Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poet's Market 2013 Poems

Way back in July, I made an official call for poetry submissions for the 2013 Poet's Market. To my knowledge, it will be the first time that Poet's Market has selected new poetry for its pages, and I think it's about time. So do many poets.

If you want to publish your poetry,
don't wait for the 2013 edition, grab
the 2012 Poet's Market today!

Close to 2,000 poems were submitted by hundreds of poets from around the world, including Malaysia, Costa Rica, France, India, New Zealand, and several other countries. Poets with long publication histories submitted the same as poets who are completely new to publishing (as in this was their first ever submission). I received poems written in traditional forms, prose poems, concrete poetry, and free verse, of course.

The selection process went through several rounds, and Tammy helped me out as I got near the end of the tunnel. Needless to say, the final 50 were really good. But I had to get the number down to 20.

Here are the 20 poems (in no particular order):
  • Frost at Midmorning, by Nate Pritts
  • Dear Fritz Guest House, by Sage Cohen
  • Ghosts, by Nin Andrews
  • The Wreck of Birds, by Rebecca Givens Rolland
  • The Painter Pantoum, by Jessie Carty
  • Hands To, by Kelli Simpson
  • Flinging the Unsaid Into the Surf, by Heather M. Moore Niver
  • Occluded, by Shann Palmer
  • At the Bowling Alley, by Terri Kirby Erickson
  • Echolocation, by Karen Rigby
  • Sea Ghost, Fire of the Sea, by Jeffrey H. MacLachlan
  • As a Beginning, by Joannie Stangeland
  • Sackcloth, by Pris Campbell
  • On Some Other Planet We're Newlyweds, by Kelli Russell Agodon
  • When I Re-read His Letters, by Patricia Fargnoli
  • Arrival, by Jen Karetnick
  • Photography Lesson, Pt. Reyes, by Iris Jamahl Dunkle
  • Follow the Leader, by Nancy Posey
  • Wind Chime, Minus the Wind, by Susan Laughter Meyers
  • Greetings From Motel 6, by Linda Simoni-Wastila
Congratulations to these poets for their fine submissions! And thank you to everyone who submitted!

I learned a lot during this inaugural year of choosing poetry, and I hope to only improve my processes in the next go-round. So yes, I do plan to choose poems again for the 2014 editions. I'm sure I'll have a call for submissions post in the summer months.


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Monday, January 30, 2012

Advice for Writers: 018

Back from Ohio. Had a great weekend with my two oldest sons. Now for some great writing advice from across the Internet:

How I Made 6 Figures as a Freelance Writer, by Carol Tice. This post includes tips and a breakdown of Tice's 2011 freelance income--in chart form! Very cool post from a full-time freelancer.

It's Not Always About the Money, by Rachelle Gardner. Gardner, who's a literary agent, explains how the end game of negotiating book contracts is not always about who gives the bigger advance. Sometimes, it's about putting an author in the best position to have a good publishing experience.

New GroupThink vs. the Writer in Isolation -- and a place in between, Julianna Baggott. Especially in terms of the novel (but applicable to all writers), Baggott considers the push and pull of writing as a group and writing alone.

It's Easy to Write a Picture Book. Writing a GOOD Picture Book on the Other Hand..., by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Debbie dishes on what many picture book writers already know: Just because picture books are concise, it doesn't mean they're easy.

25 Things Writers Should Know About Agents, by Chuck Wendig. Wendig gives his impression of agents from his perspective as an e-book author. This post is written mainly for fiction writers.


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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Poetic Saturdays: If You Were Any More

Good morning! Hope you're having a spectacular Saturday morning. I'm up in Ohio visiting my two oldest sons and have already been greeted with snow (though just a dusting). For today's poem, I have a sonnet to share that I wrote somewhat recently.

if you were any more, by Robert Lee Brewer

sweet, i'd need a dentist. poetry don't
need to bring the sexy back, because it
never left. the enjambment and line breaks,
the leaping my mind makes when we're alone,
reader. sweet reader, i am watching you
reading me, leading me as i lead you
through this maze of my heart beats. my heart beats
meaning even i don't understand. steam
builds inside me until i can't contain
the words, word. swordfish twist against the line
as would anyone, reader. you're candy,
the kind once consumed drives a man insane,
and i love you--you have these words as proof.
i love you, sweet, but i have a sweet tooth.


Newer Book:

by Beth Ann Fennelly (Norton)

Booklist called Unmentionables, "insouciant, sexy, funny, and dead-on," and that's a pretty good 5-word definition of this collection. There is so much to love in this collection, from "The Kudzu Chronicles," a series of poems that were originally published as a limited edition chapbook by Crown Ring Press, to "Because People Ask What My Daughter Will Think of My Poems When She's 16." In fact, I think what Fennelly does so well is that she finds the pressure points and works them for all there is, and she does it with style. If you check out this collection, I promise you'll be hooked from the "First Warm Day in a College Town" to "The Welcoming," which, of course, is how the collection ends.


Poems Found Online:

Older Book:

The House on the Marshland
by Louise Gluck (ECCO)

I was lucky enough to attend a reading by Gluck when I was a student at the University of Cincinnati. It's an experience I'd like to say I'll never forget. It was raining outside and the room was warm, so I felt almost wrapped in a dream while listening to Gluck read her poetry. I haven't run across a collection by Gluck that wasn't a great read, but The House on the Marshland is probably my favorite. It feels like poetry written for the autumn months, and that's always a winner for me.


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Check out previous Poetic Saturday posts:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Random Uses for Twitter: Unintentional Writing Prompts

Twitter is a good tool for collecting as well as distributing information. (If you're not accustomed to Twitter, click here for my cheat sheet.) Twitter is also great for having chats and reading funny one-liners. However, I've only recently--and I'm probably slow to the game in this respect--started realizing that it's a gold mine of writing prompts.

To prove my point, I'm going to log in to Twitter at this very moment and grab some randome Tweets:

From @thestephmerritt: Oh I hate confrontation. My neighbour has been playing music full volume ALL NIGHT &; it's still going. Just went round. Turns out he's deaf.

This tweet, for instance, could prompt a story (or poem) about someone who is oblivious about everything he or she does. Or it could be about a person who hates confrontation and is always letting things go, but when trying to confront people is either ignored or feels bad afterward.

From @OliviaDresher: Imagining a city of blind people where everyone touches canes instead of shaking hands.

This tweet could produce a Twilight Zone style story. Or it could provoke a surreal poem. Plus, a writer doesn't have to just play off blind people; this tweet makes me consider other handicaps and how it might change the world if everyone had it.

From @meandmybigmouth: Saw an empty Nutella jar on the sideboard and almost lost it. Then saw a full one in the cupboard. Crisis averted.

The story of someone who overreacts to situations. There are two ways to take such a character: either down the path of comedy or the road of drama. Either way, the character would be most compelling if he or she is in a constant state of highs and lows.

Anyway, these tweets were up at like 5 a.m. and are just a random sampling. But it shows that Twitter has at least one more use for writers: unintentional writing prompts!


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bending the Rules: Or a Poet Has to Be a Poet (Life Changing Moments Series)

This week I'm pleased to share Scott Owens as the next contributor to the Life Changing Moments Series of blog posts. I first "met" Scott online, but last year, Tammy and I were able to talk with him in person at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference (in Blue Ridge, GA). Later this year, we'll be reading our poetry at one of his Poetry Hickory events (in Hickory, NC). Scott is the author of several poetry collections of poetry, including For One Who Knows How to Own Land (Future Cycle Press, March 2012) and Shadows Trail Them Home (a collaboration with Pris Campbell due October 2012 from Clemson University Press). He is also the editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and 234. An eight-time Pushcart Nominee, Scott also serves as Vice President, Poetry Council of North Carolina; works as an instructor, Catawba Valley Community College; is founder and facilitator, Poetry Hickory; acts as regional rep, NC Writers' Network. In other words, he keeps himself busy. http://www.scottowenspoet.com/

Super busy poet and poetry advocate, Scott Owens.

So, Robert wrote to me with a simple request: write a 500-1,000 word personal story about a moment that helped guide my life or shape my worldview. Easy, right? No need to complicate things, just tell about the time I learned the meaning of love while holding my sick 4-month old daughter at 2:00 A.M.; or the moment my stepson burned himself and in caring for him I realized that I had overcome my own childhood abuse and was ready to fully embrace fatherhood; or the night I listened to my grandfather string stars together into his own constellations and recognized the power of creativity and self-determination; or the time when I was 8 and had to reach up inside a birthing cow and turn the calf so it could come out and realized none of us can do it alone. Easy, right?

The problem is, all of the moments I could think of I have already written about in the form of poems, and telling those stories now as prose would seem somehow sacrosanct, a reductionist undoing. The poems, I hope, embody the tensions of those moments, recreate the epiphanies as if they were the readers as well as mine, retain the life of the moment in a combination of language, imagery, and association that might well be lost in the single-minded clarity of prose. At least that's how the poetry-lover in me thinks. As a teacher of poetry, I would never ask a student to retell the story of Galway Kinnell's "Little Sleep's Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight" in prose. I would, of course, invite them to write about the poem in prose, but not to try to prosaically recreate the moment of the poem by undoing, even negating the energy contained and conveyed through the poetic compression of the moment's perceptual, physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual experience.

Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the impetus behind Robert's request. In fact, I've been teaching workshops around the South for a couple of years now on techniques to access and organize such moments in our experience as potential subject matter for both poetry and prose. So, the last thing I would want to say to Robert on this request is "never mind." Instead, I'll do as poets tend to do anyway and complicate his request by giving him a couple of moments that match his criteria except that they're written not as prose but poetry. I hope they'll still work for his purposes and that they'll prove enjoyable and fruitful for his readers.

Promises at 2 A.M.

After four months of holding you,
my body sways constantly,
rocks a little when I walk.
My left arm keeps the shape
of a cradle. My mouth hums
lullabies night and day.

Little Sawyer, still more hope
than substance, I will be everything
a father ought to be. I will teach you
all that I know, all I can learn.
I will give you every chance
I can afford and more.

I will hold you when you hurt,
sing to you when the noise of the world
and your body's frailty leave you unsure.
And I will never let them take you, ever.
I would flame at the stake for you,
bare my neck beneath the blade,

suck the strongest poisons straight
from your body’s wounds, wander the wilderness
in quest for all you need, bend
my knee to any heaven's oppression.
I will give all and more
to save my life by saving yours.


The first time my stepson cried
without his mother’s hands
to brush the pain away
I came to him quickly
without thinking. I touched him
with almost a space between
my flesh and his, the way
a woman, aging and overweight,
steps off a curb as if the path
beneath her might not be real.
And then, he leaned into me,
and my whole body changed
into something I had not known
existed, and what was once
no part of me began
to keep the ticking
of our two wrists as one.

Looking for Faces in the Night Sky

These are things anyone could have made
up. The stars are nothing but stars,
and playing dot-to-dot in the night
sky makes anything possible.
Years ago from the stone porch
my grandfather pointed them out:
the lion, the great bear, the hunter's sword.
This one he called Mary and showed me
how the stars made a woman’s face.

Looking for faces in the night sky
we string stars into shapes of things
we fear or long to remember.
I see spider, sparrowhawk, bobwhite.
This one I'll call woman becoming
an angel, the grotesque buds of wings
sprouting in her back.

Acts of Defiance

Just a boy,
not yet eight,
and knowing nothing
of the world,
I simply did as I was told
and reached my hands,
my forearms, long and thin,
even up to the elbows,
into the bloody back end
of a moaning cow
to grasp what I felt there
and pull,
and pull harder
when it wouldn't come
until something appeared,
and pull harder still
until something became
a wet mess of calf
spilling into my lap
and my uncles laughing
and my grandfather,
his hand on my shoulder,
looking at me hard,
eyes full of seriousness
saying, Good job.
Good job.

A lifetime later,
at forty-one,
holding you
I finally understand
the weight of it all.
I look at your mother
spent in bed
and say, Good job,
and then into your own
uncomprehending eyes
and say again,
Good job.


If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.


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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

25 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

When I first started the My Name Is Not Bob blog, I really didn't have any goals or objectives. I just wanted a place to make posts that didn't fit on my Poetic Asides blog for poets. As such, I didn't really have too much of an audience in the beginning (and I'm very thankful for my readers who have been here since the beginning). But that all changed around the end of 2010 when I started getting more serious about my blogging efforts.

Having a plan is one of the best ways to increase traffic.

I won't bore you with numbers, but I now consistently have as much traffic in one day on this blog as I used to receive in two months! It didn't all happen at once, and there were some ups and downs along the way, but I've found that the 25 steps below can help any blog increase traffic, whether it's brand new or been around a while.

Here are my 25 ways to increase blog traffic:
  1. Post consistently. When I first started blogging, I'd have months of 6 posts here and months of 2 posts there--with no rhyme or reason. The smart blogger will at least post once a week--usually on the same day of the week. The benefit to a consistent schedule is that readers know when to "tune in" to your blog.
  2. Encourage comments. Some bloggers recommend turning the comments off when the traffic is low, because conditions are favorable for zero comments. However, I think it's a smarter strategy to expect zero comments, but encourage them from the very beginning. The best blogs will get a conversation going, and that helps build traffic. I know it can feel lonely waiting for that conversation to start, but just keep plugging away.
  3. Tag content. Most blogging interfaces (like Blogger and WordPress) have ways to tag posts with keywords that you may use multiple times. For instance, I know this post will have a "blogging" tag at the very least, though there will probably be some others as well. And this enables readers to click on the tag to see all the content on your blog that is related to that topic. Plus, it helps with SEO (more on that below).
  4. Always put your best foot forward. Don't fall into the trap of pulling punches on your blog. That is, don't hold back your content. I've heard many writers talk about how they use their blogs as places to throw their scraps. Well, I don't know about you, but I have more than enough great content available to me online that I don't want to settle for the scraps. Always blog your best, and you'll be surprised how you'll come up with even better ideas as a result.
  5. Be sincere. Whether you're sincerely a jerk or sincerely a helpful person--or even sincerely confused, sincerity goes a long way in the blogging world. Don't try to change your blogging persona every week. Pick an identity and stick with it. That's one of the surest ways to connect with your audience.
  6. Create a niche. Most successful blogs have a niche, something that defines what it is. Over at Poetic Asides, that niche is poetry, especially related to poetry prompts and challenges. MNINB is not the best example, but it's niche is better writing and living. One of the main benefits of developing a niche is that readers know why they're coming to your blog and why others should go to your blog.
  7. Think readers first. If your blogging goal is to increase your audience, then you need to think about the needs of your readers first. Most of the tips on this list are designed to put the reader first, from being consistent and being sincere to including share buttons and paying attention to blog stats from time to time. If your blog is reader-centric, then the readers will come and bring their friends.
  8. Blog different. While it's good to use successful blogs as a model for your own blogging efforts, readers are looking for unique voices. If your blog is all about sports (for instance), maybe you can blog about a specific team or city or region. Or dedicate it to the players who aren't the "stars" of the sport, but who probably still have fans who are starved for information about their favorite players.
  9. Provide links. Link well and link often. Link to your own blog content. Link to the other sources of information across the Internet. Link, link, link. That said, make sure the links are relevant and helpful for your readers. If you link to bad information or information that's not relevant to your blog post, that will leave a sour taste in your readers' mouths.
  10. Think SEO. I know Google is building up the importance of social media in its searches, which may incite other search engines to follow suit, but that doesn't mean that SEO (or search engine optimization) suddently has no relevance for bloggers. What I expect to happen is that content with solid SEO and solid social media metrics will rise to the top of the search results. (Click here for some SEO tips.)
  11. Avoid ads (until you're popular). Just because Blogger and WordPress have tools to help you monetize your blog with ads, it doesn't mean you have to use them--at first. Ads are distracting and can slow down your blog. In fact, they may even harm your search result placement. Plus, if you don't have significant traffic, there's no money in hosting ads. Instead, focus on building your traffic first. Many blogs advise getting traffic up to at least 10,000-15,000 page views per month before worrying about monetizing. Even then, you may find that ads aren't a good fit for your blog.
  12. Have a social media strategy. A blogger without social media accounts is going to find it incredibly hard to build blog traffic. Bloggers should work to develop meaningful connections on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ at a minimum. But there are others as well, including Red Room, Goodreads, Tumblr, and more. When you publish a new blog post, be sure to link to it on your social media accounts. As mentioned above, the reach your content has on social media sites may significantly influence where you appear on Google searches.
  13. Comment on other sites. You have to give if you wish to receive (remember the golden rule?). In addition to responding to comments on your own blog, be sure to leave insightful comments on other blogs you admire. If you read a post that really hits home, let the blogger know. If you disagree with a point, share a thoughtful comment on why you have a different perspective (and be nice about it). Also, make sure your comments link back to your blog, in case other readers are interested in learning more about you.
  14. Archive well. While tagging can help with SEO, it becomes even more effective when you use tags to help archive effectively. This means that you don't create a brand new tag every single time you post--unless it's necessary. Instead, try to think structurally of how your posts fit together. Some of my tags (actually called Labels in Blogger) on MNINB include "Life Changing Moments," "Tips for Writers," "Blogging," and "Speaking." Some of these tags have more content than others, but they all help group information to make it easy for my readers to find content about which they care.
  15. Include images in posts. There are a few reasons to include images in your posts. One, they make the blog and each post more attractive and help with design. Two, images help bring in traffic through search engines. Three, post-specific images help differentiate posts in your streams of information on Facebook, Google+ and other social networks. Click here to read even more on this topic.
  16. Keep an eye on your blog stats. I do not believe in quantifying everything, especially when it comes to content. However, a lot can be learned about what's working and not working on your blog by checking out your blog stats. If there's a feature that always seems to gain traffic, then you know it's a safe bet that those posts will continue to work in the future. If there are features that never (ever ever ever) gain traction, then you'll have to make a decision about whether you still think it's worth putting time into those posts. And yes, I think stats are something you look at over an established period of time. The Internet can be fickle, so a great post can go overlooked from time to time, and a horrible post can get amazing results every once in a while. The trick is figuring out what sticks for the long haul. (Here's an earlier post in which I looked at my statistics.)
  17. Give readers option for e-mail updates. As you can see in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, readers can sign up for free updates from my blog. I started this around the middle of last year, I believe, and it's really helped remind readers to check out the blog. Plus, they can check out updates on their smart phones without having to go online, which is something I do with quite a few blogs. It's a great way to check out a blog while I'm stuck in a waiting room or have a few minutes to kill.
  18. Provide social media share buttons. I'm still working on my button strategy, but I've noticed a bump in traffic during the short time I've used them. (Click here to learn how to get your own social media share buttons.) These buttons make it easy for your readers to share content that they think is great--without leaving your blog. And as has been mentioned a few times above, social media is a growing force in search engine results.
  19. Be prepared for high traffic days. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you don't get lazy with your posts by not including links to your other relevant content and that you include share buttons. You never know what is going to really catch on with readers, so treat every post like it could go viral--that way it's optimized to reach even further.
  20. Pick and choose posts to push hard. As you get a better handle on which posts appeal most to your audience, you should know which posts probably deserve a little extra promotional efforts. Hint: The better performing posts should get more promotion, because these are the ones that readers have shown appeal to them the most. You should link to everything at least once, but linking to every post multiple times is likely to scare potential readers and connections away. So pick your battles.
  21. Craft an editorial calendar. At the end of 2011, I started crafting an editorial calendar for MNINB for the first time, and it's really helped me focus my efforts. As a result, my traffic this January has already more than doubled last January's traffic. An editorial calendar makes following several of the steps above much easier.
  22. Invite guest bloggers. One of the things I wanted to start doing in 2012 on MNINB is make the blog more personal and inspirational about life events, in addition to the tips about writing, blogging, etc. So I started inviting people I know and respect to guest post the Life Changing Moments series that appears on Wednesdays (including Jane Friedman, Collin Kelley, and Nin Andrews). This benefits my blog by bringing in new readers who are connected to the guest bloggers, and it benefits the guest bloggers by exposing them to the MNINB crowd. It also benefits my readers, because they get to hear from people who are cooler than me. (Btw, click here if you're interested in a guest post on MNINB.)
  23. Provide testimonials. Actually, I don't do this all too well. I have testimonials in the comments, from e-mail messages, social media sites, etc., but I don't actually throw them up on my blog. But I've seen blogs that do it well by having a special page that collects them. It helps build excitement, especially for readers who are new to your blog and want to know more about you.
  24. Have a blog post promotion plan. Of course, way back on number 20, I talked about picking and choosing days to push harder. Well, for all posts, you should have a blog post promotion plan--a way to let people know about your latest posts. For me, I share blog posts on my Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, Google+ profile, and Facebook fan page at a minimum. With tools like Hootsuite, Seismic, and others, it's possible to post to various social media accounts without logging into each, and in fact, you can even schedule tweets and other messages in advance.
  25. Build your brand. This is just the act of making sure that everything you do to increase your blog traffic works together and helps build you, the blogger/author/person, as a brand with whom people can identify. It may take a while for your brand to evolve after blogging for a while, but once you start to get an idea of what it is, work to build and communicate that message. This brings us full circle to being consistent, which is the surest way to build traffic over time.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Advice for Writers: 017

This week brought another great load of advice from across the blogosphere, including social media tips, multiples (agents and characters), and minimizing self-doubt. Here's the best of what was found:

What's Klout? How I raised my score and why I received free Moo Cards, by Kelli Russell Agodon. In this post, Agodon shares her personal experience using Klout, and what she's received out of the process so far. I haven't messed around too much with Klout to this point, but she makes it sound fun.

How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors, by Melissa K. Norris. Here are a few quick tips on how to effectively use Twitter. For even more on Twitter, check out this still relevant Twitter cheat sheet for writers.

100 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt, by Matthew Turner. In this tricky post, Turner anticipates tips to populate the comments below his post. As a result, he shares three tips and then encourages others to share their tips in the comments--there were 30 comments when I last checked.

3 Content Marketing Ideas You Should Steal From Coca-Cola, by Sonia Simone. This post from Simone is most helpful for writers who are trying to build their platform--which should be any writer who is interested in making a career out of their writing. It's, of course, focused on businesses, which is what a freelance writer runs.

Do You Need Multiple Agents If You Write in Multiple Genres?, by Chuck Sambuchino. I don't know how many live events I've attended with Chuck and others in which this question has been asked. It's been asked a lot, and Chuck is the agent expert.

Don't Let Multiple-Character Scenes Run Away With You, by K.M. Weiland. Weiland addresses a sneaky issue in writing fiction: how to handle multiple characters in the same scene.


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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Poetic Saturdays: The Kids Must Know Something

Good morning! This week, I'm sharing a sort of response poem to the sestina I shared last week. Or maybe last week's poem was a springboard, and this is the leap. In a way, I guess, this week's poem is a leaping poem. But I've fiddled with it enough...for now. Let's roll!

the kids must know something, by Robert Lee Brewer

we don't. the new way of looking for hands
to hold. or maybe they don't hold hands and
instead say things like "bubble gum" and "sweet
potato," but the words mean something new.
after all that, we didn't bring along
our umbrellas. we were ashamed and thought
someone might say something. of course, the rain
covered us and we were miserable.
that is, our vocabulary had turned
against us, and anything we said was
a tell. the kids can chew gum and hold hands
at the same time. like our parents, we need
to chill out. those kids are just as clueless
as we were when the evening approached
with the naked moon and everything
on fire. if we give them time, they'll figure
it out. the words will come and keep coming.


Newer Book:

Sleeping with Houdini
by Nin Andrews (BOA Editions, Ltd.)

Earlier this week, Nin wrote a great personal essay on dealing with the eye condition called strabismus. But what led me to Nin years ago for a Poetic Asides interview was her poetry. Nin specializes in prose poetry, and I think that form demands the most from poets, because there are no line breaks to hide behind. What I mean is that a great prose poem has to use other poetic devices to succeed. The collection starts with these lines: "Night after night, a girl dreams of falling. Falling from planes, clouds, swings. Always falling." In this collection that includes poems like "Sleeping with Houdini," "Sleeping for Kafka" and "The Bed and I," there is a constant shuffling and re-shuffling of the bed-scape. And the tricks and illusions keep coming at the reader one after another, which makes this book great fun to read. Before you know it, you'll hit the end and start searching for the parts that won't let you sleep.


Poems Found Online:
  • You Origami Me, by Robert Lee Brewer from Words Dance (just posted yesterday)
  • The Cat Lady, by Nancy Flynn from Stirring: A Literary Collection
  • 5 Poems, by Bertha Rogers from Escape Into Life
  • 2 Poems, by Ada Limon from La Fovea  
  • The Twin, by Hannah Stephenson from Contrary

Older Book:

by William Carlos Williams (New Directions)

I have a confession to make: I usually don't enjoy poems that go longer than one page. Blame my short attention span, blame my head trauma, but longer poems usually just bore the heck out of me. That said, those few long poems that hook me (and keep me hooked) end up being among my favorites ever. Such is the case for Paterson, which was originally published in five separate books. Ironically, the household name poem for which Williams is best known is the super short (16 words!) "The Red Wheelbarrow." In Paterson, Williams was playing with the idea "that a man in himself is a city, beginning, seeking, achieving and concluding his life in ways which the various aspects of a city may embody." Of course, I just love the poetry of this long book, which shifts seamlessly from short line breaks to journalistic prose and back.


Note: Links in this post to books are affiliate links. However, I do not mention these books just to make a profit. They are either books I'm connected to or ones I truly love. All other links in this post are not affiliate links.


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Friday, January 20, 2012

Why and How to Add a Social Media Share Button to Your Blog

If there's one part of my blogging strategy that's really been suffering since I began, it's been my lack of social media share buttons. From time to time, people have commented about the lack of such buttons in the comments of this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and elsewhere. Yet, in my lazy searches, I couldn't find an easy way to add those buttons. Of course, this post has them at the bottom--so I've figured it out now (finally).

It's good to share!

Why add social media share buttons?
The answer to this is pretty simple. Social media share buttons make it easier for people to share your amazing blog posts by cutting out steps in the sharing process. This is important, and it has measurably increased traffic on sites that use them.

The increase in traffic should be expected--even if you don't change anything else in your blogging strategy--because share buttons make you easier to share with the world, which means that share buttons make you easier for the world to find. Like I said, it's pretty simple.

But beyond that, Google recently starting incorporating social media into its search results, which means that SEO alone isn't going to drive traffic to your site through search engines. Rather, it'll be a combination of solid SEO practices combined with a super social media strategy. These share buttons help in that arena.

How do I add social media share buttons?
There are several ways to add social media share buttons. However, it took me far too long to figure out how to do so on my own, and I'm sure there are still much better ways for me to optimize my social media share button strategy, but...baby steps.

The share button I'm using below is from http://www.addthis.com/. Just go to the site and register to receive the code that you post in to your website and/or blog posts. After years of share button pain, it took me less than 60 seconds to capture and add that snazzy button to my first post. Go ahead and try it yourself.

Here are some more social media share button resources:

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Second Most Important Thing a Writer Can Do: 5 Ways to Experiment as a Writer

Yesterday, I found myself messing around with my amazing chili recipe. The recipe is great as it is, but I'm not the kind of person who likes to eat the same thing every single meal. Variety is the spice of life, and good chili needs a lot of spice.

There's always another way to write something.

Writing is the same way. There are recipes out there already that are great, and writers who follow them thoroughly will automatically be better than the average bear. However, what makes a good writer stand out from other writers is the courage to experiment with something that's already working.

The most important thing a writer can do is write. The second most important thing a writer can do is experiment. That is, a writer needs to push the envelope and say something that either hasn't been said or say it in a way that creates the illusion that it's never been said.

Now, I'm not saying all writers need to become experimental writers in the sense that their work is hard to understand. Rather, I think it's important for writers to avoid becoming so predictable that their readers quit paying attention to what their reading--or worse, quit reading altogether.

Here Are 5 Ways to Experiment With Your Writing:
  1. Read new voices and imitate what you like. Many writers say they shy away from reading too much, because they don't want to be "influenced" or "steal from another writer." However, great artists do steal from other artists, whether they write songs, draw pictures, make movies, etc. You don't imitate the words, imitate the techniques.
  2. Apply concepts found in other disciplines. If you write fiction, learn about professional writing, poetry, and copywriting to provide ideas for experimenting with your stories. If you write poetry, do the same thing for your poems. And push beyond writing techniques to look at concepts in art, design, technology, cooking, etc.
  3. Pile things on. That is, push your writing to excess. Add more detail, more dialogue, more everything. Ramble. Throw in details that don't seem to relate to anything. Then, try to connect the dots or allow your readers to try and connect the dots for you.
  4. Strip things down. If your story has 2,000 words, cut it down to 200. If your poem has 20 lines, cut it to 2 lines. Strip things down to the most essential and then build it back up--unless it works in the stripped down version. Many times the most powerful writing is the most concise.
  5. Get random. Write about random subjects. Cut up the progression of your story or poem into random pieces. Cut a story into random time sequences. See how it alters your writing.
Experimentation can seem scary. Expermintation can lead to failure. It takes a brave writer to experiment, and that's why it's an important skill for writers to develop. After writing in general, it's the most important thing a writer can do.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You Look Like Your Mama Mated With a Rhino (Life Changing Moments Series)

I'm so excited that we're now three posts in on this Life Changing Moments series. Something about taking three steps always makes a project feel more real to me--maybe because you have to take one step with each foot and continue the motion with the original foot (blah-blah-blah). Anyway, more exciting than this being number three in the series is who is the next guest blogger: Nin Andrews. I first learned of Nin through a poetry collection titled Why They Grow Wings (Silverfish Review Press). I immediately fell in love with her voice, and (though this is a blog post and not a poem) I hope you will too. Nin Andrews is the author of several poetry books, including Sleeping With Houdini (BOA Editions) and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? (Subito Press). For more information, check out her illustrated blog at http://ninandrewswriter.blogspot.com/.

Poet Nin Andrews. Photo credit: Michael Salinger.

When I was a girl, whenever my father took the family photograph for the annual Christmas card, he gave me a choice: Look down at your feet or look to the side. You don't want the whole world to see your crossed eyes, do you? My father always worried about appearances. He was embarrassed because I have an eye disorder called strabismus, which means that while one eye looks straight ahead, the other crosses. As I age, the eye that crosses will sometimes drift to the outside.

I spent most of my childhood trying to hide my eyes, glancing up at people quickly and then looking down or away. I liked to wear dark glasses and pretend I was blind. At school during recess the boys teased me. You sure are ugly with them crossed eyes. Usually I pretended not to mind. Or not to hear. But one day, I answered back, Yeah? Well, you look like your mama mated with a rhino! The teacher made me go inside. I had to stay after school and write lines. Nice girls do not say mean words.

My parents took me to every eye doctor in town, but no one could fix my eyes. So they sent me to visit my grandmother in Boston who found a research doctor who specialized in strabismus. That doctor is the only man I’ve ever met who was thrilled with my eyes. You're my perfect specimen, he said. He offered to work on me for free. My mother sent him a ham every Christmas as payment.

For fifteen years I flew to Boston for eye tests. Each time I was met by a team of medical students. Each time the doctor would explain I needed another surgery. I had five eye operations, and I still need another. Before each surgery, the doctor would explain that the muscles on the sides of the eyes are like shoelaces, and he just needed to tighten them up a bit. But only a bit. If he tightened them too much, the eyeballs would stay on the outer corners of my eyes.

After each surgery, I was very sick. I had trouble with the anesthesia. Once they had trouble waking me up, and I had to spend a week in the hospital because I couldn't eat. But I hoped that when I took the bandages off, I would see eyes that were like everyone else's. I would examine my eyes carefully, noticing tiny red stitches in the whites of the eyes. For the last operation, I was awake. I could feel the faint tug in the corners of one eye as they tried one more time to stitch the eyeball into place. Although each operation improved my appearance, my eyes have never looked all right.

After a while, I gave up. And the doctor retired. I still heard people whisper behind my back. You're going out with the cross-eyes girl? Glasses helped, but I didn't bother wearing them. Now, when I'm tired or anxious, the eyes cross a lot. When I'm relaxed, they aren't as ugly. As an adult, I've stopped caring about them. Grown men and women (at least the sensitive types), I reason, don't laugh at people's deformities.

At least that's what I thought before I read at the KGB Bar in New York City a few years ago. I read with another poet, and the bar was crowded with his fans. He stood up and began his reading with a poem about the poet, Robert Duncan's strabismus. He introduced the poem by saying that when one of Duncan's eye was looking at you, the other was like an F-16 taking flight. In the poem, he described how Robert Duncan didn't have to look both ways before crossing a road. He could do it without turning his head. Everyone laughed as if this were the funniest joke ever told.

At first I felt tired, old, spent. I wondered if I should stand up, take off my reading glasses and see if everyone thought my eyes were as funny as Robert Duncan's. But then, suddenly, I didn't care. I, too, began to laugh. I can't explain it, but it was as if the laughter was a gift. As I laughed, I felt as if I were releasing years of fears, crushed hopes, and shame. I hate to sound Hallmark, but it was a truly healing event.

Though now, as I write this, I have to confess, there is a tiny part of me that wants to back to that reading, turn to the other poet and say, Yeah? Well, you look like your mama mated with a rhino.


If you think you have a great life changing moment to share, click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.


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See how the Not Bob blog is getting a little more personal in 2012:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to View Posts on Blogger That Already Have Comments

Recently, I ran into a problem in which I could not view posts on MNINB if the post in had any comments. It started about a week ago, and I haven't been able to figure out why it's happening. However, I was able to figure out how to fix the problem today (thanks to this thread).

The fix is simple: Just set your comments to Full Page as opposed to Embed.

Sooooo...how do you accomplish that?
  1. Log in to your blog.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Click Posts and Comments.
  4. Under Comment Location, select Full Page (instead of Embed).
  5. Click Save Settings button.
All done. You should now be able to view your comments again. Yay!

Advice for Writers: 016

Missed this feature yesterday while working through a mountain of poems for the 2013 Poet's Market. Lots of good advice from around the web.

7 Ways Meditation Increases Creativity, by Orna Ross. One point I especially like in this post actually isn't one of the 7 ways. Ross writes, "Writers regularly cite one problem with meditation: they don’t have time. For all the reasons outlined above, it’s clear that for writers, meditation doesn’t take time, it makes time."

Some Thoughts on Switching Over to Facebook Timeline, by Kelli Russell Agodon. Some more perspective on the new Facebook timeline. Click here to read some of my timeline tips, which actually overlap a little with this post.

Greetings from Mt. San Angelo, by Sandra Beasley. Beasley shares her process for working at a writing colony, specifically the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Post shares her process and includes pictures.

25 Things Writers Should Start Doing, by Chuck Wendig. There's a cool little graph at the top of Wendig's post, which includes things writers should immediately start doing like "Start Reading Poetry" and "Start Making Your Own Opportunities."

Why Google+ is an Inevitable Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy, by Brian Clark. This post isn't written specifically for writers, but it underlines why resisting (or avoiding) Google+ is futile. Reason number one for me is this: "Google+ is Google...period."

Is Your Book Good, Great, or Hot?, by Rachelle Gardner. As a literary agent, Gardner explains what makes a book hot, which often trumps books that are good and even great.


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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Good Side of My Father (Blissfully Series)

Throughout 2012, I'll be sharing personal stories about myself on Sundays as part of this Blissfully Series. My life has already had its share of good moments and bad moments, and these are the ones I consider the most important to my life.

From the left, my brother Simon, my father, my grandfather, and me.

From my experience, there are many children who have complicated relationships with their parents. With five children myself, I completely understand this dynamic. Parents have the nearly impossible task of trying to guide their children to be independent thinkers who can make themselves happy without making other people unhappy.

As a result, parents are charged with being loving but also firm, which can be confusing for children. Throw in the fact that children often start off life thinking their parents are perfect--when in reality parents are messed up human beings themselves--and it's easy to see how things get off track frequently.

Anyway, I have a very complicated relationship with my father. But before I get into the complications of our relationship, I want to share the side of him that was perfect.

My Father, the builder
When we were kids (I grew up with two brothers), my father built us a bunk bed that doubled as a fort and had a G.I. Joe emblem painted on the outside. This wasn't a kit. My father actually designed it, went out and purchased the wood, and built it. Of course, we loved it.

But my father also would build things with other materials. For instance, he'd often take the mattresses off our beds, cushions off our couches, and blankets to build forts and secret bases for us. And of course, he'd wrestle us all as we ran around jumping on him, hitting him, kicking him, and pulling his hair. He took it all with a smile.

He turned our garage into a sort of low-budget sports training area by hanging up a basketball hoop on one end for basketball games that could be played any time of year and any time of the day or night. Plus, he cut a hole into another wall that represented a pitching strike zone for baseball, in which I'd spend hours practicing my fast ball. These advantages (that really didn't cost anything but a little imagination and willingness to cut a hole in the wall) helped me and my brothers grow up as athletes.

My Father, the organizer
My father loved games. He'd get all the kids in the neighborhood together to play wiffle ball, football, kickball, run races, complete obstacle courses, whatever. He was like the neighborhood gym teacher or something.

One time he went out and bought a bunch of these cheap plastic BB guns with little yellow rubber BBs, and he had all the kids in the neighborhood gather and have a massive BB gun fight. That's just the kind of thing he'd do.

My Father, the manager
Early on in my life, my father was more of like a stay-at-home mom than a typical bread-winning dad. He had a job here and there until latched on at Domino's Pizza, which is where he finally started to move up the chain of command.

At some point, my father was promoted to manager, and he even got his own store in Beavercreek. I remember there was a big grand opening celebration, and it was an exciting moment for me to see my father doing something so important.

He threw himself into his new role by listening to motivational tapes by big business leaders and motivators, and then he'd often share the main points with me. He worked hard and was rewarded with Manager of the Year honors, bonuses, and endless pizza.

The Good Side
My father always had a smile and an infectious laugh. In fact, he still does from time to time. He's a people person, who never shies away from a crazy idea and thinks anything is possible with enough hard work and the right attitude. Really, there's a lot about him that is good--and even great.

But nobody is perfect, and that's precisely where the real story of our lives often starts to emerge. More on that next Sunday.


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Poetic Saturdays: Now This Is How We Roll

Welcome to another post of Poetic Saturdays! If you missed the first one last week, click here to read "until further notice," reviews of two poetry collections, and more.

I'm excited to share a sestina this week! If you don't know what a sestina is, it's a poem in which you use 6 words to finish each line in a poem that is comprised of 7 stanzas (the first 6 stanzas are 6 lines long, the final has 3 lines). There's an alternating pattern of using the end words that I could explain, but instead, I'll see if you can figure it out with my brand new example below.

now this is how we roll, by Robert Lee Brewer

with our sonnets and pretty sestinas,
we strut to the open mic looking like
buttoned up versions of both walt whitman
and emily dickinson. we talk sin
but we live right, walk soft but uptight.
sure enough, we carry our umbrellas

as if they're canes instead of umbrellas.
who do we think we're fooling? sestinas
are one thing, but if you want your shit tight,
you should go free verse and burst slant rhymes like
a machine gun, son. it's fun when you sin
against poetic forms like walt whitman

spewing verses. o whitman, my whitman--
can you feel it, friend, on your umbrella?
i'm raining line breaks and rhyme medicine
for those suckers writing sestinas
like chumps. so move your rump, shake those lumps like
fergie, whether your body's loose or tight.

we'll poem all night and all them uptight
poets can buy a clue from walt whitman
and suck it, and then tuck it away like
the fakes they be. i've seen their umbrellas
tucked nicely beneath them like sestinas
they have yet to write. live your life like sin

again and again, my friend, if it's sin
that you write, and may your pant rolls be tight
if you think it's fun to write sestinas.
i mean, what in poe's name would walt whitman
do, fool? you think he'd pass out umbrellas,
or soak in all the rain and then rave like

some drunken lunatic who grows beards like
it ain't no thing? i sing, assassins,
i sing for poets without umbrellas
to shield them from your concealed rhymes turned tight
as lines broken right. you know walt whitman
sings everything--even sestinas,

especially when sestinas sound like
walt whitman covering the world in sin
before shaking loose his tight umbrella.


Newer Book:

I Was the Jukebox, by Sandra Beasley

I Was the Jukebox: Poems
by Sandra Beasley (Norton)

Since my poem this Saturday was a sestina, there were few poets I could think of better suited for a review than Sandra Beasley, who I know is a fan of that particular poetic form. In fact, I Was the Jukebox includes a very funny sestina from the perspective of a platypus ("The Platypus Speaks")--not to mention one from an eggplant ("The Eggplant Speaks"). The first Beasley poem I ever read is included in this collection, "The Translator," which masterfully plays off the identity of those who translate another's voice; I remember reading it to my wife (before she was my wife) from an issue of Hotel Amerika over the phone while I was in Los Angeles. But it's not just for sentimental reasons that I love this collection; it's because once you enter a Beasley collection you realize you're in the presence of a master wordsmith, one who knows the rules and when to break them.


Poems Found Online:

Older Book:

Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman

Since he was an end word in my sestina above, I guess it's most appropriate for me to give a nod to Walt Whitman and his brilliant Leaves of Grass in this post. For those not familiar with Whitman, I did sneak in a nod here and there to his brilliant poetry within my sestina. The first time I read Whitman in high school, it was culture shock, and it really rocked me--the wrong way. But I couldn't resist coming back again and again over the years. I still have a copy of Leaves of Grass that I found in a used bookstore while I was in high school, and I keep it near me at all times--and will even bring it with me on long trips as a good luck charm of sorts. Leaves of Grass has truly earned its spot as a book within the bible of poetry, and like the Bible, I flip to random passages in this book for inspiration, guidance, and comfort.


Note: Links in this post to books are affiliate links. However, I do not mention these books just to make a profit. They are either books I'm connected to or ones I truly love. All other links in this post are not affiliate links.


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Friday, January 13, 2012

Top Media Feeds for Writers

Earlier this year, I took over handling the Market Watch feature of WritersMarket.com. Our long-time contributor Debbie Ohi made the decision to move on to newer challenges, including her work illustrating children's picture books. So far so good on the Market Watch, and I've developed some favorite media feeds to check daily already.

Here are my favorite media feeds for writing-related information:
  • AdAge. Mainly for ad and marketing news, but that news includes information about online content and magazines.
  • Folio:. Devoted to magazine publishing news.
  • MediaBistro. Shares a daily newsfeed of media-related information, from print to online and from mobile to television.
  • Poynter. Focuses on journalism-related topics, and so, it's a little heavy on the newspaper side of the publishing/media industry.
  • Publishing Executive. PE is focused on the magazine industry.
  • AdWeek. Like AdAge, this site is mainly for ad and marketing news, but that often includes media-related news.
  • I Want Media. Collects headlines from across the Internet that are media-related.
  • Masthead. Focused on the Canadian magazine industry. 
  • Publishers Weekly. Devoted to the book publishing industry.
  • Paid Content. Covers the emerging digital content industry, especially how it is monetized.
These are my favorite media feeds, though I use several others in addition to specific searches that I complete, which is why I think the Market Watch feature on WritersMarket.com is the best resource specifically for writers. However, trolling through these sites daily can be educational for those with too much time on their hands (or need to find a time killer that's more productive than playing Facebook's game of the week).

Do you have a favorite media feed that's not on this list? Please share with the Not Bob gang in the comments below.


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

There's a Reason Why...

...I have so many posts up on Thursday.

The original Flying Solo post from Wednesday was not linking to Facebook (and neither is the one about beginnings on Thursday) on account of it being marked as spam--by only Facebook, mind you. Anyway, I was testing out some different variations to figure out why.

The second version of Flying Solo (directly below) is not being marked as spam by Facebook, so I think I have the problem figured out, which also means I will hopefully be back to just one post a day. (Insert smiley face emoticon here.)

Flying Solo: Traveling to London Alone (Life Changing Moments Series)

Jane Friedman kicked us off with the Life Changing Moments series of posts last week by talking about how community made an impact on her life. How interesting that my friend and fellow poet Collin Kelley decided to write about his experience traveling solo for the first time abroad, and--as you'll see in his story--it's amazing how the world communicates with us even when we're trying to be alone and anonymous. Collin is the author of the novels Remain In Light and Conquering Venus, as well as the poetry collections Better to Travel, After the Poison and Slow to Burn. A new collection, Render, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in 2013. For more information on Collin, check out CollinKelley.com.

Poet, novelist, and friend Collin Kelley.

Many people don’t like to travel alone, especially to foreign countries, but in 2000 I decided that I was going to take a giant leap of faith and fly solo for the first time. And since I really wanted to challenge myself, I decided London would be my destination.

I had been to London a half-dozen times before 2000, but had always managed to drag along a friend or three to experience my favorite place in the world. In 2000, I had run out of friends to take, so I decided to go on my own. I had just turned 30 and decided that taking a trip with myself was another signifier that I was indeed "grown up."

My mother – fed on a steady diet of Americans lost in foreign lands stories – was nervous about my journey. I didn't have a cell phone at the time, so my contact back to America would be through the landline in my hotel room or the various payphones (remember those?) around the city. My mother asked: What if you get mugged? What if you get sick? What if you run out of money?

Luckily, none of those things happened, but traveling to London alone was a life changing moment for me. Since I'd been there before, I had already seen all the tourist hotspots, so I was free to explore smaller museums, go to movies, see shows and wander the old bookstores on Charing Cross Road. There was no companion watching the clock or urging me to move on to the next destination. I felt untethered and more than a little euphoric.

I had a weird sense that I dropped off the map a little bit, too. London is a big, loud city and it's easy to be anonymous there. I tried to dress like the locals – casual, but stylish – and I purposely did not bring a camera on the trip. There are no photos of me in London that year, so the trip remains a private memory that I cherish.

I should also add that I was in the process of getting over someone I had fallen madly in love with who did not return the sentiment. Going to London solo was a way for me to heal, collect my thoughts and move on with my life. I was in the process of writing my first novel, Conquering Venus, and it had taken a backseat while I worked out my love life.

On my last day in the capital, I was coming out of a cinema in Leicester Square after seeing the adaptation of Proust's Time Regained starring Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich. An old woman wearing a long coat, her face a relief map of crevices and veins with frizzy hair tied under scarf, rushed up to me and pressed a small bundle of flowers – weeds, really – into my hand. "You did the right thing, my darling," she said. "You got away from him."

I was so taken aback by these words that I could only nod at the old woman and press a pound coin into her hand. Only later, as I sat on the steps of the famed Eros statute in Piccadilly Circus looking up at the dazzling lights of all the billboards and signs, did the tears come. Not of sadness, but of gratitude for this beautiful city. While I was feeling anonymous, London was fully aware of my presence and sending me messages through a strange old woman carrying a bundle of weeds.

Since then, I've traveled across America and Europe on my own more times than I can count, and I never feel afraid or nervous. I have great friends in London now, and while I might be flying solo, there are always welcoming arms on the other side of the pond. And London itself, ready to embrace me once again.


If you think you have a great life changing moment to share, click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.


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See how the Not Bob blog is getting a little more personal in 2012: