Blogging with the Bird - #AtoZChallenge Host @ArleeBird #CBWLA

As promised, today I want to give you a heads up for a very special opportunity to meet the man behind the A to Z Challenge, Mr. Arlee Bird

Lee has been blogging for several years, and he's racked up quite a following on social media. He has nearly 3,000 followers on Twitter, which he started using just last year. He also has nearly 1,500 followers on his Tossing it Out blog, along with another 200+ Networked Blog readers. He has brought people together from all around the globe, and cheered new bloggers on as they learn the basics of social networking, particularly in the blogging world.

Last year, I interviewed Lee for an article on Technorati and asked him how he was able to execute a month-long blogging challenge and garner enough interest that a couple thousand strangers would sign up. Click here to link to the interview.

I have very special news for bloggers in the Los Angeles metro area. Lee agreed to be the guest speaker at the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA) March meeting, just before the A to Z Challenge kicks off! On March 30 from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m., he will speak to a group of writers and bloggers at the El Segundo Library about the merits of blogging and social networking as it pertains to the author's platform. 

CBW-LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring writers on the road to publication. It is the brainchild of another local mastermind, the fabulous Nutschell Windsor of The Writing Nut, and she dedicates countless hours and passion to sharing her knowledge of the publishing industry with writers, aspiring and published alike. 

The beauty of it all? Anyone in the L.A. area can RSVP and meet both Nutschell and Arlee at one time! There are space limitations, so advance payment and reservations are requested here. Hope to see you there!

Full event description from CBW-LA website:

The Author's Platform: Blogging with the Bird

Arlee Bird, creator and host of the A to Z Challenge, will speak to CBW-LA about the benefits of blogging and the blogging community. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of the influential blogger. When he began blogging four years ago, Lee was looking for a way to tie the community together, build sustaining relationships between writers and bloggers and populate his blog with useful posts. He decided to dedicate an entire month to challenge himself to blog through the alphabet, and invited others to join him. A to Z was born, and with the help of several co-hosts, Lee will kick off the fourth annual A to Z Challenge this April. Nearly 2,000 people signed up for the challenge last year, and for those who use it wisely, readership and fans soar.

Why is blogging important? Shouldn't an aspiring author focus on writing and revising their manuscript rather than focus on blogging and other social media?

The answer is yes and no. If an aspiring author spends all their time on a blog, Facebook and Twitter, a manuscript will not write itself.

However, in today's world where a writer is expected to engage in marketing and sales in addition to stellar writing, the author who finds the right balance between blogging, social media and writing will vastly improve their chances of getting an agent or a book deal. Ultimately, agents and publishers want something that will sell, and blogging enthusiasts and followers will buy a quality blogger's book.

The other upside is - the more you write, the better you become. It doesn't matter what you write about - the simple act of putting words on paper or on a computer screen will improve your ability to communicate and tell a compelling story.

Lee will talk about his blogging journey, and the networking opportunities afforded him through the A to Z Challenge. He will also talk about how to get started blogging, how to create a sense of online community, and how to use Facebook and Twitter to maximize the writer's platform.

There will be time for questions and answers, but any attendee may submit a question prior to the event by sending it to any CBW-LA board member or alana@cbw-la.org. Lee would be happy to incorporate advance questions in his talk.


Countdown to #AtoZChallenge

Less than two weeks until the blogging world's answer to a blogger's marathon - the annual A to Z Challenge, hosted by Arlee Bird and his grand team of assistants! There are several co-hosts, and each co-host as assembled a team of cheerleaders and helpers to manage a list of 1,143 blogs and counting. Last year, nearly 2,000 blogs stepped up to the plate, and I expect a flurry of sign-ups as April 1 approaches. I am very honored to be among Arlee's cheerleaders, so at least 100 A to Z Challenge participants will become very familiar with my comments as I check in and cheer you on!

The A to Z Challenge, for anyone unfamiliar with the challenge, is a month-long journey into blogging. The challenge involved 26 posts during the month, each beginning with - you guessed - the letters of the alphabet, in order, from A through Z. The possibilities for topics are limitless. There are no word count minimums or maximums - I've seen daily photos posted with no words, and I've seen intricate character studies and flash fiction entries approaching feature article length. I've seen blogs stick with a theme, and others blog on the fly, hopping around from one topic to another. The beauty of the challenge is - whatever works for you works for the challenge. It is all about community and networking, and it is an opportunity to really populate your blog.

This will be my third go at the challenge, and I look forward to a month knee deep in the blogosphere as I check on comments left on my own page, discover new blogs and revisit and reminisce with old blogging friends. 

My first round was when I was brand new to blogging, and it was just the boost I needed to gain confidence and readership. 

My second round, I had quite a bit of traveling and external deadlines during the month, so while I started off with a bang, I peetered out and lost steam when I dropped a bit behind. 

This time around, all the posts are pre-scheduled and SHORT, so that visitors can quickly visit, read the writercize, and try it out. It will not follow my standard format of intro, writercize and sample. In the interest of everyone's time, I will jump straight to the writercize, provide a sample for those interested in reading it, and hope to provide some inspiration and make some new connections along the way!

I would like to formally invite YOU to sign up for the challenge now, and leave a comment here to let me know that you'll join me! That way I can be sure to visit you and check in as we meander through the alphabet together.

Then, in true writercize style, I give you a task. Figure out your J, Q, U, X and Z post titles today - and give yourself a break by pre-scheduling at least five of your A to Z Challenge posts. (If you don't know how to schedule a post, read this helpful instructional. It works for blogger, though the screen print is an old version, the instructions are the same. Now the post settings are along the right hand side of the page rather than at the bottom.) Trust me, you'll thank me later!

Sneak Peak: Tomorrow I have a very special announcement for all of you about an opportunity to meet the Grand Host and Mastermind behind the entire challenge. Stay tuned! Especially all you bloggers in the Southland - an event is coming up very soon that you will not want to miss!


Guest Writercize: "Write By Song" by Paul Taylor

Please join me in welcoming Paul Taylor to writercize! I love this guest post, which brings music and writing together for a cohesive writing prompt.

We all get inspired by music. It is fun, lively, mellow, thoughtful or powerful. It can make us want to weep or laugh, run or sleep. Have you ever heard a song that inspired a story in your mind or made you picture a scene that you wish you could have written down? Well, here is your opportunity.

writercize: Create or find a playlist of at least three songs or log on to an online radio station like Spotify or Pandora. As you listen to the songs write a story or series of stories to go along with them. 

You can choose to include the song title or lyrics if you wish or you can just be inspired by the music. Every time the song changes create a new story or paragraph. Bonus points if you can make your story flow or get out full thoughts in the paragraphs you create. 

Author Bio:
Paul Taylor started www.babysittingjobs.com which offers an aggregated look at those sites to help families find sitters and to help sitters find families easier than ever. He loves writing, with the help of his wife. He has contributed quality articles for different blogs & websites.

Click "read more" to see Paul's sample response!!


Seussercize 1: Create a Creature - writercize #194

As promised, post one of a three part Seussercize series in honor of Theodore Geisel's birthday!

Frequent readers of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, his preferred pseudonym, know that his imagination ran wider than the English language. He often created creatures out of nonsense words. Ever meet the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz? How about the Fiffer-Feffer-Feff? Some of his characters have become so well-known in English that they require no illustration. Think of the Lorax or the Grinch, even the Sneetches. Prior to Seuss, none of these animals existed, but thanks to his creativity and vision, we accept them as a part of our modern-day lexicon.

Today, I invite you to create a creature of your own. You may introduce your creature in literary form with a poem or short story, or you may choose to name your character and illustrate it instead. Please leave me a comment or a link to your own page so that I can see your fabulous imagination at work!

writercize: Create a brand new creature out of a non-sensical word. Think about what you want your character to look like, what it likes and dislikes, how it behaves!

Click "read more" for a character named the Hiccurpeeze that's been living in your writercizer's brain since her early days as a babysitter. This is but a small snippet of who he is. Poor guy has been lying dormant for about 20 years, but one day, the writercizer hopes to get to know him better and give him a story worthy of sales and illustrations.


Time to SEUSSercize! - Sublime Silliness Scheduled

March 2 marks 109 years since the great Theodore Geisel's birth. Who was Theodore Geisel, you may ask? I'll give you a hint. His middle name was five letters long, with three S's and he preferred to go by Doctor. Here's another hint - if you are under 50 years old, he was probably someone who taught you how to read.

If cats and hats, ham and eggs and fish in all colors of the rainbow jumped into your head, you've probably guessed it. Theodore Geisel was the real name of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. 

Dr. Seuss' books probably wouldn't be published today - his stories run long and can be very repetitive in the current world of "less is more" publishing. They certainly exceed the 1,000 word suggested max word count for picture books. He may be hard-pressed to find a publisher willing to print his 60+ page tomes for children, but ... because he is Dr. Seuss, he is printed. And he may be printed for as long as elementary school aged children learn to read. Seuss has even made the leap over to TV, movies and iPad. 

When Seuss began writing for children, he was approached by a director for Houghton Publishing and asked to write a book using the top 250 words that first-graders should recognize. (Some sources claim 250, others claim he 225 of which he used 223 and 13 more. Hard to say with unreliable internet research...) Several authors at the time were doing the same time with little readers, in Dick and Jane style, but William Ellsworth Spaulding, the Houghton director, had a sneaking suspicion they were boring. He wanted Seuss to mix things up a bit, make reading fun and exciting for kids.

And so, with 236 of those 250 words, repeated many, many times, Dr. Seuss created Cat in the Hat. Never one of my favorites, I was impartial to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish growing up, along with The Butter Battle Book. I won a read aloud contest in middle school for my dramatic rendition of Green Eggs and Ham and was awarded a Music Millennium gift card (Portland shout-out!) that eventually made its way into someone in my family with considerably more prowess in a music store. Leave me with the books ...

Now, beyond his beginning reader books, Seuss made a splash on a couple of other fronts. One was his thinly veiled dream image of a peaceful, egalitarian, environmentally aware world that existed in books like The Lorax and The Sneetches, and the other was his ability to play with words that absolutely did not exist. I'm not sure how the man who stuck to 236 common words for Cat in the Hat ended up writing about things like Whoville and Fiffer-Feffer-Feff and Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz, but he did.

When Seuss was writing and not illustrating, he published under the pseudonym Theo LeSieg, which is Geisel backwards.

Although he was notably a bit of a perfectionist and could spend a very long time with a book, he was unquestionably one of the most prolific authors of the past century.

So, what to do at writercize to celebrate the late, great Dr. Seuss? How about a whole week of Seuss-ercize! There will be THREE Dr. Seuss inspired writercizes this week! So stay tuned, and get ready to writercize, because there is some great stuff headed your way!