Tag Archives: blogging

Paid to Blog

As you may know, I teach English for a living. Actually, I work in the Intensive English Program at Upper Iowa University, which helps university students from other countries raise their English proficiency before they enter undergraduate classes.

UIU peacock

Go Peacocks!

It’s a great job for many reasons, including that I get paid to blog.

Not paid additionally, unfortunately, but one part of my busy day is running the blog for our program. It used to be over at Tumblr, but honestly I’m not a fan of Tumblr, so I just recently brought it here to WordPress. The new address is intensiveenglishuiu.com

I have a lot of ideas for this blog. As you might see, the main one before was putting up pictures of our field trips. I’ll still be doing that, but also I will be writing short grammar explanations, vocabulary posts, video of campus, etc.

Are there any aspects of English grammar that you want me to explain or address? If so, mention it in the comments or email me at intensiveenglishprogram@uiu.edu and I will write a post about it.

click the picture to see more

click the picture to see more

 


Fiction T’s are here!

**Reblog or share this post for a chance to win a Fiction T shirt of your choosing! Details below**

Fiction Tees Logo 2

These days, everyone on the Internet wants to gain a following. Now with Fiction T’s, that is easier than ever as people follow behind you trying to read the story on the back of your t-shirt.

Fiction T’s takes the best and quirkiest of the Green-Walled Tower’s short fiction and puts it on a t-shirt, available through Spreadshirt. 8 designs are currently offered, each in both black and white text so that dark and light colored shirts are available.

Promotion 1

Some examples of the stories:

Classic Arguments: Literary classics argue after the library closes. There is a definite winner. A great shirt for avid readers out there.

The Physics of Angels: A mother with a migraine tries to explain how an airplane stays up…creatively. Perfect for parents with young kids.

Three Men Walk into a Bar: It might be a joke, but it’s not what you think. A great one for bloggers.

She Did, He Did: A quirky look at the relationships between men and women. This guy just can’t win.

Emoticons with a Story: The back stories of some of your lesser known emoticons. Comes in two versions.

The Last Few Seconds: A humorous look at the last few seconds before retirement. The perfect gift for anyone in retirement or about to retire.

What a Metaphor is: A soaring, twisting journey through a maze of metaphorical language.

 


Limited Time Promotion!

Reblog this post and I will enter you in a drawing for one of two Fiction T shirts I am giving away. That goes for shares and tweets on Facebook and Twitter as well (use the hashtag #fictionts). Share it on all three platforms and I’ll enter you 3 times (but that’s the max).
Contest ends on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Share the good news and order a shirt for yourself, while you’re at it.


A Giant Hiding in a Kindergarten

I went to Toronto a few weeks ago for a TESOL convention. The convention center was right next to the CN Tower, which for those who don’t know, is the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere. It stands out, is what I’m trying to say. Plus, Toronto doesn’t have a lot of super-huge skyscrapers. See if you can spot the CN Tower in this picture:

Hint: it's the one over half a kilometer tall

Hint: it’s the one that’s over half a kilometer tall

If you couldn’t find it, you must be listening to the audio version of this blog (available now!)

I find it a wonderful irony that large objects are unmistakeable from far away but can be easily hidden close up. Here’s a picture I took from near my hotel:

0328151851

Fifty feet in either direction and the tallest building in the western hemisphere is hidden by someone’s house (well, a lot of someones’ houses) but the point is, it isn’t the tower that changes at all, or even the surrounding landscape: it’s the viewing position. For someone like me who thinks in metaphors, this is a very satisfying truth.

I am an English teacher, but I have actually preached in church four times. I was a deacon in my church in Korea and when the pastor is gone, someone has to do it. My style is much more logical progression of ideas and much less fire and brimstone. I must have a sulfur deficiency.

The very first time I preached, it was on this idea of perspective. The question I posed was: “What can come between you and God?” The answer: absolutely anything, because it all depends on our viewing position, not on Him. After all, the sun is the largest object in the solar system but I can block it out with my thumb if I hold it right in front of my eye.

I’d expound more on this, but this is ostensibly a fiction blog and you probably came here for stories, not theology (I could be wrong, of course). That is why I’m starting a new blog for all the rational, brimstone-less essays on religion, faith and philosophy that are rattling around in my head.

Don’t worry, the Green-Walled Tower isn’t going anywhere. This is a year of big things for this little blog and 2015 is draped in ivy, as far as I’m concerned. Still, I do have a lot of good ideas that don’t fit well into this blog format, so that’s why the Tower is getting a baby brother.

I’m still not sure what to call it: the Green-Walled Church? The Green-Walled Monastery? We’ll see. Stayed tuned.

wpid-20130921_114356.jpg

It this place is anything like the Tower, it must be one quirky church.

 


Green-Walled Tower News: March Edition

I’m restructuring things a little here at the Green-Walled Tower. Not much, but a little. I’m cleaning out the attic and moving things around so they fit better. For one thing, I’m going to go back to concentrating on original fiction. I have tried various other projects here to mix things up but they never did as well as my fiction and I didn’t enjoy them quite as much. Also, I will be concentrating mostly on light, humorous stories. I do anyway, of course, and I will still be writing a variety of stories, including dark ones on occasion.

However, for those who don’t want to read scary, dark, or horror stories, I will put up a rating at the beginning to let you know, using my little mascot Belfry.

Belfry Rating - Dark

I won’t put up ratings for others just yet, except one, which is satire. I realize that I can write a pretty convincing satire at times, so if you read something of mine that seems a little too weird to be true (I will always say at the beginning of the post if it’s true, as well), check the end for the rating. It will always be at the end: I don’t want to spoil the show.

Belfry Rating - Satire

As well, I will be coming out with a way to buy some pretty cool Green-Walled Tower merchandise. The official announcement will probably be next week, with a contest to win some neat stuff. Stay tuned.

GWT logo - cropped


Do You Want a Guest?

Have you ever had a dinosaur bite your leg off? I haven’t, but I can tell you what it was like. Even show you the scar.

Do you know a good recipe for kryptonite soup? Not me, but I can write a recipe that will keep Superman looking at you askance whenever you pick up your spoon.

I’m not saying I’m a professional liar, but I am a writer, so yeah, maybe I am. You know what I mean.

What kind of stories do you tell? Would you like me to tell a story for you? Look back in my archives: I’ve got all kinds to share.

If you’re a blogger and would like to take a night off sometime, I’d love to guest blog for you. Send me an email at greenwalledtower(at)gmail(dot)com and we can talk about it. I won’t bring the whole Green-Walled Tower with me, but maybe I’ll give you a strand of ivy from the walls.

 

GWT logo - cropped


Witnessing the Insane – guest blogger Susannah Bianchi

I am happy to introduce my first guest blogger ever: model, writer, and New Yorker, Susannah Bianchi. She is also the genius behind athingirl.com, a blog where she shares her experiences and adventures of living in the Big Apple, all with sparkling wit and a deep heart.

She also has a great book out: Notes From a Working Cat, the memoir of a sophisticated little feline named Maya. I would definitely recommend it.

Notes from a Working Cat

Witnessing the Insane

It’s not uncommon to be on the New York subway in the company of a crazy person. It’s free advertising after all, for their insanity.

Some ask for money, some just babble and I’ll admit, from years of bearing witness, I’m more than a little removed.

You often wonder, is this legit…another well-honed act, because despite how many times you are assaulted by the unexpected pounce, you just don’t know.

There’s the man who lost everything in a fire who asks for alms in English and Spanish, but Spanish so fluent you wonder why he can’t get a job at the embassy.

We have another fellow on the 6 Train who’s been needing 18 dollars to get back home since 1993. He could have been around the world 18 times by now.

I’m a regular rider, so I see them all the time, but a tourist or visitor gets clobbered, wallets out, bills expected.

But every once in a while, a poor, legitimate soul will even get to me.

Last night on the train, coming home, a kid maybe 16 got on. He was all shriveled, like a vegetable left in the fridge too long. His right hand had that stricken fist suggesting a stroke, or some kind of permanent paralysis. His legs were puny, the right half the size of the left. What really spoke to me was his facial expression that looked as if he had been punched so hard, his face couldn’t get back to normal.

It was pain, false or otherwise, making me take an extreme pause.

He was screaming for help at the top of his lungs, his bent legs dragging him down the car. I never saw so many people so clearly affected.

He was young, like a hurt cub, and in my heart, I knew, this was not feigned.

Dollars came out like pennies from heaven shoving them in his one good hand. He said nothing as he held them, not even putting them in a safe place, as though he wasn’t even conscious of the response.

I sat there praying for him.

Suddenly my 14-hour workday felt like a grace as opposed to a grind. I remembered how I walked 30 blocks in the morning to get some exercise in…could this kid do that, let alone have a regular workday lasting that long?

My humility came and sat beside me whispering…Susannah, how blessed and blessed and blessed you are.

I got off at the 86th Street stop to take the crosstown bus, still hearing him screech in the distance.

 

– Susannah Bianchi

 


2015: The Year of the Green-Walled Tower

Belfry - New Years 1So, it’s not quite New Year’s here yet, but we’re counting down the last few hours and although 2014 has been a pretty good year, I have a really good feeling about 2015. I feel like this is going to be a big year for me and this blog, not because of random fortune, but because I am committed to doing a lot of work.

I don’t usually make resolutions for two reasons: 1) I don’t usually have anything I specifically want to do that I think I can accomplish with a resolution and 2) resolutions are treated very cynically these days. Resolutions seem to have come to mean “well-meaning but naive life changes that will be in effect from January 1-15”. I don’t want that.

However, this year, I have made some resolutions which I am 100% committed to keeping. I’m sure everyone says that so I am making them a matter of public record so I can compare this post with another one a year from now. Keep me honest, people.

New Years Resolution 1

 

New Years Resolution 2

 

New Years Resolution 3

And finally, the most important and most ambitious.

New Years Resolution 4

 

Thank you to all you who read my blog. Expect good things in the year to come. Happy New Year!

Belfry - New Years 2.2

Belfry intro

 


The Biomes of My Life

“Do you have a blog, grandpa?” the boy asked, kicking his legs against the stool rungs in the nursing home.

“No, I don’t do much with computers,” the old man said. “We didn’t have them when I was growing up and I guess I just didn’t find the need afterwards.”

The boy considered this. “What was life like for you, growing up? What was it really like?”

“It’s hard to explain,” the man said after a moment. “You’re too young to understand and there’s a lot of it.”

“Then you can start a blog and write about it.”

The man smiled. He pointed at the boy’s open backpack. “What’s that?”

“My social studies book. I got homework. We’re studying biomes.”

“Let me see it.” The man flipped through it, then handed it back. “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about my life.”

The next day, when the boy came to his grandfather’s room, the man handed him several pages covered with a firm, flowing script, made shaky at the ends by age.

“Can you read it to me?” the boy asked. “We don’t learn that kind of writing in school anymore.”

“This time,” the man said, looking more put out than he really felt. “Get your mom to type it out for you. Okay, here we go: The Biomes of My Life.

“I was born in the jungle, emerging from my cocoon into a world bursting with life. At first, I was amazed at the bright colors and variety around me but unaware of the dangers that stalked through the shadows. There were jaguars and tigers in the trees that watched as I climbed and swung through the trees. One day, an old tiger caught me and mauled me badly and that ended my career climbing trees. I stayed, stifled, on the floor of the jungle, and it felt like the trees were pressing down on me. I longed for fresh air.

“When I was a teenager, I finally found the savannah and reveled in the open space and air. I ran and jumped and played, unrestrained by anything. I saw the groups that moved around: the zebras and antelope, the lions and hyenas and remembering the old tiger, I allied myself with the hyenas. I was not going to be a victim. I was the killer now, preying on the flighty animals that ran in front of me. It was a glorious existence while it lasted, but the lions reminded us who were bigger and in the end, I took more harm than if I had run with the zebras.

“My early twenties were a desert. I had run from the lions and leaving the savannah, I wandered for long periods of time in areas devoid of life with just the rocks and sand as companions. The sky was large and although life seemed wide open, it was empty in every direction I tried. The scorching sun and wind burned me, crushing my young will. I could have died in that barren place if I had not found a tiny trickle of water that led to a river, which led to the ocean.

“It was in my late twenties that I embarked on the great ocean. It was as wide open as the desert but finally I was going places and life was all around me again. The crests and troughs followed in quick succession but I rode every one and although I was never satisfied, I went further and faster than I ever had.

“It was during this time, in my early thirties that I found my tropical island. The air there was heavy with the scent of flowers and luscious fruit was everywhere. It was the first time in my life that I was truly happy and I could lie on the beach for hours, just drinking it all in.

“But after a while, the lure of the fast-paced ocean life lured me back. I went back to the island when I could, but the visits became less frequent as I traveled further and further on the wild waves. Finally, I came back to find that half the island had burned. That was a shock. I gave up the ocean and spend the next several decades restoring the island back to life. It was never what it had been, but it became my home.”

The old man stopped reading. “What do you think?”

“I don’t understand,” the boy said. “You were born in a jungle?”

“It’s a riddle,” his grandfather said. “You will need a key to unlock it.”

“What’s that?”

“Experience. Then you will understand my story. But for now, let me tell you the lessons I have learned. Watch out for tigers and hyenas. Run from them. They are not your friends. Avoid the deserts but if you find yourself in one, never give up. There is more out there. And finally, if you find your tropical island, take care of it. It is more precious than you think.”

“Okay, I’ll try to understand it later.” the boy said. He looked uncertain and the grandfather gave him a hug.

“I hope so. Then you can tell your story to your son and grandson. You can even blog about it if you want.”


Music to Write by

Last week, my class was working on posters for International Education Week and I put on some music while they were working. I tried to find songs on Youtube that everyone might like or at least things that I liked. After a few songs, I put on Lana del Ray’s Summertime Sadness, which I really love. One of the students, a 20-year-old Venezuelan guy gave me a look, as in “Really? You like this?” I defended myself by teaching them the word eclectic as in “Shut up, I have eclectic tastes in music” and then changed songs.

The fact is, I do love a very wide range of songs that produce some sort of emotional response in me. After all, as a writer I’m trying to evoke an emotional response in the reader, so call it research.

I listen to music when I write since it fuels the creativity pumps deep inside my spirit. Here is a sampling of songs that I really love and that help me in my writing. I can’t guarantee you’ll like all of them and actually, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t like all of them, since what would the odds be of that? (I also like Nightcore-style music, so some of these songs are the Nightcore remix version).

Et Huomaa – Irina

L’autre – Mireille Mathieu

Fear of the Dark – Iron Maiden

Dust in the Wind – Kansas

Popcorn – Hot Butter

Blessed be Your Name – Matt Redman

Courtesy Call – Thousand Foot Krutch

Anima Libera – Emi

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Brother Louie – Modern Talking

Jai Ho – Slumdog Millionaire OST

Lady – Styx

Classical Gas – Vanessa Mae

Vampire Kiss (Nightcore version)

Helele – Velile & Safri Duo

Kernkraft 400 – Zombie Nation

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

And for my friend Miles, who also loves this song:

Kyrie – Mr. Mister

Do you listen to music when you write? What kinds of music helps you write the most?


5 Ways to Increase Your Blog Readership

This is my 500th post here on the Green-Walled Tower so hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two about blogging.

If I had a euro for every post I've made here...

If I had a euro for every post I’ve made here…

Like any blogger, I’m always trying to grow my readership and I’ve been analyzing how to do that. Here is what I’ve concluded, based on my own stats.

5. Do collaborate.

The best thing about blogging is that there is likely a market for whatever you writing: readers with blogs of their own. If you can join a group (as in my case, Friday Fictioneers or Sunday Photo Fiction) and participate actively, it gives you a built-in audience of like-minded individuals.

4. Do give useful information.

My fifth-highest post, in terms of hits, is called How to Eat a Triangle Kimbap, and is about just that. In fact, a lot of my posts about Korea got consistently more hits than others, since it’s something that people can use in their lives. Granted, I don’t do this much, since I usually can’t resist making up fake information for laughs, like my Rejected Apple Devices article. But useful information is a good idea, is what I’m saying.

3. Do write about things that at least sound naughty.

My third most viewed post is called Getting Naked With Strangers (in Korea). It is all about the experience of going to a Korean sauna. I posted it just like any other informative article about Korea but then noticed in the following weeks and months that it was getting a lot of hits through search results like naked korea, and korean men naked. It’s even had one today, from the search terms naked korean men. This tip is a little sneaky, since it will get you page hits, but probably not readers. I guarantee that at least 95% of the people who have clicked on that blog post did not go away satisfied because my article was quite G-rated. But it looks good on your blog stats.

censored

Censored? Hmm, now I’m curious…

2. Don’t write serial stories.

This one pains me a little, since I like to longer stories. Longer stories let you explore themes and characters and the only way to avoid posting a 5,000-word post that will be TL;DR’d by everyone who comes across it is to break it into segments.

Now it is possible to write a really great serial story that goes on for a long time and only gets better. Dysfunctional Literacy’s The Literary Girlfriend is an excellent example of this. However, in my experience with serial stories, hits decline sharply as the series goes on. New readers don’t have time to go back and read the previous installments and if they miss a week, it’s hard to catch up.

From what I have found, if you are going to write serial stories, make sure that each installment can stand on its own as an independent story. This is very hard to do, especially once a series gets going. I have also found that when I do post a story with several parts, it’s best to post them only a few days apart, so that people don’t forget what is happening in the story.

1. Don’t write fiction.

This one really kills me, since I run a fiction blog. Out of my 500 posts, 389 have been stories (fiction) but out of my top ten most viewed posts, only 2 of them are fiction and only 10 of my top 25 are fiction. Obviously, I’m not saying not to write fiction or that I’m going to give it up, but if you want a lot more readers, fiction is a difficult way to do it. There are a couple possible reasons for this: people don’t search for fiction online like they search for information and news; fiction is harder to skim when you don’t have much time, etc.

Pictured: fiction [*]

Pictured: fiction [*]

In conclusion, there are lots of ways to get more readers but the best way is to produce high quality, creative content. As my sister once told me, “whatever you write, make it really, really good.” This may seem obvious but it’s easy to let things slip after hundreds of posts and just post for the sake of posting. But I’m going to keep trying to think of new, fresh ideas for stories and posts for another 500 posts and beyond. That’s the plan, at least.


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