Tag Archives: Writing

The Wonderful World of Marketing

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A New Perspective

You might’ve noticed that Bubbles and Beebots looks different now.

I may keep on tweaking it until I’m happy. But see, B&B is now getting enough foot traffic to receive advertising invitations and I had to rework its layout into a more ads-friendly theme.

Which is kind of exciting, though I won’t be expecting more than pocket change for a bit. Maybe just enough to get my kids some ice cream at the zoo… don’t you want my adorable kids to be able to eat ice cream, folks?

There. That was my best attempt at salesmanship because I’m so NOT a natural saleswoman. I figured I’d try the guilt angle, since it comes so naturally to parents and as far as I can tell, advertisers usually work their magic using one of a few tools:

Guilt

vintagecaradAgain, a natural selling-point for parents, since we already feel so responsible…

Hey, buy these spoons that tell you when food is too hot, so your trusting baby won’t end up burning her poor little mouth!

Sure, this cereal costs three times more, but there’s a cartoon princess on the box and cartoon princesses make your kid HAPPY. What kind of a monster doesn’t want their kid to be happy?

Using dogs and cats works well too. Aren’t they your best friend?? Don’t they deserve the best!?

Fear

Mostly of being socially ostracized because not buying Product X will make you disgusting.

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Preventing heartbreak with the right soap

I mean, what if you use a substandard deodorant and end up stinking up the subway? You’ll put your arm up to hold onto the rail, and… BAM! No more invites. You wouldn’t want to gross out your taxicab cab partner, would you?

Or toothpaste. What if that woman you’ve had a huge crush on for ages finally walks up to talk to you and you melt her eyebrows with your jalapeño egg salad breath? Don’t be so GROSS.

It also works with more literal fears about your physical safety. There are always tons of commercials for home alarm systems whenever  you’re watching a crime show.

Envy

I’ve been noticing a theme here, and it mostly involves our fears of being judged. We don’t want other people to think bad things about us.

And on the flip side, we DO want them to think good things. Like, it’s great to have a fashionable product because then everyone will know you’re on the level. Or if you’re a hipster, you want a product that ISN’T popular, so you can be part of the elite club that actually appreciates it. We don’t want the ads to look too rehearsed or glossy, in that case.

Let’s say you think that girl from the Sketchers ad is pretty hot and you’d like to look like her or date her (or both, depending on your persuasion). So, maybe if you wear those tennis shoes, some of her hotness will rub off on you and then you can rock her awesome figure without having to do any crunches or lay off the Cinnabons.

soda
I don’t think this is really about the soda.

And hey, Benicio Del Toro is pretty macho and successful and maybe you could also be a world traveler if you tossed back a few Heinekens. At the very least, you’d be cool.

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Umm… or the beer

Eh… my terrible natural salesmanship is becoming all too apparent. In fact, I should probably pull this post before any actual advertisers read it.

And go back to being a manic pixie who occasionally mentions poop tantrums. It’s what I do best. 🙂

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Bob, The Pyramid Construction Guy, Has It Out With His Wife

I’ve talked before about how cool it is that anyone can blog now. Maybe everything published isn’t as polished as it used to be, but at least everyone’s voice can be heard.

It’s neat that future generations will have so many records of what we everyday folks were thinking, even if those thoughts mostly consist of bitching about annoying coworkers, talking about lunch, or showing off stuff we just bought.

That’s just not the case with earlier periods of human history, considering only the writings of highly-educated, elite aristocrats survived. I’ve sometimes wondered if we picture these periods as being more formal than they usually were because their lingering voices are always issuing edicts or chanting lofty works of poetry.

egyptcats.jpgTake Ancient Egypt, for example. Most people couldn’t write and those that could were chronicling important historical events or carving painstaking hieroglyphics across sacred monuments for billionaire employers. Stuff the gods were supposed to read for all eternity.

But what about Bob, one of construction guys hammering out the pyramid bricks? He had a life too. I picture Bob getting home after a long day pushing blocks and talking to his wife Della like this:

Della: Hey Bob, how was your day? Did you remember to pick up some figs?

Bob (groaning): No, I didn’t grab any figs.

Della: Dammit, Bob. I’m meeting Lucille at temple tomorrow and now I can’t make honey fig casserole. And I can’t make any honey cakes either because some rats got into the wheat bags last night. What am I supposed to do!?

Bob: Geez, I’m sorry Della. Guess I was too busy today HAULING 80 TON BRICKS UP WOODEN RAMPS to think about your figs. And how are rats getting into the wheat bags again? What good is your stupid cat? I don’t know why we keep on feeding it.

Della: Watch your mouth, Bob. She’s not just a cat, she’s the living embodiment of the Goddess Bastet.

Bob: Well, your goddess just crapped in the living room again.

Della: Great.

Okay maybe they never had that exact conversation, but I’m guessing more people were  worried about getting to work on time and wondering what they ate that was bothering their stomachs than thinking the highbrow stuff plastered all over city monuments.

 

Do Bubbles Really Cause Obesity?

Every once in a while, we long-suffering bloggers check our WordPress stats and are thrilled by a sudden explosion of new views or followers.

That’s probably the most awesome thing that can happen to bloggers when checking out our stats,  but a close second has got to be finding out the search terms people used to find our blogs.

Because those can be downright hilarious.

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Don’t do it, kid! Save yourself!

Like tonight, when someone inadvertently navigated to my site after asking the internet whether bubbles cause obesity.

I just… can’t make heads or tails of this idea.

I mean, I get the logistics of the search results (my blog has “bubbles” in the title and I guess I’ve talked about dieting and obesity a couple of times), but what’s really throwing me is the idea that someone, somewhere, is genuinely wondering whether bubbles may be responsible for their weight problem.

What kind of bubbles are they even envisioning? Spit bubbles? Soap bubbles? The kind of bubbles you played with as a kid?

Is there some kind of granola-hippie nut job  out there suggesting that chemicals in children’s bubble formulas are responsible for the obesity epidemic in America today?

Have you tried losing weight only to watch each diet fail, time and time again? Well, stop torturing yourself, my friend! There’s no need to feel guilty…  you’ve been a victim of the Great Bubble Conspiracy. Once released from the nefarious bubbesphere, you’ll see pounds melt off effortlessly, without changing your lifestyle or spending countless hours at the gym!

I seriously doubt bubbles have anything to do with gaining weight, unless the bubbles in question are the bubbles in bubble tea. Because those have a startling number of calories.

Sheesh, these weight-loss gimmicks are getting weird.

 

 

 

Pants-Crapping Goes Viral in Europe

See what I just did there? I made you look.

I didn’t exactly pull that title out of thin air, but it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.

I’m talking about the post I wrote last week, the one called Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity. The one that starts off with my husband prancing about in my four-year-old’s purple princess dress to get a rise out of her and ends with my daughter screaming the S-word after crapping her pants at the zoo.

You see, this thing didn’t make a huge splash right after publishing, but gained traction in the past several days. Out of nowhere, I was suddenly seeing hundreds of views. Hundreds became thousands…

And it’s still going strong. It’s quite popular in Western Europe, particularly in the U.K. I’m guessing that’s because they speak English there.

People are actually reading this thing in the Isle of Man. The ISLE OF MAN.

Never in a million years did I expect folks in the Isle of Man to be reading about my toddler’s accident at the Sacramento Zoo, about her screaming, “Sh*t, looks like I just crapped my pants!” It’s rather surreal.

For all I know, the Queen of England is checking it out too.

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She did WHAT?

Okay, I’ll admit that’s highly unlikely, but it’s still a really fun idea. I picture the Queen shaking her head while clutching her gin & tonic, then wondering how these silly colonists ever won the war…

Right before she scrolls through a bunch funny Youtube videos. Really tasteless stuff, like guys jumping off of buildings and landing on their crotch.

And for that, my fellow Americans, I should probably apologize. Stories about me running out of a bathroom to laugh because my toddler started swearing about crapping her pants isn’t the best PR for American parenting. I’m prepared to take full responsibility for casting us in such a ridiculous light.

Thing is, I was nervous about posting it in the first place. On this mommy blog,  I’ve walked the constant tightrope of writing about things a large segment of our society find offensive, especially in a parenting blog… things like farting and pooping and kids that insult their parents before overturning furniture in a rage. Things that don’t fit into our collective picture about the acceptable kind of mommy blog, which includes helpful tips, greater sensitivity, and an impressive mastery of crafts.

And there’s nothing wrong with that kind of mommy blog, but it’s already been well covered. That’s not who I am, not the kind of mommy I am, and I’m guessing non-parents might actually be curious to hear the real story about life after kids.

You know, in case they’ve been spooked by the idea that parenthood sucks out your soul and replaces it with a crafting automaton. 

It’s a constant balancing act between boring and monocle-popping offense.

Yet this zoo post unexpectedly caught on, at least in Europe.

This baffles me. I’ve kept this blog up for roughly a year now, which makes me neither a complete beginner nor a seasoned pro. I’ve learned some tricks of the trade along the way, but there’s still so far to go.

Like the old adage about the only way of getting to Carnegie Hall being to practice, practice, practice… I’m guessing the only real way to improve your writing is to write, write, write.

Which I’ve done religiously, for better or worse. I churn this stuff out like a madwoman, hoping to bust through any barriers and build creative muscles like an Amazonian. Maybe greater forethought in editing would be prudent, yet over time I’ve improved a great deal.

And it’s been hit-or-miss in mysterious ways. Sometimes, for example, I’ve been sure I knocked posts out of the park. I stayed up until four in the morning perfecting them and was completely baffled when views barely trickled in.

Then out of nowhere, a seemingly random post will take off like lightening. Maybe I didn’t think it was anything special, but suddenly thousands of people are viewing it and I’m getting new followers every day.

Like this one, about watching preschool boys and girls. This post was incredibly popular and convinced me to explore gender issues more. Yet later posts on the topic went absolutely nowhere.

You’d think success would build on itself, right? Once thousands of people checked out my post, they should be interested in whatever I came up with next. But it didn’t work like that. Every blogging day is like a newborn phoenix that must prove itself yet again.

I’ve tried to figure out the formulas, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back.

For example…

It seems logical that if you want to collect a bunch of views, you should write an eye-catching headline, because why would anyone read it if they’re not interested in the first place?

Still, “Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity” hardly seems like click-bait. More like an afterthought when wanting to move on. I can only assume someone read it then recommended it to their friends.

So, I carry these endless experiments on further by writing a click-bait worthy title and seeing if anyone bites. Titles are our first impression in a sea of endless data, after all.

Next, we wonder how real we should allow ourselves to be. Do we stick to social acceptability or write something that marks itself out from the pack?

According to conventional wisdom, our best bet is writing a click-bait title then following up with a numbered list of eye-catching truths. I’m sure many of us have tried this then watched our efforts dissolve into virtual death. We try and try to do the conventionally best thing, then wonder why it’s going nowhere.

Stephen King once said that to really become a writer, you have to give up respectability, and the guy must know what he’s talking about. Because whatever your feelings on King’s creative genius may be, you have to admit he’s “arrived.”

He talks about 20 rules for writers in the above link. Twenty rules that are undoubtedly extremely good advice, rules whose tenants I’m undoubtedly breaking as we speak.

But he also talked about finding your unique voice. About not being a pale imitation of anyone else.

And how can we do that unless we experiment?

I’m convinced, deep down, there are tricks of the trade that guarantee writing success. There’s a magical equation that works for anyone savvy enough to employ it. I happen upon it accidentally when something I’ve written gets popular, though I’m grasping at straws to figure out why.

I’ve already broken the rules, for example, about blogging in a very specific niche. I write a mommy blog, yet the rest of life keeps sneaking in.

Maybe that works for marketing or real estate. But writing is a different, creative animal. We worry about sounding too chipper and formulaic, about selling out our creative souls.

Or not. Maybe some folks have the formula down pat and are cranking out successful blogging week after week.

It’s still a mystery to me.

But I’m on it. Persistence is the key to success.

 

Six Word Story Challenge: Insult

Someone just called me “Ma’am.”

Again.

 

That’s my entry for this week’s Six Word Story Challenge at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller. This week’s theme is “insult.”

And I’m thinking other women know what I’m talking about here, that moment when your Ma’am to Miss ratio starts getting lopsided.

Unless you live in the South, that is, where “ma’am” just sounds charming.

I’ve heard some men say they feel the same about “Sir.”

Either way, these weekly challenges are loads of fun and anyone can participate. Why not throw in an entry yourself?

Where I discover Bloglovin’and try to hook it up

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14936655/?claim=jgf2bzmb8ty”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

itcrowd.gifHey guys, I just found out about the Bloglovin’ site. Considering there are approximately 25 million blogs started every second (I completely made that statistic up), I figure nearly anything that gets your blog out there is worth a try.

So I’m trying to hook myself up, but have barely passable technological skills (despite working at an IT Help desk before having kids, HA! At least I was nice).

pluggedinWe’re supposed to paste this code into a new post to link our blog. If I’m doing it wrong, please don’t laugh.

Or go ahead and laugh but then tell me how to fix it 🙂

If any of my blogging buddies is already on Bloglovin’ or is interested in linking up, leave me a comment and we can follow each other. Gotta get these parties started somehow, right?

Happy blogging! 🙂

Nominated (Twice) For the Sunshine Blogger Award

Hello, Blogging Friends!

I’m so flattered to have just been nominated twice for the Sunshine Blogger award. First by my buddy Amanda at Just In Queso, a glorious blog celebrating cheese (which I can totally get behind) and other assorted comedy subjects, like Friends episodes. You know you want to check it out.

And if that weren’t enough, I was nominated again on the very same day by Deeksha at Jot the Thought, a lovely blog that talks about writing and blogging contests and all manner of literary shenanigans. Give her a look.

I don’t want to play favorites, so I’ll throw out the rules then answer both excellent sets of questions.

This thing is all about the number eleven.

The rules for this award:

  1. Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you
  2. Nominate eleven wonderful bloggers and write eleven questions for them to answer

Alrighty then…

Amanda’s Questions for Me:

  1. What is your favorite snack?

Hmm, hard to say because I get tired of eating the same thing and am always switching it up. But lately I’ve been eating a lot of flavored, roasted pistachios. Every night. I favor the hot or savory varieties, like jalapeño or salt & pepper.

  1.  Where is your happy place?

Probably the bathtub, with a good book. Until I’m all pruney and my butt’s going numb.

  1.  What is a sound you enjoy hearing?

Ocean waves. Also, the wordpress app “bing” sound that means someone’s just read something I wrote 🙂

  1.  Tell us something weird/interesting about you.

Hmm… When I was a little girl, I made up a fake civilization run by a series of queens and built a small-scale model of it in my backyard. I invented political histories and a war and fake cultural customs and everything.

It was a total gynocracy. Even when it was briefly conquered, it was ruled by foreign queens.

  1.  What is one thing you would change about yourself?

I’d make myself more confident and less indecisive. Or maybe something else. Maybe that wasn’t a good answer…

  1.  What is one of your strengths?

I’m good at considering different points of view. Unfortunately, that also makes me indecisive.

  1.  How is May going for you so far?

Can’t complain. Just went to the coast for Mother’s Day weekend and had a great time with my family.

  1.  What is your favorite thing to do with close friends?

Travel, which doesn’t happen too often but is awesome when it does.

  1.  What’s the last movie you saw? What did you think of it?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I enjoyed it and thought it was a massive improvement over the prequels. Don’t get me started on those.

  1.  What is your least favorite “adulting” task?

Hanging out with angry adults who talk about money nonstop and take petty crap way too seriously.

  1. Tell us about a scar you have and how you got it.

Well, I do have a burn on my thigh from standing up to answer the phone while forgetting I had a hot curling iron in my hand. So embarrassing.

Deeksha’s Questions For Me:

  1. What’s your favourite pastime?

Traveling, without a doubt.

  1.  One thing you love doing..?

Reading. I have tons of books in all kinds of different genres.

  1.  One thing you hate doing..?

Trying on bathing suits in a store with bad fluorescent lighting. You’d really think stores would invest in better lighting to move more merchandise, because when I see what appears to be cellulite on my forearms, it makes me want to go into a trance where I draw lipstick all over my face while drooling.

  1.  Cat person or a dog person..?

Cat person, though I don’t dislike dogs. They just stress me out with all their chipper energy.

  1.  If you had the chance to meet one celebrity, who would it be? Why?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, because he’s a rock star. I’d ask him a lot of questions.

  1.  Favourite book..?

Hard to choose, but maybe Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.

  1.  Favourite movie..?

Also hard to choose, but maybe Godfather, part 1.

  1.  Favourite TV show..?

Right now, The Walking Dead.

  1.  One thing you really miss..?

Being in college. I tried to drag that out as long as possible, lol

  1.  Favourite holiday destination..?

Paris or maybe London. But we’ve been going to Disneyland  a lot because of the kiddos.

  1. Craziest thing you have ever done..?

Gosh. I’ll go with taking a military hop to Paris when I was in the Army. I didn’t have any accommodations set up beforehand and ran out of money while I was there. Stayed out in the rain all night one evening and slept in the airport the next.

It was an awesome trip, though.

My Questions for Nominees:

  1. What is your favorite color?
  2. What is your favorite season and why?
  3. What is your favorite sport to play?
  4. If you could have any magical power, what would it be?
  5. Are your nightmares mostly about physical or emotional danger?
  6. If you could spend a week in any historical time period, which one would you pick?
  7. If you could be successful at any job, which one would you pick?
  8. Would you rather have a magic flying carpet or be able to turn invisible?
  9. Are you air, water, earth or fire and why?
  10. If you won a million dollars, what is the first thing you would do?
  11. If you could solve any mystery, which one would it be?

My Nominees:

Participation in this award is voluntary, of course, and not everyone wants to play. I totally get that, so please take my nomination as a sign of my admiration instead of pressure to do more work. 🙂

Plus, some of you may have just been nominated by someone else.

  1. Big And Pinky Toes
  2. Better For That
  3. Mind and Life Matters
  4. The Mindful Author
  5. I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All The Time
  6. My Diary
  7. Art By Rob Goldstein
  8. The Cricket Pages
  9. Dad Stayed Home
  10. Planet Simon
  11. It’s me Harshi

And In Conclusion:

Over and out.

(Dang, that was a lame sign-off, but I just couldn’t figure out how to end this post gracefully. Kind of like when you suddenly get super self-conscious in the middle of leaving a voicemail message, floundering between dead air, incoherent rambling and an abrupt quit. I figure anyone managing to read all the way to the end of this post needed a little shake-up, anyway.)

Six Word Story Challenge: Impulsive

“Should’ve translated the Chinese before tattooing.”

This was my entry for this week’s Six Word Story Challenge. The prompt was “impulsive.” 🙂

Why not throw in your own entry? It’s so much fun.

Check it out at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller.

Limerick Poetry Challenge: Whisper

Today marks my first entry in the Limerick Poetry Challenge at Mind and Life Matters!

I’m hoping I follow her rules correctly. We’re supposed to write limericks containing a weekly theme word, and this week’s is “whisper.”

So without further ado:

She spoke to her Love in a whisper

Of her pain at the ways he had risked her,

“I was there, though I hid

And I saw what you did,”

His heart raced as he realized he’d kissed her.

That was fun, and it never hurts to flex your creative muscles, right? Why not stop by and throw in an entry yourself?

I’m Never Going to Ghostwrite Again

For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to break into freelance writing, in whatever pauses I can find between newborn wailing and toddler shenanigans.

Thing is, I’ve actually gotten some traction. Looking across the web, I can find many of my published articles. They cover everything from comedy to the Aurora Borealis and real estate.

And none of them have my name on them.

They’re all supposedly written by men like Tony or Alan. Despite being word-for-word culminations of my hours of research and painstaking creativity, I have no right to claim them as my own.

No way to use them on a resume.

Sure, I was paid, but I made no connections and received neither credit nor referrals, even when the same folks used me time and time again. These guys didn’t even have rough ideas for me to shape–they just handed me a topic and left me to cobble out something entertaining.

These articles were publishable, yet I can’t use them as examples of my skill or style. It’s like having a successful job that brings in income but can never be reported in your work history.

Ghostwriting is legal and common but somehow feels like it shouldn’t be. What other jobs can’t you report on your resume?

People claim creative skills they’ve never had. What if they get hired someday for work I actually did?

I knew these terms when I agreed to them, so I only have myself to blame. Yet I can’t help feeling somewhat robbed.

And I won’t be doing it ever again.