Because you all know there’ll be as many selfies at The MADs (Mum and Dad Blogging Awards) than the Oscars.
On Sunday night I was pootling around on the internet – erm, I mean working hard – when I saw a tweet saying the finalists for the MAD Awards were out. I clicked over to have a look and see if any of my favourite bloggers had been included in the line-up.
I wasn’t really truly expecting to see myself there, though if I had made the cut I thought it would be in the ‘Best Blog Writer’ category (hi ego, nice to meet you), but I didn’t feel disappointed not to see my blog on the list.
I scrolled further down the page and realised I’d only gone and made the final 5 in the ‘Most Entertaining’ category!
I have been gobsmacked, I mean, totally gobsmacked, ever since I found out. Writing is my passion, it’s what I love to do, but to receive validation that people are finding my writing entertaining has just been the biggest pat on the back. Blogging can be a bit of a lonely game – your quarterly performance review is only ever carried out with yourself and let me tell you, I’m pretty hard on myself sometimes. So to have my readers and peers say they enjoy my writing, possibly as much as I enjoy it, is the best compliment I could ever have hoped for.
I’m wiping the tears away right now, Gwyneth Paltrow style.
But what happens next? It’s not just a one way street to the Oscars from here. I need to ask for your votes once more in picking me as the winner out of the five finalists in the ‘Most Entertaining’, so please hop on over here and select ‘More Than Toast’ (that’s me obvs) on the final drop-down menu. You can vote in as many or as few categories as you like, so don’t worry about leaving blank spaces. And if you drop me a line to let me know you’ve voted I’ll be sure to remember you in my Oscars speech. In between snotty sobs.
If your voting finger needs a bit more of a workout then I’d be delighted to receive your support in the BritMums Brilliant In Blogging Awards, too! By way of a thank-you please have this picture of puppies. Dressed in babygros. Hanging from a washing line. Don’t ever try to tell me I don’t know what my readers want…
I feel like I should be saying ‘Mwah, darlings’ a lot more now. Don’t worry mum, I won’t let my new-found fame go to my head.
It’s been four years since I started this blog. Four long years. In October 2009 I wrote something extremely well thought out and literary like OH MY GOD I’M PREGNANT WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW?! and that decision may have changed my life a little bit.
In those four years I’ve given birth twice, started the process of divorce (just the once… for now), gone a bit mental with the pressure of kids, work and marriage, found happiness, put on and lost six stone and moved cities three times. I’ve written here about the hardest times and the happiest, births, marriages and deaths. It’s basically been the blog version of Four Weddings And A Funeral, naturally starring me as Andie MacDowell in that massive black hat (so when do I get to snog Hugh Grant? I kid… kind of).
When I started my blog I had no expectations. I did it purely for the reason that I didn’t know what else to do when I realised I was pregnant at the age of 24. Not having any friends who were pregnant or had children I desperately needed somewhere to share my experiences, ask questions and connect with people who’d know what I was going through.
But this place has become so much more than that. It’s been my lifeline at times, therapy for when I’ve wanted to share the bad and sad bits of motherhood. It’s become my job, given me some of the best friends I could have ever wished for (you know who you are and you rock). It’s offered me opportunities I never would have experienced otherwise.
One of those opportunities just happened.
If you look closely you’ll see I’m trying to push open an automatic door. Smooth.
Last week I had an email asking whether or not I might be interested in appearing in a feature on Woman’s Hour about Parent Blogging. WOULD I EVER!! Woman’s Hour has always been such a ‘thing’ in my family; my mum has listened to it for as long as I can remember and she still to this day emails me links to each segment she thinks I’ll enjoy. She often starts her sentences with, “I was listening to Woman’s Hour and…” before delivering a little nugget of wisdom (love your nuggets, mum).
I had a quick chat on the phone with a producer and all was confirmed for Monday. I called my mum and she actually screamed at the news. At our family friend’s engagement party last Friday I don’t think there was anyone in the room who didn’t know that I was to be on Radio 4. She’s never been prouder and has been swearing she always knew I’d turn up on Woman’s Hour.
So this morning Mum and I were up bright and early and on a (massively delayed) train en route to BBC Broadcasting Centre on Regent Street; tired, stressed and not knowing what was ahead. We signed in and were taken up to the green room which wasn’t actually green. Or that fancy, really, the whole place kind of felt like a big office.
Jane Garvey came to greet us (my mum fangirled all over her) and was as much of a legend as she is on the radio: friendly, professional, welcoming. She showed us round the studio before mum was banished back to the green room and I was seated next to her with some ‘cans’ on. I couldn’t get over how breezy she was; she literally chatted happily with me as the news was on and stopped one second before she started speaking to three million people. She was so calm, so cool… when I grow up I want to be Jane Garvey.
By the way: I was seated in the same chair Jamie Oliver sat in last week. BOOM.
I was joined remotely by Tim Atkinson of Bringing Up Charlie and it was showtime: we were on. Jane asked us questions, we gave her answers, the whole ten minute segment flashed by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t swear, forget what I wanted to say or mention any brand names (a big no-no, apparently). I was nervous but really enjoyed the whole experience; mum was shaking when I went back to meet her in the Green Room so I think the whole thing was more taxing for her. I did it without vomiting… what a bloody achievement.
We followed my media debut with brunch at The Langham (I NEEDED that Bucks Fizz) and then headed home when I was back to the daily routine of lunch, naptime, food shopping and jigsaws. I imagine this is how Gwyneth Paltrow lives her life… apart from it doesn’t rain in LA and she never has to deal with The 8.04 London Midland service from Milton Keynes being 30 minutes delayed. Not that I know of, anyway.
Thanks to Radio 4 for having us: we had a blast. Do listen tomorrow and Wednesday at 10am as the special on Parent Blogging continues and best of luck to my lovely blogging friends Jennie and Hayley for their turn with Jane ‘The Legend’ Garvey.
BritMums Live is undeniably the highlight of the Blogging Social Calendar. It’s a weekend where members of our community come together to share and learn, to chat and discuss. It’s not just the highlight of my Blogging Social Calendar though, it’s one of the highlights of my year.
BML 2013 was slightly different for me. I didn’t go armed with tons of business cards and a highlighted seminar schedule. I went with the simple aim of having fun with some of the most wonderful women I know, women I may not have survived the last six months without.
I deserve a big wrist slap for only attending three seminars but I met Cherry Menlove (total writing hero) and sobbed at the keynotes section of the weekend. I gave Jennie an overdue hug (and hoped she felt the love I was giving her) and was profoundly moved by the tribute to a member of our blogging community, Multiple Mummy. We really are a magnificent group of women and though we communicate mostly via computer screen the friendships we share are really unshakeable. Feeling so much unity in a room of women (and a couple of men) belting out a song for a much loved member was an incredibly humbling experience. I will never be able to listen to ‘Firework’ without remembering Kerry, the special bond we as a community share and remembering that it’s OK to live every day of life to the absolute fullest.
These two have got me through the last six months – Bryony and Steph
So, big thanks to those wonderful people I spent the weekend with: Bryony, Steph, Isra, Ruth, Alison, Aimee, Charlotte, Aimee, Bianca, Sarah, Jenny, Kelly (have I forgotten anyone? Probably). Had I won the BiB award – it’s probably a blessing I didn’t thanks to the evening’s wine intake – my acceptance speech was going to include something about how in the crappest year of my life this blog and the community of friends I’ve made through it have got me through in one piece. If I didn’t have you wonderful ladies in my life, you know who you are, I would be a completely different person to the one I am today.
Apologies to those I sobbed on (I’m calling wine and oestrogen overload) and I’ll see you next year! Will make it to more seminars. Promise.
I interrupt my usual programming to announce that after years of ho-humming about it one of my best friends in the whole wide world forever and ever and ever amen has started her own blog! I could not be prouder than if it were Elfie or Hux blogging: Su is an absolutely brilliant writer and I know she’s been wanting to get down and creative online for a while.
I first met Su about 10 years ago when she was a pescatarian (I used to ask her “but what about BACON?!”), saw her through her conversion to vegetarianism – she sat through a dinner of squash risotto at Gaucho on cowskin seats, the trooper – and shook my head at the thought of no cheese when she converted to veganism about a year ago. That’s what Su’s lovely blog is about: life and her journey through veganism.
It’s still well worth a read if you’re a meat eater as it’s stuffed with recipes that will satisfy even the most carnivorous palate (i.e. mine). I love reading it as it’s just like sitting next to her, hearing her chat about her allotment and penchant for heavy metal… and Twilight, shh ;) It’s a lovely way to stay abreast of what’s going on in her life as we’ve been separated far too long by the M1.
Anyway, please pay Su a visit at Honey For The Bees and say hello! She’s also just joined Instagram as Sookisu… next step, Twitter!
For another good pal who’s just started blogging please head over to TilleyBlog… for all your London-based food and cocktail needs, plus travel snippets from Elfie’s new BFF!
Although I’ve been blogging for over a decade I would no way declare myself an expert: in my opinion there’s always more to learn and ways you can better yourself. But I have learnt a couple of things on my long journey that has taken me through the land of online diary writing.
I’ve been asked a few times for a bit of help when it comes to the practicalities of how to set up a blog, and as I’ve been an Online Consultant by trade for about five years now I thought it might be time to share, just don’t get better at it than me, OK? So this is for you, Mum, Emma and Amanda. I expect to be reading your blogs soon.
Think about your motivation behind blogging. I love to share my memories and experiences, not only creating a record of our lives but also helping people through the rough times (I wrote recently about why I like to blog). This is why I’m so frank about being pregnant and Elfie being poorly, and the times I receive emails from others in a similar position really make it all worthwhile. But I also genuinely love to write. First and foremost my enjoyment comes from putting fingers to keypad, adding photos and making something lovely, and I would still enjoy it if nobody even read.
Set up your space.WordPress and Blogger are the two most popular blogging platforms and are both quick, easy and free ways to set up a blog. As far as I can tell, Blogger is the easier option but WordPress is prettier and has more customisable options. There’s an excellent article discussing the ins and outs of WordPress Vs Blogger here. Personally I’m a die-hard WordPress fan as I love the Dashboard interface and prefer to be able to customise to my heart’s desire. Because I like to have all the control over my blog I have my own webspace onto which I have installed WordPress (downloaded from here: wordpress.org): this is a little more technically challenging but gives you even further freedom. I’d recommend the blog novice go for the WordPress.com option, with which you are able to upgrade to your own .com/.co.uk domain for around $18.
Think about what you want to write about. At every blogging conference I’ve ever been to there’s always talk of ‘carving your niche’, as apparently this is how to make waves in the blogosphere. I’ve never really managed to do this and I dart from food to fashion to family to parenting to a little bit of beauty… maybe you could describe me as a ‘lifestyle’ blogger but I just think I’m too much of an oversharer! I rank my enjoyment of what I’m writing over the ‘carve your niche’ rule, though it’s a great idea to have an idea of the subject area you want to head towards.
Make your blog look pretty. Wordpress has a plethora of themes available to you: so much so that it’s easy to get bogged down in them all. I have spent hoooours looking for the perfect theme: it’s one of my favourite hobbies. Decide what’s important to you, whether you like the look of two or three columns and the colours you like, and go from there. These days most themes are quite advanced so you can choose the one you want and customise colours etc from there. Some of the more basic WordPress themes are great for beginners and allow you to add in your own headers without any technical knowledge.
Start writing. It takes a couple of months to find your groove and start gaining readers. Don’t feel disheartened that stacks of people aren’t reading straight away- it’ll happen. As long as you’re enjoying yourself and writing in an honest voice, you will find that people will come.
Join a network. There are so many networks out there depending on the subject matter of your blog. For parenting blogs there’s BritMums or the great Parent Bloggers Facebook group, for Fashion blogs there’s IFB. These places are brilliant when it comes to advice and information, and they’re worth reading even if they don’t fit your niche. For example, I find the advice on the Independent Fashion Blogger‘s network invaluable and interesting, and most of what they discuss can be applied to blogs on other subjects. In terms of blogs that give blogging advice I also enjoy Momcomm, Copyblogger and ProBlogger.
Get involved in Social Networking. There are fantastic supportive communities in each sector of blogging and I can truly say I’ve met some wonderful people through my blog (YO to Charlotte, Kaisa, Jenny and the Mother’s Meeting massive…). Twitter is a great way to connect with others, make friends and get your posts out there. I also love Instagram but like I said, I’m a bit of an oversharer. I’ve just started getting into Pinterest (addictive) and I have a brand-spanking new Facebook page. Google+ is still a bit of an enigma but I plan on finding out how it ticks ASAP and will report back with details.
My mum asked me this week if she thought I would ever regret putting so much of my children’s lives online, if i thought there was the possibility that they might feel offended by having so much revealed to strangers. It’s a very good question.
My immediate answer was no. Firstly, I don’t see what I do on my blog as being hugely different from what others do on Facebook or parenting forums; it’s a modern-day photo album but with the added bonus of text, and perhaps to a larger audience. It means I will never forget these very precious early moment of my kids lives.
Secondly, I’m a bit of a show off, an over sharer (well, duh). I’m happy to be writing all these things about me and will always be 100% honest in my blog, but believe it or not there are things I hold back on and don’t write about. My husband, for one. Although I’m happy to share snippets of our life together I’m not sure how happy he’d be if I shared things about his life, too, so I leave him and our marriage out for the most part (nobody wants to read about the 2 hour bickering row we had in Madrid about directions. Nobody. Not even me).
I’m also careful to never blog about specifics of Elfie’s illness. I’ll talk about it to some degree but I really think its up to her to share the details if she ever wants to, and I made a vow to myself to always respect her enough to give her that privacy. I think it’s important to share the impact it has on our life as a family but the intricacies will remain unspoken.
Did I say ME ME ME?!
All this deep thinking got me pondering the reasons why I blog and I re-visited a post I made about this way back in 2010. My reasons for blogging haven’t really changed since then – I like to share, hear what others have to say about my thoughts, get things off my chest. Nothing means more to me than the emails I get from pregnant women, or women with young children, saying that I’ve helped them or inspired them in some way. Every time I get one of these emails I feel happy that I have shared.
I also love to write and have blogged in one form or another since about 1999. I found my old online journals this week and goodness, all I cared about back then in the teenage years were boys, schoolwork (how to do as little as possible) and talking about myself. But that was when I first got into writing down my thoughts once a day and I haven’t stopped since. My writing’s evolved a little – its less self-obsessed and there are fewer emoticons – but I still get a lot of enjoyment out of it and I remember all those nuances of being a teenager because I blogged about it.
Those are the reasons I blog: memories, community and enjoyment. I hope that in years to come my kids will understand that and will look back on my blog as a wonderful record of our lives.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of self-doubt about blogging. What about our safety? Am I releasing too much information online? Will Elfie and Huxley hate me for it when they’re older? When I started blogging all those years ago I hated telling my real-life friends about my site because it seemed so terribly self-indulgent; is that how I should feel now? Am I selfish for thinking ME ME ME so much?
This is a time when I’d like to open it up to you: why do you blog? Do you worry about how your children will feel about your blog? Do you consider those who blog just slightly self-obesessed? I would love to hear your thoughts.
(NB: this week I imported some of my more relevant posts from my old blog, www.the-alice.co.uk… it seems that if you subscribe via RSS you’re safe, but so sorry to anyone who received hundreds of email subscription notifications!)