Monday, September 8, 2008

5 Questions With And One - Part One



Carolyn Hastings, writer of And One (hosted by the Plain Dealer on Cleveland.com) is a Cleveland Cavalier devotee who lives and works in Shaker Heights while dreaming of the Q. Her witty musings have been featured here in the past and we will hopefully be fortunate to have more in the future. She stopped thinking about LeBron James long enough to be my guest for five questions. She gave me so much wonderful content that I'll give this to you in two parts so we can all savor the discussion.

1. How did you get involved with sports blogging? What other blogging gigs do/did you have? What do you like most/least about blogging? What other writing do you do?

How I Got Involved With Blogging

I started blogging on a dare. In November of 2007, my oldest daughter (known to And One readers as Game Buddy #1) heard a local radio news story detailing the Plain Dealer’s need for bloggers. She called me immediately and said The Plain Dealer needed me. I’ve always been a writer; in fact, I write proposals for a living. Some minor success over the years publishing essays, poetry and short fiction. Also wrote a young adult novel, which languished with an agent for a year before I decided to try again someday. That was ten years ago.

Never felt like I found my niche, though. And, as happens to a lot of people, life took precedence over my ambitions. Raising a family and working full time came first and, as the years progressed, my physical health started to fail, starting a decade-long search for a diagnosis. Writing began to seem more like a fantasy than a dream.

Which brings us to late fall of last year. I was in a bit of a funk; chronic illness and pain had taken its toll on my body and my loved ones. My husband was struggling with the idea of facing another 19 years of living with someone who suffers from chronic pain. My mother was terminally ill. My beloved Aussie was clearly in the end stage of her wonderful 12-year life. She always knew when I was having a bad pain day; she would lie by my side for hours and let me lean on her for support when I struggled to stand.

So when Game Buddy #1 urged me to apply for a blogging position with the PD, my immediate response was no. How could I possibly meet the expectations of a major paper, when many days my old friend pain knocks on the door and reminds me of limited reserves? Game Buddy urged me to reconsider, saying a new adventure might help me see the world in a different light.

Two weeks later, reading the PD online, I saw a tiny blurb announcing the search for bloggers. Almost missed it. OK, tiny blurb, I heard myself saying, I will call your bluff. The Plain Dealer responded quickly to my e-mail and small writing sample, asking me what subject I wanted to blog about. Things were getting a little too real and scary, so I said “the Cavs,” knowing they would have to turn me down due to lack of sports experience. That, I thought, is the end of that. I can tell GB1 I tried and feel good about myself for taking this scary step. Thank goodness it will end right here.

Imagine my surprise at receiving an e-mail the next day with my URL and Cleveland.com log-in information. And, a beautiful masthead with And One featured prominently. Send us a bio sketch, they said. Ummmm . . . ok. There’s not much bio in my sketch, I thought, little knowing how drastically my life would change once I began.

Other Blogging Gigs


Cavs News - During the NBA season, I write a series of player profiles for Cavs News, alternating between current and former Cavs.

Sports Diva Magazine – I wrote a series of international basketball pieces for Sports Diva, including Iran, China, Norway and India.

NESW Sports – Ethan Jaynes is hilarious; I write for him whenever I get a chance. He loves the unusual; from Mayan Soccetball to Unicycling basketball, Ethan is always open to a good story.

Cavs Court - Cavs Court is on an extended hiatus. I was honored to do a game recap when we played Chicago for the first time after the big Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, et al trade.

Sports Fly – So proud of my friends over at Sports Fly. Their site is doing great. They hope to expand and add a page for writers. I sent them a short piece; hope to see it on their site soon.

Women Like Sports – The woman who runs Women Like Sports gets my vote for the “must read every day” sports blog. Apryl is always willing to help out and has printed a couple of my pieces, even when they are repellant (i.e. Toe Wrestling).

The Daily Beagle – Further adventures of Fairfax Maxwell Peabody Beaglehound III, GB#1’s now 10-month-old Beagle puppy. Hope to update this blog soon; GB#1 hopes to involve Fairfax in pet therapy programs at local children’s hospitals.

This Can Go – Web site for a small editing business run by myself and GB#1. We specialize in university and college communications but are open to editing all sorts of projects.

CafĂ© Two Door - My first blog. A great way to get my feet wet; didn’t last long. The name refers to my good friend and neighbor, Shivani, who lives two doors down and is a wonderful cook.

What I Like Most / Least About Blogging

What I like most is easy. My readers. Like the Verizon guy, I take my readers wherever I go. We have been on incredible journeys together; we’ve laughed, we’ve cried; we’ve agonized; we’ve disagreed. The best kind of family.

What I like least is not having enough time. As a non-compensated blogger, I work full time and run an ad editing business to makes ends meet. I would love to blog full time.

2. What do you find to be your most effective traffic builders? Do you spend more time linkbuilding, digging/hyping, or something else? How much time do you spend trying to build your blogs?

As a subdomain of Cleveland.com, data analysis is not easily accessed. Every once in a while, I ask Cleveland.com to send me stats. For a while, I relied on my Who’s Amung Us map but they are having issues with data dropping off and not being recaptured. So, I don’t know how many readers I have; I do know I have readers from places I would not have anticipated such as Kuwait, Iran, Kuala Lumpur, Vietman, etc.

I find just about everything in life interesting and love to mix art, science and the ridiculous with my basketball stories. So far, feedback has been positive.

As for building up the blog, I wrote on that subject for LinkedIn a few months ago:

Number one rule - never go to sleep until you have listed your blog on one new directory and/or left a comment on someone else's blog. This will quickly build an audience, which helps motivate you to write when you're busy.

Make a list (mental or otherwise) of your favorite blogs. This will come in handy on a day when you need an idea or are too busy to write. Takes about 10 minutes to put together a list of links for your readers to enjoy.

Interview your readers. Make a list (mental or otherwise) of questions for a mock interview. Every so often, ask a frequent commenter or another blogger for an "interview." Send questions, sit back, do other stuff, post answers when they arrive. Your readers will feel more involved with your site and it gives you a break.

When you find yourself staring out the window, watching the Godfather for the 19th time or chatting on the phone with nothing to say, remind yourself (out loud is fine) that your fan base awaits. Put down the phone, toss the remote out the daydream window and get to work. We'll all feel better.

Make a list (mental or otherwise) of interesting topics that cross your path. For us sports bloggers, this list is golden in the offseason.

When you read a blog and think "that's what I'm talking about," send the site administrator a note. Let them know you appreciate their work and suggest a link exchange. I have the world's ugliest blogroll (cannot be alphabetized) and am continually surprised how many people are willing to be listed.

When you're feeling productive, write a couple of pieces. Only post one. Save the rest for a busy day.

Guest bloggers - your friends and family will be thrilled and flattered to have a byline on your site. If there are social networks specific to your blog's overall topic, join every one and engage with the community.

Saying to a friend who wants to go to a movie that you need to write a game recap for your blog and seeing that "you have got to be kidding me" look and involuntary eyeroll can be intimidating. This happens to me a lot. Any time you make a change in your life, people will resist it. They want your relationship to stay the same. Two thoughts on this.

1) Reconcile yourself to seeing less of this particular person

2) Explain to them what blogging means to you and you may be surprised that the next time you ask them to go to the movies, they will decline because they need to post something. The assumption behind this question is the notion of sacrifice in order to blog. How do I put aside the rest of my life to make time for blogging? My experience has been exactly the opposite.

Blogging is the fountain at the center of my life, enriching all areas. I have met people all over the world and right here in Cleveland, including my own neighbors. Friends use the blog to stay connected in their busy times. It is possible to sustain a real life and an interesting, current blog. In fact, it's the only way.


Tune in tomorrow for part two...

5 comments:

Lindsay said...

I've visited The Daily Beagle a few times. :)

I think Carolyn was meant to be a blogger. It seems like a lot of little steps lined up well in order for her to do what she's doing now.

I also try to write a couple posts when I'm feeling productive and save them for when I'm busy with other things.

Apryl DeLancey said...

I know - she's a natural!

The advice about stacking up on posts is definitely a good one. I try to stack up as much as possible when the mood strikes me!

And One said...

Linday!! Thank you for visiting The Daily Beagle. Had a dog party at our house this morning. A springer spaniel, a rottweiler/doberman mix, my Aussie and Fairfax were having a ball chasing each other around.

Just inherited a digital camera so I don't have to rely on anyone else for photos now. Check back soon!

--C

A.E.M. said...

Very nice interview!

AEM

Apryl DeLancey said...

Thanks - good to see you!