2014: A Year to Remember #yearinreview

2014 Was A Year To Remember

No doubt about it. 2014 was a year to remember.

I learned and accomplished a lot in 2014. But there were a few bad things I endured, too, which I’ll share with you today.

I’ll also let you know what’s coming up in 2015, for Wording Well, for you, and for me. Read More

Interview With A Blind Woman

 

This is a photo of Kerry Kijewski.

 

Blind people should not be avoided, shunned, or ignored.

This past year, I have encountered two blind people online.

You probably already know Maxwell Ivey, whom I interviewed and who is now a blogging coach and author of Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light (which I edited for him). If you have already visited Max’s blog or had any type of interaction with him, you know that he is a sweet man with a heart of gold. He’s also inspirational in many ways: he lost over two hundred pounds in two years, he owns two businesses (one which involves buying and selling carnival rides), he is a blogger, he’s on social media, and he’s now proud of the fact he’s blind and has accomplished so much in his life.

However, you might not yet know Kerry.

This is a photo of Kerry Kijewski, by the water on one of her trips.

Kerry. Kerry. Who the Heck is Kerry?

Kerry Kijewski is a blind woman. But she is so much more than just that.

She’s a great writer, an insightful person, and a pleasure to talk to, both through emails and Skype. (Aah, I love technology!)

Kerry agreed to let me interview her, too. It seemed only fitting that I should have a post about an interview with a blind woman on my site, as I already have An Interview With a Blind Man on Wording Well.

Kerry is a blogger, a writer, and insightful traveller. Her writing site is a free blog called Her Headache, and her travel site is her new, hosted site called The Insightful Wanderer.

I first met Kerry through LinkedIn, after being told about her by Max, and then through a comment I left for her on her blog.

This is a screenshot of my intro comment to Kerry.

 

This is a photo of Kerry Kijewski, by a castle, on one of her trips.

A Blind Woman Who Wants to Travel?

Kerry’s goals include pursuing a career in writing and travelling the world.

Before you jump to any conclusions about that last statement, know that I initially had a hard time believing it, too. But when you think about it, she has every right to do the same things sighted people do. Her experience, however, will be a bit different from yours or mine. She’ll utilize her other senses to enjoy the locations she visits.

In fact, before we get to the in-depth interview, here is a super-brief introduction to Kerry, using what Kerry has to say about herself and her desire to travel:

I just want to say that I’m no different from anyone else. I’m really not. I’m not scary. I like music, movies, books, autumn, chocolate, and pizza.

I love to laugh and have a wicked sense of humour, if I do say so myself.

I like symmetry.

I love to go to concerts, on day trips/road trips, and theme parks. Even blind girls wanna have fun!

I like to sing, but I am not great.

I love history, psychology, literature, and pop culture.

I love the scent immediately after a spring rain, the fragrance of freshly cut grass in summer,, the crispness of the fall air, or the fresh and still silent snowfall that I smell in the night.

Think what life would be like if you only stayed inside your own little bubble, if you didn’t get out and discovered the world around you. that’s all I want to do. I stand at a place like Niagara Falls and, although I am not taking in its majesty with my eyes, my remaining senses step in and take over. I feel the spray of the mist on my face, I grip the cold railing, smelling the cool windy air, listening to the roar and feeling its vibration through the stone at my feet.

That is what travel can be for me. Just because I can’t see it (which must be really hard for people to wrap their heads around), does that mean I deserve to experience such things for myself any less?

I get something out of going somewhere new and meeting the people who live there. I eat the food and listen to the accents and the differences in speech, but I still see the same humanity that I see everywhere.

We are all the same, despite our differences. That’s the lesson I get from travel and of which I want to impart, whether it’s people from another country, who speak a different language, observe a different religion, or whatever it may be. This translates to living with any difference or “disability” like blindness, that people can’t imagine for themselves, but we all need to try and put ourselves in one another’s shoes to truly find our common ground.

I miss looking at pictures every day. I still like to hear descriptions of something. I can imagine how a certain light hits something. I can imagine a look, but yet I can’t. I try. I don’t just retreat into my own experience of the world.

I have an imagination and I saw more at one time. I have the ability to envision my surroundings.

Travel is also, in huge part, who you are with. It’s the people you experience the world with that make the experience so special.

If the conditions are just right, if the light hits the face of my niece or nephew in just the right way, I catch a glimpse of sweetness in their faces.

Just because blind people can’t see doesn’t mean we don’t wonder what someone of the opposite sex might look like. The inability to see it doesn’t take away the instinct to want to know anyway.

As you can clearly see, Kerry is a woman of substance. Most people, however, can’t seem to look past her blindness, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to showcase her today and do an in-depth interview with her.

This is a photo of Kerry Kijewski, when she did a CN Tower Edge Walk, on one of her trips.

An Interview With A Blind Woman, Kerry Kijewski

Some of the questions have several parts, and some of Kerry’s answers are fairly long. However, I hope you read through each question and response carefully, as Kerry reveals certain things about herself that you don’t want to miss!

Without further ado, please get to know Kerry a bit! I’m sure you’ll come to like her as much as I do! At the very least, you’ll learn a bit about this blind woman and realize that not all blind folk should be clumped together in a stereotypical category, or be treated so differently that they are made to feel like freaks.

Enjoy the interview! Read More

Getting Back to Basics with This Darn Blog

loudspeaker horse with an announcement

It has come to my attention – actually, it’s always been in the back of my mind – that my new website is not that great.

I agree.

Are you surprised?

Don’t be.

Remember, I’m still a fairly new blogger; even though I have been doing this blogging thing for over a year now, I have only been a website owner for a mere few months!

Truthfully, it’s exhausting, sometimes, too.

Boring, Basic, Blogging Responsibilities

Before I tell you of my plan for getting back to the basics of blogging on this darn blog, I want to point out that there is a lot of boring work involved in maintaining a website. I don’t like these basic responsibilities, I didn’t expect them, and I didn’t think they would annoy me so much when I asked these numerous questions about moving websites.

I don’t like having to deal with the crappy parts blogging brings, like checking my spam folder for comments that are actual comments and NOT spammy comments, constantly updating all of my plugins, trying to improve the speed of my site, fixing broken links (even a plugin doesn’t do the whole job), and. . . the list goes on and on.

It’s a hassle.

Then there’s the whole promotion of my site.

I don’t like being one of those people who use social media to get discovered. Marketing just isn’t my thing. But it’s all a part of blogging, regardless of who you are and what type of blog you have.

My main problems are that I want to be Superwoman, doing everything myself, and I don’t always know how to do it all. I’m not talking about time management issues here; rather, I’m talking about being the owner of a successful site that provides great content and makes money, too.

I haven’t even started with Adsense or Adwords or whatever the heck it’s called right now.

Instead, I have been learning about some of the new SEO (search engine optimization) methods and even some coding (!) to help me become a better blogger.

And now my head is filled with all sorts of geeky knowledge that has turned my brain to gobbledygook.

In the recent months (basically, since moving to my own self-hosted site), I have found myself caring about things that never crossed my mind before. PageRank (PR) was not in my lexicon before I owned a computer! I also didn’t care about it, either, when I had a free blog, until my free blog somehow got rated as having a PR of 2. While this is not great, it’s not that bad, either, for someone blogging on a free platform!

The thing is, I’ve lost sight of why I began blogging to begin with. My recent contact and interview with The Productive Superdad made me reconsider my initial reasons, though.

The secret code?

I have even learned some html code! Even though I don’t truly understand how it all works, I have to admit that there are certain instances where knowing certain pieces of code come in handy.
I can highlight text. (You can, too, with this tutorial!)

I can create boxes to put around text.
I can change the colours of both the highlighted text and also the colours of the boxes, using hex code, and can combine them, too!

I can create page jumps (and did many in both this tutorial post I wrote for Dear Blogger as well as in my web hosting guide).

Coding, even though I don’t understand it, is not that hard to do if someone gives you the code to do it! I have to give a shout out Greg Narayan (from Dear Blogger) for providing me with such code. (Thanks, Greg!)

I even created an ebook, 20 Blog Post Must-Haves, which talks about the many different parts of a blog post. You can download it for free when you sign up for my newsletter – another thing I had to learn how to do! (I had to figure out how to make it easily accessible and downloadable!)

Back to Basics

But, getting back to the whole reason why I am writing this right now, and why I began blogging in the first place. . .

Why DID I start blogging?

Everyone has a different reason for creating a blog or a website, and my original reason, basically, was to create an author platform.

Essentially, this meant blogging, getting on social media and connecting with others and somehow obtaining a fan base. It’s kind of strange that I am expected to do all of this without even having a book written! (Yes, two are in the works. Still.)

Of course, I did write a book almost 20 years ago, called The Life and Love of Canadian Poetry: An Interpretative View, but I wrote this for a university course and never expected to make money from it. (If you want to see a video I made about this book, you can watch it here!)

Then I learned of The Writer’s Market – a book that lists just about every publisher there is, along with the types of books that each publishes. Generally, each year’s version is about two inches thick! Yikes. That’s a lot of information!

So far, I own three different volumes. Sigh. Heavy stuff! (Metaphorically AND literally!)

In the 2013 edition of The Writer’s Market, there is a lot of advice about what to do to increase your odds of getting published. I have now done a lot of what was suggested. I started a blog on WordPress, I joined several social media sites and spent months connecting with others and gaining a “following,” and then I even went a step further and got my own hosted website because I found a truly awesome host – Alan Langford, the owner of Abivia (a web hosting company that also cares about feeding the hungry and donates a portion of their earnings to Food Banks Canada if you check a box that tells them do so).

After I started blogging, I discovered many different things, and got swept up in it all.

But I’ve veered off course from my original goal.

And now, some days, I don’t even want to turn on my computer!

This hurts my heart.

I don’t like feeling this way.

Blogging Basics

Q: How many bloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: 100. 1 to change it, and 99 others to tell the first one how it could have been done better.

Giving people what they want is part of blogging. Any blogger will tell you that.

Recently, a discussion I had with Lois (a woman living part of my dream life by taking so many cruises and then blogging about them) revealed to me a few things she didn’t like about my new site.

One of these things was the comment form.

I thought that using the CommentLuv plugin would attract more comments from readers. Ironically, the opposite has happened. Granted, I have never gotten tons of comments on my blog posts like some bloggers I know do, but I did have a lot of interactions with many of my readers.

To rectify this problem, I have now disabled the plugin and am now using the default comment form that is a part of WordPress.

Hopefully this will make commenting easier!

I have also chosen to moderate comments again, so that I can be sure of what is getting posted on my site, and also so that I can ensure I respond to each and every one!

I’m also going to add a more personal touch to my posts, and try not to be so serious and informative all the time. Just because I’m a teacher doesn’t mean I should be teaching you things all the time, does it?!?

Naturally, I will share things with you and will still respond to readers’ requests for specific posts – like I did when I wrote the post about how to get free social media buttons for your blog.

I want to help you, too, however I can.

Answering comments and connecting with others is one of my favourite parts of blogging. Some might say, “That’s what social media is for,” (and they are right) but so is writing in a personal blog!

So that’s my plan.

Now, tell me, does this sound good to you?

* * *

P. S. Don’t forget to grab your free ebook: 20 Blog Post Must-Haves. A link will be sent to you once this form has been submitted!

 

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Short Story “Firs and Angels” Won the Contest I Entered!

short story winner of december 2013 proofa

My short story, Firs and Angels, was the winner of the December 2013’s Short Story competition I entered via LinkedIn! Today I’ll share it with you, too. 🙂 Soon it will be a part of Aspiring Writers Short Story Competition Anthology 2014, which will be sold on Amazon.

Each month a short story contest is open to group participants. The Group I belong to is 810 members strong (as of this writing) and is called Aspiring Writers Short Story Competitions and Discussions. It is a subgroup of Aspiring Writers, to which I also belong.

In mid-January, I made sure to check the weekly notifications from this group. I was shocked and surprised to see that my short story submission won! Thanks, Ronnie Dauber, for choosing me! I particularly liked how you mentioned that it was “obviously edited for grammar and spelling errors,” too! This proves that I made a good choice to offer my editing services to others. 😉

Short Story to be part of Anthology

The really wonderful news is that my short story will be included in an anthology!

Hooray!

This reminds me of my other recent announcement of having a True Tale of mine included in an anthology!

For this, one, however, here is what was told to me in the group:

“All first, second and third place winners will have their stories included in “The Aspiring Writers Short Story Competition” yearly anthology published in soft cover and e-book format, and will be available at Amazon.com, Lebrary.com and Smashwords.”

Update: The Anthology Has Been Published

 

Aspiring Writers 2013 Anthology book cover

The Aspiring Writers 2013 Anthology is available now from Amazon and CreateSpace.

Firs and Angels: A Short Story

Since I retain all rights to this original work, which was written in accordance with the rules, I’m able to share my short story with you.

The rules for this particular short story competition are included below, in addition to the fact that the story was supposed to be about cutting down a Christmas tree. For each short story competition, a specific prompt is provided, to ensure that the stories are newly-written and original. For those of you who know what flash fiction is, you’ll understand this concept. For those who don’t, I think you get the idea of it now. 😉

The short story rules are as follows:

Read More