Friday, October 25, 2013

Write Your Truth

How to make your blog go viral in three easy steps

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to do something I had secretly wanted to do for a long time. No, I’m not talking about skinny dipping at a secret Idaho hot spring (though it’s possible I did that too). I was invited to speak to an audience of talented writers at Elaine Ambrose’s annual “Write by the River” retreat in Garden Valley, an event which has previously hosted literary luminaries Alan Heathcock, Tony Doerr, Jennifer Basye Sanders (one of my short stories appears in her Miracle under the Christmas Tree collection), A.K. Turner, Gretchen Anderson, Stacy DymalskiDoug Copsey,and of course, the inimitable author of Midlife Cabernet, Ms. Ambrose herself.

I’m sure I’m missing someone here, and please forgive me. Boise has a lot of world-class writers on first-name bases. We’re kind of like Iowa, only our writers’ workshops are supportive and polite in the “constructive feedback” process. Also, we have lots of brew pubs.

The lineup for this season’s blogging-themed retreat was intimidating. Stephanie Worrell, PR maven and founder of Red Sky, kicked off the show with a 42 page comprehensive guide to writing, producing, and starring in Your Blog. Stephanie was followed by writer Ken Rodgers, who independently produced (with his talented wife Betty) a moving documentary about the siege of Khe Sanh called Bravo: Common Men, Uncommon Valor. Then there was The Anarchist Soccer Mom. I described how to get yourself a publicist and hide under a rock when your blog about a controversial topic—your son who has mental illness, for example—goes viral.

I can’t really tell you how to make your blog go viral, by the way. As for handling the media, well, let’s just say that I didn’t even know who Anderson Cooper was until my friends told me. I haven’t had commercially broadcast television since 2002. But I learned this: stick to your message. You don’t have to defend yourself for saying something that needed to be said!

I can tell you this: we live in an age, as former Vice President Al Gore has said, when a single blogger can influence the course of a national conversation.

What does that mean for you? It means that you had better write your truth as well as you can, each and every time you Tweet, post on Facebook, or compose something for your blog. Because you just never know when something you say will change the world.

Blogger Arlee Bird has been exploring the topic of blogs as an essential part of every writer’s platform in a recent series of posts on  Tossing It Out. He had this to say about “making” a blog go viral: “In answer to the question "Did your blog post go viral?", the answer is no.  Nor did I expect my Monday post to go viral.  The content for virality wasn't there [emphasis added].”

I don’t personally think any one of us has the power to “make” a blog go viral. But Arlee has hit on the writer’s main job: provide meaningful content. As I learned with my viral essay about my son with mental illness, which was picked up by The Blue Review and Huffington Post under the title “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” one of the most meaningful consequences of sharing our truths, even when our stories are painful, is that we can actually change the world. I mean, I spoke at a TEDx event in San Antonio last week with some of the coolest people I will ever meet in my life! I never could have imagined that kind of platform for my mental health advocacy. But it happened (and yet just days later, so did another tragic school shooting). 

So with this post, I’m officially adding my name to my blog. Yes, I’m THAT mom, the one who shared a story that made some of you wince and many of you cry. I started blogging in 2008. I’m a lazy blogger, posting whenever I feel like it—no content schedules for me. And I write about whatever I want to, from yoga to kids to grammar lessons to thrift store wedding dresses (Little White Dress, a collection of essays and poems I edited, was conceived from that 2011 blog post). 

Arlee interviewed me recently about my viral blog post and its effect on me as a writer. You can read my answers to Arlee’s interview questions about viral blogs here.  The advice I gave both to Arlee and to the would-be viral bloggers at Elaine’s retreat was simple: “Write your truth. Write it well. And accept the consequences.”

It’s that simple. And it's that hard.


kmckendry said...

I just came over from Arlee's blog. Great post and interview.

Whole Foods Living said...

I'm visiting from Arlee's blog too. Great post and inspiration. just do it (truthfully!) ~Angela (

Anarchist Soccer Mom said...

Thanks! It was a fun collaboration!

Arlee Bird said...

Thanks for the interview and the follow-up on your site. Your thoughts combined with my recent series are really making me think about what I've been doing with my blogging and directions I could go in the future.

It was a pleasure collaborating with you on this venture and I look forward to the adventure of your upcoming book.

I'm glad our posts went up on a Friday so readers can digest them throughout the weekend.


Tossing It Out

Andrew Leon said...

The truth can be a difficult thing sometimes and being vulnerable in front of people even more difficult.
I think, though, people know when what you're tossing out is not truth.

By the way, there is no way (that I can see) to follow your blog.

Anarchist Soccer Mom said...

Thanks for the comments,and Arlee, now that I'm not "anonymous" anymore, I appreciate the formatting suggestions!

Benjamin said...

One more from Arlee's ;)
Your blog is quite interesting, is there a way to follow it?

best regards,


Maggie winter said...

Also from Arlee's blog because I enjoyed the interview very much, I too would like to follow. ;)
I apologise if this is a duplicate comment, my laptop crashed and I'm not sure if the last comment was entered into moderation, feel free to delete.;)
Good wishes to you and your family.

bubblegum casting said...

Me too loved this blog

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