My boxes are mostly unpacked (finally!), though I’m still trying to set up a place to record new Booktube videos. It may not be perfect yet, but I wouldn’t trade my cozy living room for the world (because plaid and candles for days! Total no brainer.) While I finish getting settled in, here’s some reading for the week… ♥ Advice I’m 100% tuning into right now: I’m returning to single-tasking ♥ The Emotions That Make Us More Creative ♥ Teaching, meet Blogging: 5 Educational Theories That Will Improve Your Content Marketing ♥ Too much to do, not enough time… ♥ The Caped Crusader has come a long way in film since 1939 — The Evolution of Batman in Cinema ♥ There’s also a Batman cafe in Malaysia. Who’s coming with me? ♥ Every Southern Gothic Novel Ever – ha! ♥ How being in an all-girls D&D group reminds me that femininity and feminism can coexist in harmony ♥ Isn’t love supposed to be a head over heels feeling? What about the peril of not dying for love? ♥ On being a bad blogger ♥ Ever wonder what goes into choosing a book cover? ♥ Fiction writers! Here are 8 paragraph mistakes you may not know you’re making ♥ What a degree in Literature teaches you ♥ Could you go one year without social media? ♥ People wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees (I know this sounds crazy, but bear with me!) ♥ The internet was all in a tizzy a few weeks ago about this couple that tried to emulate a Victorian lifestyle in 2015. Y’know, by blogging about their historically accurate lifestyle. The internet retaliated with the important distinction between appreciation and ignorance, and what it means to understand history with pieces like Vox’s Victorians.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you — that’s a list that you see! If you’re a long-time reader of My Life as a Teacup, you’re probably not surprised to see a list this month! Since 2011, September has been synonymous with 30 Days of Lists around these parts, and this year is no different. #30Lists is a listing challenge that exercises your creativity with a daily list prompt. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, other than to just have fun! I’ve been participating since the challenge’s first run, and when Kam and Amy invited me to host another prompt this fall, I couldn’t say no. Especially when the topic was books! Typically when I read, it’s not my goal to turn into a blubbering, sobbing mess of tears. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens, whether due to character deaths or poignant messages in stories. Whatever the cause, here are a few of the books that are guaranteed to make me cry: Books That Make Me Cry The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro Landline by Rainbow Rowell Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald If I Stay by Gayle Forman The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson Want to know what exactly it is about these novels that make me bawl? Join in on the 30 Days of Lists fun to see the full list (don’t worry — there’s no right or wrong time to start listing!) P.S. That watercolor Filofax printable you see? It’s a list template I made exclusively for #30Lists this year!
Writers hear the phrase “Show, don’t tell” bandied about in the fiction world an awful lot, but what does it actually mean when editors comment that an author is simply telling rather than showing, and why is it made out to be such a big deal? While authors have their own individual style, common story elements — from characters’ personalities to background about a fictional society — can be described in a number of ways. At times, it’s beneficial or even necessary for a writer to convey these details through explicit statements. But a story that consists solely of a laundry list of facts about a character or situation can get real boring real fast. By describing characters’ conversations, facial expressions, actions and reactions, just to name a few, an author can convey the same information as a descriptive list would, but with more engaging prose. Take the following examples: “The cocky man was a smuggler, who didn’t care much about other people’s problems. He wasn’t pleased with the princess’s request.” “The blaster dangled from his belt as he melted into the captain’s chair, legs sprawled in front of him. ‘Look,’ he snarled, ‘I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.’” Yes, Han Solo is certainly cocky and doesn’t care for plans that don’t benefit him, but why just tell you that when I can show you through his actions, words, and stance? After reading the second example, you probably have a much better mental picture of Han and who he is as a character, not to mention aren’t bored out of your skull at the first’s relatively flat prose. If you’re having trouble with the showing aspect of this common critique, practice describing different characters doing the same, mundane task (characters are probably the easiest example of showing vs. telling, hence my reliance on them in this post). How would Han Solo cook breakfast, versus Captain America, versus Cath from Fangirl? Each have different personalities, and aren’t going to move and behave in the same way. An angry Captain America will act differently than one running laps with Sam Wilson. Keep those traits in mind as you write descriptively. There are times when, as an author, you need to cover more ground (and usually complicated ground, for that matter) and telling may better serve your purpose. Showing does take more time, but creates a much more vivid image than telling does. Just like with anything — really, anything ever, literary-wise or not — balance is key. I’ve read my fair share of stories that rely so heavily on description that the story turns into an adjectival mad-lib filled with clunky and empty prose. I’ve also read my share of stories that have no imagery whatsoever and use a character/narrator as a crutch to tell the reader about ALL THE THINGS! As with everything, there is a time and a place for showing, as well as for telling. What books drive you mad with too much telling or even too much showing?
When confronted with the prospect of going to the bookstore or library, my reaction can be summed up in one gif: That being said, you can imagine how chaotic it is to step into a bookstore with someone who’s flailing around, picking up every book, and stroking the cover (true story). For a book lover, stepping into a library or bookstore with literally hundreds of, thousands of options, can be overwhelming! Here are three ways you can combat Bibliophile Meltdown and shop (or rather, borrow) smarter: 1. Set a book limit — How many of you are guilty of walking out of the library with your borrowing limit maxed out? How about walking out of a bookstore, riddled with guilt as you think of your massive to be read pile at home, while you cradle a stack of 5 new books in your arms? Been there, done that (this week, actually). Keep your TBR stress at a minimum by setting a book buying limit before you walk into the store that aligns with how many books you can reasonably read at the moment, or how many unread books are sitting at home on your shelf. 2. Do your research — Indecision can strike at the worst moment. Don’t let it catch you off guard by doing your research before you get to the bookstore. Knowing what books you’re after, as well as checking out reviews, can help curb impulse buys and even general frustration (I’d like to think there’s research that’s been done on this, but I can’t find any. This is pure speculation based off of how many times I’ve stood in front of a bookshelf, cursing and frustrated at how many options are before me.) Personally, I love checking Goodreads to see what my friends think of books, and read up on the most recent reviews, as well as trace similar titles. 3. Make a list — Don’t let all of that research go to waste! In case you can’t remember which books out of the hundreds you looked up on Goodreads, or can’t recall which your local library has in stock, jot down your book picks on a list that you can keep in your purse. I like to keep my check out list in my Filofax planner for easy access! And so you don’t have to keep your book list on any ol’ scrap of paper…I made a library card-inspired book list just for you! Never forget a book title or author from your reading list again. With two sizes — a full 8.5″ x 11″ sheet and Personal size Filofax insert, these free printables will surely come in handy. Get your free printable when you sign up for my newsletter! It’ll be in your inbox in a jiffy. How do you keep your book shopping under control? Share your tips in the comments below!
Editorial calendars are a necessary evil, but little did I know just how much organizing content plagues bloggers until it was the topic of Kayla Hollatz’s #createlounge just a few weeks ago! Editorial calendars can range from a pen-and-paper planner to a color-coded Google calendar (and even a plain ol’ Excel spreadsheet, which I used back in the early days of My Life as a Teacup!) These methods all have their merits, but finding the system that helps you to plan, schedule, and organize all of your content outlets in one place can be a nightmare of a process. Enter Trello. Trello is a visual-based project management tool that lets you organize large projects in a number of ways. I initially dismissed it as an app geared toward collaboration (a feature of Trello I’ve grown to incorporate), but have since embraced it as my go-to editorial calendar. My setup still isn’t perfect, but utilizing Trello has been the best thing for my blog! Here’s a peek at how I use it to manage my content across all of My Life as a Teacup’s channels. An Overview of Your Media Channels Setting up Trello “categories” will set the foundation for how you use your editorial calendar. There’s no right or wrong way to list these; it simply depends on what content you want to organize. My current categories are based on my main content outlets, and look a little something like this: Think about how you would divide up your content. What kinds of content do you create? A blogger might include a ‘blog post’ stack, as well as a ‘newsletter’ stack to plan how content will be divvied up between the two. If you create video tutorials or content, a ‘Youtube’ stack might be fitting. Youtube has been a big area for me; I pencil in what reviews I have in my queue, as well as that month’s 5 Fandom Friday topics (but obviously if you don’t use Youtube you can skip this stack altogether.) If you record podcasts, you could start a stack for your planned episodes. Create a list for Instagram content you want to publish, if that’s a key component of your brand. The possibilities are endless. Micromanaging Your Content Each of the white squares you see in the stacks above are referred to as ‘cards’ in Trello. But organizing a card into a themed stack isn’t super helpful on its own. Trello lets you go further by integrating individualized management features into each card. Due date — Exactly as it sounds. Description — Add reminders and notes to yourself or even use the space to draft your post. Subtasks — You all know this is my favorite part! Trello lets you create a checklist so that you can break down each card into smaller subtasks and check them off as you complete them. Labels — My second favorite feature; you can set up a series of color-coded labels to mark each card. Currently, I use them to indicate what stage my content is in, from draft to scheduled. You have full customization over what your labels say and how you use them. Activity — This is a great feature if you’re collaborating with another blogger or are part of a larger group. I don’t personally use this status update-like feature much, but it’s been helpful when Marissa of Ampersand Creative and I are working on a project together. When you’ve done all you want to do with your post, or ‘card’, simply hit ‘archive’ and Trello will clear the completed task from your busy blog calendar. With so many customization options, this is the part of Trello that really lets you configure your calendar in a way that suits your needs. Social Media Scheduling One common worry many #createlounge-goers expressed is the difficulty of incorporating social media planning into their content calendars. Some bloggers are adamantly against planning social media, usually because it can feel contrived or is too hard to organize, but I’m going to argue for creating an editorial calendar for your social media just like you would for your blog posts. On one hand, some social media can’t be scheduled. Take reader interactions and Twitter, for instance. It’s impossible to know to whom and about what you’ll want to respond, so that form of social media isn’t conducive to being scheduled. You’ll just have to reply on the fly. But there is plenty of social media that you can schedule to maximize your readers’ interactions and free up your time, all without feeling disingenuous. Personally, I identify the types of social media I want to engage in each week, which typically includes at least one of each of the following: retweet, share someone’s link, promote a new post, recycle an old post, engage a follower, ask a question, etc. From that list, I’ll simply add each task to Wunderlist so that I can check off each as I complete it. For the new content that I plan to promote, I’ll include a subtask in that post’s Trello card that outlines how and where I want to promote it, like so: It’s easier for me to associate the promotion of the new post with the post itself, while for other social media I prefer to set a recurring task reminder through something like Wunderlist. You could easily plan your social media endeavors differently, either through Trello (e.g. set up a separate column just for ‘Instagram’ plans) or another service, but I’m fond of my current method. Month At a Glance My favorite feature, by far, is Trello’s calendar view. Enabling just a few settings allows you to see your content in a true schedule-like format, which is great for visually seeing how your posts are organized over time. It’s easy to drag and drop cards to different dates on your calendar, making this a valuable feature for planning posts and making sure that you’re not leaving your readers in a content drought. Whether you’re a pen-and-paper planner (byRegina’s Epic Blog planner is incredible!) or prefer organizing your content calendar digitally, there are virtually endless options out there for creating and maintaining an editorial calendar. And even within each type — take Trello, for instance — there are a variety of configurations you can use to set up your calendar in a way that’s best for you and your content. Test out some different systems and see what works for you! Consider your own editorial calendar. If you don’t currently use one, why not? If you do, can you think of one thing you can do to improve your content organization or plan your social media?
The English language is full of rules that will make your head spin. Some are easy understandable necessary (e.g. ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’) while others are downright baffling. Why can’t you end a sentence in a preposition? Says who!? I’d love to know what sick, twisted person thought this rule up, and not-so-gently explain to him just how many times this awful rule has kept me up at night. If you notice, however, I break these rules. Often. And you know what? It’s totally okay. Language is constantly changing to suit new ways of communication, and frankly, there’s a time and a place for even using the dreaded “academic ‘I’”. Writing and grammar rules are largely a matter of stylistic choice or personal preference. Depending on your audience, your purpose for writing, and even your method of communication, you may be better off ditching some of the most well-known writing conventions. Generally speaking, the more formal your writing, the more of these rules you should probably adhere to, but I’m otherwise giving you the okay to stop fretting over the following grammar myths: 1. Writing in the passive voice is always wrong — The active voice is typically more engaging, however using the passive voice has its place too. Maybe this is my Japanese education showing through (the Japanese language loves vague subjects & passive structures), but using the passive voice can soften sentences, shift blame, and convey ideas in a more gentle manner. It can also shift the focus from one subject to another. Don’t know who’s responsible? Passive voice is your friend. 2. And you should never start a sentence with a conjunction — Another stylistic choice. Starting sentences with a conjunction adds variation to your cadence, can be used to create suspense and/or flow, and is often a marker of personal, more colloquial style. Forget what you learned in grade school; this is a grammar myth. 3. Don’t split infinitives — An infinitive consists of “to” + a verb. Take the classic Star Trek example, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Grammarians would argue that it should be changed to, “to go boldly“, so as not to split the infinitive, but this is simply a pet peeve. Choosing to split an infinitive is all about where you want your emphasis, and most times is a purely stylistic choice. Don’t let people’s personal pet peeves get to you. 4. A paragraph contains 3-5 sentences — I want to yell at every school teacher who has told their students this. Sure, it’s a technique to help students set a foundation for writing, but it’s a juvenile tactic that is often abused. Paragraphs are meant to organize ideas. You can have a long paragraph, or a short one. Breaks in paragraphs should occur when you switch topics or ideas; 3-5 sentences is an arbitrary number. In today’s age of short, quippy Internet articles, paragraphs are used to visually break up information so as not to overload readers. You’ve probably seen loads of one sentence paragraphs, and guess what? That’s okay too! Break this rule now and vary your paragraph structure to not only better organize your writing, but create personality and flow. 5. Never end a sentence with a preposition — Trying to rearrange your sentence so that it doesn’t end in a preposition can leave you reeling. Ending a sentence in a preposition either a) leads to overly formal-sounding sentences (not meant for more conversational writing, creative writing, or informal pieces like blog posts) or b) makes your sentence just sound weird. Blame this myth on the 17th century Latin-obsessives and end your sentence in a preposition if the occasion calls for it! What writing rules do you find unnecessary or annoying? Rant away!
Many of you have asked how I stay organized and productive through all of the chaos of running a blog and editing business. I’ll admit — it’s not easy, but with the help of some apps, I’ve mastered a system of to-do lists that works perfectly for me. You’ve already met one of my favorite apps, Evernote, but now it’s time to meet the other: Wunderlist (the basic version, which I use, is free!). Wunderlist is simply a digital to-do list, and that’s precisely what I like best about it — it’s simple. Features Like any good app, Wunderlist is accessible on all of your devices, meaning your tasks sync instantly to your phone even when you’ve been working on the computer. There is an option to upgrade to Pro and Business-level versions, but the basic free version has served me well for going on 3 years now. You can: Set due dates Set reminders Schedule recurring tasks Break to-dos down into subtasks Add notes Create multiple lists Organize lists into folders Sort by hashtags Turn your background into an adorable sleeping kitten (I never kid about kittens) Though it can do quite a lot in terms of organizing and categorizing, the interface isn’t overcomplicated and is intuitive if you already spend a lot of time playing around with technology in general. What’s the Difference? You might find yourself wondering why I split my project management between two tools. There are a lot of apps out there, and surely it’s more convenient to keep everything in one place? But all apps are not created equal. The difference is in the type of brain clutter you want to store and how you want to display it. While Evernote is perfect for capturing ideas and brainstorming sessions, it’s easy to get lost in the magnitude of it all. After all, it is more like one giant notebook. Wunderlist is more useful when it comes to managing tasks, both on a short-term and long-term level. Schedule it, complete it, check it off. Recipe for Success Sure, Wunderlist does all this cool stuff, but where do you even start? Forming a habit with a new app or productivity system is hard work, I know. Depending on what other systems you have in place, discovering where Wunderlist fits into your life may take some getting used to. I tend to use it primarily for personal tasks as well as day-to-day scheduling, but there are loads of other ways you could incorporate Wunderlist into your personal life, or even into your business. Let me give you an idea of my system… Inbox & Daily To-Do For me, Wunderlist is first and foremost a personal to-do list. When I wake up, I’ll tap open the app, add tasks that I need to complete that day — from picking up groceries to booking a vacation — and get to it. I can break tasks down further if I need. For example, ‘buy plane tickets’, ‘book hotel’, and ‘dust off suitcase’ can all go under ‘Book Vacation’ so that I can make sure to do everything on my list. Often I’ll schedule my whole week in this way, which is easy to do from my phone while on the go. I can move things around if they’re more the tentative task type, or set a deadline for specific to-dos. I tend to work from my ‘Today’ tab, as I know those tasks are the most urgent. That also means limiting my to-dos for the day so that I don’t go overboard and lose my sanity. Some tasks are things I would like to get to, but aren’t imperative for that day’s schedule, hence… Specialty Folders Some tasks are simply longer-term “goals”, if you will. Rather than have that miscellany scattered around my daily dashboard, I file them into looser lists in separate folders for easy organization and less clutter. Unless they’re time sensitive, I don’t schedule a due date. For instance, this winter I’ve got a few things on my “OMG so excited to do these!” list, like go ice skating and take a glass-blowing class. I don’t have exact dates for them just yet, and so until I sign up for said glass-blowing class there’s no need for it to show up on my daily task list. Other Specialty Lists I Currently Have: TBR list, a checklist of video games I keep meaning to finish Business & Blogging Of course, just scheduling posts on my editorial calendar doesn’t mean that I’ll remember to do what’s necessary to publish them. I use Wunderlist to turn My Life as a Teacup-related plans into actionable tasks. I created a separate folder called ‘My Life as a Teacup’ in which to organize my blog items. Within that folder, there is one list for the blog itself and another for Youtube. The ‘Youtube’ list is a way for me to set recording reminders; I’ll start by listing all of the videos I plan to record, add them as subtasks with their own checklist, and then change the due date as I record each one. This way, the overarching task of ‘record Booktube video’ shows up on my daily dashboard when I have a video to record, and I can cross off the videos as I film each one. The ‘Blog’ list houses long-term blog tasks which I can further break down into subtasks, set up recurring instances of (like “write newsletter”), and schedule as I decide to take on the bigger projects. There’s no one correct way to use Wunderlist, but it’s a powerful task management tool when you can incorporate it into your productivity system. For me, that means combining its to-do list power with my Evernote Notebook of Everything, a combo that works wonders for me. Share your Wunderlist tips + tricks in the comments or on Twitter and lets maximize our productivity together!
I am covered in all kinds of mosquito bites from a week spent at bonfires and outdoor concerts with my kick-butt family members. It’s been worth every itchy bug bite (maybe), but that means I’ve spent little time around the computer this week gathering links. Here’s what I’ve got! ♥ The question you always keep asking yourself: Whom should you be writing for? Yourself or your readers? ♥ How one designer made the Facebook icon more empowering ♥ This teen’s self-published book on bullying was just picked up by Scholastic. How cool is that? ♥ Get your summer YA book horoscope courtesy of ForeverYA ♥ Paper Towns vs. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl: How John Green’s novel dismantles the trope ♥ 5 Great Books on Writing What fun links have you found lately?
Last week my Twitter feed let out a collective sigh of frustration when I tweeted this: Some of my favorite responses? I knew resumes weren’t super exciting, but I didn’t know quite how deep my readers’ loathing of job-related writing went! They’re not that scary, I promise! But they do take some getting used to. And what better place to start with all of this resume mumbo-jumbo than at the beginning: what is a resume supposed to be and what is it not? A resume IS NOT an extensive list of every job you’ve ever had since you were 16. A resume IS NOT a one-size-fits-all document. A resume is a summary of your skills, experience, & qualifications. A resume should be specific. A resume should be tailored to the specific job that you are applying for. Simple as those “rules” may be, it’s easy to get stressed out when writing or refining your resume, whether you’re new to the workforce or changing careers. Though I’m not a fan of writing “rules” (hence the quotation marks; if you know me, you know I’m a huge proponent of chucking the rules out the nearest available window), resume writing is a more structured beast that largely depends on the field that you’re going into. Despite a few common rules that are largely upheld across the board, you do have some flexibility in crafting your individual resume. But how do you know which rules to adhere to and which to break in the name of standing out? Here are three things your resume should include, regardless of how creative of an industry you’re entering or how much you’re dying to stand out from the crowd: Numbers. When it comes to resumes, specificity is king. Rather than use subjective language to talk about the “mass online book club” that you run, give measurable numbers. How big is “mass”? Is 50 people what you consider “mass”? 5,000? Numbers clear up vague descriptions and give employers a sense of your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to get specific and say “I run an online book club with over 250 active members. We operate 7 sub-groups for topics including non-fiction, zombie fiction, and Neil Gaiman.” Objective measurability at its finest. Your contact information. It sounds like a no-brainer but I can’t tell you how many times I see a resume with no contact information. Your name is great and all (and important), but how is a future employer supposed to get in touch to talk about your awesome skills!? Thanks to email, mailing addresses aren’t so important anymore but make sure to include your phone number and an email address that you check frequently. Tip: don’t forget to check said email (and your spam folder, too!) Keywords from the job posting. The job posting is the first thing I ask my clients for when developing a resume. More often than not, employers will tell you exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate in the job description itself. Sometimes you’ll find key words under the “skills” or “qualifications” section, but just using the language of the posting helps to align yourself as a candidate with the skills that the company is looking for, without the company having to guess at how your skills are related to the position.For example, if the posting lists “ensure alignment with the company’s brand and image” as a responsibility of the job, I would hone in on the words “align”, “brand”, and “image”. Then when I write my resume, I can use the same vocabulary in talking about my experiences (i.e. “Maintain a consistent voice across social media that aligns with the My Life as a Teacup brand”.) These certainly aren’t the only things that make a killer resume, but it’s an easy place to start when sprucing up your resume for potential employers to peruse. Go ahead, take out your resume. Yes, right now. I’ll wait. Scan through it. Does your resume have these three things? If not, put them there! Right now! It’ll take you 30-minutes tops, and give your resume the boost it needs. Want more tips like these? Subscribe to my newsletter for even more career & writing advice!
♥ Fantastic ways to say no ♥ Why I’ll always love boy bands ♥ Language-wise a bit NSFW, but an otherwise insightful piece that’s (probably) true long past your 20s — Things You Learn When a Long-term Relationship Collapses in Your Twenties ♥ It’s not uncommon to hear about how difficult Japanese is from English-speakers. But what about the other side? What do Japanese college students think of English? ♥ Kissaten: A slowly dying part of Japanese culture (that I miss dearly from my own trips to Japan!) They’re much more than a coffee shop ♥ Speaking of Japan, Kam just got back from her trip there! Here are her top 10 things to do in Japan. ♥ 53 of the Most Heartbreaking Sentences in Fantasy Books ♥ And on that note, 51 of the most beautiful sentences in literature ♥ The evolution of the American home, as told by interactive slide-thingy ♥ 4 of the biggest Pinterest marketing mistakes (and how you can fix them!) ♥ 5 Ways to Find Your Writing Ritual ♥ If you’re like me and better at making plans than executing them, check out The Simple Dollar’s 10 Strategies for Becoming a Doer ♥ Dramatic irony in Jurassic Park. You heard me. ♥ Talk about hopeful and beautiful: Gail Simone’s Inspiring Tweet-Storm About the Bright Present & Future of Comics