Monthly Archives: November 2011

Will There EVER Be Any Money in Blogging?

Mel has an interesting post today about how bloggers should value their clout (not Klout 🙂 ) as writers and refuse to accept non-paying assignments. On the heels of that, Uppercase Woman published her take on why women bloggers matter, urging people not to quit writing. Her point was if you even have a small following of readers, you can change people’s lives. But she acknowledges that the monetary rewards are not great for the vast majority of bloggers.

My father, it appears, lived in a golden age of the writing profession. He worked for a big city newspaper for 28 years, and supported his family on that income. He got to pursue his great talent and passion for writing, won awards, rubbed elbows with the biggest newsmakers of the day and from his position was able to publish four fiction books with big publishing houses. He had many, many colleagues who pursued the same path.

This path is drying up. I’ve done a bunch of research on the blogging industry and ad networks and the depressing truth seems to be this:

Very, very few bloggers (maybe 50 in the world) are able to earn a good living from their projects. The way most ad networks are run now and the traffic numbers brands demand to pay bloggers are not in favor of actually funding writers. (For example, in order to get paid $25,000 a year in ad sales, I’d have to get at least 25,000 page views a day. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of traffic.) Print media is declining, firing writers, the publishing industry is imploding. So I wonder if the profession of writing is a endangered profession to all but a few, huge, popular bloggers? And the surviving old media guard?

I’d love to be wrong on this. And if I’m right, how can we change it? Or is this the paradigm of the future?

Darcy always tells me that my blogging should just be a hobby, an advocacy project to help others, a support group to help me and my ALI friends. If I have gained nothing but the friends I have encountered through blogging, my life is very rich indeed.

What do you think? Do you have a blog which provides you with a comfortable living? Do you think this is a reasonable goal? Or should we just be happy to be here?



Filed under writing

Take 2: Never Take Me To An Exercise Class, Ever, NO I MEAN SERIOUSLY EVER!

Colours of Cattiz was doubtful there could be a worse exercise class than the one described yesterday. (Short version: I knocked a stationary bicycle onto my leg in the middle of a Spin class.) I’ll let you be the judge of whether the next experience is worse. In my mind, it is. But everything is relevant. The third and LAST ever class is so embarrassing that I don’t even know if I can post it. Y’all, it is seriously that bad. I don’t think anyone has ever humiliated themselves more. Ever. In the history of the UNIVERSE.

As you can imagine, the Spin fiasco became legendary around the office. Lisa would tell the tale to an incredulous audience, gasping for breath from too much laughing. Later she would add the punchline: “And she had a bruise the size of a MUFFIN on her leg for three months!” Soon I was approached by many co-workers to attend many different activities with them: rock-wall climbing, Hip Hop Funk (NO), Salsa dancing. This went on for over a year. I think they all wanted a spectacular Jjiraffe story. I said no way to all and sundry.

Until Darcy and I met and settled into domestic bliss. In other words, we started cooking and eating a lot. I put on a few pounds and my jogging routine was curtailed so I had more time to shop at the grocery store, where I bought things like capers and spaghetti and Bibolis and all sorts of fattening love foods. So when my colleague Elizabeth approached me about a new class, I was vulnerable. This time, though, I would go in prepared. I peppered her with many questions: was this a beginner class? Could the least athletic person in the world get through this class? Was there heavy machinery that I could knock over onto my leg? The answers to all these questions were satisfactory.

Elizabeth thus brought me into class number two: Introduction to Kickboxing. I can hear you groaning: of all the classes, Jjiraffe, why THAT? I can see you thinking of all the possible scenarios in which I could wreak havoc on myself: I could get kicked in the head, I could knock down a punching bag. And I had thought of those scenarios myself and solutions to avoid them. I would hit the punching bag really lightly. I would have super aware senses to protect me from others’ flying limbs.

I was a little intimidated when the instructor, who looked Taye Diggs, if Taye Diggs had been an Army Ranger for 10 years, introduced himself. This time though, I wouldn’t pretend like I knew what I was doing. I raised my hand and said: “I’ve never been to a kickboxing class before!”

Turns out, that was a big mistake.

Taye was very intrigued by my green status. He wanted to teach someone completely fresh to the subject, in hopes that they would develop excellent form and be a kickass kickboxer. It became clear right away, though, that kickboxing was NOT the sport for me. What HAD intrigued me about it was that you use your legs a lot. I have a lot of lower body strength, like most women. In terms of my upper body strength, I think I am in the bottom 1% of everyone in the world. I have narrow shoulders, small bones and limited endurance. Turns out, that particular kickboxing class was 80% arm punches and 20% leg kicks.

Taye, in his efforts to mold me, pretty much left his class to itself. (“Partner UP, everyone! Practice your uppercuts now! Now, roundhouse kicks!” I was Taye’s partner, up front and center.) Which meant everyone was paying attention to my every kick, punch and jab, all of which were terrible, even the kicks. I could tell Taye was getting frustrated, but his method to try to improve my uppercuts was to increase the frequency and repetition of them. “Aim HERE! Punch THERE!” he kept yelling. Always the people pleaser, I tried to keep up the best I could.

Ten minutes in, the exertion was starting to take its toll on my gentle body. Have you ever run really fast, so fast you thought your insides might come out of your body, starting with your lungs? That’s what I felt like. Then, suddenly, bile started to rise. I realized I was going to hurl: I had the watery jowls. How could I make my escape in the midst of performing for the whole class and strict drill sargent Taye? I tried to say excuse me, but had to put my hand over my mouth to prevent the vomiting. I ran out of the room as fast as I could and made it to the trash can outside the hall, whereupon I heaved my guts out. Unfortunately, the trashcan was clearly visible to the kickboxing room. I looked up to see every single person in the class staring at me in horror. Including Mr. Diggs. So I did what brave Sir Robin would do. I bravely ran away.

Then I made a horrible realization: my bag with my wallet and keys was back inside the kickboxing room! I was going to have to go back in there and subject myself to total humiliation to get it. I couldn’t do it. So I trudged down the hall to the front desk (because of course my cell phone was in the bag) and asked them if I could make a local call. Luckily they relented.

I called Darcy and begged him to come help me. Fortunately, it was early in our relationship when he would do pretty much anything for me. (Behold the power of Biboli pizzas!) He boldly marched up there, grabbed my purse and waved at Elizabeth, cheekily. I will never forget that.

Monday, the office eagerly waited for an update from Elizabeth. They were not disappointed.

Seriously, I don’t know if I can post Class #3. Are these cheering you up and making you laugh? Are they making your morning a little brighter? If the answer is yes from enough readers, I GUESS I’ll man up and post it. But it is seriously mortifying. There are times when I remember it randomly and cringe. Still. Ten years later!


Filed under Dumb

Never Take Me To An Exercise Class, Ever, NO I MEAN SERIOUSLY NEVER EVER!: Take One

Many, many well-intentioned people I know urge me to take exercise classes. “Jjiraffe, take a Spin Class!” they’ll proclaim. “You’ll burn a lot of calories!” Or “Tae Kwon Do will make you feel your strength as a WOMAN, Jjiraffe!” someone will rave. Or, “Yoga will change your life, Jjiraffe. For real.” Or I’ll read a post like this, about the amazing power of emotional clarity that the right workout can provide. Aaaand, I’ll be tempted. REAL tempted.

Then I remember that I’m me. And every exercise class I have ever taken has ended in dramatic, flameout, Borat-style dysfunctional disaster. (Remember when he destroyed that antique store?) People still dine out, years later, on just ONE tale of my three attempts to exercise in a group setting with others. You may think I’m being dramatic. I’m building this up too much. There was that time you tripped during your Flash mob routine of Cee-lo’s “Forget You.” That was embarrassing, right?

Not even. Here’s a taster of humiliation.

Borat asks: You think I can glue this back together?

Foreshadowing, people.

The year: 1997. The setting: Spin Class, Gorilla Sports, San Francisco
The characters: My friend from work, Lisa, and myself. And 50 Spin Class (mostly male) fanatics.

Lisa was my first friend to talk me into an exercise class. (But unfortunately not the last.) I preferred running or working on a treadmill (for no particular reason other than a TOTALLY PSYCHIC Premonition subconsciously keeping me AWAY, the FUCK away from classes) but her description of burning more than 600 calories in a session was really tempting. I asked her if I needed any special skills. “Have you ever ridden a bike?” she asked. Well, duh. Of course I had. I mean, not really since I was in junior high with a three-speed Schwinn, but whatever! Once you’ve ridden a bike, you’ll always know how to ride a bike?

We were a little late to the class so the only two bikes open were in the front of the whole group. I wasn’t keen on a bunch of guys staring at my ass, but I had no choice but to trot up there and awkwardly straddle the bulky stationary bike as everyone watched. My initial hesitation turned into outright panic when the Teutonic instructor barked out “Has anyone not taken this class before?” and no one raised their hand. I wasn’t going to single myself out and encourage even more attention to all those behind my hindquarters. Well, that Schwinn was not too hard to maneuver, right? RIGHT?!

Cue the intensely loud techno music which made it difficult to understand Frau Instructor’s commands. Which were many, and complicated. A lot of gear shifts were talked about. Shifting to lower gears to go uphill or shifting to higher gears to go downhill. I was unsure how to downshift up or down. I’m sure it wasn’t rocket science, but I was becoming increasingly flustered.

Uta’s commands became more intense as she led us on a virtual tour of the Alps. We were climbing a steep precipice on our very own Tour de France (which, ambitious much?) so I shifted to the lower gears, pedaling slowly, my butt in the air. (The last place I wanted it to be.) Then suddenly Frau spotted a sharp drop-off: “Shift higher, pedal faster. FASTER!!!” Jolted by the order, I pedaled really fast, but missed the part about shifting into higher gears.

You can imagine the physics behind my dumb move: The pedals had no resistance but I was pedaling them fast so I soon lost control. No big deal, you say. You can’t lose much control on a stationary bike.

Oh, my friend. You are wrong.

My foot lost its traction on the pedal, but my heel got caught on a strap. (Which I probably should have asked how to secure properly.) In an effort to shake it loose while still pedaling madly on the other side, I stomped my left foot, thus compromising the entire structure. The bike came loose from its underpinnings and in slow terrible motion fell to the left. I collapsed in a heap, with a terrific crash, the bike on top of my left leg and when it landed I was parallel to the floor, still straddling the thing.

The music and class actually stopped while the instructor and my friend struggled to get the bike off my left leg, which hurt a bit, but not as much as my humiliation. People were starting to stiffle their giggles. I mean, who falls off a stationary bike?! If I had been worried about people staring at my butt, well, I had much bigger fish to fry now. My face turned the color of a 49ers sweatshirt. My friend Lisa was initially worried I had injured myself, but the truth was I had injured my pride. And apparently a stationary bike.

She told me later after a few margaritas that nothing like that had EVER happened in the six months she had taken the class. Well, of course not.

My only war wound was a hideous bruise the size of a muffin on my left knee and thigh. Of course summer was about to begin, of course I was single, of course the bruise was totally ugly and of course the bruise lasted until fall, when I had already packed away my shorts and short skirts.

Not my actual bruise, but pretty similar.


By KoS, Public doman, via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever performed an epic fail during an exercise class?

Are you strong enough to hear my next tale? It makes the stationary bike disaster look like small potatoes…


Filed under Dumb

Living Joyfully: Remember That?!

It’s hard to me to remember, but I proclaimed 2011 my year of living joyfully. I was going to study philosophy, and try to understand how to appreciate life more, be happier, more resilient.

One of the hardest things in the world has to be rebounding from challenges and tragedies with our soul intact. Humankind has had to do this from its inception. Do you think our ancestors, whose life expectancy was 30, who watched their family and friends get eaten by wolves or whatever, or starve, or suffer from horrible diseases, weren’t terribly depressed?! I think about the horrors my husband’s family endured during the Holocaust, or my great-great grandfather who fled Ireland during the Potato Famine. The Flu of 1917 (Hey, it killed Edward Cullen, too!), WWI, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Rwanda, etc, etc, etc, etc.

In the infertility community, we all know about people who haven’t gotten the call. But what about the people who have gotten the call, but adjust to challenges and tragedies relatively well? Who are well-functioning, cheery, happy-seeming people? How in the world do they DO it?

I had a little glimmer of good news today. The bulls-eye on my back blurred a bit. I am driving this ridiculous tank of a car while my station wagon gets fixed. Every time I see it, I laugh. It’s a Nitro and looks like the official vehicle of the American Wrestling Association. It could not be less like my polite, safe Volvo. Yet, it’s fun to try on this identity. Instead of listening to NPR like usual and its usually downbeat programming about the Euro Debt crisis, my stereo is programmed to hip hop stations.

“You and I” came on and brought me back to when I was 16, and went to a Halloween party where a Rick James CD was on a heavy rotation. Our homecoming queen had celebrated her victory a little harder than necessary and she started puking. It was so scandalous. And my best friend and I mingled in our black cat costumes, the strict caste system of high school broken with the humbling of our queen. We danced altogether: the cheerleaders, goody-goodies, the drama people, the athletes, the nerds. And it was glorious. Turns out, Rick James is a great equalizer.

Listening to Rick James today reminded me of an interview with the great writer Laura Hillenbrand. Hillenbrand’s first book was the astonishingly good “Seabiscuit: An American Legend”. She was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Disease in her early 20s. Chronic Fatigue sounds vague, but some pathologists now think it might be a form of leukemia. It was devastating for Hillenbrand. She had tortuous episodes of vertigo and had to give up any hope of having a family. What she did instead was spend any “good” time researching and writing her first masterpiece. Once completed, she went into a tailspin of vertigo so severe that she couldn’t move. She published an account of her illness in the first person in The New Yorker that was terrifying: at one moment you are a brilliant, beautiful student at Kenyon College, the next you are completely incapacitated.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, she said something that haunted me.

“Laura Hillenbrand, in her Washington home, says she copes with her illness by detaching herself completely from aspirations. ‘I hardly ever listen to music anymore because it arouses all of this yearning in me,’ she says.”

How incredibly sad is that?

See: yearning. I think yearning may be a key ingredient in keeping us alive and seeking joy. I don’t have a lot of yearnings, per se, but listening to “You And I” brought back a good time in my life and made me want to dance. That CAN’T be bad. No matter the pains, the accidents, the illnesses, the boredom. There is, within us, yearning to be happy, whether it’s by eating a treat or dancing or singing, or watching a good movie, or riding a horse. Some of those are within our reach.

My greatest yearning now is to finish my own book! and help others get published.

What are some yearnings, little or small that you feel, beyond reproductive plans or parenting?


Filed under Discovering joy, writing

The Pomegranate Society, Take Two

Remember a million years ago when I proposed a writing group for those in the ALI community focused on getting books published? Yeah, that. Sorry it has taken me so long to get all my ducks lined up in a row, but I think, after long contemplation and research and just plain old reading, that I have figured out a way to do it that will a) make sense for our writers b) not kick our collective butt but c) get us to move forward.

A quick refresher:

It’s not talked about much, but many of our best female writers are suspected to be fellow infertiles. From Isaak Dinesen to George Eliot, Dorothy Parker to Mary Shelley, who we know had a life-threatening miscarriage and lost her son at the age of three: these great writers were “our people”. They were able to create sustaining works of literature and channel pain into their art.

All you have to do is look through the roster of ALI bloggers to realize that we have some serious talent among us. There’s Mel (the bestselling author!) and Keiko has a novel in the works.

These projects are documented. But I suspect there are many others of us who have a few chapters of a thriller or graphic novel, a book of poetry, a children’s book. A cookbook.

I need a greater push into the arena of publishing, and I think others would too.

What if we were to begin a virtual workshop where we critiqued and helped other writers refine their projects into what they are after? I’m happy to play facilitator and match up groups. I’d love it if by the end of the year we could get at least a few finished work with contracts signed.

The more books by the ALI community, the greater the message gets out. Plus, a nice boost of accomplishment for us all wouldn’t go amiss.

A number of really talented bloggers were interested, but I proposed a punishing schedule that was going to be difficult for many to maintain.

So here’s what I’m thinking now:

I think The Pomegranate Society should have three parts.

1. I still think the best way to get people writing is to pair a blogger with a fellow writer working on a similar project. But this time, I want to do just that: pair you together. Together, you two can create your own timetable. Whether it’s a chapter a week, a proposal review, an outline, advice, etc. I would leave it up to the two of you to set the parameters. I will have, of course, suggestions 😉

2. I would host either weekly or bi-weekly interviews with a writer or publisher or agent or self-publishing expert who can advise us all on the best ways to get published. I would solicit questions from all of my readers, and anyone can visit and be educated.

3. In June, I would host a private, virtual group critique session for those writers paired who are interested in getting a lot of feedback from our other writers and, hopefully, a special guest.

I think this is manageable and workable and we could all learn a lot this way.

So, what say you? I will contact privately those of you already interested.


Filed under The Pomegranate Society, writing