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WordPress For Writers

I will be speaking this year at several workshops and conferences on the subject of “WordPress for Writers.” The workshop covers the basic elements of WordPress content structure and organization, then adds the complexities of a site for writers and authors. This is one of a series of articles on WordPress for Writers and Authors.

WordPress is an ideal web publishing platform for almost every business, but especially for writers and authors. A website for everyone else is easy compared to some of the challenges associated with creating an author site.

What makes an author site distinctive from general sites is that the author has an inventory that rarely resides in an ecommerce format. Sales of their books is typically handled by third-party agents like Amazon or book stores. The author also has a wider variety of ways to promote their work and themselves, which I call author site models.

Let’s begin with the basic elements a WordPress site for writers must consider.

  • How to present information on books, sample chapters, articles about the books, and other related material
  • How to present a schedule of author events and activities
  • How to get past the myths of blogger verses writer, writer verses marketer
  • How to create a site that builds a community around the author and/or their books
  • How to create an engaging and interactive site without burdening the author

Break that down for your own business and you may find commonality. We all need to promote our social and business events and activities, our products and services, and do it all while working full-time and staying interactive on the site and social media.

The challenge for authors is a combination of myths, old thinking when it comes to the web, and the complexity of organizing a site around multiple products, services, and topics, some of which may or may not be related. Read More »

WordPress Workshop for Writers in Salem, Oregon

WordPress EventsAre you a writer? Author? Thinking about it? Live in the Salem, Oregon, or nearby areas?

I’ll be leading a workshop in Salem, Oregon, specifically designed for writers and authors using WordPress. The event is part of the great work the Salem Chapter of the Willamette Writer’s Group, a regional group of writers and authors in the Pacific Northwest area.

The events begin with a presentation on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at 6:30PM at Macey’s Salem Center. I will be talking about the challenges of a writer and author site, and introducing members to the different types of sites for writers and authors and how to build a community and audience around a site or book. The meeting is free, I believe.

Sunday, March 16, is a half-day workshop from 1-5PM at the Salem Public Library. We will dive deeper into customizing a WordPress site specifically for the needs of the writer, be it for the author and their books, to support a book or book series, and other alternative site types. This is a highly interactive workshop.

Lorelle presenting at WordCamp San Francisco.Participants in the workshop will need to bring their laptops or tablets. WIFI will be available. If participants do not have a current WordPress site, they will be led through the process of setting up their own free site.

The workshop will be customized based upon the needs of the attendees, so here is a general list of topics covered during the four hour workshop: Read More »

Blog Exercises: Why We Dig

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In the October issue of The Christian Science Monitor, I found this from John Yemma, Monitor Editor:

Why we dig, and what we may find

Sometimes a portal opens into the world of legend. A stone is rolled away from an Egyptian tomb revealing a 3,300 year old Pharaoh’s power and wealth. A Roman city emerges virtually intact from volcanic ash, its dining tables set for dinner, its comfortable lifestyle interrupted by natural disaster. The mummified body of a Stone Age hunter emerges from a glacier in the Alps, and modern forensics determines from the metallurgy of his ax, his DNA, and the pollen on his clothes that he was the product of a surprisingly sophisticated culture.

With most archaeology, pottery shards and bone fragments provide sketchy evidence of unheralded lives. But even with the abundant material found at places like Pompeii, the stories we tell about lost worlds are speculative. New tools and theories always come along to challenge what we currently think we know.

My mind started racing as I read through introductory paragraphs.

One of the underlying goals of this year of Blog Exercises, beyond celebrating the 10th Anniversary of WordPress, is to get you to dig deep into your reasons for blogging as well as your techniques, to help you blog better. It is what you find when you dig into yourself and your abilities that helps us improve.

Digging into blogging techniques, styles, features, functions, and abilities all year, I’ve rediscovered my passion for blogging, for sharing lessons, thoughts, and experiences online. It’s always been there, but now it has new purpose, new energy driving it forward. That’s what I found when I went digging into blogging.

What about your industry? It might not be about blogging or archaeology, but has depths. Have you plumbed them?

As stated by Yemma, no matter what you think you know about all you know, it takes a new tool or theory to throw out your preconceived notions, changing your perspective and maybe the world’s. Everything we know is based upon speculation, though some facts rise to the surface once in a while. It is that speculation that drives the blogging and web publishing industry.

WordPress was inspired from such speculation, from frustration digging into a blogging tool. Matt Mullenweg was tired of the digging, and shouted out to the world that there must be a better way. Mike Little and others responded to say there was, and they started building WordPress from the ashes of their dig.

And what about yourself and your own blogging techniques and styles? Have you really done the homework to blog and communicate online better? Now is the time.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise is to ask yourself why you dig and what will you find if you dig.

Whatever that above quote means to you, let it trigger a response in a blog post. Uncovering, peeling back the layers of our work, of our industry, of ourselves, that’s the true spirit of blogging. Some call it transparency, I call it sharing. You call it whatever you will, but dig now and see what you will find, and share it with us and others.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Where You Came From

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Inspired by these blog exercises, Janet Williams of Janet’s Notebook has been taking her readers on a journey back through time and space, exploring her family’s Chinese heritage from her little corner of the south of England.

Her “Letters from China” have evolved from a few posts to an entire series, and eventually, I hope, a book. I keep nagging her to do so, and she keeps telling me there are no stories left to tell, then she keeps finding more stories.

She has me thinking about my own past. I’m one of the family historians for my own family, and hating that I’m so neglectful of my own family history site recently. I’ve gotten a spark of renewed interest and energy with my mother, trapped with her leg in a cast, going through old photo albums and rediscovering historical images from our family. ‘

The holidays tend to make us nostalgic for family, which makes our ancestors the subject of this blog exercise.

Below is a photograph from about 1928. It features my great grandmother and her children, ranging in age from barely two years old to over 20 years of age. They are standing in front of Ruby Shack I believe, their small cabin in the woods of Wisconsin, a family living on sustenance, the last to turn out the lights on logging in northern Wisconsin. Two of the younger boys are missing, presumably off in the woods hunting deer or bear and stirring up trouble as they were wont to do, as both of my uncles, Robert F. Knapp and Wayne Knapp, shared in their dozens of stories preserved for the family.

Knapp Family - Emma Knapp and her children in front of Ruby Shack - Taylor Rapids Wisconsin - photographer unknown - circa 1928.

What does this picture mean to me?

I look at it and see a long line of ancestors who wouldn’t take no for an answer. They wouldn’t give in, nor up. They built this country with their hands and backs so I could live better.

It speaks of my history, of a family that came over with the earliest pilgrims and nation builders, adventurers diving into the great unknown of the North American continent in the 1600s, determined to survive in spite of all the obstacles put in their path.
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Blog Exercises: Leave Room for the Reader

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.“You must leave room for the viewer to rest and breath as they look at your photograph.”

These wise words were told to me by a long-time professional photographer, gone these many years. As I studied with her and others saying similar things, I began to understand what they meant and applied it eventually to my web design.

There must be space for the reader on your site. Visual space. Verbal space. Quiet places for the reader to rest, absorb, process, and consider what you’ve presented before them.

Look at your site. Is there room for the reader?

This whitespace goes beyond the visual. It is also contextual.

Consider why you don’t get enough comments, if you get any comments at all. Maybe your writing leaves no room for them to say anything because you’ve said it all.

Photography by Lorelle VanFossen - The Tools on the Garage Wall of Don Lee. Woodworking and automotive tools.

Even in this photograph of my cousin’s garage, a wall cluttered with tools from woodworking, boating, and car remodeling, there are places for the viewer to rest their eye among the clutter and just absorb the history behind these old, well-used tools. You can do the same with your site.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to explore your site graphically, visually, and contextually to identify the places where you’ve made room for the reader to rest and consider what you’ve written, and possibly comment upon it.

Look for crowded spaces and open them up. Look for clutter and remove it.

Look for articles that tell the whole story and edit them to allow the reader to be heard, or at least invited to be heard. To join in on the conversation.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

The Loss a Great Man: Nelson Mandela

The news has arrived. It is true that the world has lost a great hero, Nelson Mandela.

A couple years ago I wrote an extensive tribute and reference article on Nelson Mandela when rumors of his death flooded the web. He lived long past the rumors, but today, the rumors come to an end.

Whether or not you are a citizen of the African continent, your life has likely been touched by Mandela. He stood for courage and faith in a free and independent nation, and gave his life to that cause.

Take a moment today and think of what Mandela means to you.

For me, I’m going to pause today and consider how I can be more like Mandela in my own way, living with courage, determination, and hope of a world where we all have the right to be heard and live free of abuse and violence.

Please join me.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: I Don’t Trust That Site

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I recommended an article to a student and they said they didn’t trust that site, thus shed doubt on my personal integrity. I asked why. “Because it’s on Blogspot.”


I have to say that wasn’t the answer I expected. I didn’t expect someone, not web savvy in the least, would associate a blogger on Blogspot/Blogger with a trust issue.

In the early years of, people asked me over and over again why I was using that childish version of WordPress. “It’s for people who don’t know what they are doing with WordPress. You wrote the book on WordPress. Why are you on”

Today, I rarely get asked that question because people like me and so many others proved the worth and value of The team of staff and volunteers at work overtime to ensure sites are protected from comment spam as much as possible with Akismet, and spam sites are easily reported and shut down quickly, increasing the validity and trustworthiness of the site network. We’ve earned that respect and trust.
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Blog Exercises: How to Create a Blogger Identity

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.A rebroadcast of “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” from Freakonomics Radio looked at the impact of a name on society, perception, prejudice, and ability to succeed.

Indeed, there is some evidence that a name can influence how a child performs in school and even her career opportunities. There’s also the fact that different groups of parents — blacks and whites, for instance — have different naming preferences. Stephen Dubner talks to Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney about a mysterious discrepancy in Google ads for Instant Checkmate, a company that sells public records. Sweeney found that searching for people with distinctively black names was 25% more likely to produce an ad suggesting the person had an arrest record – regardless of whether that person had ever been arrested.

…So you might think that names make a big difference. But Steve Levitt insists otherwise. In a paper called “The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names,” Levitt and Roland Fryer argue that a first name doesn’t seem to affect a person’s economic life at all.

Names do, however, reveal a lot about the people doing the naming. Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, talks about his new research (with co-authors Thomas Wood and Alexandra Bass) that looks at how children’s names are influenced by their parents’ political ideology:

Whether you choose to change your name or not as a blogger, this is a fascinating episode, worth the listen.

As a blogger, though, you have the right to be whomever you wish. It works best if you make that choice before you start blogging.

Names are funny things. Like the Freakonmics episode, there is research to indicate that whether we like it or not, decisions are made based upon our names, sometimes by ourselves not just others.

I honestly believe that my name cultivated my personality. I didn’t really know my real name until I was older, being yelled by a nickname across the fields by my family. It wasn’t until we moved to a new school district when I was 13 years old that I put on the “Lorelle” name for a try. A few years later in high school, a new nickname was put on my name tag and Lorelle took a backseat. After college, I decided to become this “Lorelle” moniker that I’d dragged around with me, turning it into a persona like “Madonna” and “Cher.” The one name wonder. I loved it when mail arrived addressed to Mr. Lorelle Lorelle. Computers, fairly new back then, couldn’t handle someone without a last name.
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Blog Exercises: Why Oh Why Ask Why?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Why? Why ask why? Because it is there.

Why is probably the first question out of many children’s mouths. Why does it do that? Why do you do that? Why is it that color? Why does it make that noise? Why, oh, why, oh, why? Why say why? Because it is there.

We want to know how things work. We want to know what makes them tick, go, spin, click, bob, sink, and fly. We are a curious species. We want the answer to the question of why.

There are many whys, reasons behind things, in the world, especially in your industry. Teaching and training people in WordPress, every day I’m faced with the questions of why WordPress does this or that, and not this or that? I’m one of the few around who knows the answers to many of the WordPress whys, being such an old salt in WordPress, and you may be one of the old salts in your industry who also knows why things are done in a particular way.
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Blog Exercises: Making Notifications and Alerts Work for You

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In the blog exercise on eliminating noisy distractions from your computer, mobile phone, and other areas around your working environment, I wanted you to remove the things that interfere with your blogging time and space, with your creative energies. I wanted you to identify what is getting in your way that you might not be conscious of, the intrusion of technology and nuisances in our lives.

In today’s blog exercise, I want to talk about how these notifications and alerts help you blog, and how to incorporate them into your blogging life and work.

The process begins by identifying the priorities in your work. These may change from day-to-day or be consistent.

Consistent priorities for me are checking email (from too many email accounts), blog comments (from too many sites), social media channels, and news. Based upon the input, decisions and actions are made to respond, blog, or take action.

Notifications and alerts concerning these priorities come first on my list, though I’ve chosen to regulate the time I spend, and when I take the time, to pay attention to them. I will often write first, focusing on books and blogs, for the first hour or two of the day, then turn to emails and social media, controlling my energies and time.

Inconsistent priorities are often based upon clients and projects. If I’m working on an article or article series based upon research material, I may use Google Alerts or alerts from my feed reader of found or updated information relative to the article. These are alerts I want and need now, and the interruption is appropriate.

These are the highest on my priority list. Next come comments and updated information from my other various websites and client sites.

WordPress includes email notification features by default. I’ve turned off email notification of comments, comments held for moderation, and other notifications on the sites I access most often as part of my top priority list. Other sites are set to notify me by email.
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Blog Exercises: Eliminate Distracting Notifications and Alerts

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I don’t know how it happened but my new smartphone decided to change my notification settings and now my day is punctuated constantly with peeps, gongs, pings, and beeps.

Such noises might not be blogging related, nor appropriate for these blogging exercises – they are alerts to the business of blogging and tremendous distractions.

These alerts tell me someone’s left a comment on one of my sites, followed a site, + or liked it, responded by contact form or direct by email, or through a social media channel. The noises shout at me to stay connected and respond now to each reaction and response to my blog posts.

It’s exhausting sometimes, and definitely distracting.

Four alerts went off during the writing of this post so far.

To get to this point in the article, if I can despite the distractions, I’ve responded to two blog comments, one tweet, four Google+ notifications, and one contact form request to this point, and I’m barely into this article.

Oh, and the cat wanted out, and back in, during the same time period.

It’s a wonder I get any blogging done.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.We all have a variety of distractions that attack our attention. Your blog exercise today is to pause and identify what is pulling your attention away, and establish a plan to restructure all the busy distractions you face every day.

For me, this meant going through all of my mobile apps, both on the smartphone and tablet, and turning off all notifications save ones of priority importance. I then went through my computer and turned off email and other notifications.

I am debating adding a cat flap to my office door.

I’m working on my time management skills to not just manage my time better but my sanity.

I expect you to do the same.

Excuse me, my tablet is now pinging my attention.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Time Management for Professional Bloggers

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.My friend, timethief, has done it again with “12 Time Management Tips for Top Blogging Performance,” the inspiration for this blog exercise.

Scheduling enough time for creating original content, promoting it, answering comments, reading and leaving comments on other blogs is not an easy feat. Few bloggers I know are able to blog full time. They have active offline lives to live so they want to make the best possible use of the time they spend online.

I find that time management practices like setting SMART goals and effective scheduling helps me cut through the maze of distraction, and keeps me on track doing what I need to do next to become a productive blogger.

She highlights using an editorial calendar to keep you on track, making appointments with yourself and self-assignments to keep the flow flowing, and fine-tuning your blogging work flow to keep on track.

The SMART method she offers is one based upon the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to read through the time management and SMART goals articles and apply them to your own blogging and work ethics.

We are all guilty of overstepping our expectations when we set goals. Timethief explains:

It is important to set goals that you can achieve. Setting goals that are too high, means you may not appreciate obstacles, or understand how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.

It is your turn to really examine how you manage your blogging. If you have been keeping up with these blog exercises over the year, you should have a basic handle on the writing and blogging bits. Now it is time to up the game as we head towards the end of the year.

Work to be better. Better organized, better at self-management, and better at managing goals and expectations.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: If You Wouldn’t Do It In Public, Would You Do It Online?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.If you wouldn’t do it in public, would you do it online?

Unfortunately for many, the answer is a resounding YES!

However, most of us have some…whatever you call it…oh, yeah, class, ethics, moral fiber, manners – etiquette.

I’m not the Dear Abby of social norms, but I’m first in line to tell you that you need to behave better on the web.

Today’s blog exercise will look at some of the rules and regulations – the etiquette – of online behavior.

We got elegance. If you ain’t got elegance, you can never ever carry it off!

“Elegance” from Hello Dolly

Consider this a checklist. The person with the most checks on their list “got elegance.”
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Blog Exercises: When You Assume…

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the class projects for my WordPress college course involved the students working together on a single broken post to find all the errors in the content. Typically, this is a quick test of their basic coding skills, but this quarter’s students are not typical. They are exceptional.

The goal was to identify and fix typical errors found in content. This is an often overlooked issue with any site development. Web designers and developers are quick to leap into the code to find the issue, overlooking the fact that is it often the user generated content, the code in the posts and articles, that cause the break in the design. Many site errors are caused by you or the client pasting in word processing or website content into the Visual Editor of WordPress, bringing with it all the clutter code that cripples the site when the page is published. I’ve spent hours trying to fix sites clients screwed up, only to find the issue in the post not the whole site.

The students discovered most of the errors as part of the exercise. What several of them did with the errors to resolve the crippled code issues was fascinating, and telling. I’m sure many of us might make the same decisions, making this an ideal blog exercise.

One of the errors was with a malformed hyperlink code. The HTML Anchor tag (link tag) wasn’t closed, so the link ran all the way down the page. Instead of closing the tag, one student removed the link, justifying his action with “there were too many links in the article anyway.”

Many in the class, including myself, were stunned by his action and laughed at his assumption.

“What if that link substantiated and justified the entire purpose of the article, and the rest are just supporting documentation?”
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Annual Thanksgiving Orphan Party

You’re invited to the VanFossen
Annual Thanksgiving Orphan Party
Saturday, November 30, 2013

For many years we’ve gathered together anyone missing home, left out of Thanksgiving celebrations, or eager for more social during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. You are invited to join the craziness.

It starts around 2PM. We eat about 6PM, if things go as planned.

The theme this year is “Home.” Bring something that represents home to you, hopefully edible.

Friends gather at the VanFossens and are entertained by friend, John Doan, on the harp guitar - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

When we were traveling on the road full-time, far from friends and family, we’d throw these impromptu holiday events to bring together whoever was around, in campgrounds or wherever we were, to share stories, play games, sing songs, eat too much, and just hang out, creating a sense of family, or as my friend DeBorah calls it, fambly. Fambly is the family you choose not the ones forced upon you by genetics.

Our home is open to anyone in the Portland, Oregon, area. We’ve had people sometimes travel great distances, but the goal is to create a day where people can be with friends, new and old.

john doan - karla fisher - brent vanfossen - guitar trio at vanfossen holiday party.Join us in the woods for some good company. We talk about WordPress, blogging, social media, woodworking, remodeling, books, writing, work, not work, hobbies, politics, sing songs, play games, watch movies or missed episodes of Doctor Who, and just hang out. Bring a friend. Children welcome. There is a playroom area for them downstairs and children movies to enjoy. If weather permits, short hikes or play outside. There is a hot tub, clothing optional. Well-behaved pets are welcome. We have a cat who sometimes makes an appearance.

There is a BBQ grill for those bringing food to cook or heat up, and the typical (and not typical) kitchen supplies. For those wishing to spend the night, we’ve plenty of room and beds.

We are 45 minutes from Vancouver, 30 from downtown Portland, 15-20 from Beaverton and Forest Grove, traffic permitting. Train pickups and carpooling can be arranged.

We love to have you join us for this annual tradition bringing together fascinating people to remember what thanksgiving is really about.

If you are interested, leave a comment with your email in the comment form below, or the Contact Form and I’ll send you directions and more information.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.


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