I started blogging in late 2007 with blogger.com (a free blogging platform). My first blog was called WiseIrishBlog and it was a great way for me to stay connected with our friends and family back in the states. When we packed up and left Ohio in 2007 we left behind a lot of customers who were (and still are) hungry for more. Although we already had an ‘audience’ due to the fact that I had been sending out monthly newsletters (via snail mail) to our customers; I was blogging to a big huge void in the internet for quite a while. I had no idea if anyone was reading. I was talking to myself mostly. It was therapy. My ‘safe place’ to go and write what was on my mind. Have a chat with anyone that was out there. And sure enough, a few months in, I got my first real comment from a real reader. Someone who just found me on the internet and liked my WiseWords.
Writing did not come easy though
When we moved back to Ireland and the kids started school (in 2008) I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. My Mum encouraged me to take an evening writing class at NUIG with Fred Johnston at the helm. I had never been to college and the thoughts of it scared me to death. I almost didn’t go, but am so glad that I did.
After a winter session of class with Fred, I signed up for the spring session too and he gave me a copy of the NUIG prospectus to have a look at. I saw that they were in the infancy stages of rolling out a new Creative Writing course (4 year undergrad). The classes were small with only 14 students and they were accepting applications from mature students too. The thing that most hooked my attention was the details regarding year 3 of the course. As romantic as it sounds, students would be given the year off traditional structured studies to ‘live the life of a writer’ editor included. I could write a book, if I had it in me. I submitted my application, did the aptitude test, submitted a portfolio, met with the course director twice to be interviewed, and, was finally accepted.
Once I enrolled in that first class, I moved my blog to WordPress.com (still free) and this is when I became a serious blogger. It still took a few years after that before I could call myself a ‘writer’.
How blogging paved the way …
Once I made the decision to blog alongside my studies, I am pretty sure my writing improved.
I treated it as my weekly therapy. I drafted a few rules (below) that I still adhere to and made a serious effort to work on my photography. I am still a hobbyist photographer but am now being paid for my images so will spend a lot more time honing this skill once I graduate (May 2013).
Early in 2010 I entered a competition with Bord Bia. The prize was a long weekend in Germany at a food blogging/photography workshop. I really wanted to win and I worked hard on writing several drafts of a few blog posts and landed in the final four. After a cook off in Dublin, I, and another lucky Irish food blogger, jetted off to Weimar for four days to be taught how to improve our style and content online. This experience, meeting the four ladies from Plate2Page, was a very defining moment in my writing career. I knew I could write and I was also reminded that I was not great at photography. It helps to be reminded of where a girl needs to make improvements!
After that little stint, I bought my domain (www.WiseWords.ie) and moved my blog to WordPress.org. Creating a clear corporate image with your blog is vital – check out getting a logo designed that encapsulates what you do – for logos and branding resources, check out Logojoy.
My blog had now started to cost me money so I needed to start making money. I worked harder. I wrote more, I signed up to write for our local village newsletter (who I still write for monthly) and also started contributing to Galway Now magazine.
Summer of 2010 I spent every minute of daylight in Galway taking photos and deleting most of them. Once I started back to 3rd year in September ‘to live the life of a writer’ I decided to start a Facebook page. I wrote a ‘rhyme-a-day’, to ward off writers block, which I have maintained to this date, and connected it to my blog so readers could keep track of the book writing progress. I started writing my book (The Chef & I. A nourishing narrative) on September 5th 2011 and I finished it on April 12th 2012. We printed 1,000 copies and published it in May 2012. We might sell out by Christmas 2012 – so not bad going for a first book, I reckon.
Facebook and Twitter have proven to be excellent (free) marketing tools for helping keep the book sales trickling in and also attracting other kinds of opportunities to make money. In March of 2012 I was approached by a columnist from The Sunday Times who had seen a few pages of the first draft of our book on Facebook and asked if I would like to have my own weekly column in The Sunday Times. I am still in disbelief over this even though we have been contributing since May 2012.
Pinch me, please.