The little house is not too small
to shelter friends who come to call.
Though low the roof and small its space
it holds the Lord’s abounding grace
and every simple room may be
endowed with happy memory.
The little house, severely plain,
a wealth of beauty may contain.
Within it those who dwell may find
high faith which makes for peace of mind
and that sweet understanding which
can make the poorest cottage rich.
The little house can hold all things
from which the soul’s contentment springs.
It’s not too small for love to grow,
for all the joys that mortals know,
for mirth and song and that delight
which makes the humblest dwelling bright.
At the family picnic our cousin Devern’s new bride, Chloe was warmly welcomed by everyone in our extended family circle. At the picnic table I noticed that she sat next to great-uncle Herb, so I sat across from them in case she needed a little help. Uncle Herb wasn’t the greatest conversationalist.
As we all enjoyed our food, I heard Chloe ask Uncle Herb, “So, who do you think will win the presidential election this fall?”
His noncommittal response was, “I won’t even try to guess.”
She seemed taken aback; nevertheless she made another stab at it. “At this point it’s pretty hard to predict, I guess. Who do you think Joe Biden will choose as his running mate?”
“I doubt it will matter much. Politicians are all about the same.”
Looking a little miffed, Chloe glanced at me and I gave her a sympathetic smile. She didn’t know Uncle Herb yet.
I leaned forward. “Say, Uncle Herb, I saw a bird in our yard yesterday, small and brownish with a lighter breast. It had a short tail that kind of stuck up. A wren, wouldn’t you say?”
“Oh, yes. Very likely, if its tail was short, somewhat blunt, and pointed up. A dusky flycatcher is small and brown, too, but its tail’s longer, more tapered. House wrens and duskies both have a ring around the eye and you may confuse the two by that, but the dusky is slightly larger, 5 3/4”. Also, duskies have a rather yellow belly and clear white wing bars, where the wren’s belly is creamy and its bars, on both wings and tail, are smaller black and brown. Look more like ripples. However, the upright tail will give the wren away every time. And its song, of course.
“Now, as to what kind of a wren… If its back was definitely brown and barred, it was a house wren. A sedge wren is much like a house wren, slightly smaller, only 4 ½”, but it doesn’t have that distinguishing thin ring of white around its eye. Also, a sedge wren’s throat is whiter and the belly more orange. Did you happen to get a good look at its throat or belly?”
“Um.. No. It was in the bushes and…”
“Too bad. Now, marsh wrens are slightly lighter in color and clearly distinguished by a line above the eye, going from the beak to the back of the head. Winter wrens are smaller than a house wren, though; a house wren is 4 3/4″ whereas a winter wren is only four inches. But winter wrens nest in the pine forests of northern Canada, so you’ll rarely see one here, except in migration. They don’t have a clear line above the eye, either.”
“I hope I get another chance to see it.” I also hoped to think of some topic that would stop Uncle Herb’s ornithological flow.
Suddenly he turned back to Chloe. “What kind of birds have you observed?”
She searched for an answer. “Er… Robins. I’ve seen robins.”
“Robins?” Uncle Herb looked puzzled. “Is that all? Surely you’ve seen other birds.”
Chloe got that deer-in-the-headlights look. “Uh… And pigeons. And sparrows. I’ve seen lots of sparrows.”
“Are you referring to native sparrows or English sparrows?” His tone was rather demanding.
Uh-oh! I knew where this was going.
Sadly, poor Chloe had no clue. “Is there a difference,” she asked.
“There certainly is.” The glare Uncle Herb gave her would have frosted the Sahara.
Seeing her wilt under his disapproval, I jumped up and said, “Want to come with me, Chloe? I think Mom’s ready to set the desserts out. I think she’ll need our help.”
“Sure!” She sprang from her chair and hurried to join me. We headed for the food table and stood beside it, since desserts weren’t being set out yet.
Chloe sighed. “I had no idea he’d be so passionate about sparrows?”
“Yeah. You’ll get the cold shoulder talking politics with Uncle Herb, but he’s a real windbag if you get him on the subject of birds. I guess we all know him by now and humor him if we can, or find somewhere else to be if he gets going full throttle. Don’t worry. You’ll catch on.”
Chloe chuckled. “Guess all families have them. Once my Uncle Tim gets started on state versus federal authority he can expound for hours. We’ve tried redirecting him but it’s futile. He has to wind down on his own.”
We all have our friends, right? The folks we like to hang out with. Goths look for other goths; artsy people seek other artsy types; deep thinkers and conservative types try to find other bloggers whose posts give them another look at the serious side of life.
Those of us who blog have set them up to appeal mainly to the type of readers and followers we hope to attract. In this post I’ll make some suggestions on how we can encourage our first-time visitors to settle down and stay awhile.
Right Off the Bat
The things that will draw new readers initially are our post titles, categories and tags. In this post I want to offer a few thoughts on appearance: the “scene” that hits a reader’s eye the minute they land.
It’s great if you can do catchy titles, but if not, at least keep your titles short and to the point.
The title you choose for your post, with hyphens, becomes your post’s address (slug) on the internet. Be it “florida-trip-white-out” or “we-were-headed-for-disney-world-but-got-caught-in-a-snowstorm-in-kentucky-and-spent-three-nights-in-a-school-gym-before-heading-home.
I could have titled this post “Some of the Things a Blogger Can Do to Present and Attractive Appearance to Other Bloggers Coming to Visit.” And that’s way too long!
I could have titled it “Inviting Blogs.” Too brief and unclear. “Attracting Visitors to Your Blog” would have worked, but this post isn’t so much about attracting. It’s more about offering guests an easy chair and a cup of coffee, then conversing easily with no pressure.
The Header you choose gives an instant picture of your style. Definitely something to keep in mind when you’re choosing headers. Consider these two examples:
If you like the dark one, that’s your taste and may suit your subject matter. Your friends may “love it.” Other bloggers are apt to find the dark, colorless heading depressing and rather see the whimsical second one. (I actually like the frog so much I may use him someday myself. 🙂 )
Olla podrida is a Spanish word that literally means “rotting pot.” Similar to “pot pourri” in French. Nowadays, both these expressions carry the figurative meaning of “mixture.” Like a hash, stew, or mishmash.
Checking out an interesting title, I’ve clicked onto some blogs that were an instant assault to the eyes. A hodge-podge of sidebars and footers full of colorful ads, badges, and whatnot, with a narrow strip of writing in the middle where the actual post appears. My brain couldn’t handle that confusion. Goodbye.
You may like all that color – but you’ll scare away a lot of first-time visitors because they can’t figure out where to put their eyes. And some people detest blog ADS.
Recent Posts Widget
I always encourage bloggers to install a Recent Posts widget. If you have a Home page, your readers will see smaller boxes with the most recent first six or eight posts you’ve published. But once a reader clicks on one and reads that, then what? They likely have to go back to the Home page to find other posts. A Recent Posts widget appears in the sidebar with a list (up to ten, I’d say) of your latest posts, so they can quickly click and read on.
…and it pays to listen
Some of the following ideas on blogging etiquette are my own preferences, while some come from the guidelines of book publishers. I feel these are valid for blog posts as well.
Torpedoed by Typos
Let’s say you write a best seller with an amazing plot and bold and dashing protagonists. You’ve sprinkled it with thrilling plot twists and sympathetic supporting characters galore. You fire the manuscript off to Double Delight, Inc.
And your cover letter starts out, “Dear Aquisitions Editer,”
Your novel is sunk. It will be stuffed back in the envelope and marked “Return to Sender.”
Bloggers are more forgiving and will usually keep reading, but spelling errors grate. Which is not so great. Good spelling and proper grammar are a courtesy to your fellow bloggers.
(I beg of you, please) NOTE: It’s (it is) likely that a dog will wag its (possessive) tail when it’s (it is) happy.
On the cute side:
One day I was asked to beta read a novel. Though I specifically stated that I never read HORROR or THRILLERS, his was a “thriller” where some teen girls encounter a horror in some castle. He concludes with, “I hope this story will pick your interest.”
It struck me as very fitting that a horror story should “pick” my interest, instead of “pique” it. But I do wonder if his novel is a horror for spelling mistakes. 😉
White Space is IN
So do not…
write long paragraphs…
and be sure to put a space between each.
I’m told that when your manuscript lands on an acquisitions editor’s desk, if they pull it out and see 12 to 15-line paragraphs, they won’t even start. Back into the envelope it goes. “Return to Sender.”
Take a look at any book published in the past twenty years. Attention spans are short. Long descriptions are OUT. Then take a look at the bloggers whose posts you enjoy. How do they write?
I know this is my personal opinion. I’m a feed it to me in small bites type plus I have a problem in long, chunky paragraphs: I lose my way tracking from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. In a book, if I must read it at all, I’ll often use a ruler.
You may be okay with long paragraphs. When I click on a blog post and see paragraphs longer than eight lines I don’t even start – or I skim. For me, six is okay, but eight is max. So my advice will always be:
If you want people to read what you write, keep paragraphs short and posts fairly short. Or break it up into sections. Depending on subject matter, two posts with six to eight paragraphs is better than one with sixteen that no one reads.
Font Size and Style
1001fonts.com has some great fonts you can access. However…
AND DON’T CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING YOU WRITE. THE SUREST WAY TO NOT BE READ IS TO DO YOUR POST IN ALL CAPS.
Richness of the pasture,
the warmth of sunshine,
rains of heaven: a prairie
summer captured in clover,
cut, ripened, baled and bound.
Rolls scattered through fields
at random or neatly aligned:
summer bundled in bronze.
Winter-disguised as vague lumps
under clean, snowy blankets,
wind-dusted at times.
Frozen, frosted, they still appeal;
hungry deer tug at sweet strands,
certain it’s all for them; – and find
last summer’s mice nestled deep.
Every day Pocket offers me a number of news articles, or headlines, to tempt me to read the latest news and views. Well, I just read an article that I wholeheartedly applaud and want to pass on the link, in case you’re interested.
These days we’re inclined to shake our heads when we read the news and wonder how things will ever right themselves again. But here’s one man offering a sensible idea about policing, a clear explanation as to why the current system isn’t working well, and how to improve it. An idea he’s put into practice on his own beat. You can read it here: Washington Post Article
What he’s suggesting is much like the policing that Nicholas Rhea writes about in his Constable series, the community involvement practiced by English bobbies for generations. I’ve read several Constable books now and highly recommend them if you want some simple, relaxing reading. And now it’s great to hear that an American city cop is using this system, too — and it works!
Now here’s another thought about making a difference: