jar

Favorite post: “Being a Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence”

10385463_10154373034305215_8972420320531447358_nI chose this post because it came from such a place of personal vulnerability and yet seemed to resonate with so many people. I think that all women have stories similar to mine — a fact that’s both infuriating and a sort of unifying force. It’s so powerful to understand that our experiences of misogyny aren’t unique. They didn’t happen because of anything we did or because we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They happened because we live in a culture that dehumanizes women. I also think my post was a sort of wake up call for a lot of men who maybe don’t realize how relentless and grinding misogyny is. I hope that’s the case, anyway. Because as much as women can push back against all the awful sexist stuff we endure day in and day out, the only people who can end the behaviors of men is men.

* * *

Explore the latest from more great bloggers at Discover!

Filed under: Community, WordPress, Writing
Go to Source

New Theme: Pique

Today, we’re welcoming a new free theme to our collection: Pique.

Pique

Pique's front page design

Pique is a stylish and modern theme designed as a one-page scrolling site, giving your customers easy access to all your information in one place. Personalize your site by adding featured images to your pages and tweaking the colors to create a site that’s perfectly suited to your brand. Upload your logo and custom header image to make your site distinctive.

Designed specifically with coffee shops in mind, Pique is particularly well-suited for small, independent businesses. Use it to build an online home for your bakery, hair salon, shop, or cafe.

And of course, it’s completely responsive, so it will look good on any device your customers are using, whether they’re on the road or at home.

Pique on various devices

Pique has lots of fantastic features that will allow you to create a beautiful and dynamic showcase for your business, including:

  • Upload your own Site Logo
  • Customer testimonials
  • Optional sidebar on post pages
  • Custom menus in both the header and footer
  • Custom headers and backgrounds
  • Featured images on posts and pages
  • A large footer with three widget areas
  • Social menu support

Single posts in Pique are clean and elegant and feature an optional sidebar for additional content.

Single post page

Give Pique a spin on the Theme Showcase!

Filed under: Themes
Go to Source

What Are Your Blogging Goals for 2016?

You may not bother with resolutions for the new year, but setting goals for your blog helps you to (re)focus and shape your online home. We asked a diverse mix of bloggers:

What’s the most important goal you have for your site in 2016?

Lisa Jakub, lisajakub.net

My resolution is very simple and not so easy: I want to create work that tells the truth. Writing, for me, is all about connection, and nothing creates connection like open-hearted honesty. It’s about putting letters and spaces together in a way that reaches out and allows all of us to feel less alone. It’s about finding our commonalities and celebrating our individual authenticity. And if we can laugh about it in the process  — even better.

Emily J. Petersen, The Bookshelf of Emily J.

My goal for my blog in 2016 is to re-personalize it! I started out by writing about my memories and experiences as they connected with books, and I’ve gotten away from that. I’m working on a PhD and finishing my dissertation this year, so I’ve become preoccupied. My book reviews tend to be just that: book reviews. I think what made my blog special in the beginning were the stories I told about my life as they related to books.

So in 2016, I plan to make my posts more personal, more engaging, and more sincere. I read a lot of books, but I’d rather write about my personal reaction or connection to a book than repeat the plot line. I think this personalization will help me to reconnect with my loyal readers and to find new ones. I love the community aspects of blogging, so I hope to reinsert myself there by sharing who I am and opening up more.

Sam Nathapong, Sam in Bangkok

Sam Nathapong wants to share your tales of Bangkok.

Sam Nathapong wants to share your tales of Bangkok.

I’m interested in free speech in 2016. Bangkok, Thailand, has been under the military government for more than a year, since the May 2014 coup. The military junta has created a climate of fear among us, from small bloggers to journalists and academics all over the country.

My blog is small, so I’m not trying to be all Katniss Everdeen about it — and Bangkok is far more than what is described as The Hunger Games’ District 12. On Twitter, it feels especially tense for those of us writing in the English language from Thailand. But with this global language, I want to reach more people and let them know that there are still reasons to smile under such conditions — and to tell my own part of this story.

Bangkok is still rich in culture, and we have so many visitors each year. I believe that everyone has their own unique Bangkok story inside of them, and my goal is to reach out to these people. My door is open if they have a story to tell.

In 2016, I want Sam in Bangkok to be a blog where we can share and discover stories about Bangkok — freely.

Summer Pierre, Paper Pencil Life

summer pierre

New for 2016: an online comics course from Summer Pierre.

I have always been a conflicted blogger, feeling slightly apologetic for keeping what can seem an indulgently personal project in a public forum. Yet after this year of feeling more connected than ever to a growing audience, due to telling my imperfect and personal stories, it hit me: Who am I kidding? I love my blog. If it weren’t for my blog I would have never tried half of what I’ve done. It is both my lab and my studio, and although I might have made comics and written essays without it, I doubt I’d ever have felt as connected to people on such a consistent personal level through my work.

Without my blog, I would never have come up with my latest endeavor: teaching an online class on comics in the New Year. The class is a direct extension of everything I’ve made on my blog and feels like a natural progression as an artist on WordPress. I feel more excited than ever to continue to tell my own story through words and pictures, and to extend the reach by helping others tell their own. What could be better?

Russell Jackson, Draw the Public

Drawing by Russell Jackson,

Blog resolutions for 2016, by Russell Jackson at Draw the Public.

Samara Speaks, A Buick in the Land of Lexus

In 2016, I would like to parlay my blog into a successful freestyle rap career and share my rhythmic wisdom across the globe. Sadly, I have zero rapping skills. Can I change my answer?

For 2016, I would like to actually HAVE goals. For two years I’ve flown by the seat of my pants. (What does that even MEAN? Sounds painful.)

The grown-up bloggers set goals. They use editorial calendars and blog organizers. Blog organizers? I can’t even find a clean bra. Check my Google Analytics? I get lost at Walmart.

I’m reasonably intelligent, but blog tech jargon makes me hyperventilate. Someone says, “determine a niche to develop your overall SEO strategy.” I hear, “Blerghity blergh blergh.”

Did you know Pinterest can be used to drive traffic to your blog? Do you know what custom CSS is? Bounce rate? Meta tags?

Samara's goal is to remain goalless. It works for her, after all.

Samara‘s goal is to remain goalless.

Did you know that the Amish are a real culture of people and not just an old-timey group of actors who are just really into it? Do you realize that our presidential elections are basically a national scam and we’d be better off electing a God of Cake?

So, for 2016, my big goal is to SET GOALS.

Guess what? I checked with Lady Google, and only 8 percent of goals are ever met. If seven of us are answering this question, only .56 of us are going to meet our goals. Not even ONE WHOLE PERSON!

Maybe winging it IS the way to go. I’m not rich or famous. But I must be doing something right, because I have the coolest blog family on the planet. The people who read my blog make it what it is. I don’t have to change a thing.

So, I guess my goal is to remain goalless. I am, after all, a non-conformist. Just like everyone else.

J.S. Park, jsparkblog.com

Every blog can hit a stride, and then the pressure’s on. With enough diligence, dark roast, and in-brain mud-wrestling over the perfect click-worthy title, we can get what we always wanted: a steady stream of readers.

The problem is we try to duplicate lightning in a bottle, and we hold too many bottles, and we stretch ourselves thin with thunder. Either the blog will turn into Swiss cheese, or we will. Or in my case, both.

For devout atheist-turned-skeptical pastor J.S. Park, blogging in 2016 will mean slowing down.

For devout atheist-turned-skeptical pastor J.S. Park, blogging in 2016 means slowing down.

I rode a wave this year that culminated in the best blog performance since I started 15 years ago, with a tsunami surge of clicks over the summer. But it came at the cost of my restless desperation. I had to write on everything. I had to have an opinion. I had to ride the momentum to rapture.

I knew it was bad when I thought, I can’t stop now. I thought stopping meant quitting, and quitting in my Eastern Asian world is harakiri by pen. 

My posts became passive-aggressive, choppy, less coherent and thoughtful. I got emails that said, “Sounds like it’s been rough lately, sorry.”

Their concern broke through. I had to rest.

I treat rest like an annoying pause-button before I get back to work, but rest is the living actual life that makes the work make sense. I forget to enjoy and cherish the downtime: which isn’t really downtime, but real time. I forget to remove myself from stats and post schedules to live life itself, so that I can have something to say at all. And I had to quit superimposing those moments into social media, to just let them breathe without an obligation to post them.

Rest is the room to breathe.

My hope is to write less and live more. Rest more and write better. Be still in the balcony and regain perspective. It’s this space that cultivates creativity, for better thoughts, and more thunder.

We wish all of you a Happy New Year — and can’t wait to see what you create in 2016.

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, WordPress.com
Go to Source

New Theme: Twenty Sixteen

We’re pleased to announce that Twenty Sixteen — the new WordPress default theme designed by Takashi Irie — is available to all WordPress.com sites.

twentysixteen

Twenty Sixteen is a fresh take on the traditional blog format, with great features including:

    • Optional sidebar
    • Multiple menu positions and a social menu
    • Overhanging large images
    • Post intro and pull quotes

Handy customization options let you create your own look. You can choose from several beautiful color schemes or create your own, and further customize by adding your own background or header.

Dark
Gray
Yellow

Twenty Sixteen has many accessibility features and is universally designed for a wide range of WordPress users, whether you’re a first-time blogger or seasoned pro. Since the theme is developed with a mobile-first approach, it will look great no matter what device you’re using to view the site.

Check out Twenty Sixteen right here.

twentyfifteen-device

Filed under: Themes
Go to Source

The New WordPress.com App for Windows Is Here

You asked, and we answered—quickly! Just weeks after unveiling the all-new WordPress.com and desktop app for Mac, we’re thrilled to introduce our new Windows app.

07-laptop

Now you can manage your sites, write and publish, and even customize your site and view stats from a dedicated app in your Windows Start Menu. Use it for your sites on WordPress.com, as well as for self-hosted WordPress sites. (For the latter, you’ll just need to have the Jetpack plugin installed to connect your site.)

And just like the rest of WordPress.com, the new Windows app is simple, seamless, and blazingly fast.

Download the app

06-desktop-with-app

The new Windows app includes:

  • The My Sites dashboard for managing multiple sites, whether WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress with Jetpack.
  • The new WordPress.com Editor, with in-app previewing and draft auto-saving.
  • The Reader, which lets you follow and read any of your favorite sites, and the all-new Discover, which recommends outstanding content from across all of WordPress.
  • Insights and Stats, which show you exactly how your site and posts are performing.
  • In-app notifications, so you can see comments, likes, and new follows all in one place.

This, of course, is just the beginning. We’re excited to have you try it out, and thanks for all your continued feedback and support. 

Learn more about the new WordPress.com in the video below. Since its launch you’ve already published upwards of 3 million posts using the new editor!

Filed under: Admin Bar, Applications, Features, WordPress.com, Writing
Go to Source

Handbag Sale: 20% off select handbags at South Moon Under {Today Online Only!}

Handbag Sale at South Moon Under

South Moon Under is offering 20% of select handbags TODAY ONLINE ONLY!!

Go to Source

Three WordPressers Making a Splash

It always makes us happy to hear about the achievements of writers, photographers, and artists who choose WordPress.com as their home on the web. Today, let’s celebrate recent exciting news from Gaia Vince, Max Becherer, and Rolli.

A writer with a message

Science writer and editor Gaia Vince has chronicled her travels around the world on her blog, Wandering Gaia.

adventures in the anthropocene cover

The resulting book, Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made, is an absorbing (and chilling) account of the ways in which humans are rapidly transforming the environment — often for the worse.

Earlier this fall, Adventures in the Anthropocene won the prestigious Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, bringing Vince’s work, along with the important topics she covers, back to the spotlight. She joins a list of illustrious past winners, including Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould, and Jared Diamond.

Going underground in Afghanistan

Photojournalist Max Becherer has been covering war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, and his work has appeared in leading publications like TIME and the New York Times. His latest project, however, leaves war in the background; instead, he focuses on Afghanistan’s less-known emerald miners (and the communities around them).

max-becherer-inside-mine-2-blog

Photo by Max Becherer

Dynamite and Prayers: Emerald Miners of Afghanistan contains visceral, dynamic portraits of people and landscapes that far too often remain invisible. You can hear Max discuss this project — and his work more broadly — in an interview on HeatherBlog.

A new platform for an accomplished artist

Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, writer and cartoonist Rolli has published several books, including the recent I Am Currently Working On a Novel. His comics regularly appear in the Wall Street JournalAdbusters, and elsewhere.

rolli cartoon

Comic by Rolli

Rolli has recently embarked on another exciting adventure, finding his cerebral, off-kilter work a new home at The Walrus, one of Canada’s most prestigious magazines. You should check out his weekly contributions — both his flash fiction pieces and comics are bite-sized, thought-provoking treats.

Do you have an achievement to celebrate with us? We’d love to hear about it — let us know in the comments. 

Filed under: Community, WordPress.com
Go to Source

Faster-Loading Images on Your Site

We always strive to make your sites run as quickly and smoothly as possible, both on the front end and under the hood. So we’re happy to announce that the WordPress.com image service, which delivers the beautiful images you use in your posts to your site’s visitors, now offers seamless support for the WebP image format.

What does this mean for you and your audience? This new feature provides size reductions of up to 34 percent for served images compared to a JPEG image of an equivalent visual quality level. Your viewers will save a lot of time loading your pages — time they can better spend enjoying the content you publish.

Image comparison - JPEG Image comparison - WebP
JPEG File Size – 43.84KB WebP File Size – 29.61KB

Visually identical images in JPEG and WebP format with their respective sizes.

While WebP isn’t currently supported by all browsers (see the WebP FAQ for more details), you don’t have to worry about anything. We auto-detect which browsers your readers are using to make sure they can enjoy your travel photography, family pictures, or recent illustration work at the best possible quality. Our system will always serve your viewers the best image format at the highest speed possible.

If you’d like to learn more about this fast-loading image format, check out the following links:

Filed under: Jetpack, New Features, Photos
Go to Source

Design your own Joules Rain Boots Competition {Ends 12/4/15}

2015-11-05-US-inspire-me-widescreen-wellyI was recently introduced to Joules Rain Boots, and absolutely love the fun selection of colors and prints. Joules isn’t just for women – they have stylish options for boys and girls too! Joules has launched a design competition inviting all budding designers, doodlers and rain boot lovers to design some Joules Rain Boots, with TV host and fashion writer Louise Roe helping to select the winning design. You must enter by this Friday, December 4th!  Here are the details –

WIN A 5 DAY TRIP TO LONDON FOR TWO WORTH $10,000

FLIGHTS, LUXURY HOTEL, SPENDING MONEY PLUS LOTS MORE

10 runners-up will each receive a $500 Joules gift voucher

Submit a design and enter the competition here – http://getcreative.joulesusa.com/

The winning rain boot design will go on sale at joulesusa.com/welly-collection.

Proceeds from the sale of the limited edition winning welly will be donated to Step Up

Rain bootThe lucky winner will then see their design put into production! This is huge so I decided to take a stab at designing my very own pair of Joules Rain Boots. The process was easy and fun! Enter the design competition {here} and check out the entire collection {here}.

Go to Source