Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

Social Media Icons Widget

Now available in a widget dashboard near you, we present the Social Media Icons Widget! No longer do you have to fiddle around with complicated HTML code to add beautiful social media icons to your blog or website.

With this new widget, you can add icons for the most popular social networks in no time. The icons are linked to your social media profiles, making it easy for your readers to follow your latest status updates.

The Old Way

complicated-text-widget

The New Way

social-widget-opened-no-arrow

Currently, we support adding social media icons for the most popular social networks, including:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • GitHub
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo

If you want to add an icon for a different service, you can do so with a bit of HTML.

After you save your widget, check out your blog to see how the snazzy new icons look. Then grab yourself a cup of tea, and watch your follower count skyrocket! :)

front-end

Filed under: Social, Widgets
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New Theme: Cyanotype

It’s the time of the week again, Happy Theme Thursday! We’re pleased to present a new free theme, Cyanotype:

Cyanotype

cyanotype

Cyanotype, designed by yours truly, is a monochromatic blog theme with a bold, yet simple look that sets your blog apart from the rest. Pick your favorite background color or image to lend your personal flair.

default
green
red
yellow
strong-red
image

Cyanotype also supports the following popular features: Custom Header, Custom Menu, Social Links, Site Logo, Featured Images, and Widgets.

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

Filed under: Themes
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Keep Connected! Expats and Nomads Blog Around the World

We don’t write blogs purely for ourselves — we write them to be read. For people who live far from family and friends, blogs serve twin readerships: they give the intrepid traveler a simultaneous way to chronicle travels for a broad audience and update those back at home.

We love following the worldly adventures of these four expats and nomads, and we’re sure their friends appreciate the virtual lifeline, too!

Wish I Were Here

Writer J.D. Riso is a self-identified dromomaniac — a person with an uncontrollable desire to wander. Wish I Were Here is her record of a lifetime of global peregrinations, told in in musings and photos.

wish i were here

Her blog isn’t a real-time travelogue, which makes it all the more fascinating. You might find yourself reading about the legacy of Communism in Bratislava, Slovakia; the urban renaissance of Skopje, Macedonia; violence against women in Papua New Guinea; an unexpected epiphany in Narita, Japan; or an unwanted travelmate in Costa Rica. Wherever the destination, J.D.’s keen eye, unflinching honesty, and rhythmic reflections create a strong sense of place, heightened by her well-chosen photos.

Like the look of J.D.’s blog? She uses the Hemingway Rewritten theme with a whimsical custom header.

Travels with Tricia

Tricia is a communications professional and citizen diplomat — a traveler engaged in cultural exchanges, not just tourism.

travels with tricia

Her most recent posts take us on a stroll through Genoa, Nevada; a tour of the Enzo Ferrari museum in Modena, Italy; and an afternoon at the beautiful monastery in Ettal, Germany. Past posts let us tag along on trips to Marrakech, Morocco; Toronto, Canada; Luang Prabang, Laos; and dozens more destinations.

For those who finish one of her posts inspired to pack a bag and get on the road, each one ends with planning pointers: maps, logistical information for any locations mentioned in the post, recommended lodgings and restaurants, and other helpful local links.

Are Tricia’s bold photos and clean layout just what you’ve been looking for? You’ll find them in the Photographer theme.

American Life. The Italian Way.

Maura Malfatto Elia moved from Italy to the United States thirty years ago, but still has her Italian accent. She offers thoughtful commentary on both her home and adopted countries at American Life. The Italian Way.

american italian

Maura reflects on the differences between the educational systems in the two countries, looks at the Italian influence on the US in a post about Montessori Schools, and talks with other Italians about the experience of being an expat in the US. Her blog is just getting started, but her posts and perspective already have us intrigued.

Maura’s high-impact home page comes courtesy of the new free theme Cubic.

Experimental Expats

Rob and Diane of Experimental Expats are technically expats-to-be. They’re about to turn the last page on the American and Canadian chapters of their lives and start a new one — in Malaysia.

experimental expats

So far, Experimental Expats has followed Rob and Diane as they’ve prepared to retire, sold their California house, and filed the paperwork needed to become Malaysian residents. In six more weeks, the site will transition to their expat adventure, as they finally touch down in their new Malaysian home.

Experimental Expats has clean menus, a custom header, and a flexible two-column layout — it must be the Twenty Twelve theme!

Want to do a little more armchair traveling? Here are a few more great blogs to fuel your wanderlust:

  • Oh God, My Wife Is German follows the (often unintentionally) hilarious life of an American expat adjusting to a German wife and German life.
  • Kate Goes Global follows Spanish-born Katharina as she moves from Spain to Switzerland to the UK, and racks up thousands of other travel miles.
  • TinyExpats proves that a nomadic life isn’t just for twenty-something singles — this blogger, her spouse, and their two daughters are now in Pardubice, Czech Republic, following stints in Hamburg, Germany; Shanghai, China; and Moscow, Russia.
  • Om the Road is true evidence of our increasingly boundary-less world — it’s written by an Australian and Hungarian who first met in Peru and now live in Indonesia.

Filed under: Community
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Field Notes: Hispanicize 2015

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do when not in front of a computer.

Two weeks ago, Happiness Engineers Karen Arnold, Marjorie R. Asturias, and Jamil Abreu, as well as Code Wrangler Damian Suarez, attended the sixth annual Hispanicize conference in downtown Miami, Florida. The event, which took place from March 16-20, is billed as the “largest annual event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in journalism, blogging, marketing, entertainment, and tech entrepreneurship,” drawing over 2,000 attendees. Marjorie shares her experience meeting and getting to know some of the most influential bloggers in the Latino community. 

The statistics are hard to ignore: with an estimated number of about 53 million in the United States, according to the 2012 US Census, Hispanics represent one of the fastest growing segments of the US population. The majority (62%) speak English or are bilingual. They’re the most active users of social networking sites.

Walking the halls of the InterContinental Miami, I felt the energy driving those numbers. Sponsors eager to tap into this thriving demographic rolled out the red carpet — literally, in some cases — and splashed out on swag-filled, interactive booths. At night, attendees could take their pick: Independent film premiere? Awards ceremony featuring Miss USA? Concert featuring some of the hottest Latino musicians? Yacht party (this is Miami, after all)?

The most memorable part of the event, though, was meeting the bloggers, whose presence was the crown jewel of the conference. It seemed as if nearly all of them had WordPress sites, and they didn’t hesitate to express their love for all things WordPress! They poured into the Happiness Bar, emptied our swag tables, asked questions about everything from Akismet to Yoast, gave lots of hugs, and took lots of photos. Latinos are renowned for their close family ties, and everyone who came to our booth definitely went out of their way to welcome us as part of their blogging familia.

Karen and blogger Laura Tellado
Marjorie with bloggers and marketing consultants Erin Chase and Toni Anderson.
Damian engineering happiness at the Happiness Bar!
WordPress.com was a proud sponsor of Hispanicize.
Jamil helping out a blogger with a tricky WordPress question. They needed to be near an outlet because her laptop was running out of power!
Busy morning at the Happiness Bar!
Bilingual Code Wrangler Damian helps out a user in his native Spanish.
Ending a busy day with some music and dancing with friends. So Miami!

We hosted a full day of WordPress sessions on Tuesday — dubbed WordPress Latino Day! — where we shared tips on getting started with WordPress, popular plugins, and little-known but critical features available on WordPress.com. We also offered several other sessions on SEO, social media, and responsive design. Damian and Jamil conducted popular bilingual workshops especially for beginning bloggers.

Packing up the booth at the close of the conference on Friday evening was a melancholy affair. We’d made so many new friends and connected with an engaging and passionate community of bloggers. Sure, being in the same room with Miss USA and Don Francisco, the longtime host of the Univision powerhouse variety show Sabado Gigante, were pretty thrilling moments, but nothing beats sharing WordPress stories with fellow bloggers.

Special thanks to Kathy Cano-Murillo (of Crafty Chica fame!), PR guru Vanessa James, and Sebastian Aroca for helping to spread the word about WordPress, sharing their connections, and even getting us access to exclusive events! We hope to see more of y’all in 2016!

 

Filed under: Community, Events
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New Theme: Lingonberry

It’s Theme Thursday, and we’re happy to present a brand new free theme for your enjoyment.

Lingonberry

Lingonberry WordPress theme

Lingonberry is a bright, personable blogging theme by Anders Norén with bold colors and accents and a playful, modern twist. Formatted posts stand out from the rest, space for your site logo adds a personal touch, and footer widget areas for additional content give your posts and pages plenty of room to shine. Lingonberry also adapts to your device, for a flawless reading experience no matter the screen size.

Lingonberry on multiple devices

Get to know Lingonberry on the Theme Showcase, or give it a spin by activating it from Appearance → Themes!

Filed under: Themes
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Celebrating Poetry, All Month Long

April is National Poetry Month, and we love each day’s flurry of new posts tagged #nationalpoetrymonth in the WordPress.com Reader and across the internet. WordPressers are busy in the #napowrimo tag as well, participating in NaPoWriMo, Maureen Thorson’s annual project that encourages and challenges poets to write a poem a day in April.

Let’s look at some poetry we’ve stumbled upon recently across the WordPress.com community.

“Me as a Child” series, Silver Birch Press

We’re enjoying the Me as a Child series at Silver Birch Press — poems on childhood by various poets. Consider this excerpt from “Swarm” by Alan King:

She was a sixth grader, who mistook
my lamppost legs and power line arms
for a fifth grader.

She was as old as the boys
throwing grass in each other’s hair,
rolling around in a kind of awkward
tango towards manhood.

“I Allow Myself Poetry,” Summer Pierre

Poetry is the largest influence on the comics of Summer Pierre, a cartoonist and illustrator in New York. In “I Allow Myself Poetry,” she illustrates her world, where poetry and comics meet.

I guess this is where poetry and comics meet so clearly — neither art form will most likely pay the bills, but they both go along way to keep on the lights.

Summer Pierre

Daily poetic musings, Optional Poetry

C., the blogger at Optional Poetry, is using April as a time for experimentation. Here’s a snippet of a poem from the first day of NaPoWriMo:

Today again I paid
to learn, watching

refugees sit and wait
for their bus, and asked

the doctor what the term
really means—

she couldn’t say
exact qualifications,

just that for some
recognized reason,

a person had to leave
their homeland.

Astropoetry and art, Tychogirl

Tychogirl focuses on poetry about astronomy, uses found materials, and publishes mixed media art. Exploring the blog is like hunting for treasures.

"Wave," Tychogirl

“Wave,” Tychogirl

Poems, Dry-Humping Parnassus

Just dive into Robin Lucas’ poetry category — you won’t be sorry. The Southern California-based poet and writer’s work is unexpected and moreish; here’s a sampling from “Red Flag Waving”:

This verse is not free,
and this poem is no poem—

it’s a red flag waving at death,
at the comical futility of the poet’s

every utterance be it rational
or absurd, sublime or grotesque;

its rhythm is neither tranquil
nor its inspiration divine.

A Poet to Her Son, Words and Other Things

Nicole Marie at Words and Other Things spends her time penning short fiction and poems and is the assistant poetry editor at Philadelphia Stories. Her recent poem on pregnancy and motherhood, “A Poet to Her Son,” is a community favorite. Here’s a sample:

and you -- you are practicing self defense
beneath my flesh; to you, the only world there is.

Spine poetry, Stan Carey

Writer and editor Stan Carey publishes book spine poetry under his “bookmash” tag. We love his latest offering, “After the fire,” in which he finds inspiration in Jared Diamond, David Sedaris, and more:

Red gold
Beyond black,
Incendiary collapse
When you are engulfed in flames:
A bright red scream
From out of the city,
After the fire
A still small
Voice.
Spine poem by Stan Carey

Spine poem by Stan Carey

Poetry from Ireland, Poethead

Christine Murray compiles poetry from Irish and women poets on her site, Poethead. In a post celebrating International Women’s Day, she gathers work from a number of poets, including Nessa O’Mahony and Shirley McClure. Here’s a bit from McClure’s poem, “Mastectomy”:

and on these fine mornings
let me tell you

     it is good to know
     that there are two

Where nature meets poetry, Leaf and Twig

At Leaf and Twig, Catherine Arcolio explores the intersection between nature, photography, and poetry and celebrates the natural world with photo posts and succinct poetic musings. She looks forward to spring in “Resurrection,” her post from April 1:

the ground begins
to make itself
known again

Blackout poetry, Ochwoman to the Rescue

We’ve spotted some great newspaper blackout poetry, which is created by blacking out lines and words in a newspaper piece using a permanent marker. Here’s a poem called “Memoirs of a Teacher (Day 1)” from a seventh grade English teacher:

I have not yet taught
Albert Einstein
or
President of the United States,
but I
strive for
a great foundation,
grand schemes of
profound
comments and creations,
comfort,
constant
learning.

Want more? Dive into the #nationalpoetrymonth and #napowrimo tags, or explore the poetry tag in the Reader.

Filed under: Community
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The Business of Freelancing, Blogging, and Books, According to Author Jennifer Armstrong

First, I should note: I am not related to Jennifer Armstrong. But! I have followed her writing closely over the years — first during her years at Entertainment Weekly, and more recently as the author of books like Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (Simon & Schuster), which offered a definitive history of the classic TV series. Her blog also happens to be a must-follow on WordPress.com: She gives glimpses into her current work (she’s doing a Seinfeld book next) and she’s refreshingly transparent about the business (and hard truths) of being a freelance writer in 2015. I spoke with her via email about the business of writing and tips for how she makes time for her own blog.

***

JKA author photo official

You are in the middle of writing a book about Seinfeld, but you are also quite prolific on your blog right now, with posts about your book research and the business of freelancing and book publishing. Do you force yourself into a schedule, or is this more free-flowing, when the mood strikes you?

It’s a little bit of both. I’m finishing edits on my Seinfeld book, so that will no longer be taking up much time very soon. (And it was off my plate for a while right after I turned it in.) I absolutely have a daily schedule for working on weekdays (roughly 10 a.m.  to 6 p.m., with a lunch/rest break from 1 p.m. to 3-ish). And this includes time in the morning dedicated to checking/responding to email, playing on social media, and blogging. I vaguely aim for daily posting, or at least daily thinking about posting; but I don’t force a post if I have nothing to say. I fall off this a bit if I have a lot of pressing deadlines for paid work.

Wait, so you respond to email BEFORE writing? I feel like all the Lifehacker blog posts tell us to ignore email until we’ve pumped out 700 words.

I like to get all my possible procrastination out of the way FIRST. Plus as a freelancer I get a little itchy not knowing what’s going on in my email/not responding to stuff right away. So I do one run at email (I like an inbox-zero when possible), a basic pass at Facebook and Twitter, then blog. I also like to know what’s going on in the world a little before I blog; if everybody’s talking about something that I want to write about, that’s good to know. This honestly often takes up most to all of my morning, but then when I come back to my desk after lunch I can just write up a storm for a few solid hours. I’ve always been better in the afternoon anyway. 3 to 6 p.m. tends to be my most productive time.

Your most recent writing on your blog has been about the business of freelancing, and what I appreciated about your original post and your follow-up post was how explicit you were about what’s required to actually make a freelance writing career really happen. Is it really still possible in 2015?

I do think it’s possible, because I’ve been doing it for three years and seem like I’ll make it another year. I also know other people who are doing it.

Your posts are also transparent about finances — like what you might be able to get from a book deal — and it seems like you look for a very delicate balance between being helpful and encouraging to those who want to pursue a freelance career, but clear about the realities of the publishing business right now.

No matter how many times people tell you how hard it is to be a freelance writer, you never truly understand until you do it. I guess we all like to believe we’ll be the exception. And that’s okay, as long as you’re prepared mentally. I teach at Gotham Writers’ Workshops, and sometimes I get students who are clearly thinking they’re going to just become freelance writers. It’s hard for me, even with lots of experience. If they still want to do it, that’s great; I just want them to know the reality.

In that same vein, I think my approach in general when teaching writing and doing one-on-one coaching with writers is exactly what you said: being encouraging while still being very tough-love realistic. I don’t want to get too “boo hoo writing is so hard!” Because it’s a great job. But you have to have a specific temperament that’s immune to rejection and loves the hustle. These traits don’t come naturally to all writers. I also think it’s important for us to talk a little more openly about money. There’s something specific to writers that makes us shy about it. Maybe because of writing’s proximity to art, like we’re supposed to be doing this only out of the depths of our soul and money shouldn’t matter? Writing really is a skill, and journalism definitely is. We should be paid for our work. Other professionals enjoy their work, too, and get paid decently for it.

Based on your past experience, what does the freelance market look like right now? Is it better or worse than it was, say, five years ago? I feel like we’ve seen a lot of new media startups take off, but it’s unclear to me whether many of them are using freelancers or simply hiring full-time staff.

Exactly! I am always loathe to say things are getting “worse,” though it certainly seems like it was more fun and profitable to be a freelance journalist, say, in the 1960s (or ’70s, or ’80s, or ’90s …). There are tons of startups now, and with venture capital. (That’s key because they don’t have to be profitable for a while, and yet they still have gobs of money.) I’m hopeful that this will work out well for freelancers. Those places are staffing up, but I’ve also successfully pitched a few. I certainly have a long list of targets right now! There’s also a lot more demand for the kind of stuff I write — pop culture stuff. So it’s still early to tell if Vox and the like are going to make a difference for us, but it does seem like the more outlets needing material, the better off we all are.

Do you think this influx also creates an opportunity for established freelancers to “auction” their stories to a highest bidder? Say, similar to book publishing’s system? It feels like online publishers for a long time benefitted from the lack of competition for story pitches, allowing them to keep their rates down, and I wonder if that is changing too.

I hope so! I do feel like I have a few more options, and find myself sorta auctioning them in my head. That is, strategizing to start with the place most likely to pay well. Some digital outlets also pay surprisingly well, which is a change that just started to happen after the terrible “free” trend of several years. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a few digital outlets recently when they told me what they’d pay for something.

Beyond the freelancing advice on your site, you’ve written a lot of great posts about your books in progress—including your forthcoming book on Seinfeld. Do you have a strategy for how you write about your books that aren’t yet released? Do publishers have “feelings” about how much you share and when?

I used to think I shouldn’t reveal ANYTHING. But honestly, the more I’ve read about this, the more I think the opposite is true. Little tastes of books get people excited, and sometimes I sort-of “workshop” stuff online. If people seem excited about it or have questions, maybe I’ll put even more in the book. Also, when I’m really in the thick of a book, it’s hard to blog about anything else! I’ve shared more about the Seinfeld book than any other I’ve done, and it feels like it has gained me followers and helped build excitement for the book, which is great. And so far my publisher hasn’t expressed any feelings! I do know that with previous books, they didn’t want EVERYTHING online. But a little bit strategically seems to work.

I think that makes a ton of sense. How did the Seinfeld book idea first come together for you?

Well, I write about TV shows, and it’s hard to imagine a show that’s had more cultural impact. It’s as simple as that: This is a show that went off the air 17 years ago, and somehow people are still constantly talking and writing about it! If you write books about TV, you can’t do better than that.

Were you always a fan? I remember not really loving it (or perhaps more appropriately, not getting it) when it first aired.

I don’t think I’ve ever identified as a Seinfeld Fan (with a capital F). That made me nervous at first about tackling the book because I know how passionate some of the fans are. (Many, many people are sure they are THE biggest Seinfeld fan.) I always liked it and thought it was smart. I’d almost always watch the reruns when I encountered them while flipping through channels. I never got tired of the show. (Miraculously, I am still not.) But I think not identifying as the biggest Seinfeld fan ever helped me, ultimately, in writing the book. It gave me some distance from the show and the phenomenon.

I wonder if working on something that has had such a huge cultural impact presents its own challenges when putting together a book—the material is plentiful, but perhaps too plentiful?

And yes, there is tons of information! Ultimately that ends up being a good thing when you’re writing a book, but it was more challenging to organize than my previous books. The other challenge is finding anything new to say about it! But I’m happy to report that I did get a few “scoops.” I also tried to look deeper into how and why the show struck such a chord and continues to have such relevance to this very second. That, to me, is what makes the show unique among its contemporaries, and even among all other classic TV. It feels like it’s still on today, it’s so pervasive in our culture, even though the last episode was filmed in 1998.

Back to your blog: Do you have friends or colleagues with whom you share your draft posts before you publish them? Or is it more of an off-the-cuff process for you? I’m just wondering whether there’s a process for professional writers when it comes to when you decide you need or want a second set of eyes.

I don’t usually do that much with blog posts; only if I’m writing something delicate that I want to make sure comes through the right way. Otherwise I usually churn out a post and move on. But I am generally a huge fan of having people read stuff, especially longer pieces. I won’t turn any book or proposal in without doing this. I’m lucky in that my partner turns out to be a great editor (though he’s not a professional). I also have some friends I go to over and over for this, most often my friend Heather Wood Rudúlph, with whom I wrote Sexy Feminism. We ran a website together for about eight years, so we know we collaborate well. We read each other’s stuff and have monthly-ish phone meetings to bounce pitches off of each other. I love doing this as a freelancer because we don’t have the advantage of story meetings like staffers do. Ideas always get better when you talk about them.

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, Reading, WordPress.com
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Writers’ block? No problem! Introducing AutoMatton

Here at WordPress.com, we‘re always looking for ways to improve the blogging experience. We pride ourselves on taking your suggestions to heart and work tirelessly to create better tools for you.

Today, we’re releasing a game changer.

As WordPress.com becomes easier to use, one piece of unanswered feedback keeps nagging at us: blogging is hard! Not only do you have to think of something worth saying, you have to take valuable time out of your day to write those things down in an appealing, easy-to-read way! Improvements to WordPress.com can speed up things like load times, but we simply couldn’t remove human nature from the equation… until now.

What is AutoMatton?

AutoMatton uses a simple machine learning algorithm to predict the posts that you will write, taking predictive text and auto-correct to the next level. Think of it as your own private blogging DeLorean traveling at 88mph, but without the need for illegally-obtained plutonium.

AutoMatton analyzes all of the posts that you’ve published, Facebook statuses you’ve liked, Google reviews you’ve left, and emails you’ve sent your mother to produce prose that could have been written by you. Written by future you, that is. Amazing!

Haven’t written much yet? No worries! AutoMatton will fill in any gaps with text randomly pulled from three-year-old Yelp reviews and Wil Wheaton’s Twitter feed to produce full, seamless posts.

I haven’t written anything myself since 2009!

–Matt Mullenweg

How is the content created?

AutoMatton’s job is to figure out the words that you would use given a specific topic to write about. It scours your existing words, fills in the blanks, and checks its own work. Each post AutoMatton writes is compared to your canon of work, old report card grades, everything written by Kurt Vonnegut, and Terms of Service documents from the top 500 most visited websites. AutoMatton then feeds this information back to itself to improve the accuracy of its predictions. It’s like magic.

You can define the approximate word count as well as the number of images that you’d like to use per post. From there, it’s simply a matter of providing a topic and pouring yourself a cup of tea. Or whiskey. Or whiskey with tea.

Once AutoMatton is enabled, you’ll be asked to fill out a short survey and provide some links to your existing social media profiles along with a list of all your living relatives and the password to your Instagram account. From there, just pick a topic for your post and let AutoMatton go to work. In just a moment, it will will generate a title and content and and add your specified number of photos.* All you need to do is click Publish!

*Note: all photos will be kittens. Puppy photos will be available in version 1.1.

I wrote the entirety of Richards IV through VII using AutoMatton!

–William Shakespeare

Never write anything, ever again. To anyone.

Being that our roots are within the open source community, we’ll be opening up this code. We hope to see people build on this work to create automated solutions for any type of writing — we see lots of potential!

Running late and need to tell your partner? Simply press a button and allow AutoMatton to have that conversation for you.

Hey Paul,

Traffic on the 101 is nuts! On top of that, there was only one small piece of pork in the entire bowl, and the rest of it was shredded and dry.

Yes!!! Boba tea FTW!!!

Mark

Need to respond to the email from Aunt Rose from two weeks ago? AutoMatton can tell her all about your new job, without her knowing that it isn’t you. She might even send you a snowglobe from her trip to the Grand Canyon for being so nice.

Dear Aunt Rose,

Hope you’re having fun in Colorado! I hear it’s beautiful, like Applebee’s with a different name. I wanted to tell you that I got that job at Star Trek: The Next Generation! I start on Tuesday.

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Andy

They’ll never know it wasn’t really you!

How do I get started?

Simply click the Enable AutoMatton button under Settings → Writing in your site’s dashboard, or click the button below:

Enable AutoMatton with just a few clicks!

Enable AutoMatton with just a few clicks!

Enable AutoMatton

Once enabled, fill out the form to provide the initial data to AutoMatton. AutoMatton will then run in the background generating content by future you.

Please note: WordPress.com is not responsible for the results.

If you use AutoMatton, feelings of frustration or anger may occur, either yours or that of your readers and friends.

Some AutoMatton testers reported dry mouth, fatigue, feelings of helplessness, jealous shinbone syndrome, or an uncontrollable need to laugh during inappropriate situations.

Enable AutoMatton

Filed under: Better Blogging, Features
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The Business of Freelancing, Blogging, and Books, According to Author Jennifer Armstrong

First, I should note: I am not related to Jennifer Armstrong. But! I have followed her writing closely over the years — first during her years at Entertainment Weekly, and more recently as the author of books like Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (Simon & Schuster), which offered a definitive history of the classic TV series. Her blog also happens to be a must-follow on WordPress.com: She gives glimpses into her current work (she’s doing a Seinfeld book next) and she’s refreshingly transparent about the business (and hard truths) of being a freelance writer in 2015. I spoke with her via email about the business of writing and tips for how she makes time for her own blog.

***

JKA author photo official

You are in the middle of writing a book about Seinfeld, but you are also quite prolific on your blog right now, with posts about your book research and the business of freelancing and book publishing. Do you force yourself into a schedule, or is this more free-flowing, when the mood strikes you?

It’s a little bit of both. I’m finishing edits on my Seinfeld book, so that will no longer be taking up much time very soon. (And it was off my plate for a while right after I turned it in.) I absolutely have a daily schedule for working on weekdays (roughly 10 a.m.  to 6 p.m., with a lunch/rest break from 1 p.m. to 3-ish). And this includes time in the morning dedicated to checking/responding to email, playing on social media, and blogging. I vaguely aim for daily posting, or at least daily thinking about posting; but I don’t force a post if I have nothing to say. I fall off this a bit if I have a lot of pressing deadlines for paid work.

Wait, so you respond to email BEFORE writing? I feel like all the Lifehacker blog posts tell us to ignore email until we’ve pumped out 700 words.

I like to get all my possible procrastination out of the way FIRST. Plus as a freelancer I get a little itchy not knowing what’s going on in my email/not responding to stuff right away. So I do one run at email (I like an inbox-zero when possible), a basic pass at Facebook and Twitter, then blog. I also like to know what’s going on in the world a little before I blog; if everybody’s talking about something that I want to write about, that’s good to know. This honestly often takes up most to all of my morning, but then when I come back to my desk after lunch I can just write up a storm for a few solid hours. I’ve always been better in the afternoon anyway. 3 to 6 p.m. tends to be my most productive time.

Your most recent writing on your blog has been about the business of freelancing, and what I appreciated about your original post and your follow-up post was how explicit you were about what’s required to actually make a freelance writing career really happen. Is it really still possible in 2015?

I do think it’s possible, because I’ve been doing it for three years and seem like I’ll make it another year. I also know other people who are doing it.

Your posts are also transparent about finances — like what you might be able to get from a book deal — and it seems like you look for a very delicate balance between being helpful and encouraging to those who want to pursue a freelance career, but clear about the realities of the publishing business right now.

No matter how many times people tell you how hard it is to be a freelance writer, you never truly understand until you do it. I guess we all like to believe we’ll be the exception. And that’s okay, as long as you’re prepared mentally. I teach at Gotham Writers’ Workshops, and sometimes I get students who are clearly thinking they’re going to just become freelance writers. It’s hard for me, even with lots of experience. If they still want to do it, that’s great; I just want them to know the reality.

In that same vein, I think my approach in general when teaching writing and doing one-on-one coaching with writers is exactly what you said: being encouraging while still being very tough-love realistic. I don’t want to get too “boo hoo writing is so hard!” Because it’s a great job. But you have to have a specific temperament that’s immune to rejection and loves the hustle. These traits don’t come naturally to all writers. I also think it’s important for us to talk a little more openly about money. There’s something specific to writers that makes us shy about it. Maybe because of writing’s proximity to art, like we’re supposed to be doing this only out of the depths of our soul and money shouldn’t matter? Writing really is a skill, and journalism definitely is. We should be paid for our work. Other professionals enjoy their work, too, and get paid decently for it.

Based on your past experience, what does the freelance market look like right now? Is it better or worse than it was, say, five years ago? I feel like we’ve seen a lot of new media startups take off, but it’s unclear to me whether many of them are using freelancers or simply hiring full-time staff.

Exactly! I am always loathe to say things are getting “worse,” though it certainly seems like it was more fun and profitable to be a freelance journalist, say, in the 1960s (or ’70s, or ’80s, or ’90s …). There are tons of startups now, and with venture capital. (That’s key because they don’t have to be profitable for a while, and yet they still have gobs of money.) I’m hopeful that this will work out well for freelancers. Those places are staffing up, but I’ve also successfully pitched a few. I certainly have a long list of targets right now! There’s also a lot more demand for the kind of stuff I write — pop culture stuff. So it’s still early to tell if Vox and the like are going to make a difference for us, but it does seem like the more outlets needing material, the better off we all are.

Do you think this influx also creates an opportunity for established freelancers to “auction” their stories to a highest bidder? Say, similar to book publishing’s system? It feels like online publishers for a long time benefitted from the lack of competition for story pitches, allowing them to keep their rates down, and I wonder if that is changing too.

I hope so! I do feel like I have a few more options, and find myself sorta auctioning them in my head. That is, strategizing to start with the place most likely to pay well. Some digital outlets also pay surprisingly well, which is a change that just started to happen after the terrible “free” trend of several years. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a few digital outlets recently when they told me what they’d pay for something.

Beyond the freelancing advice on your site, you’ve written a lot of great posts about your books in progress—including your forthcoming book on Seinfeld. Do you have a strategy for how you write about your books that aren’t yet released? Do publishers have “feelings” about how much you share and when?

I used to think I shouldn’t reveal ANYTHING. But honestly, the more I’ve read about this, the more I think the opposite is true. Little tastes of books get people excited, and sometimes I sort-of “workshop” stuff online. If people seem excited about it or have questions, maybe I’ll put even more in the book. Also, when I’m really in the thick of a book, it’s hard to blog about anything else! I’ve shared more about the Seinfeld book than any other I’ve done, and it feels like it has gained me followers and helped build excitement for the book, which is great. And so far my publisher hasn’t expressed any feelings! I do know that with previous books, they didn’t want EVERYTHING online. But a little bit strategically seems to work.

I think that makes a ton of sense. How did the Seinfeld book idea first come together for you?

Well, I write about TV shows, and it’s hard to imagine a show that’s had more cultural impact. It’s as simple as that: This is a show that went off the air 17 years ago, and somehow people are still constantly talking and writing about it! If you write books about TV, you can’t do better than that.

Were you always a fan? I remember not really loving it (or perhaps more appropriately, not getting it) when it first aired.

I don’t think I’ve ever identified as a Seinfeld Fan (with a capital F). That made me nervous at first about tackling the book because I know how passionate some of the fans are. (Many, many people are sure they are THE biggest Seinfeld fan.) I always liked it and thought it was smart. I’d almost always watch the reruns when I encountered them while flipping through channels. I never got tired of the show. (Miraculously, I am still not.) But I think not identifying as the biggest Seinfeld fan ever helped me, ultimately, in writing the book. It gave me some distance from the show and the phenomenon.

I wonder if working on something that has had such a huge cultural impact presents its own challenges when putting together a book—the material is plentiful, but perhaps too plentiful?

And yes, there is tons of information! Ultimately that ends up being a good thing when you’re writing a book, but it was more challenging to organize than my previous books. The other challenge is finding anything new to say about it! But I’m happy to report that I did get a few “scoops.” I also tried to look deeper into how and why the show struck such a chord and continues to have such relevance to this very second. That, to me, is what makes the show unique among its contemporaries, and even among all other classic TV. It feels like it’s still on today, it’s so pervasive in our culture, even though the last episode was filmed in 1998.

Back to your blog: Do you have friends or colleagues with whom you share your draft posts before you publish them? Or is it more of an off-the-cuff process for you? I’m just wondering whether there’s a process for professional writers when it comes to when you decide you need or want a second set of eyes.

I don’t usually do that much with blog posts; only if I’m writing something delicate that I want to make sure comes through the right way. Otherwise I usually churn out a post and move on. But I am generally a huge fan of having people read stuff, especially longer pieces. I won’t turn any book or proposal in without doing this. I’m lucky in that my partner turns out to be a great editor (though he’s not a professional). I also have some friends I go to over and over for this, most often my friend Heather Wood Rudúlph, with whom I wrote Sexy Feminism. We ran a website together for about eight years, so we know we collaborate well. We read each other’s stuff and have monthly-ish phone meetings to bounce pitches off of each other. I love doing this as a freelancer because we don’t have the advantage of story meetings like staffers do. Ideas always get better when you talk about them.

Filed under: Better Blogging, Community, Reading, WordPress.com
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New Themes: Saga and Satellite

Happy Theme Thursday, ladies and gentlemen! Let’s take a look at our two newest free themes, Saga and Satellite:

Saga

sagalg2

Saga, designed by the talented Justin Tadlock, is a theme tailor-made for writers, by a writer. The theme’s impeccable typography and attention to detail make for an enjoyable reading experience, and with support for large featured images and multiple post formats, Saga is flexible enough to be used as a photoblog, a personal journal, or a tumblelog.

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

Satellite

Satellite WordPress theme

Satellite, designed by me, is a snappy personal-blogging theme with beautiful typography, prominent featured images, and a fresh, modern look. Customize it further by adding links to your favorite social networks, a site logo, custom header, or custom background.

Get to know Satellite better on the Theme Showcase, or give it a spin by activating it from Appearance → Themes!

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