This Week Has Been a Blur

Here’s what I’ve written, read, and done this week. Just another peek into my everyday life.

This Week in Writing

I haven’t written much since I last posted here. Whenever I am working on a major blog post it’s hard to get really serious about another one at the same time. I’m hoping to publish the big one tomorrow. It’s partly author interview and partly book reviews. I’ve been corresponding with local children’s author Beryl Reichenberg for a few weeks now, and  I’m now in the final stages of compiling all the material and getting it written. Here are the posts I have completed since I last posted here:

  • Special Education Teachers Are Special: A tribute to special education teachers I’ve known. I’ve included gift suggestions for great teachers.
  • A Discouraging Day Online : This one is a vent I wrote after trying to open an account to pay a credit card bill online and hitting lots of obstacles.
  • Abandoned Barn? This is a short photographic essay inspired by a barn I saw on our trip to Madera last week.

Reading this Week

As the title states, the week has been a blur. If I didn’t write it down, I don’t remember it. I did some laundry, worked out at Kennedy Club three nights, and read one book. I started reading Flowers  in the Snow by Danielle Stewart Friday night, but haven’t been in the right mood to finish it yet. It appears to be a worthy read, but it’s dark. It’s based on history, but it’s a period of American history I’d rather forget since it shows how inhumane people can be.

“Betty” tells her story of growing up in a KKK family, completely unaware of what it meant during her early years. Her rude awakening came when she saw a beaten black man in town and tried to help him, believing she was practicing what she’d learned in Sunday school in the story of the Good Samaritan.  She learned fast enough her family did not consider the man human, got the spanking of her life, and was ostracized by not only her schoolmates but her family. I won’t say any more now except that I can’t face reading about the violence I know is coming until I can prepare myself emotionally for it.

This Week Has Been a Blur
Jacob had to dress like an Amish boy.

I  did enjoy A Lancaster Amish Home for Jacob by Rachel Stolzfus. Jacob is a homeless boy who lives in a group home and gets into trouble all the time. One night he and a friend led the police on an especially wild chase after they had spraypainted some cars. He got caught. His social worker decided drastic measures were called for, and he had the choice of living in an Amish foster home or going into juvenile detention. He chose the Amish home. I won’t tell you any more, but I would like to get the sequel.

My Packages Have Almost All Arrived

I had to make some returns at Costco and Sears yesterday. I hadn’t realized you could return items purchased at Land’s End to Sears. My purchases for myself there were too big, so I had to return two pair of pants. I also had to return a shirt my husband had purchased at Costco  that was too small, and a pair of PJ’s I’d bought that were too big. This trip half an hour out of town, with shopping on the way home, kept me on the road for four hours. I spent most of the time at Costco.

I just received my new WaterPik and steam mop so I will have to start learning to use them during the next few days. Now I must go finish my blog post for tomorrow.

Cooking, Writing, Shopping, Exercising, and Reading

Back to the Kitchen

It seems I spent most of Saturday in the kitchen. I had picked some of my chard and kale from the front yard, and I needed to use them.  The kale had sprung up by itself next to the garage. Here’s what I did with a previous batch of home-grown kale.

Cooking, Writing, Shopping, Exercising, and Reading
Volunteer Kale Plant, © B. Radisavljevic

 

I tried a new recipe this time, one with chicken, kale, and onions. We both loved it. I will be posting it soon on Niume, another site where I  often make short posts on my daily adventures. I also made a batch of black bean soup so now there is something hot to eat at night. It’s been so long since I cooked anything from scratch I’d almost forgotten how.

Writing Kept Me Very Busy

It seems I spent a lot of the weekend listing and updating deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I deleted the post today since the sales are over. I don’t think I will handle those deals the same way next year. Here are some of the posts I wrote over the weekend that are still up.

I was also editing the deals that were coming and going on a couple of older posts on another blog. Now you know why I didn’t post here over the weekend.

Shopping the Cyber Weekend Deals

After listing all those good deals, I decided I might as well take advantage of them to get some things we needed while the prices were low. We’ve already gotten some of our orders, and I expect more tomorrow. I also have some things to return to Land’s End that didn’t fit. They were too BIG. Kosta loved his new wool sweater from them, though. Shopping is a lot of work, even when you do it online. Still beats fighting the crowds in the stores.

Exercising and Reading – Finally

I love reading, but I haven’t had much time for it this weekend. After our trip to Madera before Thanksgiving, I had a lot of work to catch up on. That also kept me from exercising. I finally got back to the gym on Monday night and spent an hour on the stationary bike, reading.

Exercise is good for me, but I always get interested in the book I started reading on the bike and don’t want to stop reading it when I get home. And the book I read? Lake House Secret, by Debra Burroughs, a mystery / romance novel. I may review it one of these days. I enjoyed it.

I think it’s bedtime now. I will leave you with a photo of my chard, most of which is still growing in my front flowerbed.

Cooking, Writing, Shopping, Exercising, and Reading
Chard in Front Flowerbed, © B. Radisavljevic

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PostLoop Provides Earning Opportunities on Discussion Forums

How would you like to get paid for discussing subjects that interest you with others in selected online forums? Now you can. Here’s how.

Chatting on PostLoop is Rewarding
Chatting on PostLoop is Rewarding

Do you enjoy social media and wish you could get paid for all that fun you have? Facebook and Twitter won’t pay you for talking, but two other sites I know of will. I’ve already talked about Chatabout which has paid me once now.  Today I’d like to introduce PostLoop.

PostLoop lets you pick forums from their list on subjects that interest you and you just join the discussions. Most of the forums limit you to a set number of paid posts you can make a day. You do have to go through a qualification process first on the PostLoop Forum so they can give you a rating. That rating will determine how much you get paid.

I have given you some pointers in this Bubblews post on the system for earning at PostLoop that has worked for me . So far I’ve been paid twice. The payout threshold is $5.00. Be sure and read the terms carefully to make sure you are eligible to be paid through PayPal.

What I like about PostLoop is that I can work as much or little as I please there, up to the limit I can post per site per day. You do have to refresh your subscriptions frequently to make sure your posts will count for payment, as it’s easy to go over the limit without realizing it. Sites can also be disabled or go off line temporarily as paid sites.

I find the discussions fun and stimulating, and they often give me ideas for writing on other sites. Try it and see if it’s for you. It’s free for writers.  Forum and blog owners use it to hire people like you to keep their sites alive and well.

Is Penmanship Obsolete?

Is it still worth the time for children to learn cursive handwriting in this day of computers? What do you think?

DAily HandwritingRemember learning  to print when you were very young, and later switching to cursive writing,which also had to be learned? Many of us were raised before children had access to keyboards and we learned to use typewriters when we got to high school, unless we didn’t want to. So our entire elementary school success depended on our ability to write with pen or pencil on paper. Even in college we used composition books for tests. 

Today things have really changed. Some schools believe cursive writing is obsolete and no longer worth teaching in the schools.  Has Handwriting Become Extinct? explains some of the reasons that it’s still worthwhile to learn this skill.  The lost art of handwriting | Life and style | theguardian.com also makes a case for keeping and making an effort to retain this skill. It seems to be especially valuable in helping us organize our thinking and in helping those who are beginning to suffer from memory loss. Seemingly writing our lists and notes by hand imprints them more firmly in our minds.

What do you think? Is handwriting obsolete or not?

If you need materials for teaching cursive writing, here’s a good place to start

 

Wizzley: A Quality Online Writing Site

Have you checked out Wizzley, one of the best of the new online writing sites? It’s a perfect place to begin writing online.

Writing Online
Online Writer at Work

Have you heard of Wizzley? It’s a great place to read interesting and well-written online articles on a variety of subjects you’re interested in. It is run by some of the best writers at Squidoo and HubPages, my first writing sites, and it combines the best features of each to provide a first quality home base for those who want to write online

Wizzley is one of my newest writing sites, but not so new I have not had time to use and evaluate it. I am pleased with the traffic it brings me, and it gives me  do-follow links to promote my work elsewhere.  I can also market products there from my best affiliate programs, and earn  referral  rewards for finding new Wizzley authors.

http://wizzley.com/?pr=116
Join Wizzley

Most online writers want to know right off the bat how they can earn money from a writing site.  Wizzley lets writers earn from Adsense and from promoting products from their own Zazzle, All Poster, and Amazon affiliate accounts. To pay its own bills, Wizzley keeps 40 to 50% of the page impressions your work generates. When you first start writing on Wizzley, you keep the income from 50% of the impressions.  When you have written and successfully published five articles on Wizzley, your links become “do follow,” giving you valuable backlinks to other work. When you have successfully published 50 Wizzley articles, you will begin to get the earnings from 60% of the impressions your pages generate.

Although  HubPages  is also a wonderful site for the beginning online writer, you might find Wizzley more user friendly. It’s modules are easy to use, and make it a breeze to write text and share photos and  videos from You Tube. You can also add polls, maps, links lists, and other enhancements to your article without having to know any code,  and it’s simple to move your modules around to make your work more visually appealing.  To get a feel for what you can do with these modules, take a look at my Recipe for Blueberry Buckwheat Breakfast Pudding — one of my First Wizzley articles.

Why not add some  articles in the education category and lay the foundation for earning a bit of extra money to finance some of your own extra education expenses? Sign up at Wizzley now for free . It’s a great place to begin writing online.

Update, April, 1, 2015

Squidoo is no longer online. Its writers have moved or are still moving their articles to other sites or their own blogs.  A new site, Persona Paper is also a great site for beginners at online revenue sharing writing sites.

What I’ve Learned about HubPages

Which is the better writing site? Squidoo or HubPages? Where can you earn the most with your writing? In which atmosphere will you be most likely to thrive? Maybe this comparison will help you decide.

I'm a Squidoo LensmasterBack in 2009 I started a series in which I introduced the various on-line writing communities I belong to. I got as far as Squidoo and stopped.  I stopped because I got so busy writing at Squidoo that I lost interest in the other communities. Now, after becoming a member of the Giant Squid 100 Club and becoming a Squidoo angel, I decided to go back and take a closer look at HubPages. I had not really done much on the site, and I wanted to determine if it was a good fit for me. It has much in common with Squidoo, and I read a very good hub that compares the two sites. You might want to look at Hubpages vs Squidoo if you are not familiar with one or both sites for writers and those who would like to be.  It is objective and will give you a viewpoint other than mine. Its only fault is that it’s not up to date, so I decided to write an update on the recent changes at Squidoo.

Today I would like to discuss what I have learned about HubPages and its potential for earning income by writing. In August, 2009, I wrote four hubs at HubPages on unrelated topics. Then I moved back to Squidoo, and didn’t come back to HubPages until September, 2010. A writing contest lured me back. I was extremely lucky and won a total of $150 in prizes for this hub: Great Short Hikes in San Luis Obispo County. I decided there might be a future for me at HubPages after all. After writing a couple more hubs about living in wine country, I concentrated my time at Squidoo again to participate in a Rocket Moms session. For the past two weeks, most of my time and writing energy has been focused on HubPages so that I could  learn more about the community. I spent several hours over two days reading all the hubs that would help me get more familiar with the policies, tools, people, and techniques on the HubPages site.

One happy discovery was that they had added a few more writing capsules to work with . When I first joined there was no poll, no quiz, no table, no map capsule, and no video capsule. These new tools make writing a creative hub much easier.  One reason I like Squidoo so much is that it has so many different types of modules or lens building blocks.

Another thing I found at HubPages were many fine writers, and I read as much by them about the HubPages Community as I has time for.  I begin to interact in the comments on interesting hubs, and was reminded again how much more interactive the comments section of hubs is than the guest book on Squidoo lenses. Hub authors not only read and approve comments as lensmasters on Squidoo always do, they return to reply to most comments, and conversations start. This doesn’t happen as much on Squidoo. It does happen on Gather, which is a cross between a social networking and a writing site, but many people on Gather leave generic comments just to collect points and a comment like “nice” doesn’t inspire many replies. I will discuss Gather in a future post.

So, if we are comparing Squidoo and HubPages, a writer will find more varied writing tools at Squidoo than at HubPages, but he will find more interaction on his hubs than he might on lenses at Squidoo. As a writer, I find this refreshing, since every writer thrives on feedback. A writer wants to know he’s been read and understood, or to have a chance to clarify if his reader has not understood something he wrote.

A very subtle difference between the two sites is Squidoo’s emphasis on charity. Most contests at Squidoo give half your prize to the charity of your choice — as long as you choose a charity they partner with.  You are encouraged to give at least some portion of what you make through your writing to one of these charity partners. Because so many do give some or all of their Squidoo earnings to Squidoo charity partners, you can feel a great deal of pressure to do likewise, whether you can afford it or not.  It’s the same kind of guilt you might feel when you see solicitors collecting for the homeless as you enter the supermarket.   You might rather feed the hungry in your own community through a local program than donate to the charities  Squidoo partners with, but there is a certain amount of pressure if you’ve been around Squidoo long, to donate parts of your lens earnings to their charity partners.

At HubPages, it’s more like any other kind of job in that it’s assumed that the main reason you are there is to earn money, and there’s no pressure to give part of it away by donating all or a percentage of your hub earnings automatically to anyone through your hubs. That’s up to you when you get it. If you want to tithe it to your church or give it to the local animal shelter or homeless program, it’s up to you.

The policies at HubPages reflect the reality that most people work for pay as well as satisfaction and that they naturally tend toward self-interest . Example. If you are a salesman (and most squids and hubbers are affiliate salespeople, if only for Amazon), you don’t normally encourage your prospective customers to go to the store down the street to buy a product you also sell. Squidoo encourages lensmasters to do something very similar by encouraging them to link to other people’s lenses and recommend them. This is supposed to promote cross-traffic. But affiliate programs normally leave a cookie on a visitor’s computer so that when he makes a purchase, the affiliate (the one who wrote the lens or hub) gets a small commission. It is the owner of the last site through which a visitor clicks who gets paid, even if the review he first  read on a previously visited site actually convinced him to buy. Let’s say Jim is thinking of buying an I-MAC. He does a search and lands on Pete’s Squidoo lens with a great review of an I-MAC.  He is pretty sure he wants one and has already clicked through to check it out at Amazon. He comes home after work and goes back to the lens he visited earlier, and sees a link to my lens about what one switching from a PC to an I-MAC needs to know.  He follows the link to my lens and has his last question answered and clicks through my link to buy the I-MAC. I get the commission. Pete doesn’t. He doesn’t even have the satisfaction of knowing he helped Jim make up his mind.

At HubPages, where it’s easier to earn AdSense money, you get a non-monetary referral fee, so to speak. If Pete links to a Hub I wrote and Jim follows it, Pete will at least profit from a portion of my page views that come from HubPages’ share — not mine. If you use your special link to send someone to another Hubber’s site, HubPages shares some of the pageviews for that hub with you. This gives Hubbers lots of incentive to promote the hubs of others — not just their own, and they may not mind so much sending prospective customers down the street.

About Links
About Linking to Affiliates

One big difference between Squidoo and HubPages is your ability to sell from your lenses and hubs. Neither site will put up with a lens full of spam, but at Squidoo it’s understood that people are often writing lenses to promote the products of their affiliates, or maybe even a business they own. They allow you to have up to 9 links to any one top level domain that’s  on their white list. Only very well known sites that are pretty much accepted by everyone as reputable are on the white list. There is also a black list of sites you can’t link to because their reputations aren’t as sterling.

HubPages allows only two links to the same top level domain in a single hub, and they also watch to see how many of your other hubs link to that same domain. So if your primary reason for joining a writing site is to promote affiliates, you are better off at Squidoo — as long as you write original content that explains why the products you are promoting are worth while. If your lens is full of spam, you may have your article locked at either site, and if too much of your work is locked, your account will be deleted. Spam is not welcome anywhere.

If you were to join the Squidoo community today, you might feel a bit of culture shock. You would be entering a world where friendly monsters pop out to tell you that you just got points for doing something good. You would hear other lensmasters referred to as squids, and you would be considered a fresh squid. If you write a better than average lens, you are likely to be blessed by a Squidoo angel. Sometimes you will be invited to go on a quest, which is a kind of game that encourages you to visit more of other people’s lenses and write more of your own.

You do not experience that same culture shock at HubPages. HubPages has a more businesslike atmosphere, with no gimmicks. Policies and guidelines are clearly stated as they might be in a workplace. At Squidoo there is a whimsical flavor to even many policy announcements. It’s more like an amusement park atmosphere than an office. Sure, you work. But it’s also supposed to be a bit fun.  There are more creative outlets and game-like activities.  When I want to write in a straightforward, no frills fashion, I go to HubPages. I’m not expected to do more than write at HubPages, unless it’s to make my hub more attractive by adding pictures, maybe a video, or, if appropriate, a map, quiz, poll, table, link list, or Amazon capsule. But when I want promote my Zazzle store or do something really creative or innovative, I write a lens at Squidoo or take a quiz or go on a quest. Variety is the spice of life. All work and no play gets monotonous.

HubPages, however, has  frequent contests instead of quests. It appears that they happen quarterly. During a contest, there are lots of daily and weekly cash prizes, with a grand prize at the end of a contest month. When you enter, you have a fair chance to win something. This makes up for the fact that it might be some time before you get a payout for your Google AdSensse earnings.

What I’ve learned about HubPages in this last two weeks has encouraged me to spend as much time writing there as I do at Squidoo. Between the two sites there is enough flexibility to happily write anything I choose. There is potential for earning at both sites. At Squidoo you will probably earn more through affiliate programs than through AdSense,  since you won’t get a piece of the AdSense pie there unless your lenses rank among the top 80,000 out of at least 340,000 — and that was last week. New lenses continue to be written every day to compete with yours for that place in the top 80,000. Any money you earn from lower-ranking lenses will be through affiliate income.

At HubPages, you can expect to make more through AdSense than through affiliates, since you can’t link as much to your affiliates. You do not, however, have to compete with other hubs to get a share of the AdSense earnings. You get all the income from 60% of your impressions, and any affiliate income through HubPages capsules that occur during your share of the impressions. HubPages gets all the earnings from the other 40% of the impressions.

I hope this comparison will help other writers who are trying to find an audience for their work on line and make a supplemental income at the same time. On either site it takes more than a few articles to build up this income. I recommend at a minimum to have 50 articles posted on a site before you expect to get to payouts monthly, and that’s assuming they are quality articles — not rewrites of something you have published elsewhere. Both sites reward original content — not overly promotional pieces you might have used software to generate.  If you plan to work hard, write well, and be patient, you will finally see your payouts coming in. If you would like to join Squidoo, please click my referral link here and have an idea ready to start writing.  If you’d like to join HubPages, please click here for a great article by another Hubber that will be very useful to you: What I Wish I Knew When I Joined HubPages.

Update on April 17, 2013:  Many more changes have taken place at both HubPages and Squidoo recently. I will be addressing these soon.

Enjoying my Community of North San Luis Obispo County

Scene from the Walk on Oakview Lane in Templeton
A scene along Oakview Lane in Templeton, where I often walk

I haven’t added much to this blog lately because I’ve been exploring my community and writing about it at both Squidoo and HubPages, where I won a contest last month with this article: Great Short Hikes in North San Luis Obispo County: Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero.

"Where the Heck is 93446?" a photograph by Nancy Vest
"Where the Heck is 93446?" by Nancy Vest, used by permission.

With my Flip camcorder and camera in a fanny pack,  I find the most interesting walks, explore the vineyards and wineries who are my neighbors, and try to keep up with local festivals and traditions. Just this year I discovered Studios on the Park, where many of the local artists interact with the public, and I try to introduce them to others.  The picture above was from the “Speed” exhibit I have referred to below. I love Nancy’s sense of humor that I see in a lot of her imaginative photographs.

What does all this have to do with bookselling and education? It makes me a more balanced person. One can’t sit at a computer all day and still remain part of one’s community. The most important education is that we seek out after we are through with schooling.  My community has an abundance of learning experiences — so many that it’s hard to choose between them.  So far I’ve not paid a penny for any of them, unless I make purchases while attending events, which I often do.

Laure Carlisle's Self-Portrait at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles
Laure Carlisle's Self-Portrait at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles

I can choose between music, history art, and nature. On  October 7,  I stumbled into the opening of “Speed” — a juried exhibit of the Paso Robles Art Association and had some delightful and educational conversations with some of the artists. What I had come for was the opportunity to finish trying to match artists with their self-portraits in a contest related to an ongoing exhibit. The next night I was able to attend a concert and a historical walking tour as part of the Central Coast Railroad Festival. And the very next day, our community of Paso Robles celebrated its history with a morning parade followed by a free bean feed at the City Park. I was too tired to move to the Pioneer Museum after lunch for some demonstrations of threshing and baling. Instead I went home and edited all the pictures and video I had taken so I could write them up and share them with the community. It’s my way of giving back.

It’s true that while I’m out doing these things I’m not listing books and blogging, but I’m continuing to learn. The desire to keep learning is, in my opinion, the test of one’s education, which should create a thirst for more learning.