Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Unblog.

This coming week my three year old son has eye surgery, I have a seven year old's surprise birthday to plan, and I really need to catch-up on writing my Jedda Hitler book. So that means I'm going to unplug all week. All. Week.
I've never done that before...
Today (Saturday) I'm going to try and visit as many of your blogs as I can, but if I don't get to them all, I apologize. Please believe I wanted to. And that I'll miss ya'll terribly.

I'll see ya'll back on May 3rd for Elana's Hug an Author Tour Day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When I look in the mirror, all I see is GREEN.

You have probably noticed by now that I’m a big Earth lover. Call me a Tree Hugger, an Earth Muffin, a Granola, or whatever. I don’t care. (I personally like Hippybilly or Reformed Red-neck, since I’m a country girl with a fondness for environmental issues.)

My love will never change. In so many ways I believe this Earth is our stewardship, God-given and inherent for us to protect as thinking, acting, human beings. We have a very real obligation to take care of it. Especially those of us fortunate enough to live in countries where we have an abundance of food, clothing, shelter and the luxury of resources to worry about such issues.

Here are some things you might consider doing on this day of days:

1. Enroll in a good cause, whether you give monetarily or of your time is up to you. My personal favorites are The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, or your state Wildlife Management Agencies. I volunteered and/or worked for two of these organizations for several years and can tell you that volunteers are vital to how well they run.

2. Take your family somewhere they can learn about the Earth. The new Disney Oceans is playing right now. Tour your local recycling center. Many cities have educational centers like Flagstaff’s Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, or go to any kind of science center (our town is home to the famous Lowell Observatory). Teach your children the importance of our planet health.

3. Pick up trash.

4. Order a recycling can. (It’s a big pet peeve of mine when I drive by a trash can full of cardboard. Unnecessary waste.)

5. Plant a tree or two. Or ten.

6. Contribute to the Carbon Neutral Blogging Program, because our blogging creates carbon dioxide. And this program is free! (Push translate in the top right corner to read it in English.)

All you have to do is this:

Write a short blog post about the “My blog is carbon neutral” program and put the button linked on my sidebar to your own blog. Send the link to your blog to and the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree for you in the recently burned Plumas National Forest (one of my in-laws favorite haunts).

I could go on, but I'll stop there.

Because yeah, it’s a big soap box of mine and I have a feeling many of you share my opinion.

So today, plant a tree. Give back. Or even things out at least. Your children will thank you when that tree grows up and what’s more, they’ll remember your example every time they look at it. We only have one planet and we are the guardians over it. So please do what you can to keep it healthy!

Okay, that's enough linkage for now...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blogging Advice from YOU!

Response to Monday’s post on blogging was so wonderful that I felt I need to show-off YOUR great advice.

Here’s the summary:
• Reciprocate! If someone follows you, it’s good business and friendly fun to follow their blogs in return.
• People can’t follow you back if Google doesn’t have your blog added as a link. You can add it in your Google “My Account”. Otherwise they can find you if you comment.
• It’s nice to add an email address to your Google Account too, so that when you leave a comment on someone’s blog, they can respond back with a personal note to you. (But only if you like your email inbox, eh, Holly? Ha, ha.)
• Google Reader, Blogger Dashboard, or self-made blog rolls are all great ways to keep track of when blogging friends have new posts.
• Read five new blogs a day from bloggers who don’t normally comment on your blog.
• If someone new checks out your blog, be quick about going and checking out their blog.
• Word verification can get annoying if it’s not embedded, and instead comes up in a different window after the commenter pushes “Publish”. Otherwise, word verification is a necessary evil for those of us who might have kids visiting our blogs.
• Word verification can be turned on for older posts so that they don’t get spammed. (I’ve no clue how to do this, but go ask Southpaw, she does it for her blog.)
• Give your comment section a feeling of a conversational party, a zone that welcomes discussions. I’ve no advice for this, but Lisa, Laura, and Tricia mention it and show how to do this by example on their own blogs.
• There’s only so much time for blogging, so just do what you can do!
• Write things on your blog you enjoy so it doesn't become a chore.
• Readers know when you’re being insincere, so be yourself and you’ll find your own voice and make friends in the process!
• Don't worry if people come and go, we all only have so much time.

Thanks to Wendy, Sharon, Nisa, Aubrie, Southpaw (Holly), Myrna, Tricia, Sarah Jayne, Julie, Karen G., Kelly, SB, Talli, Jayne, Shannon, Ruth, Ann, notesfromnadir, Carolyn V., Susan, Storyqueen (Shelley), Jemi, Steena, Stina, ModernDayDrifter, Michele, Lisa&Laura, Theresa, Crystal, Anne, Roxy, Danyelle, Samuel, and Dawn for weighing in!

One last question on blogging and I’ll shut up about it, I promise: What do you think of Stat Counter? Do you use it? Do you like it?

I don’t normally blog on Thursdays, but tomorrow is EARTH DAY—glorious, blessed day to celebrate our planet, so please stop by. (Or better yet, post something of your own about our Earth and leave me the link!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Follow me, don't follow me...

For some reason I have a REM song running through my head. I feel Orange Crushed... I can't imagine why...

There are so many nuances about blogging that I'm slowly learning. I believe most blogging skills have to be learned by trial and error, but today I’d appreciate YOUR tips, input, and advice. I’ve been to your blogs and have said, “How did they DO that?!” Or I’ve received great help from your posts about blogging. For example, Elana Johnson is an amazing blogger with a thousand great tips about efficient blogging (and because she takes her own advice, she has over a thousand followers).

One thing I really struggle with is being able to click on new followers and view profiles. Sometimes they link up, sometimes not. Is it something they haven’t set up or is it my ineptitude? Often I know they have a blog, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s not showing up.

I have other burning questions too:

Do you allow Google to have your email so that people can respond to your comments that way? Do you use pop-up security, Google Reader, or a networked blogs feature? If so, why? Do you respond to your commentors, and if yes, do you do it on your blog or via email?

And what about blogging etitquette? I had to learn some the hard way! Like, when is it okay to unfollow without hurting someone’s feelings? Is it ever okay to lurk? (Because I only lurked for a long time.) And how do you create a Voice for your blog, a voice for yourself? Mine was certainly and evolution, which is still evolving….

Since I’ve gotten serious about blogging, I’ve met fantastic friends. Great friends! But blogging is work at times. It’s like having to call 150 best friends everyday. And the cool thing is I want to! But how to find the time?

What are your thoughts on blogging?
Here’s what I think: Blogging is awesome fun when I view it as a way to reach out rather than to build a platform. When it's all about it me it feels like drudgery.
Tips I believe in: Use Google reader! Ditch the security pop-up windows—I lose more comments that way when I close the window before the verification window comes up. Be gracious to followers and they’ll come back! Follow others, those that support your blog as well as those that just plain need the support. Somewhere along the way you’ll find your voice, your niche, and meet a few life-long friends. Let Google Profile have your email so that you can receive the personalized comment replies bloggers want to give you. And most of all, Be Yourself!

And… If you’re following me and I’ve not reciprocated, please let me know. Give me a link, I’d love to find out all about you!
Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure!

(And yeah, I’m actually going to start with setting for once!)

The advent of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird evoked emotions only the early days of spring could rouse. Warm weather and a gentle breeze forced the house-ridden mother of three outdoors. And nothing, not even the love of her blogging friends, could send her back in again.

That is, until she remembered…

1. Her own mother.

Go to the status update.

2. Her Promised $20 Gift Certificate giveaway.

Go to the winner announcement.

Three lovely awards from three lovely ladies:

The Sugar Doll Award from Julie Dao at The Silver Lining. When (not if) you visit her blog, make sure you sign up for her 200 followers contest.

The Beautiful Blogger Award from Jemi Fraser at Just Jemi, a must-follow site for writers making their way through the publishing journey.
And, more recently…

The From Me to You Award from the adorable Ann at Inkpots and Quills. Her blog is one of a writer with a traveler’s heart. I can’t fulfill this award without switching my point of view back to first person (because frankly it feels creepy writing about myself in third person).

1. I love Tikka Masala. Someday I hope to travel to London not only because I have a couple books set there, but because I want to go on a one-woman mission to sample all the Tikka Masala stands in the city.
2. If I had all the money I could wish for, I would still live in my little house in the country.

3. It's hard to get to know me in person (even though I have a face that’s like an open book) but once you’re my good friend, you are for life.

4. I love the color green, and I don’t just mean money!

5. I’ve known my husband since he was 17 and I was barely 18. We didn’t like each other very much.

6. I went to Rome for a week and had a hard time even enjoying myself because I missed my daughter (then 3 years old) too much. I can’t wait until they’re older and I can take them on adventures with me!

7. I once hiked 22 miles in one day with a full pack. That was twelve years ago so don’t ask me if I could do that again now.

I pass these lovely awards on to:

Kirsten Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way because she has such a generous heart and blog.

L. T. Elliot @ Dreams of Quill and Ink because she has a sweet strength about her I wish I could convey in my blogging.

Theresa Milstein @ Substitute Teacher’s Saga because she is a great critiquer and has become my good friend over the past few months.

Bethany Wiggins @ Shooting Stars because she is one of the main reasons I popped out of my shy blogging shell.

Bekah @ Write Out of Ordinary because she is another wonderful critiquer, an amazing writer, and I’ve been honored to be her exchange partner for a few years now.

Judith Engracia @ I Eat Books Like You for Breakfast because her waiting emails in my inbox send a great warmth to my heart.

Kristi Thom @ Oh Glorious Food because she is a true friend and the first person to get me into blogging.
I adore these women! But thanks to all my blogging friends, I’m so glad to have met all of you!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interviews: In honor of National Library Week!

There are many places in my little city of Flagstaff that cultivate a sense of community. But to me, nowhere is it cultivated more than at our public library. Especially in the youth services section. These ladies make visiting a joy!

That's why it's my privilege to showcase two of our finest Youth Librarians and Youth Librarian Assistants. They have kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions....


1. What prompted you to become a Youth Services Librarian? Could you tell us a little about your path to working in our library?

K: I've had various public librarian roles, (over 20 years worth!) but the unpredictable nature and the intellectual energy that youth, 0-18, and their caregivers bring to a library has always been a draw for me. I have an undergrad in physical education and while teaching aerobics in church basements and community colleges, raising 3 kids, and running a town basketball league for all those players that 'don't make the school team', I, on a long shot, applied for a local public library position. I enjoy the exuberance and novelty of youth programs at a library, from preschoolers to teens to outreach on the PALSmobile. For me, youth services is a good fit. I just finished a Master's in Library Science from the University of Arizona.

M: I have a B.S. in Education and also a degree in Early Childhood Education, with an emphasis in Literature. I was a preschool teacher for over 25 years. My library involvement began as a young child, living close enough to be able to walk to our local libary. I volunteered as a teenager in the same library and then for 8 years for our sons' school libraries. In Calif. the school libraries in the 1980's would not have been able to stay open during school hours if it weren't for parent volunteers. I also volunteered here in Youth Services when we first moved to Flagstaff; worked as a "temp" for 8 years and then the permanent position for 3 years.

2. What is a favorite Picture Book, Middle Grade, and/or Young Adult book (fiction or non) at the moment?

K: I love the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems, especially Today I Will Fly. I have always loved Heidi by Spyri, probably because I first read it at a time when I wished so hard that I could go shoeless and sleep in a hay loft like Heidi. Nancy Farmer is a favorite tween/teen author of mine.

M: My picture book favorite is Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo for Middle grade reading and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and also The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for the young adult choices.(It is very hard to make one choice!)

3. What is one of your favorite things about your job?

K: When a child convinces their parent to look inside the PALSmobile, and a few weeks later you see the whole family at the public library for the very first time; this is powerful and probably the most rewarding part of my job. Climbing aboard and checking out books, has the potential to change our future.

M: There are so many areas of my job here in Youth Services that I truly enjoy. Visiting preschools and daycares with the PALSmobile is such fun, and the children and teachers are so appreciative of the service we provide them. Storytimes give me a chance to be a part of the growth and education of children and their parents and to introduce them to our library and all we have to offer.


4. What kinds of elements are teens and tweens asking for when they come to you for a book recommendation?

K: 'Tweens are all over the place in their taste for books. It seems to depend on their reading level. Titles are often selected because of a movie buzz or because the jacket cover looks scary. Teens, those that are reading for pleasure rather than doing school required titles, often want edgy, contemporary themes such as drug abuse, teen parents, dying young, homelessness, GLBTG. Fantasy/Sci-fi remains a popular genre, especially books in series. It seems that vampires are waning.

M: Fantasy, time travel and adventure series have been the favorite choices of the tweens and teens over the last 4 or 5 years.

5. At least one of my kids has been going to your story times for the last five years now and we love them! What is your secret to getting kids so excited about the books you read to them?

K: My secret to storytime is that there is a secret in every book. I really try to present the story so that the child discovers that secret and suddenly feels smart, proud, enlightened, and wants to tell everybody all about the story.

M: The secret to a successful storytime is having the stories, songs, fingerplays and music age appropriate. It is also important to be well prepared and enthusiastic.

Thank you so much, ladies! Your answers were wonderful and I appreciate all you do!

And if this interview wasn't cool enough, there are more going on all over. Visit Shelli at Market My Words for the complete list.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Announcing.... WON-hundred WINNERS!

First off, let me say thank you, thank you, thank you to all who participated in my 100 followers celebration. I'd hug you all, but that might be a bit awkward. And um... a little unfeasible. However, I want to give you the equivalent of a blog hug and follow you in return, so if I've somehow missed your blog, please leave me a note and I'll be over to check out your site ASAP.

Now without further ado, the winners are....

1. The Gift Basket of LUCK........................ SUSAN FIELDS

(So ironic, since she's having a 100 follower giveaway of her own. Hee, hee.)

2. The Treat of Sheer Chocolate Joy.................. KRISTI THOM

(Also ironic as Kristi's in the middle of a three-month-long sugar purge. LOL!)

3. The Party iTunes Gift Card........................... REBECCA T.

(The irony is killing me.... her blog is called Sonshine Music!)

4. The Entertainment (a terminable subscription to Netflix) ..................................Abby Annis

(Okay, this one isn't ironic, but her blog is highly entertaining.)

Ladies, if I don't have a snail mail address where I can reach you, please email it to me at jackee(dot)alston(at)gmail(dot)com so I can send your prizes out this week.

As far as the bonus gift card, I didn't reach 133 followers. But that doesn't matter. This giveaway was never about me collecting people, so check back on Friday, make sure you're a follower, and one person chosen at random will receive a $20 gift card to an online bookstore of your choosing.

Congrats to the winners. (And by the way, you're all winners in my book!)


Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. It's now closed to entries and I will be posting the winners tonight (when I get back home from my birthday vacation).

So this week, look for the following posts:

1. TONIGHT: Giveaway winners posted!
2. TOMORROW: Local librarian interviews in honor of National Library Week!
3. WEDNESDAY: A choose your own adventure!

Thanks for being my wonderful friends and have a wonderful weekend... er... at least what's left of it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Welcome WON-hundred Followers Week (and then some)

Thank you for all your kind words concerning my mother. Aside from my husband, she is the person I’m closest to. So, yeah, I’m pretty upset as is my whole family. But dark moments come to everyone and time marches on, whether we want it to or not.

Anyway… in lieu of Search and Find Friday tomorrow, I’m bringing out the party banners, balloons, and baskets. This next week is officially Welcome Won-hundred Followers Week!

That means it’s time for another basket giveaway. And as some of you know, my baskets are considered very lucky (just go ask Shelley, if you don’t believe me).
So from now until Saturday, April 10th, 5 pm PST, all you follower/friends (in-whom-I-am-so-grateful-for) will have a chance to win a gift basket from a cool Flagstaff local business called Creative Gifts To Go. I picked the company because a) they’re local and a small business and b) because they have a plethora of choices so that I can fit the winner’s tastes. The date was chosen because, yep, it’s my birthday. So since I’m turning 33, I’ll be adding a bookstore gift card to one lucky runner up if we pass up 133 followers by then. There will probably be a couple of consolation prizes too, since we can't have a party without treats (and by treats I mean CHOCOLATE), music (ITUNES), and entertainment (MOVIE NIGHT!).

The party rules? Simple. Be a follower and leave me a tally below. Now I’ll leave you to your honesty to do the rest……………………….

ETA: Apparently my brother-in-law doesn't have a follower sidebar to follow him, so instead for the bonus point you can either a) leave him a message telling him you would like to follow him or b) go into your Google Reader page and cut and paste his URL to your blog role. Sorry about the mix-up!