Celebration Week Flowers

The end of July and the first half of August are always celebration times in our family. We celebrate three birthdays and a wedding anniversary in the span of eighteen days. Four years ago, my son Anthony delighted me with the birthday gift of setting up a WordPress blog for me.  The blog today has been integrated into a website and upgraded by daughter Kate and the great folks at Plumb Media.

Since 2009, our family of four has grown to seven after two weddings and a baby, with baby #2 on the way. What a productive, happy, time we are enjoying.

And the blog?

Well, 350 blog posts, even if only 500 words long (most of mine are longer), would equal 175,000 words, enough to fill up the spines of two Stephen King novels. Unfortunately, not enough to rake in his royalties, but hey, this project was never about money.

The lesson in this anniversary? It is possible to write a little essay once a week and post it online. If you are a blogger, or thinking about becoming one, I hope you will be encouraged. You can do it!

The second lesson? If you had told me four years ago I had to write more than 175,000 words, I would have run the other direction. This blog’s never been about accumulating words either. But any goal worked at in manageable chunks and consistently over time can accumulate into a much larger end product.

How to take advantage of all 350 posts: two actions to take

  • On the right-hand side of this blog post is a box that says “categories.” Click on the little triangle, and you will see an array of topics. If you have an interest in one of them, just click on it. Usually you will tap into a number of posts arranged from most recent to less recent.
  • If you haven’t yet watched the short video in the upper right hand side of this page and signed up for the free guide book on “How to Write a Memoir,” please do! As an extra bonus, you will get short, weekly Magical Memoir Moments, with one picture and a few reflections and questions to prompt your own memory and imagination.

I see that this post is only 370 words long. Today, I’m going to be brief. But I would love to answer your questions in the comment section below.  If you blog, what tips can you share to keep the posts useful and the task of writing a weekly essay from becoming a burden? If you are a reader, how can this blog better serve your needs?




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Shirley Showalter


  1. Tina Barbour on August 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Congratulations on 350 posts! That’s quite an accomplishment, Shirley. I haven’t been reading your blog the whole time, but in the time I have been reading it, I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

    How do you come up with blog topics? What blog tips can you give us bloggers who are fairly new (I’ve been blogging for 9 months today).

    • shirleyhs on August 14, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Thanks, Tina. And congratulations to you for nine months! That’s a very meaningful milestone in its own. Enough to bring your next stage to birth.

      My own blog has evolved from a focus on the genre of memoir and memoir book reviews to more personal posts on my own life as a memoir writer. That’s because I am writing to deadline now and because I have moved from exploratory stages to production stage.

      As for topics, here’s a tip that might be useful if you don’t already do it. Carry around a little notebook and think about what your readers might enjoy or want to know about. As you read books, experience personal struggles and breakthroughs, make a little note. When you get to your computer, start the blog post. Give it a draft title to remind you of the idea and enough of a start — a few words, a link, a photo — so that when you have time to write, you don’t have a blank page.

      Study your readership stats. What have readers enjoyed most of your last months of blogging? Can you do more of that?

      I have about four of these drafts in my unpublished posts column. I almost never get to a Sunday without knowing what I am going to put up on a Monday (or, as in this case after travels, on a Tuesday) morning.

      Another tip. Get to know the outstanding bloggers in your area of interest. You do a great job of making yourself visible here (thanks!), and I imagine you have a few other places to hang out. Other blogs give you your own posting ideas, and they can serve as a possible source when you want to do a guest post, which can bring you new readers. If you have ideas for doing a guest post in this space, I invite you to propose something. Guest blogging should be a win-win! Message me on FB when and if you have an idea.

  2. Sharon Lippincott on August 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Congratulations Shirley! Sounds like you have shared my discovery that at some point, blogs become much like part of the family — another child of sorts. Mine is now six-and-a-half years old with nearly 550 posts,

    As impressive as the post and word counts on yours is the gold-standard quality of your posts and content. They will remain a treasured resource for years or decades into the future.

    Ten years ago most sites offering advice and resources to memoir and lifestory writers offered only a few basic tips as bait to get people to pay substantial sums of money for classes and/ormembership in organizations. Perhaps sites like ours and dozens of related ones are the reason that is changing. I so love the spirit of free collaboration and community that is emerging, and am happy to be part of it along with you.

  3. shirleyhs on August 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm


    Wow! You are amazing. Hats off to you and to the wonderful resources you’ve created by sharing your thoughts and suggestions for the craft of memoir writing.

    I visited your blog just now and really enjoyed your latest take on the value of eReaders. Captcha did not allow me to save my comment, however, so I offer it to you here, along with my gratitude for your continued colleagueship.

    Shirley said…
    I have been a Kindle owner for two years and have just purchased a MacBook Pro hoping to learn how to access ebooks on it. This post will help me.

    I tend not to buy ebooks unless I am traveling or have no interest in having the book on my shelf.

    Ereaders and ebooks are here to stay, however, and, like you, I will probably begin to use more of them over time.

  4. Kathleen Pooler on August 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Congratulations,Shirley. From such humble beginnings , you have become a star blogger! I love how your children gifted you with their expertise in getting started and upgrading your site. I agree with Sharon’s comments about your “gold standard content” that keeps me and many others coming back. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a vibrant online community- you enlighten, enrich and inspire me in my own journey!

  5. shirleyhs on August 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks, Kathleen. You are one of many bloggers who have contributed to the content archives of this blog. I remember being amazed by your learning curve as a new blogger. You shot straight for the top and have stayed there.

  6. Christine Houser on August 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    What an inspiring milestone and thank you for your 350 meaningful posts! I’m just shooting for 100 for now with a long way to go. There’s no shortage of ideas, and keeping track of them can be a challenge, but actually writing each one of them is the rub. It’s getting easier and faster, and reading your blog is sometimes the little push that keeps me going.
    Chris at FlashMemoirs.com

    • shirleyhs on August 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Chris, way to go as you head toward 100, one day at a time, one step at a time. I am so intrigued by you flashmemoirs.com project. Looks like you have attracted a lot of my blogging friends to your cite and have found a unique way to unite the memoir blogging community. Good for you!

      And, if I understand the flash concept — sit down and write at least 500 words in about 30 minutes ????—you can write a lot of blog post drafts this way also. You can then add research, formatting, etc., where relevant or helpful.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope to get to know you better over time.

  7. Madeline Sharples on August 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Hi, Shirley, Congratulations on your blogging longevity and your wise words about memoir writing. I like your advice to keep blog posts short. You are a great inspiration to new and seasoned bloggers alike.
    I can’t tell you how important blogging has become to me. I blog on my own sites and for other websites as well. And I love it. It is clear that you do too. xoxo Madeline

    • shirleyhs on August 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      Madeline, I can tell how much fun you are having all over the Internets :-). It’s been fun to watch you blossom and become so savvy about book writing, publishing, and editing. I appreciate so much your faithful good cheer. Blogging demonstrates the Law of Reciprocity every day, and you are a great reciprocater. Thank you.

  8. Paulette Alden on August 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Shirley, I want to thank you for your blog and for being you. What you do is wonderful and who you are is wonderful. You’ve made such a great contribution to memoir writing with your blog. It’s a great resource and something to be very proud of! Plus you’re so generous and supportive of other writers/bloggers. You’re a gift. And I’m looking forward to reading your memoir! best,

  9. shirleyhs on August 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks, Paulette. You made my day.

    I respect your judgment so much. I certainly wish I could take one of your classes. Maybe some day!

  10. Richard Gilbert on August 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Congratulations, Shirley! My blog was four years old, too, in July. But I am at more like 295 posts.

    I read other bloggers, like you, to stay inspired about what a post can be. I admire short, epistolary, colloquial posts. Mine tend to be too long and often are convoluted. So I love posts by others that seem natural and easy. Maybe they weren’t easy to write!

    Everyone who practices writing in a genre needs to read it. And no one who blogs and reads others’ blogs can ignorantly condemn this medium. I love reading the way others put themselves out there, trying to make sense of the world and themselves.

    • shirleyhs on August 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      We are near twins, Richard, in terms of blogging age, but you have never stooped to anything other than a New Yorker-style essay, while I have tried all kinds of approaches. Thanks for hanging in there with me. You add a touch of droll gravitas to these pages and lots of wisdom. Don’t change a thing in your own style. Many of my friends have found you here and have thanked me for the introduction. All of us who have been blogging for a while know exactly what you mean by those last sentences.

  11. April Yamasaki on August 29, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Hi Shirley – I’m very new to blogging–just 26 posts so far. Congratulations on reaching this milestone, and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  12. shirleyhs on August 29, 2012 at 8:56 am

    April, thank you for this visit. It gave me the chance to visit your blog. (I always like to make at least an initial visit to bloggers who stop by here — and check in again when possible). I love reading your “about” page and the review of Please Pass the Faith was just right for me, a new grandparent, eagerly expecting baby #2 soon.

    And we both have Herald Press as our publishers! Let’s do keep in touch.

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