Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

This April in Blogging U.: The Return of Writing 101!

This April, we’ll be offering Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit. Writing 101 is a write-every-day challenge designed to help you create a writing habit and push you as a writer, while publishing posts that mesh with your blog’s focus.

What is Writing 101?

Writing 101 is a four-week course that runs from Monday, April 6, to Friday, May 1, 2015. Each weekday, you’ll get an assignment that includes a writing prompt and an optional “twist”; prompts are your topic inspiration for the day, while twists push you to experiment with writing techniques and tools.

Who else is really building their writing habit?… I wake up multiple times each night to check the time and see if it’s time to get up and write because I’m so excited. I’ve never felt this way before! I think I’m in lurve.
Molly, Knocked Up Knocked Over

You can mix assignments however you like: Respond to the prompt, and ignore the twist. Try the twist, but write on your own topic. Use both the prompt and the twist. Publish what you write on your blog, or use it as private writing practice. It’s up to you! The only mandate is that you write every weekday.

The nitty-gritty:

  • You’ll receive a new writing prompt via email each day at midnight UTC. (Not sure what time that is for you? Use this converter to figure out your local time.)
  • There are no weekend assignments — you’re free to expand on a weekday post, write something unrelated, or (gasp!) spend some time away from your blog.
  • As in all Blogging U. courses, participants will have a private community site, the Commons, for chatting, connecting, and seeking feedback and support. Daily Post staff and Happiness Engineers will be on hand in the comments to answer your questions and offer guidance and resources.
  • If you’ve taken Writing 101 before: yes, these will be the same prompts. Blogging U. courses always repeat unless we specifically indicate that a course is new.

Ready to register?

We’re excited you’re joining us! Fill out this short form to get started:

Take Our Survey

Note: you won’t receive an automated confirmation, but you’ll get a welcome email with full details just prior to the start of the course.

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, Events, Writing
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New Themes: Resonar and Scrawl

Happy Theme Thursday, all! Today I’m pleased to present two new free themes designed especially for longform writing.

Resonar

resonar

Designed by yours truly, Resonar is an elegant blog theme with full-screen Featured Images. It’s perfect for blogs about fashion, food, or design, and the layout works especially well for longform features with large images. The combination of gorgeous images and beautiful typography creates posts that make an immediate visual impact.

Read more about Resonar on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes.

Scrawl

Scrawl WordPress theme

Scrawl, designed by Caroline Moore, is a clean, responsive theme with bold featured images, fancy image captions and pull quotes, and plenty of space for your content to shine. Post details fade in when you hover over them, so readers can focus entirely on your beautiful content when not navigating your site. A slide-out sidebar provides ready access to secondary content, including Social Links, Custom Menus, and Widgets.

Read more about Scrawl on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Filed under: Themes
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Websites for the Win: Four Home Pages

We love blogs, but we love websites, too. Small businesses, personal portfolios, non-profit organizations, government websites — bring ‘em on! These four sites are each beautiful, effective, and built on WordPress.com.

Sandyfoot Farm

Purple carrots, green grass, red tomatoes — rather than clashing, the images on Sandyfoot Farm’s site suggest abundance and health. Popular free theme Sela is the perfect backdrop for these Virginia farmers’ vibrant vegetables.

sandyfootSela‘s built-in “front page” template gives them space for a welcome note and and three areas highlighting key elements of their business like farmers’ market appearances, farm shares, and their farm blog. The theme’s default sans-serif font plays well with the Sandyfoot logo and keeps things feeling streamlined, even amidst a riot of color.

Only in the Peg

Ever thought about visiting Winnipeg, Canada? You will after seeing Only in the Peg, the adorable online showcase the city’s tourism board built using the premium Adventure theme. While the site retains a blog-style layout, its use of featured posts, widgets, and a menu create a home page feel.

winnpeg small header

Replacing the theme’s stock adventure travel images with retro-mod patterns and a trio of cartoon clothespegs — Mister, Missus, and Lil’ Peg — gives the site a fun, family-friendly vibe. We especially love the punch of orange in the site’s logo, and shadow of Winnipeg’s skyline spanning the header. Next stop, Manitoba!

Trina Lambert

Even we are hard pressed to tell what theme graphic designer Trina Lambert uses for her personal site — pared down and bold, it puts all the focus on her, where it belongs. (Hint: it’s Clean Home, a free blog theme.)

lambert small

Clean Home already features bold text against a crisp white backdrop; Trina takes that a step further, removing the theme’s standard red title text and creating a stripped-down home page with a few well-placed graphics. It’s an eye-catching presentation that gives visitors an immediate sense of her style.

Leading Change

New Zealand’s Leading Change is a network of social entrepreneurs committed to fostering social and environmental change. On their website, they lead the charge using the free theme Edin.

leading change small

Edin is tailor-made for business and organizational sites. Leading Change makes the theme their own with an engaging image layered with their mission statement. Swapping out Edin‘s chunkier fonts for lighter, leaner Futura keeps things modern, in line with the organization’s forward-looking stance.

From themes like Goran, Creative Portfolio, or Swell designed with websites in mind to malleable blog-style themes like Twenty Twelve and Oxygen, WordPress.com lets you go beyond the blog. Free themes and tools allow anyone to build a professional site quickly and easily, and add-ons like premium themes or the WordPress.com Business plan, mean the sky’s the limit.

Filed under: Customization, Themes
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Four Themes for Photographers and Photobloggers

Maybe you’re working on a 365 project, with a photo for each day of the year. With a couple months under your belt, you might be looking for a new theme to showcase your work. Let’s check out four themes where the typography and color palettes step aside so that your photos get your visitors’ full attention.

Cubic

Made with photographers and photobloggers in mind, Cubic is eye-catching and bold out of the box. Its pleasing homepage grid showcases your posts’ featured images.

Consider this subtle, almost ethereal application of Cubic at WE THE BIRDS, a site “dedicated to the travelers, the nomads, the free spirits, the culturally aware, the expat kids.” The Birds’ muted photography looks fantastic with the theme’s dark filter option for featured images. Using the site logo feature, they’ve uploaded a beautiful feather illustration that lends a unique, personal touch to their site.

wethebirds

Minnow

Minnow‘s gray color palette accentuates photography. The social links menu knows its place: front and center on the homepage, it will encourage visitors to share your work on their favorite social networks.

We loved Minnow in action at AMSTERDAMMING, a fun, vibrant, photo-filled blog chronicling life in Amsterdam through Andra’s eyes. Her photo collages are particularly stunning. A short trip through her blog, and you might be ready to pack your bags for a visit or even a move to the Netherlands.

amsterdamming

Radcliffe

Radcliffe’s full-width images are ideal for showcasing your latest photographs.

Check out Radcliffe in full force at JONASRASK|PHOTOGRAPHY, where, as a visitor, you get a wonderful sample of Jonas‘ incredible work simply scrolling through stacked images on his homepage. Jonas intersperses stark black and white featured images with brilliant color, to great dramatic effect.

jonasrask

Editor

Editor‘s large and sophisticated typography and gray color palette offer the perfect canvas for any photographer or photoblogger.

Rob Moses‘ sharp red and blue site logo is the first thing that grabs your attention, until you catch sight of his work; you can easily lose yourself scrolling through his stunning photos of life in Calgary, Alberta. Winter is particularly beautiful, as seen through Rob‘s lens.

robmosesphotography

Which themes do you love for photography and photoblogging? It’s always wonderful to see how WordPressers put themes to work.

Filed under: Customization, Themes
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March Blogging U. Courses: Blogging and Photo 101

Registration for March’s Blogging U. courses is now closed, and both courses have started. Check back later in the month to learn more and register for April’s offerings!

And you'll get a badge! Who doesn't love a badge?

Blogging 101: Zero to Hero — March 2 – 20

Blogging 101 is three weeks of bite-size assignments that take you from “Blog?” to “Blog!” Every weekday, you’ll get a new assignment to help you publish a post, customize your blog, or engage with the community. Whether you’re just getting started or want to revive a dormant blog, we’ll help you build blogging habits and connections that will keep you going over the long haul.

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.

seal_v2-01

Photography 101: A Photo a Day — March 2 – 27

Photography 101 is a photo-a-day challenge. You’ll publish new posts, make new friends, and hone your photographer’s eye.

Photography 101 is a four-week, intro-level course open to all, from new bloggers to hobbyist photographers to pro-shooters. Use the camera you like: a phone, a point-and-shoot, or a dSLR. Each weekday, we’ll give you a new photography theme and tip — we might share advice on composition, tips on working with different light sources, or image editing ideas — and the community critique will inspire and motivate you.

How do Blogging U. courses work?

Blogging U. courses exist for one reason: to help you meet your own blogging goals.

  • Courses are free, flexible, and open to all.
  • You’ll get a new task to complete each day, along with some advice and resources. Do them on your own time, and interpret them however makes sense for your specific blog and personal goals — we’re not grading you, we’re not checking that you complete every task, and there’s no “wrong” way to use the resources we give you.
  • You’ll receive each assignment via email. Each assignment will contain all the inspiration and instructions you need to complete it. Weekends are free.
  • Each course will have a private community site, the Commons, for chatting, connecting, and seeking feedback and support. Daily Post staff and Happiness Engineers will be on hand to answer your questions and offer guidance.

How do I register?

While you’re free to register for both, we encourage you to try one course at a time, to be sure you get the most out of the experience. All courses will be repeated throughout 2015.

To register, fill out this short form. Registration for each course remains open until the day before the course begins. You won’t receive an automated confirmation email, but you’ll receive a welcome email with more detailed instructions before your course(s) begin.

Registration for these courses is now closed. We’ll announce April’s Blogging U. offerings later in the month!

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, Support
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New Theme: Lyretail

Happy Theme Thursday, all! Let’s dive right into a new free theme:

Lyretail

Lyretail

Designed by Mel Choyce, Lyretail is a stunning visual treat for your personal site. The theme puts your social presence front and center, displaying social links prominently below the site’s title and logo, so readers can easily find you on your favorite social networks.

Secondary information, like a Custom Menu or Widgets, are tucked behind a convenient slide-down menu, while bold featured images grace the header, putting your photographs front and center.

Read more about Lyretail on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Filed under: Themes
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WordPress for iOS: New Visual Editor and More!

WordPress for iOS version 4.8 comes with exciting editor and navigation enhancements.

Visual Editor

We’re thrilled to announce that the 4.8 release includes a beautiful new visual editor. With the new editor, you can add rich text like bold, italics, links, and lists naturally as you type. You can also insert images with a tap, seeing real-time uploading progress and images right in the post.

Before

New Editor

App users have long wished for a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editor on iOS. Until now, a rich mobile editing experience on the iOS app was reserved for those who felt comfortable with HTML. But not everyone is comfortable with coding, and few find it convenient to use code on a mobile device. The visual editor removes this technical friction and makes creating and publishing content on the go simpler. No code necessary!

The new editor interface has been streamlined for the most frequently used functionality. For our coders, poets, code poets, and folks that want to add more custom elements to their content, the new editor comes equipped with an HTML toggle. Hop over to the HTML view to add more complex styling like headers, <!–more–>, shortcodes, and single-line spacing.

Image Settings

The visual editor also comes with more robust image settings. Editing image title, caption, alt text, alignment, link, and size is just a tap away while you’re writing.

Tap to edit

Image settings

Updated Navigation

Managing your sites and managing your account are two different tasks, so in 4.8, we unpacked site management into its own top-level navigation tab called “My Sites.” The “Me” tab is still the home of account settings and the go-to place for extra support!

Before

After

Like with any big changes to the interface, the new navigation may jiggle your muscle memory a bit, but once you get a feel for it, the new tab will smooth out navigation and give you faster access to all the features you love.

Thank You!

The WordPress mobile apps are open source and work for both WordPress.com and WordPress self-hosted blogs. Wonderful people from the entire WordPress community contribute to making each release a success. Thanks to all of the iOS app contributors, and thanks to our wonderful users who share thoughtful feedback daily.

Filed under: Features, Mobile
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Five Themes for Poets (and Other Text-Loving Bloggers)

Over at The Daily Post, our first poetry-focused Blogging U. course, Writing 201: Poetry, has just entered its second week. It’s been a blast, with hundreds of poets sharing their work, experimenting with new forms, and commenting on their peers’ poems.

After working hard on polishing their elegies, haiku, and ballads, most writers want to make sure their readers can enjoy their work to the fullest. This is where choosing the right theme can play an important role (this is true for non-poets too, of course): you want your posts to be readable, clean, and inviting. Here are some options to consider (as well as a few community favorites).

Illustratr

mint - illustratr

This might sound like an unorthodox choice, given Illustratr‘s natural appeal to visual artists of all types. But its typography, post title styling, and overall crispness makes Illustratr as poem-friendly as it gets. Add a featured image, and you can balance the spare look with a bold dash of color.

Illustratr‘s relative, Writr, is also a favorite theme among the poetry crowd. “The font size is quite big and this works well with poetry,” says the blogger behind This Hideous Heart.

Sela

mint sela

For those who want to create a warm, inviting space without sacrificing readability, Sela — a very recent addition to the Theme Showcase — is a theme worth exploring. Even if you use a number of widgets in your sidebar, the focus is squarely on your words.

Poetry curation site Ars Poetica makes great use of Sela‘s airy look. Blogger Denise chose it because it’s “easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye.”

Tonal

mint- tonal

A bold, emphatic post title area coupled with a generous, full-width featured image prepare your reader for what’s to come. Tonal‘s clear font and white background take care of the rest.

Many writers go for some of our other popular minimalist themes — from old favorites like Manifest and Truly Minimal to recent additions like Penscratch.

Cubic

mint-cubic

Created with photobloggers in mind, Cubic is a theme that makes it clear you can paint pictures with your words, too. The gorgeous typography might convince your readers that they’re reading a volume produced by a vintage letterpress, not a webpage.

Another versatile theme that’s become a go-to for many poets is this year’s highly customizable default theme, Twenty Fifteen. It comes recommended by blogger-poets Zen and Pi, Mutafariq Khayalat, and Kavita Panyam.

Minnow

mint minnow
Taking minimalism to a pleasing new height, Minnow‘s stark look directs your visitors’ eyes where you want them: your words. However, with a centrally-located social links menu, the theme also keeps you connected to the world outside your poetry.

To see Minnow in action, head to poetry-heavy blog Devious Bloggery, where poems of various styles and lengths are equally easy to read and savor.

Looking for more ideas for reader- and writer-friendly themes? Here are few more ideas.

Poets, wordsmiths, and minimalists of all stripes: what theme do you use for a clutter-free reading experience? Share your favorites in the comments.

 

Filed under: Customization, Themes, Writing
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A Year of Reading the World: A Q&A with Ann Morgan

Several years ago, writer Ann Morgan noticed that she didn’t read much literature from countries outside of the United Kingdom and United States — and had yet to dive into stories from around the globe. From this realization, her blog, A Year of Reading the World, was born. You can read about Ann’s journey in her new book, Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer, available now in the UK. (The US version, The World Between Two Covers, will be released on May 4.)

I chatted with Ann about the blog-to-book journey and her experience of reading and blogging about literature from 197 countries.

For readers new to A Year of Reading the World, can you talk about your original project — and how the blog came about?

A comment someone left on a blog I wrote four years back, A Year of Reading Women, got me thinking about how little literature I read from countries other than the UK and US. The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed that I would limit myself to such a small proportion of the world’s stories. The next year, 2012, was set to be a very international one for the UK, with the Olympics coming to London and plans for big celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, so I decided to spend it trying to read a novel, short story collection, or memoir from every UN-recognized country (plus a couple of extras) and blogging about each book.

As I didn’t know what to choose or how to find books from some places, I asked the world’s book lovers to offer suggestions. I registered the domain name ayearofreadingtheworld.com, set up the blog on WordPress.com, and put a call out on social media. Before long, I was inundated with recommendations and other offers of help.

Reading your way through nearly 200 countries requires discipline! How did you stay motivated as a blogger?

It wasn’t easy. I had to be very organized. I calculated how much I needed to get through each day (around 150 pages to stay on track to read four books a week), and made sure I stuck to it. This meant reading for two hours on my commute and an hour or two in the evening. I sometimes read during my lunch break, too. And on Saturdays I spent the mornings in bed with a book. I got very good at reading at odd moments — while walking along the road and going up escalators, for example, and on the exercise bike at the gym.

The author, reading in Crete.

The author, reading in Crete.

Reading was only half the battle — writing the blog posts and doing all the research to find the books took as much time, so I got up early to work on this before I left for work.

For all the hard work, though, it was a lot of fun. The generosity and enthusiasm of my blog’s followers around the world helped me source titles. Readers posted kind comments every day, and this kept me going and cheered me across the finish line.

How did your book deal come about?

The book cover of Ann's UK release

The UK book cover

When I started the project, I had no clue it would lead to a book. But three or four months into the year, media interest was starting to build with the Olympics approaching, so several people suggested that a book might be a good idea. I’d always wanted to be an author, so I put together a short book proposal and sent it to a handful of literary agents.

Several were interested in it, but one in particular — Caroline Hardman at Hardman & Swainson — seemed to look at the project the same way I did. We also got on well personally, which was a bonus.

After I’d signed with Caroline, I spent the next few months shaping the book proposal and writing sample chapters (and, yes, I was still reading the world and earning money to pay the bills during this time!). Caroline sent the proposal out in September 2012 and within half an hour an email came from my editor, Michal Shavit at Harvill Secker/Random House, making an offer for the book.

What about the blog-to-book process? Did much of your post content end up in the book?

The book cover of Ann's US release

The US book cover

I spent about a year-and-a-half, on and off, writing and rewriting after I got the deal. In the end, none of the material from the blog made it into the book. In fact, only a few paragraphs from the sample chapters are in there.

The main challenge was finding the right form for the book. I remember a meeting where Michal told me that I needed to let go of the blog, and she was right. There would have been no point giving a blow-by-blow account of the year because that already existed on the blog. I needed to find a way of taking the insights that quest gave me and shaping them into something new.

In the end, the book became a space for exploring the big questions that arose during my adventure. There were issues like cultural identity, translation, censorship, and how the internet shapes our reading that I didn’t have a chance to consider in depth on the blog, but was really interested to research more thoroughly.

I love both the UK and US covers of your book. Beyond the cover art, is there a difference in these versions?

Thanks! No. Although they look very different, they are actually the same book. The UK title was too close to something else Liveright/Norton — my US publisher — publishes, but apart from this, my US editor, Elisabeth Kerr, was very keen to keep the text exactly as it had been in the original.

With your Book of the Month posts, you’ve kept your blog alive, post-project. Do you have other plans for the blog, post-book release?

The coming year looks very exciting with lots of invitations to travel, speak at events, and take part in reading-related initiatives. I plan to record my experiences on the blog and take the many people who’ve supported the project for such a long time — and the new subscribers who sign up every day — along for the ride. Now and then, if there’s a book-related issue that I have something to say about, I’ll write about it on the blog, too.

I still get a lot of recommendations for new books from blog visitors, so I’m still updating the list and will carry on doing that. And of course the Book of the Month posts will continue. It’s hard to know what the future holds, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading the world in one way or another for a long time to come.


Read what’s new on Ann’s blog, A Year of Reading the World. You’ll find Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer (UK version, available now) and The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe (US version, available on May 4) on Amazon.

Filed under: Community, Profile, Writing
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New Themes: Hew and Sobe

Hew is a personal-blogging theme with a distinct identity and a bright splash of colour. Share your thoughts and experiences with readers while connecting through prominently placed social media links.

Hew

The Hew Theme

Designed by yours truly, Hew puts your content in the spotlight. With its single column and bold typography, Hew offers a pleasant reading experience across all devices — no matter whether your visitors arrive by smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. Make it your own with your Gravatar or a custom header image.

Read more about Hew on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes.

Sobe

Sobe WordPress Theme

Sobe is an eye-catching personal blogging theme for sharing life’s most memorable moments, designed by Caroline Moore.

Choose between a one- or two-column layout by adding widgets, help your content stand out with colorful post formats, add links to your favorite social networks, and brand your site with a site logo or header image.

Read more about Sobe on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

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