200th Post Link + Love Party!

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” — Oprah Winfrey

Does your life ever feel, oh I don’t know…slightly hectic? I can hear some of you laughing. (“Ever? How ’bout hectic is my middle name?”) I get that. For the most part, I prefer life that way—staying busy and doing work I adore. At times for all of us, though, the load can seem so heavy, it’s no longer about having a lot on our plate, but feeling as though there’s no plate large or sturdy enough to support it all.

I was feeling that way recently when news arrived that sucked the wind out of my stresses. My husband’s grandmother was extremely ill, and it was time to visit her one last time.

If platonic love-at-first-sight exists, I felt it with Grandma Tovar. I met her at her 80-something-th birthday party in El Paso, to which she wore a shimmery black dress with a diamond pendant, her eyes more sparkly than her jewels. She was always that sparkly—cracking jokes, brightening spirits, giving advice and telling stories—until very near the end. She passed away on Sunday, and will be greatly missed.

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The one thing I’ll probably remember most about Grandma T. was her ability to embrace and celebrate life. Well after a successful career and raising four children, she stayed active. She read constantly, took up harmonica lessons and bowling just last year, learned from her mistakes and was never too proud to admit or laugh at them. She had friends of all ages, related to most everyone and maintained a sharp, open mind. (She even talked to me about Girl Boners, but I promised I wouldn’t get into that. ;)) And given the slightest window of opportunity, the woman partied like crazy.

I’d considered skipping a blog post this week, regardless of my plan for a 200th post celebration. But how could I skip a party with Grandma T., the party QUEEN, profoundly in my thoughts? She’d NEVER bypass such an opportunity. If she’d been a writer, her blog would have been overflowing with virtual martinis, mariachi singers, fabulous food and colorful dancers.

In honor of Grandma T., and the 200 posts many of you have so graciously supported, let’s play music, don our sparkly duds and paaarty—keeping in mind that every day holds a reason to celebrate, no matter how crazed we may feel.

How to play:

In the comments below, share a link to one of your blog posts and one to another’s post that really struck you. While you’re at it, tell me your favorite party drink! Stick around or pop back later to check out others’ links. It’s a great way to mix, mingle and make new friends. Remember to click “like,” comment, share and/or follow blogs you really dig. Let’s get the sparkly support flowing…

explosion of love

Huge THANKS to all of you, for your ongoing support. ♥  May you always find ways to savor the storm.

*Party idea inspired by Chuck Wendig.

The Bodacious Blogger’s Essential Ingredients

I’ve never been great at following recipes, perhaps because my first works of fiction were faux cakes and pizzas baked in my magical kitchen. (Okay, the sandbox.) My recipe ineptness has its perks, though. First, it’s made coming up with my own concoctions practically necessary. (I’m happy to report that they no longer taste like air or sand.) Second, it prepared me for writing, on the page and in the blogosphere.

Like baking a cake, there is no one “right” way or “perfect” recipe to achieve blogging success. But there are useful guidelines…

Essential Ingredients for Blogging Bodacious-ness

1. Authenticity. We hear this word a lot in regards to blogging, for good reason. Writing about issues and topics we care about, in our own voice makes for captivating posts. Our blogs should be natural extensions—or reflections—of us and what our brands represent. In other words, bake your own “cake” from scratch, using your own ingredients (your thoughts, beliefs, knowledge…). Readers can tell if we use a mix or swap the bakery label for our own. 😉

2. Readability. Ever looked at a recipe and felt so daunted by the tiny print, long lists of unpronounceable ingredients or lack of photos? I personally believe that posts should be as long as they need to be. Breaking up longer paragraphs with spaces, bullet points or photos, and using clear fonts and non-distracting themes can help ensure a comfy reading experience.

3. Takeaways. Imagine going to a cooking demo and leaving with an empty, ravenous belly. Might be okay if the chef was highly entertaining, but if not, your low blood sugar and emotional upset would probably prevent you from visiting again. Blogging works similarly. Giving our readers some sort of takeaway, be it entertainment, inspiration or how-to tips, functions like welcome and thank you gifts, bundled into one.

4. Supportiveness. When I was a kid, I loved going door-to-door selling everything from candy and cookies to 1-child plays. But I was weird. And have grown up since then. Not only is pushiness counter-productive for writers, but ineffective. (Thank goodness!) Supporting others creates connectedness and community. Visit others’ blogs. Follow those you find intriguing. Post thoughtful comments when a post strikes you, and share links you enjoy. (Not convinced? Read social media guru Kristen Lamb’s post, 10 Ways to Increase Your Likability Quotient.)

5. Effective Titles. Would you have read this post if I titled it, Random Stuff? “With 500,000 new blog posts published per day on WordPress.com sites alone, we can’t afford to use vague or boring titles if we want our blog to stand out in tweets or in someone’s Google reader,” Marcy Kennedy, one of my favorite bloggers, wisely said. For more of her insight, read Four Little-Known Factors that Could Destroy Your Blog’s Chances of Success.

Bloggers Who Take the Cake
The proof is in the pudding, right??? The following bloggers bodacious supreme, in my opinion. They have their ingredients and style down pat, never cease to inspire, entertain or teach, and continually bring joy to my cyber-villa. I’ve awarded each blogger one of my cake concoctions.

Natalie Hartford takes the Pink Rainbowlicious Cake for bedazzling the blogosphere with her unique enthusiasm, color and pizazz. She’s as sweet as her blog is PINK! She spilled some of her fab blogging secrets here: Keeping Your Blogging Mojo Alive and Burning.

Tameri Etherton takes the Berry Yummy Oatmeal cake. She’s wholesome, fun and nurturing, with no need for added sweetener. Because Tameri loves happy endings, her natural cake has sweet surprises inside.

Louise Behiel takes the Sassy Salmon Cakes. Louise never fails to educate and inspire. Her gluten-free cakes are fortifying, like her posts, and delicious, much like her friendship and support. She recently shared 8 Steps to an Emotionally Rich Family, and drew a brilliant comparison between old-fashioned radios and kids.

Kourtney Heinz takes the Flourless Chocolate Cake for her rich writing skills and ability to savor every bit. No room for extra fluff in this writing woman’s life! You’ll see what I mean when you read her captivating post, Looking at Who You Were. Loved loved loved it.

Amber West takes the Fortune Cookie Cupcake for her entertaining, inspirational and grin-inducing posts. Her Friday Inspiration series is loaded with insight, and she’s consistently one of the first to lend a helping hand.

Susie Lindau takes the Crazy Cake. Whether Susie is giving us glimpses of her “wild ride,” throwing blog bashes or sporting flash fiction, her blog is a crazy-cool treat. Oh, and she’s also a mass murderer

Roni Loren takes the Hot Fodue Cake. Her novel, Crash Into You, caused more perspiration than the stairclimber I read it on. If you know what I mean. It’s one of my favorite reads of 2012, and her writing/blogging posts are some of the best. As for the “cake” portion of this recipe, that’s up to YOU. 😉

Nigel Blackwell takes the Blappleberry Pie Cake for his ability to blend education, entertainment and wit. His post, A Non-Controversial Sockumentary, is one of the most entertaining post I’ve ever read.

Jennifer L. Oliver and M.G. Miller take the (Practically) Instant Chocolate Cake, for Jennifer’s fine author interviews—her latest of which featured M.G. and his spectacular book, Bayou Jesus. Read it. Once you start, you won’t want to waste time slaving over baked goods. This whole grain cake takes minutes in the microwave. And it’s delish.

Debra Kristi, Coleen Patrick, Fabio Bueno and Ellie Ann Soderstrom take Health-Nut Choco-Copia Cake for their versatile mix of upbeat, inspiring posts on everything from mythology and HILARIOUS mistaken song lyrics, to family pets and sustainable agriculture. You can’t go wrong with these sweet tweeps. Ya just can’t.

So there you have it. My baker’s dozen. (Told you we bloggers can break rules. ;)) What blogging ingredients do you find most important? What kind of cake might your blog be?

****If you’re interested in preparing one of the cakes above, hop over to my Facebook author page and place your vote!****