Anna's Alcove

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Category: Freelance

Adding “Home” and “Blog” pages to your WordPress

It’s taken me a little longer to get to this point that I expected, but I finally started working on getting my “Home,” “Hire Me,” “Blog” and “Contact” pages set up for my WordPress site! Yes, there is only the basic information there, but it’s a start and I do plan to embellish it a little more over time.

As I was looking at my site, I realized that I didn’t want my blog posts to be the first thing my visitors saw. I knew that one of the ways to catch a client’s eye is providing them with an idea of what you can offer, but while my posts can be helpful and encouraging at times, they don’t always display my true potential as a freelancer.

What I needed was a “Home” page, but I had no idea how to create one, much less what to feature on it.

So, I started researching and this is what I learned:

Static Home Page

Go to your Dashboard and select Pages. Click “Add New” and type “Home” in the title section of the page. If your template has a default home page template, you’ll find that drop-down menu on the right, under “Page Attributes” (not all templates have this feature). Scroll to the bottom of the page and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish” (you can add information to it now or later).

Blog page

Go to Pages and click “Add New.” Type “Blog” in the title section. Scroll down and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish.”

Set up

Go to Settings and select “Reading.” Under Front Page Display, select “a static page.” You’ll see two drop-down menus: Front Page and Posts Page. Select “Home” for Front Page and “Blog” for Posts Page. Save your changes.

Go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Your two new pages should appear on the left side of the page. Click the empty boxes next to them and click “Add to Menu.” You’ll see them appear on the right side of your screen. Save your work.

What to write?

So, now what? You’ve got your Home and Blog pages all set up, but what should you feature on your home page?

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.44.56 AM

Remember when you wrote an essay or short story for class and you had to come up with a hook that caught your reader’s attention? Think about the audience that you’re trying to reach, what they may need and how you can catch their attention. Why should they keep looking at your home page? What do they need that you have?

Be sure to list some of your areas of expertise, maybe feature some sample photos if you’re into photography and sell yourself (promote your new blog page too)! Don’t be shy about what you can offer to the business world, but don’t make it too wordy either. Too many words can potentially scare people away.

Want more pages?

It’s easy! To create more pages, such as “Contact” or “Hire Me,” go to Pages and “Add New” and fill in the title with whatever you want.

Once those are created and published, go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Be sure to click the empty boxes by your newly created pages, select “Add to Menu” and they will appear in your menu list on the right. You can rearrange the menus by clicking and dragging. Save your changes.

And that’s it!

If you want more information, I suggest you check out wpbeginner.com, as they have several great resource videos on how to get things set up on your website.

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5 ways to hone your writing skills

Freelance writer. Freelance photographer.

Sounds so professional, right?

But how does one go about becoming either one of those?

I did a little poking around the Internet this past week and came across a website called Innovative Ink, created by Elna, another beginner freelance writer, and found a series she wrote called “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies.” There was a number of valuable details about honing your skills as a writer, getting your name out there, landing a client, determining your rates and writing a contract.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention:

1. Portfolio

Many journalism students are strongly encouraged to keep everything they write throughout their college career, no matter how big or small it may be. Why? Because it can be added to their portfolio. Everything you write is a sample of what you can do.

DSCN2538

As a college student, I was a reporter for the school paper and kept PDFs of every piece I wrote. Which was great, but I graduated from college three years ago and haven’t really written an article since then. I had dealt with plenty of online briefs and press releases during my employment at The Morning Call in Allentown, but I have nothing to show for it except for my knowledge and experience.

So how do you keep building your portfolio?

2. Blogging

Why blog? Because it’s a way to determine where you fit in the interwebs. What is your niche? What are you passionate about? What inspires you to write? It took me a while to figure that one out, but soon I would hear a quote or a song or snap a picture of a breathtaking view and suddenly I was inspired to write a 6 paragraph or longer blog post in under an hour. Anything you write can be used in your portfolio, whether it be professional writing or for fun. So, if you’re not in school or don’t write something new every day for work, do it on your down time in the evenings or on the weekends at home.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Write Daily

This is very important. If writers make it a point to write something every day – a paragraph, their rambling thoughts, a letter – it’s almost guaranteed that their writing will improve and they’ll be able to figure out what their niche is as a writer. Do you have an interest? Write about it. Do you like to cook or bake? Write about it. How about that crazy awesome book series you just finished? Write about it! (just don’t give away the ending)

4. Guest blogging

This is similar to the second point, but the difference is that it’s for another person, not for yourself. I’ve always wondered how to get into writing on another blog. When I started researching how to become a freelance writer, many sites suggested being a guest blogger. Ok, but how do I go about finding blogs that I can write for? That’s where Innovative Ink helped. She listed Google searches to try and a way to sign up for opportunities to guest blog for money (yes, apparently that is a thing at beafreelanceblogger.com). It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and letting the cyber world know what you’re capable of before you fly solo and land your own clients.

5. Social Media

This has already been a major part of getting the word out about my blog. I’ve been working on my blog since 2011 and it contains a wide variety of writing samples – poetry, devotionals, short story, news articles, features and more. By the time I moved my blog over to this website, I was nearly at 7000 views! That’s all from sharing my latests posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Google profiles. What I learned from blogging for fun is that social media has to be a big factor in getting the word out about my freelance career, my clients and what I can offer to the world as a writer and photographer.

So there you have it. Be creative! Write! Build that portfolio and have fun with it 🙂

I would highly recommend checking out the “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies” series, as it has helped me to form a game plan for starting my career as a freelance writer.

Thanks for reading!

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And so the adventure begins…

Welcome to my new site!! Here’s the story of how it got started and my plans and dreams for what it could become in the future:

Everything was going fine and dandy. I had just married the man I love, we had a wonderful, relaxing honeymoon in the Poconos and, with both of our full-time jobs, we were well on our way to paying off debt by the end of the year.

But it didn’t last long. The week after the honeymoon, I was back at my desk in the newsroom, trying to make some sense of the hundred or so emails I had received,  when I was called into the conference room. There the head editor and my boss gave me the bad news: the company was downsizing again and they were forced to cut my position.

As any normal person would be, I was bummed that I lost my job and the steady income, but I knew in the back of my mind that God has an ultimate plan in all of this…

.. but it was nice having the extra money.

Anyway, after spending a week getting our house set up and wedding gifts put away, I took the first step of job hunting, applied for unemployment and registered my name, email and resume with two career search sites: JobGateway.com and Monster.com.

In order to get job openings that you may be interested in, the sites recommend setting up “saved searches,” which are ongoing searches according to your pre-set career choice and where you would prefer to work. I set mine to “administrative assistant,” “writer” and “editor” near Doylestown and Quakertown and selected the daily email alerts option.

DSCN2507This was a helpful tool. I get emails every day, letting me know if there are new opportunities to apply for jobs in the area, but there are days where there is nothing new.

It is now week three, I’ve applied to at least 10-12 jobs and have either been told that they’re looking at more qualified candidates or haven’t heard anything back from them.

Then I got to thinking – what if this is my opportunity to get my dream of being a freelance writer, editor and photographer off the ground? I already have a blog that’s been an off-and-on thing since I was a junior in college and my husband created a website for me (ta-da!) to use as a foundation for freelancing and photography.

There’s so much a person can do with a writing major, including editing books and articles for publishing, so I’ll be writing weekly updates on my journey toward a career in freelance, as well as other wonderings and ponderings about life.

As I discover what works, what doesn’t work and how to establish your writing in the world of freelancing, I hope this becomes a helpful resource to those interested in a career in freelance writing.

Thanks for reading!

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“Finding Me” Book Review

“I love life… My son is the most precious to me. I will give up anything to be with my son at home where I belong… Life changes from good to bad… in a blink of an eye your whole life can change, so you should live life like it’s your last days on earth because you never know when tragedy might strike… Some people don’t have a family to turn to in time of need… I can’t wait for this nightmare to end so I can wake up and be me again.”
– Finding Me (page 165)

I’m sure most people have heard about the Cleveland kidnappings and the amazing rescue that happened in May 2013; when one of the girls, after having been held captive for over a decade, managed to get the attention of a neighbor while their captor was out of the house.

“Finding Me” is an eye-witness account as told by Michelle Knight, the first girl Ariel Castro lured into his house on Aug. 21, 2002, and held captive for 11 years. Let me just say, while this book is very well-written, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Her life wasn’t easy to begin with. Knight’s family had a very small home, where the amount of relatives living with them made for cramped space and no extra beds. After being sexually abused for years by one those relatives, she finally runs away to live under an overpass for a couple of months, only to be recognized while walking around town. Her dad, after getting the call, picked her up and dragged her back home that night.

Forced to endure more sexual abuse from that same relative, Knight eventually becomes pregnant and has her son, Joey. She loses custody of him 4 years later after the abusive relative got rough with her and broke Joey’s bone when he toddled over to help her. The government stepped in and placed him in foster care, saying her living situation wasn’t safe for the child.

Struggling to gain back custody,  Knight accepts a ride from her friend’s dad, Ariel Castro, who offers to take her to one of her court meetings. They make a stop at his house first, where he tells her that she could pick out one of his puppies to take back home to her son. Bringing her upstairs to where he claimed the puppies were, Castro attacks her and ties her up, rendering her completely helpless.

Words can’t fully describe the awfulness that Knight had to endure throughout the next several years: tied up in the basement with a motorcycle helmet on her head and duct tape on her mouth to keep her from being heard, forced to do the most disgusting sexual acts for “the dude’s” pleasure, starved because he either forgot to bring her food or refused to do so, raped daily, beaten until she aborted her child when she got pregnant… 5 times.

In the book, Knight never refers to Castro by his real name once she starts talking about her kidnapping. She calls him “the dude,” which, in a way, strips him of his humanity for readers – presenting him as a monster who is driven by a desire for sex and his twisted fantasies.

Knight said that “the dude” also kidnapped Amanda Berry on April 21, 2003, and Gina DeJesus on April 2, 2004, bringing them together to complete his “family,” as he called it. All three girls had some connection to Castro’s daughter.

Throughout the book, Knight keeps mentioning how many times “the dude” told her that she was worthless, that no one was bothering to look for her because they didn’t care, that she was ugly and unloved. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would do to me, having to hear that day after day, week after week for years.

“I truly believe no one cares for me. I feel like I’m dying in here. Sometimes I feel powerless to the pain and destruction. I find myself paralyzed. I’m going out of my mind thinking about if I’ll ever get home to see my lil’ angel. I’m sitting in a prison with no windows and waiting for someone to come rescue me. I’m lying here cold, shivering, but I am still not totally broken.” – Finding Me (page 176)

Yet, there is one thing that keeps her going and gives her the strength she needs to keep going: her son, Joey.

“To My Son: You are my shining star, you are the reason I look forward to a new day. 
You’ll always be in my heart, and that’s where you’ll always stay. You light the way for me, 
the day gets hard and I think of you and how we will be together forever. 
Never apart and one day have a fresh new start with you, because you are my hope to survive.” 
– Finding Me (page 179)

Finally, after a decade of abuse, on May 6, 2013, Berry manages to get the attention of a neighbor by pushing the chain-bolted front door out as far as it would go and sticking her arm out, screaming for help.

The police came, broke down the front door and found Knight and DeJesus in the upstairs room. They were brought out to the ambulances to be checked and taken to the hospital. Castro was arrested shortly after and brought to court, where he was charged with 937 counts of kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and was later found dead in his cell on Sept. 3, 2013.

Knight says that having her freedom back is still kind of surreal. She doesn’t downplay what she went through, but she also says that she won’t let it define her:

“The horrors I survived don’t have to define me – and with God’s help I’m not going to let them. One day at a time, one breath at a time, I am choosing to move forward. After crawling my way out of a dark bedroom and into a brand new life, that’s the best gift I can give myself.” 
– Finding Me (page 240)

After being released from the hospital and getting her own apartment, Knight is
currently working to touch other people’s lives and give back to her community. She says that she wants to be a voice for the girls who are still in captivity and wants to give them and their families hope.

“When I was on my last breath in that house, God kept me alive for some reason. I believe the reason is so I can help others who have been in my situation. When I’m feeling lost, that’s the purpose I hold onto. Becoming a voice for those who can’t speak, sharing love with other people around me – that’s the only way I’ve been able to find myself again.” 
– Finding Me (page 249 )

I personally enjoyed getting a first-hand account of what happened behind those doors and, while it was really hard to read without getting teary-eyed, it brings to light how she was able to survive that dark time.

I highly recommend this well-written, well-thought-out book to those who are looking for a real, down-to-earth account that provides all the facts and an underlying message of hope, or those who, like me, enjoy reading/hearing other people’s stories, getting into their heads and discovering how they experience things, what they think and how they choose to be defined by the circumstances they find themselves in.

I mean, everyone has a story to tell.

If you want to get a copy of the book for yourself, visit Amazon.com or any other store or online site that carries it.

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Cancer Survivor Issues Wake Up Call

Photo courtesy of Paige Omartian

In life or death situations, it can be easy to blame God for what’s happening, to sink down into a state of depression and lose all hope of ever being able to go back to living a normal life. Paige Omartian, a 22-year-old Christian speaker, author, and singer, knows how tempting it is to despair. Doctors diagnosed Omartian with cancer when she was just 11-years-old. But as she struggled for her life, Omartian found strength through her faith, emerging with a different perspective on life and a new sense of purpose.

During her illness, Omartian got the chance, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to go to Nashville, Tenn., and record a Christian album. Some of her songs made their way onto the Bath & Body Works 2005 Holiday CD.

After losing all of her hair to chemotherapy, having to use a wheelchair because she had trouble walking, and enduring the pain that comes with cancer treatments, Omartian finally got a clean bill of health in 2002. Ten years later, she is still cancer free.

In 2007, the year before she was supposed to graduate from Plumstead Christian High School, in Plumsteadville, Pa., Omartian moved to Nashville and joined iShine Live, a national tour of speakers and musicians reaching out to a young teenage audience. At the same time, Omartian signed with Whiplash Records and released her first rock album, “Wake Up.” Several of her songs, including “Episode” and “Wake Up,” made it to Christian music’s Top 30.

Recently, through Harvest House Publishers, Omartian signed a contract to publish her first book, called “Wake Up, Generation.” It is scheduled for release in August. Using Bible verses and her own personal testimony, Omartian hopes to reach out to young people and help them to discover their God-given mission: “If you’re still breathing, there’s a reason why you’re still here,” Omartian recently told readers on her blog (paigehasastory.wordpress.com).

Anna Tielmann 

*Author’s note –  If you want to read the Q&A section, you can find the full story at World on Campus (but you have to be registered in order to view the entire thing) 

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Fall Into a Completely Different World

DSCN2514Anna Tielmann – No time for a vacation? Try these four trips into the realm of fantasy instead. Readers can lose themselves in the fantastical world of dragons and magic, hide in the woods with a runaway prince who is fighting to gain back his kingdom, go on a ridiculous adventure with an odd assortment of characters through the country of Florin, or tumble down a burrow with a young girl into the strange world of Wonderland. These four books all have relatable characters and plots to awaken readers’ imaginations, always leaving them wanting more.

Reviews of: 
 
Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
Hood, by Stephen R. Lawhead
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll 

Author’s Note:  You can find the full article at: World on Campus.

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Don’t Smother Me!

DSCN2399Jessie Schwartz grew up in a non-Christian home, where she witnessed what drugs, and drinking did to people she loved. Unlike some of her friends, who grew up in the protective bubble of a Christian community, Schwartz wasn’t surprised by the influences and temptations she found on a secular college campus. But her friends had no way of knowing what they were up against.

Many young adults raised in the church are growing up isolated from the world around them. Their parents might think they are creating a safe space for their children’s faith to grow, but a new study reveals they might be setting them up for disillusionment and failure.

According to the findings of a research study recently released by the Barna Group, 59 percent of young adults disconnect from the church in their teen years. Many study participants told researchers they stopped attending church because it was not always open to discussing how to relate faith to real world issues.

Of those who listed the church’s isolation from the culture as a problem, almost one quarter complained that Christians were too quick to “demonize everything outside the church.” Twenty-two percent said the church ignored the problems of the real world, and 18 percent said “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful.”

David Sanford, a freshman at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania said churches too often refuse to step out of their comfort zone to test their faith against the modern world. “They seem to have their own safe bubble that they stay in,” he said.

Micah Reed, a sophomore at Edinboro, agreed that some churches don’t do enough for the younger generation. “People don’t seem to venture out,” he said. Churches aren’t always welcoming to outsiders, much less a place to discuss what’s going on in the world, he said.

Schwartz, who also is a sophomore at Edinboro, said churches and parents should do more to prepare their children for what they will encounter in the “real world,” instead of keeping them solely in a Christian community.

“The only way to rectify this is to get out of our holy huddle and start reaching out to the lost,” Schwartz said. Churches hold plenty of Bible studies and dinners for their members, but in reality, it’s just “a place where we can all get together and be friends,” Schwartz said.

Sanford also encouraged churches to spend more time reaching out to the communities around them.
“They should train the people that they are sending out in order to better equip them to take on the world,” he said.

The Barna Group’s study suggests that some church leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and those in their twenties because they think the church disconnect will end when young adults are older, said David Kinnaman, president of the research organization based in Ventura, Calif.

In his latest book, You Lost Me, Kinnaman says the concerns young Christians raise about church and culture could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families.

“In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes,” Kinnaman said.

This is the first in a series of six stories exploring the major themes of the Barna Group study about why young adults leave the church. Coming tomorrow: Just skimming the surface – Young Christians who want more of God say the church is too shallow.

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