Anna's Alcove

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Tag: writing (page 1 of 2)

What is your niche?

When you want to write for a website or guest blog, or even when you manage a website of your own, you need to have what is called a “niche.”

“What is a ‘niche,’?” you may ask.

The definition in the dictionary is as follows:

1. a shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament.
2. place or position (something) in a niche.

Ok, so to put something on display is kind of like showcasing what you know (so to speak). When a person knows a lot about a certain topic and is passionate about it (or at least very interested in learning more about it), they usually try to find a way to share it with the world.

When I started my blog for an editorial college class, I wasn’t sure how or when I would use it in the future. But then I started posting the articles I wrote as they were published in the school newspaper and moved on to writing about whatever came to mind, whether it be biblical, book-based or whatever inspired me to write.

That seemed to work pretty well at the time and helped to boost my readership as posts were published month to month.

Now comes the tricky part. I want to get into freelance writing, but most websites that are looking for guest bloggers/writers want us to declare a particular niche, a certain topic that we’re specialized in.

My husband sent me an article titled “The Surprising Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades,” which talks about those of us who are interested and knowledgable about a variety of topics.

What was the solution?

“Take your time and pick a couple things to focus on.”

Just because you’re interested in a number of topics and activities doesn’t mean you can become a short-term specialist in that area. Pick a topic and start researching. Make that your hobby for several weeks or a couple months and see what you can learn.

DSCN3678Do you enjoy food? Then cook, take photographs, jot down notes of the things you changed in the recipe and write about it! Are you into photography? Then go out into the world and snap some pictures, research terms like “aperture” and “depth of field” and post it online with a short (or long) explanation about what you did for each picture. Enjoy playing with kids? Then write some tips about what you do to keep them entertained, healthy snacks that they’ll enjoy and educational games that enhance their thinking process.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be studied! The only thing that will make it stand out from similar posts on the Internet is by making it your own. No one can think like you do, see the world like you do, crack jokes like you do or explain an interest like you do.

I encourage you (and myself) to start becoming a short-term specialist in one of the many areas that catch your interest 🙂 Who knows… you may discover something you just can’t get enough of!

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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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New Year Resolutions

It’s a new year and you know what that means… New Year’s resolutions!!!

The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on the things you wish you had done last year and resolve to achieve your goals for this coming year. I personally have never made a new year resolution, but many people will try to reshape their eating habits, others try to prioritize their lives and still others want to get in better physical shape.

But what would happen if we dared to go deeper, to make a resolution that has the potential to change your life?

I’m talking about making it a goal to pursue a closer relationship with our amazing God this year. Open up and completely surrender to His will, letting His love fill you up and overflow into the lives of those around you.
While it may not seem like much, making a point to daily seek after God with your whole heart, soul and mind will start you on a journey that’s bound to turn your world upside down!

How do I know this?

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 4:29)

“… if you seek Him, He will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9b)

“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)

It’s all throughout the Old and New Testament. When God’s people actively pursue a relationship with Him, seeking Him with their whole heart, soul and mind, He will be found by them.
God wants us to get to know Him more and longs for us to be more like the people He created us to be. The only way that can be accomplished, without Him stepping in and taking control, is by us humbling ourselves and making it a point to spend time in His Word and prayer.
Read the Bible as if you can’t get enough of it.. take notes… pray about everything… talk with brothers and sisters in Christ about what you’re reading and learning (they can offer good feedback and encouragement during the rough times).
I challenge you (and myself) to seek God first in everything you do; when you wake up, throughout the day and before you go to sleep at night. Make Him a part of your everyday life and just watch the change that is bound to happen!
Happy New Year 🙂
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Love is…

Most of us know (or at least recognize) the familiar 1 Corinthians 13 passage:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails” (13:4-8)

Yet, do we ever stop to think what that love would look like in action? What would it look like to love, really love, as Christ loves us?

In the book of Matthew, we find a passage where the Pharisees overheard Jesus talking to the Sadducees about the law of Moses and decided to question Him as to what He considered to be the greatest commandment. You know what He told them?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matt. 22:37-38)

It sounds simple, right? Love others as God loves us.

Yet, while it’s such a simple command, it can be easy to get stuck in the “good Christian” mindset. You know what I mean. The mindset that says, “Of course I’m a good Christian. I go to church every Sunday, I help out with the kids in youth group, I read my Bible every day. I post verses as my Facebook status.”

Those are all good things, don’t get me wrong, but the danger is when our heart isn’t fully in it and we start mindlessly going through the motions each day.

Kind of reminds me of the story of the rich young ruler. This guy had strictly followed the commandments, given a part of his earnings to the religious leaders and done everything that was required to be a follower of Christ… or had he?

“Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ 
But at these words he was saddened and he went away grieving, 
for he was one who owned much property.” 
(Mark 10:21-22)

Living a life for God should be about sharing the love that He so generously gives to us… and that can be a lot harder than it sounds. We can become so caught up in what others think or trying to get it right, that we forget to include the most important thing..

… LOVE

Each of us are gifted with different talents that we’re to use for the glory of God. Some are good with talking, others are better at listening and still others are better at hands-on/helping type of love.

I like how Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

Each of us are given certain talents to use for the glory of God and we’re all given a unique purpose for our lives, but there is only one command that overrides everything else: “love.”

That’s it. And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be anything huge. It can be as simple as…

…a kind look.

…a helping hand.

….taking the time to listen to someone or just be there for them when they needed a shoulder to lean on.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on  love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” 
(Colossians 3:12-14)
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Follow Me

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: what it really means to “take up your cross daily” or to “deny yourself.”

These are some powerful phrases that we, as Christians, don’t seem to take as seriously as we should. We bring them out for the big decisions that we face in our lives, but we don’t use them on a daily, moment-to-moment basis… you know what I mean?

The Sunday School class I’m in right now is doing a video series called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman, (highly recommend for small groups!!) and this past week, he brought up this point:

“Carrying a cross isn’t comfortable”

Think about it. Back then, the cross was a symbol of absolute torture and humiliation. It was used as the ultimate punishment for crimes. Those that hung on the crosses weren’t exactly popular with the majority of the crowd.

Now, these days, people can be seen wearing crosses on a necklace, rings, earrings, tattoos, clothing and more.. but do they recognize the full meaning behind it and what it really represents? I kinda doubt it.

Becoming a Christian is so much more than obtaining a free pass to the golden gates of heaven and escaping eternal punishment in hell… it’s all about completely stripping you of your old identity and filling it with that of Christ…

… and being willing to follow Him wherever He may lead us.

I’ve struggled with this because I enjoy my comfort zone. I like where I live, the friends that I have and my routine that I follow week to week (with little bursts of spontaneity here and there).

We can get so comfortable with the idea of Christ being our Savior that we lose the mind-blowing realization of what He’s actually done for us on that cross… that He took all of our sin upon Himself and paid the price that was meant for us!

So, what does it mean to “deny yourself” and “take up your cross daily”?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

That’s it. We are called to be different and separate from the rest of the world; to not care about what the world thinks of us and to live our daily lives for Christ, spilling His love for others into everything we do, say or even think.

We are called to die to ourselves (sinful nature), take up our crosses and follow His lead.

It could be as simple as lending a helping hand when no one else will. Or choosing to step out of the gossip circle even though that’s where all your friends are. Or maybe even as big as going on a missions trip to a different country to present the gospel to those who haven’t heard it yet.

Yes, carrying a cross will not be comfortable; Jesus never promised it would be. But, when the burden gets too much for us to handle… He does promise this:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
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Learning to Dance in the Rain

What is the first thought that pops into your head when you wake up to a steady rain? You know the kind… large drops of water falling from the sky – not too hard, not too soft – just nice and steady all day long.

Many people consider it an interruption in their plans or a nuisance, but, for some reason, I don’t see it that way at all.

I love waking up to the sound of rain and knowing that it’s going to last for a while. Nearly everyone thinks I’m weird for enjoying it, but think about it… when it’s raining outside, it makes being inside so much more satisfying!

That feeling of getting my work done and out of the way and knowing that I have absolutely no other obligations. I mean, come on… the rain is obviously telling you to save the yard work for another day and to stay inside as much as you can! You don’t want to end up like the Wicked Witch of the West from”The Wizard of Oz,” now, do you?

Ok, that was a tad corny, but let me try to explain…

You know that scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Belle and the Beast are sitting by the fire, enjoying each others company and reading a book while the snow came down outside? Or in “Little Women” when Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sat by the fire either working on their sewing or enjoying a book and just spending time together while the rain poured down outside their house.

Those two scenarios (and I can easily name a bunch more) are exactly what my idea of the perfect afternoon is! Hearing the constant drumming of the rain on your roof while you’re all cozy and dry in the house is what makes it so great.

Even though you’re stuck inside, the possibility are endless: you can explore new worlds between the pages of a book, watch a movie you haven’t seen in a while, play games with your family and friends (like actual board or card games), enjoy a mug of something hot, make goodies to pig out on at night while enjoying a movie/TV show marathon 🙂

When it’s gorgeously sunny, you feel almost obligated to go spend at least a little time doing something outside, whether it’s driving to the store, going for a bike ride or getting some yard work done. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm, sunny days and I’m definitely your outdoorsy-type of girl… but not when it’s rainy and deliciously wet outside 🙂

So, the next time it rains (which might be tomorrow!) instead of complaining about how gloomy and disgusting it looks… look on the bright side. Here’s an opportunity for a guilt-free stay-
indoors day to do whatever may tickle your fancy! Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, get that project done, be a complete bum for a day….

… or literally go dance in the rain (it’s completely worth getting soaked) 🙂

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Writing is…

What does writing mean to you? Think about it. When you think of writing, what comes to mind? The countless research papers that your professors forced you to write in order to keep up your grades? Or do you see it as an outlet? A way to express yourself?

These were the questions I was asking myself as I sat at my computer at work last week, trying to find the inspiration to start blogging again. Ever since graduating from college and leaving the student newspaper, I haven’t really written anything of my own. Well, I’ve spit out numerous facts and information that I’ve gleaned from the hundreds of press releases I deal with at work from week to week…

… but that’s not me…

… that’s not the kind of writer I want to be defined as.

What some people don’t seem to realize is that words carry a lot of power. They can bring to life whole worlds that exist in between the covers of a book. They can inspire an entire nation to turn against the king and fight for their independence. Words can be the window into an author’s mind and reveal their innermost desires and dreams.

For me, there is so much more to writing than just repeating the facts. Writing is expression, thought, feeling, sensuality… freedom! It’s a doorway into strange, new lands full of adventure… and the only way we can open that door and make it available for the whole world to see, is by letting the creativity flow through our fingers and discovering where it takes us.

Whether you’re sitting at your desk staring at a blank Word document, nearly at the breaking point because you can’t figure out what to write or how to even get started; or you’re curled up in a chair with your journal trying to figure out how to put your life into words, just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how silly it may sound, and go with it. Who knows? You might just unlock that creativity that’s just waiting to spill out.

It doesn’t matter if you have horrendous grammar or if your DSCN2516thought process doesn’t quite seem to line up at first… the only thing that matters is that you’re creating, constructing, expressing…

… you’re writing!

That’s really all there is to it. When you’re writing on your own, there’s no pressure of grades, getting the grammar correct and all that fun stuff you had to try to keep track of in school. No. Out here, it’s just you, the pen (or computer keyboard) and the blank sheet of paper just waiting to be filled with your words.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pen or a laptop, your favorite drink and a snack, get comfortable and let your creative juices flow!

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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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