How I Came To Un-Hate Twitter

Jaime (have you checked out her blog?) asked me to share my newfound techniques for managing Twitter.

Girl, Advice is my middle name.  Of course I’ll share!

In the few weeks that I’ve been deliberate employing my girl Cristina’s social media advice, my itty-bitty Twitter following doubled.  Doubled!

Before I begin, the back story (because I’m a novelist and sharing back stories ranks up there in the upper echelon of Best Things To Do Ever): I was a Twitter hater.  Hate, hate, hated Twitter.  I had it, I used it for a while, but—ergh.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, nor could I keep up with the constant stream of yackity-yack.

Also, I do not own a smart phone.  Even if I did have one, there’s no way I could keep up with the stream—river—tsunami that is a Twitter feed.  I couldn’t keep up with it even after I purged my follow list.

Nor did I want to keep up with it.  The medium and my temperament are like oil and water.  Reading a Twitter feed sends my manic through the roof.  I come away feeling irritable and bloated from binging on mental junk food.

Have I established the fact that I couldn’t stand Twitter yet?

Good.  Moving on.

When I began Real Housekeeping, I had to renege on my Twitter abandonment for its sake.  Problem was, my Twitter issues needed to be addressed.  Frankly, all my social media issues needed to be addressed.   Real Housekeeping is so awesome that I couldn’t and can’t keep it to myself.  I knew it was my job to get the word out there.

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Providence would have it that Cristina of Filling My Prayer Closet came into my life.  People, this girl knows social media.  She reads up on it, she uses it, she likes it, and she was willing to help.

For Real Housekeeping, Cristina suggested I focus on Google Plus, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.  I decided to focus on the first three (I have a personal Instagram account just for fun).

So let’s talk about Twitter.  Cristina dragged me into Twitter usage, kicking and screaming (me, not her).  But I stopped kicking and screaming when she gave me the Key to All Mythologies, the Tardis by which we enter other worlds and other times:

HootSuite.  The application that gives me eyes to see.

HootSuite. The application that gives me eyes to see.

Hootsuite is a social media manager that uses “streams” to collate information, making it easier to follow what the bleepity-bleep is going on. It’s perfect for Twitter; my guess is that it was designed specifically for it.

Here’s what mine looks like (click to enlarge):

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It took a bit of doing to set this up, but it was worth the effort.

To the left is a sidebar with controls—this is where I add social media networks and generally manage my account. At the very top of the window is the input box for creating a social media message. I can write it, add shortened links, pictures, etc., select which account or accounts I’d like to use, and even schedule my post.

Look further down and you’ll notice some tabs: “NN,” “RH,” “FB,” and “Instagram.” Each of these tabs are for different social media accounts: my @napnovel Twitter account, Real Housekeeping’s Twitter account, Facebook, and my Instagram feed (just for following—I can’t post from here).

In the above picture, you see my “streams” for my @napnovel account. I added the ones I wanted to follow by clicking on “Add Stream.” From left to right: Mentions (i.e. anyone sends me a shout-out), then a few custom lists that I subscribe to—Real Housekeeping contributors, CatholicMom.com contributors, Catholic Women Blogging Network ladies, and then (if you were to scroll over, which you can’t) my Home Feed (the normal Twitter feed), my Sent Tweets, and New Followers tweets—i.e. anyone who’s joined the ranks of the poor people on the receiving end of my inanity.

The other accounts are set up in a similar way.

Setting up streams allows me to follow groups of people according to my set priorities. For example, it’s important to me to keep up with what my Real Housekeeping contributors are tweeting about. I want to engage them, say hi, tell the world how much I appreciate their work, etc. Next are my fellow contributors at CatholicMom.com. Then other ladies I know in the Catholic blogging world.

By having these streams, I can see what’s most important to me, right away. Then comes the general Twitter stream, which I skim through when I have time.

I have grand plans of making more custom lists in Twitter—friends from the CWG, friends from school, plain ol’ friends—and then adding those lists as streams to my Hootsuite account. Perhaps I’ll make a new tab for just lists. Who knows?

But most importantly, the way I can organize information within Hootsuite helps me engage the people who matter most to me. It breaks down my Twitter feed into manageable chunks. I feel less overwhelmed by the information by using it.

One final point: Hootsuite makes it possible for me to check my social media accounts LESS often.  One of the reasons I didn’t like Twitter before was that I felt I needed to use it all the time.  Otherwise, I missed much of what was going on.   But being connected all the time made me miserable.  So…

With Hootsuite, the pace of each individual stream moves more slowly than my entire Twitter feed.  Therefore, I can keep up with it without being always connected.

Hootsuite is FREE for up to five social media accounts (not including Instagram—that’s an installed app, natch!).  I have no idea what the paid subscription costs, as I don’t manage much more than Twitter and Facebook from it. Google Plus goes right into my inbox and Pinterest doesn’t work with Hootsuite.

So…  Hootsuite.  That’s how I’ve come around on this whole Twitter thing.  I just needed eyes to see.

Does this help, Jaime?

CoSchedule: My New BFF

I promised Jaime (have you read her blog?) to preach the good news of my pro-Twitter conversion.  But my conversion goes deeper than renouncing my anti-Twitter ways.   My conversion encompasses all of social media.

This post describes my first few weeks on the social media straight and narrow, and since then I’ve learned even more about which tools to wield in my efforts both to get to know people and to promote Real Housekeeping.

Tomorrow I will go into Twitter and how I discovered that it is, in fact, possible to have fun and meet people with social media. Today I’d like to talk about how I’m using social media for my professional projects.  Namely, I’d like to talk about CoSchedule.

CoSchedule and I are BFFs.

CoSchedule and I are BFFs.

CoSchedule has transformed the social media/marketing aspect of my Real Housekeeping job from running-all-over-the-web crazy into a three-minute task.  I mean that: three minutes.

So, Rhonda, what is it?

CoSchedule is an editorial calendar that syncs with self-hosted WordPress blogs.  Its first function is managing run dates and times for posts within a visual calendar, rather than from the list of posts within WordPress.

Before CoSchedule, if I wanted to change a publish date or time, I had to log into WordPress, go to “All Posts,” then click, “Quick Edit,” then change the date. For every single post I wanted to edit.

Now, if I want to reschedule a post, I drag-and-drop it from one calendar box to the other in CoSchedule. It changes the date for me in WordPress. Easy as pie. (Click picture to enlarge.)

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CoSchedule also makes it easier for me to evaluate the what topics are being covered on Real Housekeeping in a visual medium.  I can then take this information to my contributors and make a shout-out for certain topics as well as plan for themed-weeks ahead of time.

But that’s not all! CoSchedule’s second function is to provide an integrated platform for creating social media push notifications.

CoSchedule connects with the most commonly used social media services, including Pinterest.  Guys, I can’t even begin to tell you how AWESOME it is to find—finally!—a tool that lets me schedule pins ahead of time.  Al-le-lu-ia.

Plus, it’s easy.  Let me show you how:

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When I click on an individual post on my calendar, this dialog box pops up.  You’ll notice that I can change categories, tags, dates, times, the author, etc. etc. from here.  All super-helpful.   Now look at the bottom, at “Social Messages.”  This is where I create all my push notifications for this post.

Click, “New Message,” and this appears:

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From here, I can select the social media service, create a custom message and hashtags, and select the day and time for the push notification.  I can post multiple times to the same or different social media services, and I can schedule for days, or weeks, or even months out from the run date.  For example:

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In a few minutes and from one place, my promotional work is, in effect, finished.  I can sit back and enjoy a cup of tea in the mornings instead of worrying about my Google Plus post.

Best of all—if, after I’ve created my push notifications, I need to change the run date of the post, the push notifications change with it.  Drag-and-drop the post into the new spot on the calendar, and—poof!—all the social media messages related to this post come with it. Even the push notifications scheduled, say, a month out will change accordingly.

One less thing for my scatterbrained head to manage, right?  It’s a great tool and an improvement on the other social media managers out there.

CoSchedule has left me free to use social media for its intended purpose: socializing.  We editors and bloggers use social media to promote our writing, of course, but that’s not the for-the-sake-of-which of social media.  Because my push notifications are scheduled ahead of time, I no longer have to worry about them.  Instead, I get to go have fun—read tweets, pin pins, poke friends (do people still do that?), and all the other asinine, time-wasting things that keep my novel from getting finished.

CoSchedule is a paid service: $10/mo., and, again, only for self-hosted WordPress blogs (NOT like this one, poor, poor little Naptime Novelist.  If only, WordPress.com, if only…).  The folks at CoSchedule DO offer a 14-day FREE trial, no credit card required.  Yes, it’s a for-pay professional tool, but, my goodness, what an awesome professional tool it is.

Recommended?  Yes, please!

Interested?  Help a sister out.  CoSchedule will knock off 10% of my yearly bill for every person that signs up using my affiliate link (every user gets an affiliate link, aren’t they good business peeps?).  It’s against WordPress.com’s rules to embed affiliate links in this blog, however, if you CLICK HERE, you can follow my link from Twitter.  It turns my $10/mo into $9/mo, and so on.  Thanks!

Knitting, Books, School, Spanish, Social, and Writing (YA/SS/7QT)

Linking up in two places today: CatholicMom.com‘s Small Success Thursday with Sherry and Yarn Along with Ginny at Small Things.  Tomorrow I’ll link this up with 7 Quick Takes with Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

Cheating?  Maybe.

I’m not above cheating.

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My bag is coming along.  I learned a new skill: picking up stitches from an edge.  It wasn’t difficult at all.  This is also my first time knitting in the round. I began with double-pointed needles, but one broke (!), despite the fact that it was my first time using them AND they are quality Brittany needles.  I’m going to write Brittany and see if I can’t get a free replacement.  I bought them at store closing sale (the owner retired), so taking them back there isn’t going to work.  Obviously.

The only mistake so far is that I dropped a stitch on my second go-around when transferring my work from the double-pointed to the circular needles.  One mistake out of all the possible mistakes I could have made isn’t bad!

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Reading: I started St. Francis de Sales’ Roses Among Thorns.  This is a new translation from Sophia Institute Press.  Early verdict: amazing.

I’m also still reading Ven. Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ for my morning meditation.  I’m on a big Sheen kick at the moment; I also read The World’s First Love for Lent.  Can a person ever get enough Sheen?  I’m thinking not.

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Ben started school this week.  Technically, it’s summer camp, but it’s held at the school he’ll be attending in the fall.  Getting him up, dressed, fed, and out the door is no small feat, but we’re managing.  Success!

He seems to be doing okay so far.  Not sure if he likes it yet or not, given that he’s not into communication and feedback and what have you.  Time will tell.

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I have every intention of working on Spanish.  Do good intentions count as a small success?

My dad and I have been wanting to learn Spanish since I was, oh, ten years old—23 years?  That’s a long time for wanting to do something!   He’s in China at the moment for extended business, and being by himself without his family for months at a time grates on him, as anyone would imagine.  I suggested we work on Spanish together over Skype as a way to spend time together.  Good idea, huh?

A few weeks ago I scoped out DIY Spanish from our local library—I have a bad habit of checking out every new language learning book I see—and thought its approach to learning the most immediately useful language first would work well for Dad and I as not-quite-beginners.

Problem is, I haven’t started.  But I intend to!  Sorry, Dad.

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Who knew Twitter could be so fun? Two months ago I hated Twitter.  Now I really like it.

Solution: Hootsuite and custom lists.  I needed a way to manage it so that I could use it.

I’m enjoying my bon mot conversations with Erin, Barb, Cristina, Colleen (of course), and others.  It’s also great fun to promote other people’s projects via Twitter—such a simple way to show encouragement.

Jared’s also learning to use Twitter for the Saint Benedict Forum.  (Follow SBF, will ya?) His questions are largely about Twitter etiquette and what, exactly, to tweet about.  I think he likes it, too, even though he still doesn’t want it for himself.

I also started a Tumblr blog.  (I feel so… expansive.)  I’m not posting there directly; it’s acting as a feed for this blog, for Real Housekeeping (did I mention that Ethel is tweeting, too?), and my Instagram pics.  I’m told that Tumblr attracts a younger crowd, and given that it requires zero work on my part at the moment, well, what the heck?  Right?

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Writing: there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve been clearing stuff off my to-do list and SAYING NO (that is a BIG success!) to other projects, in order that I have the mental and chronological (?) space to WORK ON MY NOVEL.

Saying no works, FYI.

I’m going to do a big push today in order to have the next several weeks of Real Housekeeping ready to go in WordPress.  Then it’s novel time, baby.

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I’ll stop here, but not without pointing you in the direction of something awesome: free retreat contest!

Ciao, bellas.

Laundry. That’s All I’ve Got. And Maybe That’s All I Need. #GoodEnoughMom

I had grand plans for today. My alarm was set for 4 a.m. so that I could rise, shine, give God the glory-glory, and get to work on the book.  I was going to enjoy a morning of joy-giving writing before pausing to ready the house, kids, and Ben’s lunch for his first day of school.

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You’ve anticipated the punch line.  That didn’t happen.  At least, not the way I wanted it to.

Mimi’s taken to that 8-month-old, let’s-nurse-at-night-again thing. Unlike when the babies were newborns, I haven’t been accepting of uninterrupted sleep.  Last night was a doozy and I’m tired this morning.

So no grand feats of writing.

But, I do have laundry! Last week our dryer was out-of-commission for a few days.  I’m still catching up.

Laundry and I have a love-hate relationship.  On the one hand, I don’t mind doing it—at least, not in the way I mind doing the dishes (hate dishes).  On the other hand, I’m terrible about keeping up with folding and putting laundry away.  We have the issue of clean clothes piled up all around the house, waiting for someone (usually my husband) to put it away.

The idea of doing laundry at the moment sounds—blergh.  But what are my other options?  I’m too brainfried for serious writing or editing, and if I indulge my preference—surfing the internet—I’ll feel emotionally, mentally, and physically worse.

So laundry it is.

That’s my Good Enough for the day.

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Dreaming the Writing Dream

Your morning laugh, courtesy of Yours Truly.

Last night (this morning? Probably this morning), I had a dream.  I dreamed that I wrote a one-off novelette, an allegorical story about the Fall, for the Catholic Writers’ Guild contest (there is no such contest, sorry).  I illustrated my novelette with hand-drawn cartoons (a la Mama Knows, Honeychild, but I colored them in) and artwork pinched from the internet.

Apparently, this took a few hours to write and create.

I submitted my book.  And, wouldn’t you know it? I WON!

Guess what I won?

  • $50,000 in prize money from CWG!

(This is where CWG President Ellen Gable Hrkash chokes on her morning scrambled eggs.)

  • A publication offer with a $1,000,000 royalty advancement!

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And… (y’all ready for this?)…

  • Offers from the Vatican to publish my book, complete with being flown out (on them) for a private audience with Pope Francis!

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And all for my little novelette/graphic novel.

If making it as a writer is just this easy, then why haven’t I done this before?

Oooh-da-lolly, Robin Hood: a Plot Analysis

Ben’s been watching Disney’s Robin Hood lately.  A lot.  As in, every day if I’d let him.

There are certain advantages to the three-year-old tendency to stick to familiar things.  I’ve had plenty of time to study this movie.  Conclusion?

Robin Hood has fantastic plot structure.

It may get away employ certain jokes Disney could never make now—I told Ben that he’s never, ever allowed to wolf whistle a woman, no matter how funny it is when the foot soldier whistles at Little John in drag—but the movement of its plot line is pitch perfect.  I’m learning a lot, watching it.

Let me go scene by scene.  I’ll be referring to both Michael Hague and Larry Brooks’ plot structures. Continue reading

Yarning Along, Making a Bag

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I’m knitting a bag right now (and am much further along than this picture shows). I’m working on the base in seed stitch, and once I’m done with that I will knit the sides in the round using double-pointed needles. It’ll be my first time working in the round AND my first time working with double-pointed needles.  We’ll see how it goes.

I plan on lining the bag with fabric to increase its strength.  A friend‘s daughter suggested a light pink fabric to go with this dark teal yarn.  Smart girl, that one.

Reading: I just finished North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (thanks for the recommendation, Heather) and am almost finished with A Waste of Shame and Other Sad Tales of the Appalachian Foothills by Geoffrey Smagacz.  Two very, very different genres, but, hey, I’m diversifying.

I Gave Up On Parenting Books (#GoodEnoughMom)

When Charity said her Good Enough Mom prompt for this week was parenting books, I thought:

Oh. Boy.

I have some resentment issues surrounding parenting books.  I (still) blame parenting books (and parenting pressure) for much of the non-serenity I had toward the beginning of mommyhood.

It wasn’t PPD.  It wasn’t normal first-child transitioning.  It wasn’t my own crazy thinking.

Nope.  Parenting books.  I BLAME DR. SEARS!

Heh.  Maybe a bit of an overstatement.  I’m not anti-Attachment Parenting per se. But I do like to point fingers at the not-central-issue.  Don’t we all?

I’m pretty sure my underlying assumption to this parent thing was that I could produce The Perfect Child.  I read and misread a lot of parenting books before Ben was born, and coupled with my classroom teaching experience, I thought I was ready to outdo the effects of Original Sin.

If you had asked me this straight-out, of course I would have rejected the assumption as preposterous.  Perfection?  Not this side of Heaven.  Of course.

Of course.

Of course?

Not so much.  Heck, I was afraid of putting Ben down so that I could turn over the laundry, lest I psychologically damage him.  So thought the woman completely and utterly and totally lacking psychological stability (at the time).

Hee hee hee.

That being said, I can name a few parenting resources I’ve found helpful.  In no particular order:

  • A series of talks about Catholicism and the Montessori method given by Montessori teacher Maggie Radzik.  The idea of the prepared environment saved our heinnies when Ben became mobile.  I can’t even imagine the number of battles we did NOT fight because we took greater care to prepare our home for him.  Talk One / Talk Two / Talk Three / Talk Four
  • Dr. Dan’s Last Word on Babies and Other Humans. My friend Beth gave me this book, and, ooh da lolly, what a great corrective to the uber-seriousness of many parenting Methods (with a capital M) out there.  Dr. Dan’s message could be summed up in two words: chill-lax and laugh.  I needed to read this book at the time.  Thank you, Beth.
  • Spirituality and the Twelve Stepsby Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P.  I know of no better practical wisdom out there, other than the Wisdom books of the Bible, than Twelve Step wisdom.  Fr. Emmerich Vogt takes that wisdom and shows how it finds its roots in historical Christian practice.  I love these talks and, though they aren’t strictly about parenting, I think they have a lot to offer parents.
  • Diaper-Free Before 3Now, I do not have a toilet-trained child in this house, but that’s because I did not follow the advice of this excellent book.  We did early training and had a lot of success until I tried to go no-holds-barred (not recommended) and he resisted.  He was excited to use it until I pushed too hard.  It’s been a battle ever since.

    Point being, I agree with the book’s premise that going in the potty is simply what we do.  The idea of “readiness” is misused to the point where kids (like mine) are in Size 6 diapers when, in most other countries around the world, they’ve been out of diapers for years. Knowing what I do now, I’m going to try again with Mimi when the timing seems right and see how it goes.  

    So that’s Diaper-Free.  It’s the one “how-to” book that I wholeheartedly agree with, even though *I* didn’t employ her wisdom correctly.

For further parenting advice, I rely on family and friends.   We all have people in our lives whose parenting skills—and kids—we admire.  I will turn to them before I think to turn to a book or (worse) the blogosphere.  Many books and blogs fail to bring me peace, and unless they come highly recommended, it’s hit-or-miss as to whether one will help or not.

So that’s that on parenting books and me.  How about you?

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Off to a Good Start

After yesterday’s Life Planning Session (I hope you didn’t read it too terribly closely), I was determined to make a good start.

I was up at 5:30 a.m., which is not as early as my previous wake-up time of 4 a.m., but it was better than my more recent 8 a.m. wake-up call—i.e. getting up with the kids.  We all know how wonderfully getting up with the kids is (not).

Prayer and meditation until 6ish.  Then I started work on my novel.  Stopped around 6:40; showered, dressed.  Ate some food.  Put dishes away, cleaned the bathroom (!), wiped down the kitchen counters, started some laundry, and folded half a basket of clothes.  Fed some children somewhere in there, too.

By 9 o’clock and the arrival of my sitter, I was ready to go for my weekly long day of work.

I worked on my novel all morning.  ALL MORNING!  It felt great.  After lunch I worked on the novel for another 30 minutes or so before switching to Dappled Things (finishing touches on the next issue, woo hoo!).  15 minutes, there.  Email, then Real Housekeeping stuff.  And now here.  12 minutes more to go before time is up.

I doubt I would have worked so long or so well on the novel had I not gotten up this morning.  And tonight will be less stressful because I did my chores this morning.

Lesson learned:  Keep asking my Guardian Angel to wake me up in the morning.

I am writing.  Amen.  Alleluia.