Enough by Kate Conner [Book Review & Giveaway]

You may remember Kate Conner sharing her publishing journey with us during last year’s Everyday Author series in this post, this post, and this post. Today, I’m so excited to be celebrating with her and bragging on her NEW BOOK, to be released August 1:

Enough | 10 Things We Should be Telling Teenage Girls

You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

I’ve followed Kate’s blog for a while. What draws me to read each and every one of her posts is her ability to engage me as a reader, weaving the wisdom and truth of Scripture through the humor of everyday life observation. Enough is no different. Based on her viral post Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls, Kate explores a list of things every teenage girl should know from the people who love her most.

In her own words . . .

Click HERE if the YouTube embed is not visible on your mobile device.

It’s not just about teenage girls

I don’t have girls, and it’s been a few years since I’ve worked with teenagers, but this book gripped me in ways I was almost unprepared for. I laughed, and cried, and highlighted my way through truths that spoke very clearly to my own heart, and I’m dealing with them still. Teenage girls are not the only ones who struggle with concepts of beauty, perception, emotion, and belonging, but what a gift to start that education young.

I finished reading this book (in record time!) with three thoughts:

  1. Man, that was an incredible book!
  2. I wish someone would have read this book for me, when I was a teenager.
  3. Thank God it’s never too late to learn important things.

To Connect with Kate

You can pick up a copy of Enough for yourself, or a copy of 10 Things For Teen Girls for the teenage girl you love, by clicking on the links in this post. For more of Kate, you can find her blogging regularly at kateelizabethconner.com, or posting on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Go follow – you’ll be happy you did :).

Enter for a chance to win a copy of Enough

I’m so excited that B&H Publishing is giving away a free copy of Kate’s book to one lucky reader. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment in this post saying why you’d love to read Enough. Winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, July 30.

Fine Print

  • Giveaway is open from Wednesday, July 23, 7AM CST through Wednesday, July 30, 7AM CST and open to residents of the continental United States only.
  • Winner will be selected by Random.org, announced on Facebook, and notified by email on Wednesday, July 30. (So please leave a valid email address when prompted before commenting!)
  • One entry per person, please, thanks, and good luck!

I was given an advance copy of Kate Conner’s new book Enough: 10 Things We Should Tell Teenage Girls in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own. Some contextual affiliate links apply.

Loving your Small(ish) Blog | Word to the Newbies | Week 7

We are rounding out this summer’s blogging series - Word to the Newbies with a few more posts. Today I’m sharing about embracing and loving the blog you have. Even if it’s small.

Photo Source | Edits Mine

Photo Source | Edits Mine

I have never once, in real life or online,  run into a blogger who is completely satisfied with posting, just for the sheer joy of it.

As much as that element is present for bloggers that have any kind of staying power, there is always the desire to be seen, read, and appreciated by their followers. Part of the whole blogging payoff is knowing that what you’ve written, created, or presented to the world through your little online window meant something to someone else.

It would follow, that many bloggers experience a kind of angst after posting their very best work, and checking their stats all day long to find that all of four people viewed their post. One of which was their best friend. Two, themselves checking from different devices and only one, an actual verifiable visitor . . . bless that last persons little heart.

The truth is, those days suck. But I would bet 99% of the bloggers you read on the internet have had a day like that too, at one point or another. Instead of wondering what’s wrong with you/your blog, googling all the things that made successful bloggers successful, and trying to simulate some of their online love – let me remind you of a few very important things:

“Small” is normal

Wikipedia‘s best guess is that there are over two-hundred-and-forty-seven-million Tumblr and WordPress blogs worldwide. That’s not counting all the other blogging platforms that exist across the vast expanse of the internet.

According to WordPress.com’s stats alone, their users publish 42.6 million new posts EACH MONTH. In that same month, 14.4 BILLION WordPress pages will be viewed by over 409 million readers.

Translation: If you’re getting 35 hits PER MONTH you’re doing really, really well.

“Small” is WAY more normal than you’d think.

Maybe you’re not ready for a “big” blog

I know this one’s hard to hear, but if you’re not a self-aware blogger, when you do get big traffic, you won’t be ready.

Dream with me a little. What would happen if your blog magically got 20,000+ hits in a twenty-four hour period of time?

  • Would a visitor like the look and feel of your blog enough to read more, and come back?
  • Would someone be able to find where similar posts are on your site?
  • Would readers be able to quickly find your social media outlets?
  • Or would your site just lay down and die for all the stress? (404 error pages are NOT where you want an influx of traffic to land!) 

Everyone’s always looking for their “big break,” but you’ve got to be ready for it when it comes. If you’re running a small blog, you have time to make updates and improvements that a “big” blogger must have. Immediately.

So take that time and work diligently to create consistent, quality content. Post engaging images. Be present on social media. Re-organize your site. Brush up on the things you need help on, and take joy that you have not maxed out your potential. You have room to grow, and therefore so does your blog.

Magic traffic fizzles. Consistent hard work and determination always win.

Finding your niche is so much simpler on a small blog

There is a misconception out there that before you start a blog you must know exactly what you will post, in what style, and how often, from now until forever and ever amen. That rule may exist in the realm of possibility for someone, somewhere, but probably not for you or I.

I met this girl during my last freelance project, who commented how cool it was that I was a blogger. She went on to say how much she’d like to start her own, but didn’t know what niche she could fit herself in to generate consistent posts, and good traffic. So she hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

I smiled politely (because I’m a fan of being hired twice), but could not disagree more with her blogging plan. Frankly, that kind of thinking will keep you from starting a blog – ever.

  • If you want to write a big meaningful blog someday, starting small is a quicker way to get there than by doing nothing at all.
  • If you don’t know exactly where you fit online, experimenting with different kinds of posts will help you discover your identity.
  • If you’re not sure of your writing voice, the best way to find it, is by USING it.

Baseball legend Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Translation: Don’t let the fear of finding your voice, or your niche, or changing the plan keep you from blogging at all.

You have to start somewhere. With a small blog, you have time and space to try things – lots of things, anythings – and learn from both the successes AND failures. Starting small lets you make mistakes, or change course, or find your voice relatively privately. And that’s not a bad thing.

YOU (and your blog) are unique

It is helpful to hear how other bloggers got their start, and how their site exploded, but don’t try to make their story your own. You are unique and so is your blog. If you polled 100 big bloggers, they’d have 100 different stories of how they made it where they are. Sure they have perspective, but please don’t expect to follow a formula to get from point A to point B. It just doesn’t work.
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Being you, however, will.
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Find YOU, and then do that well. Your blog will follow.

so LOVE that small blog

  • Be thankful for what you have and work towards what you want.
  • Embrace “small” so when you find “big,” you’re ready.
  • Try, try, and try some more. There is value in the journey and in the discovery.
  • Hold tight to who you are and be proud of your individuality.
  • Do “small” well. It’ll pay off. I promise.

Luke 16:10 (NIV) “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”

Word to the Newbies | Series Page

About the Author

Christine TrevinoChristine is a wife, stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Her blog christinetrevino.com celebrates family and motherhood, her faith journey, and her love of all things creative. She’s in love with a good latte, and lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and two boys. Christine Trevino | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Making Friends with Your Competition | Word to the Newbies | Week 6

Hey Friends! You’re joining us for week 6 of Word to the Newbies – a guest series full of best advice, from bloggers, to bloggers. Today’s guest is Faith from Life of Faith, and her word to the newbies is about competition and online friendships.

Making Friends with your Competition | Word to the Newbies | Week 6

Photo Source | Edits Mine

Hey there! I am excited to be sharing with you what I wish I knew when I first started blogging. I began The Life of Faith as more of a personal journal until I realized how much I enjoyed writing and sharing what was on my heart! I absolutely loved knowing that what I was writing actually meant something to someone else.

When I started to monetize my blog, my perspective began to change and I saw blogging as more of a job rather than something I did simply because I enjoyed it! As that mindset took over, I began to view other bloggers as competition.

These are just a few of the ways this affected me:

  • I rarely visited or commented on other blogs
  • I never shared other blogger’s posts (even if I liked them!)
  • I did no networking whatsoever
  • I didn’t make friends with fellow bloggers who reached out to me
  • I felt jealous if I saw another blogger getting more “likes” or getting more subscribers than me

I soon realized that this mindset was not only harming my blog, but it was harmful to me as well! I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing and I was missing out on so many opportunities!

No one understands you like another blogger.

We are a special brand of humans who get enjoyment from countless hours of writing, designing, editing and staring glassy-eyed at a computer screen. When you cut yourself off from that connection, you are not only missing out on great support but also amazing friendships! After becoming a member of an online blogging community, I met some amazing Christian bloggers (Christine being one of them!) who changed my life. Not only did we help each other out with sharing posts and troubleshooting site issues, but we were also there for each other emotionally and spiritually to offer advice and lift each other up in prayer. After being part of that group, I realized that I needed to change my blogging perspective and align it with Philippians 2:3-4,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

For me, that meant reaching out to other bloggers, not as a competitor but as a friend! I started “liking” other blogger’s posts, sharing them, commenting on them, and linking up with them at link parties. I stopped looking at the numbers and started to blog not for my own success, but rather to be a blessing to others! The reward from viewing my fellow bloggers as friends rather than competitors has been so rewarding! Not only has my blog grown, but I have made amazing friendships with moms who are in the same stage of life as I am and share many of the same values. In fact, I’ve even had the chance to meet up with some local bloggers over the past couple of years and it has been so fun being able to share my life with these amazing women!

Faith Konrath and Blogging Friends

Amanda from Amanda Lynne Designs, Aleks from A Slocum Story, and Sarah from The Linley House.

If you are starting out, my number one word of advice to you would be to make friends, get to know your fellow bloggers, and network, network, network! Even if your blog never ends up being the next big thing, at the very least you will have made some great connections and hopefully even life-long friends!

I would love to be your friend and encourage you as you begin this blogging journey! You can find me at The Life of Faith, or contact me here.

Word to the Newbies | Series Page

About the Author

Faith Faith is a daughter of God, wife, and mama to a sweet little girl. She is a part-time nanny of three, employee at AllieRuth Design, a personal Etsy shop owner, and author at Life of Faith. When she has a spare moment, she loves healthy cooking, crafting of any sort, organic gardening, camping with her family, and relaxing with a good cup of cream and coffee!

Life of Faith | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Mom Trevino’s Cherry Torte

My in-laws were in town over Dad’s birthday and to celebrate we made Mom’s Cherry Torte. This family recipe, descended from Mike’s Grandma Vara, was a huge hit – not only with my own boys, but also at a recent family gathering.

The best part? This is one of those super-simple, I-can’t-believe-how-easy-this-is types of desserts, that’s substitute-friendly for all types of seasonal palettes. I’m pretty partial to the raspberry filling myself . . .

Mom Trevino's Cherry TorteWhat you need

  • 1 – 8 oz container Cool Whip
  • 1-1/2 bricks Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 – 21 oz can of cherry (or other) pie filling
  • 1 – 9 oz ready-made graham cracker crust

Raspberry variation of Mom Trevino's Cherry Torte

How to make it

  1. Set Cool Whip and cream cheese out at room temperature to soften.
  2. With an electric mixer, blend softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Fold softened Cool Whip into cream cheese mixture with a spoon.
  4. Level cream cheese & Cool Whip mixture into the bottom of the prepared crust.
  5. Spread pie filling evenly on top.
  6. Freeze for at least one hour before serving. Torte can be frozen overnight for a more ice-cream like treat.

 

Using Images on Your Blog | Word to the Newbies | Week 5

You’re joining us for week 5 of Word to the Newbies - a guest series featuring some of the best advice bloggers have for beginners dipping their toe into the big wide world of blogging.

Agatha and I have been friends since before we lost all our baby teeth (which means of course, we’ve got lots of fabulous pre-teen photos together), and I am so excited to introduce you to her today. She’s smart, fashionable, and so on trend in so many ways. Her word to the newbies is an extremely valuable one - about the legal use of images on your blog.

Using Images on your Blog | Word to the Newbies | Agatha Kubalski

Photo Source | Edits Mine

A Lesson on Using other People’s Images

I’ve been informally blogging since 2009, so it’s not surprising that the first couple years of posts on my blog are a little….rough. I was still finding my focus and my voice, and just learning the rules of the road. (I’m still working on a few of these.)

One of my very early blogs was a super short post about a homeless person I saw downtown who had an especially creative sign to attract donations. I hadn’t snapped my own photo of this person, so I did a quick Google Image search, and found one online. Without a second thought, I added it to my blog post.

Years later (literally four years later), I got an email from a photographer informing me that I was using the photo without permission, and demanding that I not only take it down but pay her a hefty fee for having had it up on my site all those years. Never mind that my use of the image was completely without malice, never mind that I apologized for using it without her permission, and never mind that I took down the post and the image completely. She still demanded payment and threatened to take me to court for it.

I work in the social media marketing industry, so today I understand the importance of respecting intellectual property and the importance of properly sourcing content and getting permission for it. But this didn’t feel fair. I consulted other blogs about similar situations, talked to a co-worker with knowledge of intellectual property laws and even spoke with a friend who’s a photographer herself.

Ultimately, despite not agreeing with this woman’s threatening and clearly opportunistic approach, I bit the bullet and negotiated a smaller but still very substantial payment for having used her photograph without permission. I accepted I was in the wrong.

It was a difficult lesson to learn, but now I always err on the side of caution when using any image that is not my own. A few tips:

  • Always get written permission to use another person’s image. Be sure you’re clear on any usage terms, sourcing/linking requirements and length of time you can use the image.
  • Try using a website that offers a library of royalty-free or rights-free images. Some of the biggest ones out there include Getty Images, Shutterstock, Alamy, iStockPhoto and Veer. But be careful, not ALL images in these libraries are free to use, and some have a nominal cost, so just read the terms for every individual photo before using it.
  • You can also try design websites like Canva.com (my latest fave), which have a library of images available for use in their design templates. Again, just be sure to check the terms of use. Canva, for example, allows for the use of its images in your design, but you can’t pull the images and use them on their own.
  • When in doubt – don’t use it!

Building your own Library of Images

Second, this lesson has inspired me to always use my own images whenever I can. Last year, I got a fancy camera for my birthday that I’ve been trying to use regularly to capture high-quality images. But even when I’m not carrying that around, I always remember to capture at least a few photos with my cell phone camera.

A few things to remember:

  • When you do capture a photo, try to get a few versions of the image so you have options later on. Take landscape and portrait orientations. Zoom in on a few versions in case you end up wanting to use a close-up shot.
  • I’ve also been working to build a library of versatile images that I’ll be able to use for banners, cover photos or blog posts that aren’t inherently image-oriented. Recently, I needed a somewhat generic image for a blog post about a playlist I built, so I ended up using a shot of Chicago I took when I was flying in at night from a business trip, showing the city all lit up. Although it had nothing to do with music per se, it captured the mood I was trying to convey and I just had it sitting in my image files.

Mixed Emotions Playlist

  • If you see an image you really love online, there’s nothing wrong with recreating your own version of it.

Google’s Auto Awesome Photo Features

If you’re using an Android cell phone and use Google+ to automatically back up images online, you may have noticed some really cool features the platform provides. My favorite is the Auto Awesome feature that automatically creates animated gifs out of your images if you’ve taken several shots of a moving object. This is a dynamic way to incorporate images into your posts. Here are some examples my phone created from images I took.

Optimize your Images

This may be the biggest takeaway from this post. Don’t just post a photo from your image library and call it a day. Be sure to optimize each image file you upload so that these photos can work for you in driving search traffic to your blog. The better you tag your images, the more they’ll show up in Google Image searches to capture a larger audience for your blog.

Here are the top three things you should do to start:

  • Customize the file name. Don’t just keep the default name your camera assigns to each photo, which is probably a non-descript number. Reference what the photo is actually of in your file name.
  • Include an alternative name/tags. This is probably the most important information to include in each photo. When you’re uploading an image to your blog, include descriptive keywords in this description to make sure it’s showing up in the appropriate online search results.
  • Provide captions/descriptions. These help provide context for your readers.

As social media in general becomes more image-oriented, think about how you can use photos to help tell your story. These will also prove to be helpful assets in cross-promoting your posts on networks like Pinterest, Instagram and even Facebook, which places increasing weight on image posts.

Word to the Newbies | Series Page

About the Author

AgathaAgatha is a former Hispanic public relations professional in Chicago, now working at a word of mouth/social media marketing agency. She blogs at her self-titled blog, Agatha Kubalski, about marketing, music and culture, and at Multiple Destinations, about her travels overseas. She’s the proud mama of Othello (her cat), and aspires to be an aspiring musician.

Agatha Kubalski | Instagram | Twitter