Sarah Lea Stories was born in the blogosphere as firstname.lastname@example.org, eventually graduating to https://sarahleastories.com/.
My first blog post was published on October 24, 2013: https://sarahleastories.com/2013/10/24/the-treasury-of-the-sara-madre/. I was a new mom, practically a newlywed, and hadn’t even started college yet.
Since 2013, SLS has gone through many incarnations. I was actually pretentious enough, once upon a time, to call myself The Populist Poetess; now I’m The Post-It Poet, bridging brevity with gender neutrality (I still prefer the terms actress and sculptress, but no one uses poetess). Now, my concentration is on getting my B.A. in Creative Writing in three years (or less) and editing everything I’ve written thus far.
It’s rather serendipitous that my 1000th blog post would fall on this day–as I finally made it to the local writer’s group I belong to–reconnecting (outside of Facebook and one-on-one chats over lunch or coffee) with friends I’ve known since before I started this blog (and making a new one). It’s been at least two years since I’ve attended a meeting. Throughout the months, perhaps even years, I’ve sort of kept up with the group through the monthly group emails, not realizing how much I’d missed it, missed them, till I went back today.
I’d gotten acquainted with the group through a Facebook political page in 2012 (the page’s administrator was a local woman). No dues, only kind critiques were required. It was perfect.
I always learn something from each of the members, who generally share their news and a piece they’ve written; sometimes we do a writing exercise. This month’s prompt was to create a Twitter account for a deceased person (their handle, bio, and maybe even a web address), which became homework. I’m not on Twitter anymore (it’s so impersonal, and there’s a lot of ugliness), but I love fun, short challenges like this.
We’re a diverse group–writing everything from magazine nonfiction to children’s books to blog posts to creative writing. Today, I read a piece I’m submitting to Shutterfly for a $500 gift card contest, writing from the perspective of the giver rather than the receiver.
It was just so good to be able to share something in my own voice.
Every book I’ve created through Shutterfly has had special significance, and I don’t just give them to anyone. So many hours, I’d be in the Writing Lab with its giant monitors, perfecting them, reading them aloud where no one would hear me. That Lab was where I spent most of my lunches for the several months I worked at the college after graduation.
I am practically the unofficial brand ambassador for Shutterfly and am finalizing my ninth and tenth book through the site.
Writing is what I want to do more than anything else, and if it’s in technical writing, so be it. It is still writing and every experience I have, whether it be writing press releases, biographies for an event program, articles for a newspaper, etc., it all helps me become a better writer. Even when I worked for my alma mater’s Writing Lab, I learned so much. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Practicality is what compelled me to major in Health Information Technology, but the only class I enjoyed (and I enjoyed it quite a lot) was Medical Terminology. I still have a medical dictionary one of my professors gave me, but beyond that, it was excruciatingly painful to sit through those courses. About halfway through the program, I realized I liked the idea of wearing scrubs and working evenings (not being an early morning person) in a big hospital more than I would like the work. I could write about those things, but I could never be those things.
I am finally pursuing what I’ve always wanted to do full-time. I’ve never been much of a risk taker, and I am blessed to be able to do that now. It just took four years of surviving, of barely making it financially, to get to that point.
That said, no matter where life takes me careerwise, I will always blog at least twice weekly; I’ve learned a lot through blogging process: how to schedule posts in advance, increase my SEO (by using key words), and add share buttons for Facebook, LinkedIn, et cetera–all basic but useful things. Now if WordPress would just put more attractive ads on my page (without me having to pay to take them off), that would be the cats.
As I prepare for uni, I realize I’ve been writing so much that I haven’t been taking the time to edit anything, including my Southern Gothic horror novel, which I “advertise” on Fiction Fridays: https://sarahleastories.com/category/fiction-fridays/.
While in school, I’m going to read a lot more nonfiction (about writing), finalize my book, and wrap up all my unfinished writing projects–not to mention all the writing I’ll be doing for class. I have the prolific thing down; I just need the perfecting, the polish.
My biggest advice to other bloggers is that you need readers who aren’t writers–people who won’t expect anything in return except great content. Keep cranking it out, but always bank your marketable works to submit for paying opportunities. That is why I only post poetry (i.e. my streams of consciousness with line breaks), book reviews, and the occasional personal essay (by the time most of my essays got published, it would be old news)–never chapters of my novel, short stories, or any portion of my children’s nursery rhyme collection, which I plan on hiring a student to illustrate (same goes for my book cover).
By the time I reach my 2000th post, I want to have:
- Finished editing my novel, Because of Mindy Wiley, and have it ready to publish: https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/
- Finished my second collection of children’s nursery rhymes, Golden Plates and Silver Spoons
- Been published in the print (or online) edition of The Saturday Evening Post
- Making a good living writing (or where writing is part of the job)
- Graphically designing all my blog post images myself, eliminating the need for stock photos (and using my own photos whenever possible). I became aware of just how awful stock photography was (not the quality of the image but the lack of originality on my part) when I saw an image I’d used for one of my posts elsewhere (in three different places)
- Read at least 100 books on writing (and reviewed them)
- And, most importantly, developed a lifelong love of books in my daughter–she already requests “Punch and Judy” every night, which is a delight
And, by my 2000th post, I will have graduated from college a second time. For a while, I had considered being a polysomnographer (my dad has sleep apnea) or doing something with hearing aids (I have unilateral hearing loss), but being honest with myself and true to myself led me on the path that I should’ve taken all those years ago.
Writerly and Grammarly,
Sarah Richards, Class of 2022