Category Archives: Random Stuff

Surviving a Writing Conference

May 6, 2015

Last weekend I attended a writing conference (OWFI) in Oklahoma City. I have been to a few blogger conferences and work related conferences but this was my first time at a writers conference.  Ever since being a part of Listen To Your Mother I have tried to be a little more serious about this writing thing.  But the thing with writing is that you have to know how to put words together that make sense and that is not always easy.  Writing good words is hard.  In an effort to be a better writer I decided to attend the OWFI conference, knowing full well that some would not consider a blogger a real writer. To those who think bloggers aren’t real writers, I say “good day. I SAID good day”.  

In attendance, there would be professional and amateur writers and everything in-between, so I was a little nervous. When one is nervous about attending something in which you are not proficient, my first bit of advice is to look your best.  Curl your hair, wear a cute outfit and fabulous shoes.  The following applies to any life social situation: when in doubt it is always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.  Skirts with pockets are helpful, that way you have something to do with the hand that is not holding a wine glass and it looks suave.  Skirts/dresses with pockets say “I’m fashion forward enough to know that dresses with pockets are all the rage right now and I’m cool standing here, looking all casual, with my hand in my cute pocket. People want to talk to a runway pocket wearing writer, so come on over”.  Knowing that you look good can give you the confidence boost you need to walk into a room full of strangers when the thought of networking with them is nauseating.  On a side note;  I abhor networking and small talk.  Networking is for extreme extroverts and most writers and bloggers are not extroverts.  They are typically more comfortable behind the computer or with their nose in a book.  Here is how to overcome the standing-all-alone-with-a-drink-in-your-hand-with-no-one-to-talk-to awkwardness…find someone who looks just as awkward and uncomfortable as you; the person who is using the guise of checking their email as a way to make themselves feel busy instead of painfully alone.  When you see this person at a conference, put on your big girl panties and introduce yourself.  Make a joke about how much you hate networking events and would she like to get a drink and talk about how hard it is to be alone at things like this.  Suddenly you are no longer alone and you just might have a new friend. 

Back to the writers conference: one reason I decided to attend this particular conference is because I would know at least three people there.  The odds were in my favor that I would have at least one person to cling to talk to at all times.  It turns out that I knew a few more people thanks to my online community of bloggers.  Something pleasantly unexpected happened, when I saw my blogging friends they seemed genuinely happy to see me.  As we talked they were interested in why I was there and what I was working on.  They made me feel great and I was really touched.  It made me think about how in everyday life we are always asking people how they are doing but don’t really expect or want a real answer.  What would happen if we actually took the time to find out the answer and listen to them? Instead of just asking how they are doing, asking something specific about their life and really listening to the response. What type of real connection would we make if we slowed down and took the time to really find out how someone was doing?

This interaction made a conference that could have been scary, actually fun.  I have another blogging conference coming up this summer and I realized that I don’t have to dread it.  As long as I have one or two friends there as a security blanket and am prepared to be just as welcoming to new friends as my writer conference friends were to me. This experience reminded me why we even go to conferences like this in the first place.  It renews your passion for whatever vocation or hobby you subscribe to.  Being around other people who love the same things you love, listening to speakers share their knowledge, joking and laughing about topics that outsides would not understand…it’s invigorating.  

The Oklahoma Standard

April 30, 2015

 

 

the oklahoma standard

April was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  20 years ago I was in my first year of college in California.  I heard about it but didn’t know anybody directly effected by it. Now that I’m a bonafide Okie (even though I’m Texas born) I have come to understand what the Oklahoma Standard really means.  This term started being used by the media and civic leaders after the bombing when they saw the outpouring of love, donations, and help from strangers for their fellow Oklahomans.  When you walk through the Memorial museum there is story after story of people who gave their time and resources to help those who were suffering.  This tradition and standard has continued through every emergency, small or large that our state has faced over the past 20 years.  While we may have fundamentally different political or religious views we are able to set our differences aside when faced with adversity and do what needs to be done when someone is in need.  

Oklahoma Standard

This week I met up with some friends from my Oklahoma Women Bloggers group.  We visited the Memorial to show respect for the victims and survivors of the bombing.  I’ve visited the Memorial several times but each time I walk through the 9:03 gate I feel a wave of grief, compassion and healing hit me.  I see the chairs and I feel like time stands still.  Those babies are still just babies, cradled in eternal arms of love; those fathers and mothers wait patiently to be reunited with the pieces of their heart they were forced to leave here back on earth.  No matter your religious upbringing or your understanding of why we are here, you can’t help but know that there is something “more” happening at the Memorial.

Oklahoma Standard

 

the oklahoma standard

 

the oklahoma standard

 

the oklahoma standard

the oklahoma standard

Thoughts on Writing and Blogging

April 22, 2015

blogging

This week I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about her business and how to promote it.  Owning a business is not for the faint of heart.  Now matter how much you wish and hope and pray, it doesn’t just promote itself.  It takes a lot of work and when you’re the one in charge all the responsibility falls on you to make things happen.  The same rules apply if you have a brick and mortar store or an online store, if you’re a retailer or a writer.  As we were saying goodbye she asked me the question every blogger is secretly hoping every real life friend and acquaintance will ask…“What about you? How can I help you promote your blog? What are your goals?”  unfortunately I was at a bit of a loss on how to answer her.  Unless you have a staff to do the leg work of promoting your blog on all the social media outlets, find brands to work with and make you look like a rock star; blogging can be solitary and a labor of love.  You know those bloggers with followers in the hundreds of thousands and really fancy looking sites?  That doesn’t happen all on its own organically.  There is a machine behind the green curtain making things happen.  They have a staff…who get paid money.  Most bloggers will never have that, and I’m okay with that.  For the small time bloggers, we depend on each other to help promote the posts and blogs we love.  We share opportunities with our online friends when we think it will benefit someone else and we are each other’s cheerleaders.  We spread the love and light each other’s candles.

Because success in writing and blogging depends on other people reading what you write, there is a necessary evil that many introverts (who also happen to be bloggers) shy away from.  Self-promotion.  I struggle with tooting my own horn too much because self-promotion feels very self-serving which in turn can feel narcissistic.  But sometimes in order to get the right people to notice you, you have to make yourself seem super awesome…that you are the best thing to happen to the internet since Grumpy Cat.  You have to play this social media numbers game that can feel juvenile and is terribly tiresome.  

This online world is a strange animal.  There is so many awesomely amazing things happening here and so much horrific garbage going on right at the same time, right at our fingertips.  It’s odd that we’re all here together making a go of it.  I like to imagine what the internet would look like in real life: we’re all at a huge library sitting around reading what interests us most.  Over here is a lady looking up recipes, right next to her is a 13 year old frantically flipping through pictures of her friends.  Across from them is a lunatic who is holding out for the South to secede from the Union, hoarding canned goods and ammo.  Next to him is a guy flipping through a Penthouse next to a convention of costumed Star Wars geeks who are crowding a group of moms talking about cloth diapering who sit next to a guy reading instructions on making a homemade bomb (ISA – please do not red flag my innocent little blog for those words.  I swear the only thing I’m concocting in my kitchen is banana bread and baking soda volcanos).  Sprinkled throughout are 10 million diy projects and Amazon drones dropping packages a-la owl mail call at Hogwarts.

Back to the topic at hand.

I wonder what the blogging world was like before Facebook and Twitter?  I guess email played a key role.  You know those annoying informative emails you still get (from a certain age demographic) that have about ten FWDs at the top and contain a link or really long text from some random person and it ends with If you love Jesus you will forward this on to 20 people?  Is that what sharing blog posts was like before social media?  Yikes. Or maybe it didn’t really occur to bloggers way back then that they needed 10,000 page views a day.  Maybe the term “going viral” wasn’t really an end goal.  Maybe they just wrote because they loved to write, regardless if very many people read it. 

writing

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game and forget why you are writing in the first place. 

“If you’re not careful, you’ll hang your entire self-worth on getting published or getting a certain amount of page views.  We might feel like failures if we don’t get them.  But it’s equally dangerous if you do get them.  Little by little it’s easy to start needing them – the comments, the reader e-mails, the Amazon rating, the positive reviews, the Twitter mentions or the Facebook likes.”
- Shauna Niequist

If it doesn’t give you joy, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate.  Not necessarily to stop writing or blogging or whatever, but to step back and take a long hard look at why you do what you do.

So I was and I wasn’t able to answer my friend’s question.  “What about you? How can I help promote your blog? What are your goals?”  What about me?  Well, I’ve given up on the numbers game and blog because I like to.  I don’t know how she could help me…tell every single person she meets “you simply MUST go to Stephanie’s blog right now! It’s the best thing EVER”.  While that’s a nice gesture I don’t think it very effective, plus telling that to every single person she meets seems a bit unreasonable. What are my goals?  I still maintain that I would like to make some sort of living doing this. Whether it be directly or indirectly, I’m not going to place restrictions on how opportunity will present itself.  I told her that I will continue what I’m doing – the writing, the blogging, the building an online community, the blasted self-promotion – and am happy to allow the Universe, God, Random House, whatever, to make itself known through those efforts.

Amen.

Medieval Fair 2015

April 7, 2015

Medieval Fair 2015…it rolled into town with its tents, camels, jiggly coin belts and fairy wings.  Then in a cloud of dust stirred up by pony hooves, jousting contests and mixed with perspiration it was over leaving behind a field of turkey legs, broken arrows and Dippin’ Dots cups.

The Medieval Fair has been my favorite Norman festival for the people watching and silly costumes.  The boys love it because it offers something truly unique in the musical acts, throwing stars, archery tent, camel rides, mermaid lagoon, sword play and vendors selling wooden weapons.  However, the man powered tilt-a-whirl was missing this year…my guess is that one of the guys who turns the crank threw his back out the previous weekend and they couldn’t find someone to wear a pirate costume and perform manual labor for three days straight on short notice. 

Before we get started with the cute and crazy you may need a refresher course.  Check out previous Medieval Fair posts here and here.

archery

archery Continue reading

Uncommon Goods Gift Guide & Giveaway

March 3, 2015

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post.  However, all thoughts, opinions, ideas and favorites are my own.

uncommon goods gift guide

Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean we don’t have to think about buying gifts for another 10 months.  Birthdays are a year-round affair and sometimes finding the right gift can be a challenge.  We all have those people in our lives who have everything (ahem…Dad).  What do you buy for the person who prefers to shop at Neiman Marcus?  Or the person who just goes ahead and buys what they want when they see it rather than hint around and wait for a birthday or holiday?  What about the person who likes tailored clothes or 100% cashmere?  Hard to buy for friends and family require a special shopping experience.  Someplace where you can find unique and creative gifts that they will appreciate and know you put thought into finding for them. Continue reading

Rise & Shine Feature

February 27, 2015

So this happened today…

rise and shine

I was asked by a PR company to plug some products on a local morning talk show Rise & Shine.  All of the products I talked about were for battling cold and flu season which was perfect timing because I really do have a cold right now.  I got to keep this kick ass humidifier for promoting it on the show.  Sweet.  4 years of blogging are finally paying off…in the way of high tech humidifiers, I’ll take it. Continue reading

Light Someone’s Candle

February 24, 2015

light someones candle 

Recently I was hanging out with some blogger friends and we were talking about the thing that all of us had in common; blogging.  Blogging conversation always turns to how to get more followers, how to make money blogging, how to make it big, how to go viral; the usual struggles of the small blog life.  We were lamenting the fact that some big time bloggers don’t seem to care enough to help out the little guys or can’t be bothered with reaching out unless a paycheck is involved.  One of my partners in blogging crime said something to the effect of “lighting someone else’s candle won’t make yours any less bright”.  For some reason this hit me like a ton of bricks and has stuck with me.  I can’t control what other people are going to do or not do, but I can control my own actions and reactions.  I knew that I had to stop focusing on me and light someone else’s candle. Continue reading

Why I Don’t Care If You See 50 Shades Of Grey

February 18, 2015

See it, don’t see it.  Who cares?

Yes, I read the books.  No, they were not literary masterpieces.  Yes, they were titilating. No, my moral fiber was not brought into question.

This week I read a funny little post from a woman listing 50 things she would rather do than go see 50 Shades of Grey.  They were cute, funny and witty.  However, she started the post off with how she returned the book after the first few chapters because it was so terribly written.  The fact that she didn’t even read it all the way through did not sit well with me.  Before you completely criticize something, know what you’re criticizing; first hand.  I read another anti-50 post and the opening argument was that film is art and that this movie was a far cry from art.  Wait, what?  Is the Spongebob Movie art?  Eyes Wide Shut was about sex and had a whole bunch of naked people in it but it was weird and artsy and directed by Stanley Kuberick so is that one okay?  Let’s be real here… The 50 Shades books are not going to win a Pulitzer.  It started out as Twilight fan fiction by some mom in the UK who wanted to read the hot and steamy version of Edward and Bella.  Who didn’t want to read the adult version?  Heck, not long after the books came out I was sitting around with a group of Mormon SAHMs who were fantasizing about what the honeymoon chapter would be like if it were in the romance section instead of YA.  What it comes down to is they were not that well written but people still liked them.  I’m not too snooty or high brow to admit that I read them.  That brings us to the movie. Continue reading

The Blog Update

January 28, 2015

So yesterday I gave a bit of a recap of what is going on in real life.  After Dear Husband read it he said, That was great…and you didn’t even touch on half of what we were doing the past two months.  He was right.  There was a lot I didn’t mention including him getting the flu followed by his 80+ hour work week.  Amongst all of that the blog continued to plug forward.  It moved at a slower pace than usual but things continued behind the scenes, partly in thanks to my commitment to Be Brave.

Here is a very short recap of what has been happening in bloggyland.

granola recipe

A few weeks ago I met up with a few blogging friends at Natural Grocers in Oklahoma City.  I came away with a gift bag full of goodies and was inspired to make granola.  This granola is the bomb.  I’ve been munching on it all week and eating it w/ greek yogurt.  Find my recipe for it on the Oklahoma Women Bloggers blog. Continue reading

The Life Update

January 27, 2015

Last night Dear Husband and I sat down after the kids went to bed, looked at each other, and said I think this is the first time I’ve sat down since Thanksgiving.  Seriously folks, it has been crazy up in here.  Crazy enough for me to use the term cray-cray.  When I have to bust out the urban dictionary you know shit has been real.

So what has been going on?  Glad you asked, I’ll tell you.

Way back at the beginning of December I was the chair (as in “do what I say or I could snap”) of my Assistance League chapter’s biggest fund-raiser. It’s a hoity-toity event where we raise a lot of money that keeps our organization (which is all volunteer by the way) running.  We give 1600 kids in the public school system brand new clothes, provide care kits for assault victims, give stuffed animals to children being taken out of abusive/traumatic situations and put on a huge outdoor art fest for the community.

rent the runway

My friend on the left got her dress from Rent The Runway.  Don’t you love it? I’m totally doing that next year. Continue reading