Monday, May 28, 2012

Blog Hop News, Advice for New Bloggers Guest Post, and a Giveaway

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As part of The Let's Get Acquainted! Blog Hop, I thought it might be fun and helpful to ask some experienced bloggers to share their thoughts on blogging with us.  I was so excited when Deborah from Whipstitch agreed to be our first guest.  I have been a fan of her wonderful blog for a while - I love her blog's design, her writing style, her great projects - well, basically everything about her site.  Here is what she had to say:


Thanks so much to Beth for inviting me to be part of this! I really and truly love
blogging and all the connections and friends I have made through the course of it,
so it's super fun for me to have the chance to talk about the process of writing and
maintaining a blog with other crafters and folks who quilt and sew. When I first
started my first blog in 2004, I really had no idea what I was doing or what was the
best way to approach the process; I really saw blogging as a simple way to write
about the things that I cared about, and didn't even dream that anyone else would
ever care! Blogging was still new then, and the idea of using what was essentially
a group email to keep our friends and family updated on our lives to connect to
strangers from all across the world was beyond my comprehension. These days,
a lot of folks start their blogs for the express purpose of connecting with others
who love what they love, and it's so exciting to see how that grows and works and
evolves.

Beth asked me to share any advice I've gotten or would give to new quilting
bloggers, so I really sat and thought about what has worked for me over the years,
and where I have learned the most that has made my blog something I can be proud
and excited to share with others. I hope it's helpful for you, and that you'll all fall in
love with blogging!

                                                                      image from Whipstitchfabrics.com

My nuggets of blogging advice, in no particular order, and somewhat stream-of-
consciousness, with a dose of cheerful encouragement:
  • Work to be YOU in your blog. It's so easy to read another blog and emulate what you see there, specially when that blog is successful or bringing in revenue or widely read. But the reasons that blog is all those things is because it is unique to that writer; your blog can only ever be a reflection of you, because if it's anything else, readers will sense that and you won't find the connection you crave. Some of my most popular or widely-read posts were ones where I felt I was saying something obvious and that wouldn't interest anyone, or putting together a tutorial that no one would care to read but that served a purpose for me, or was maybe over-sharing a bit and getting too touchy-feely. What I learned is that the times when I am most myself are when I get the biggest response from my readers--so be real.
                                                                         image from Whipstitchfabrics.com
  • Read other blogs, and leave comments. You don't
    want to work to become another blogger, but it's unwise to pretend they're not out
    there. Read other blogs, particularly the ones that inspire you to push your own
    creative envelope. You never know what will spark your next great idea! When you
    visit someone else's site, take the time to leave a comment, even if it's just a little
    note--we all know how nice it is to have a comment on a post, and it doesn't take
    much time. Some of my closest friends in the online world have come from just
    leaving comments and replying to the ones left for me! Those friendships are the
    ones that inspire me to come up with new ideas or to invite someone to visit (in
    person or online) and are the folks who push me to be more ME in my own blog.
  • Use great photos. Most of us realize this now because we've become fairly blog-sophisticated, but when I was new to blogging, I didn't realize that the thing I loved most about the blogs I loved most was their images. You don't have to have a fancy camera, but you really can't get away with importing photos and using them raw. Edit your photos using iPhoto or any other simple (and often free) photo editing software--make it lighter and brighter, adjust the exposure,and crop out the "noise" that doesn't tell the story of your photo. Take the time to take pictures in good locations--outside, in natural light, and in front of a backdrop that enhances your quilt whenever possible. Vary the focal point of your images, giving readers both a full shot of an entire quilt as well as close-ups of the seams, the fabrics, the quilting stitches, your binding, and any element that sets your quilt apart--see this recent quilt post for an idea of what I mean here. Photos that show the quilt in motion or some kind of dynamic pose--on a person, being used, wrapped around a tree, being tossed in the air. Quilts are dynamic, and readers love seeing them in various "poses," just like a person.
                                                                        image from Whipstitchfabrics.com

  • Write great content that will last. Your blog is like a
    good friend--you want to nurture and care for it. You're not doing your blog any
    favors by adding posts that don't add content. It's easy to think of the blog like an
    email, with each post waiting for a response, but it's wiser to think of it like a
    magazine, with each post lasting perpetually. Rather than feeling pressured to write
    a new post about a partial project because you haven't finished anything worth
    writing about, make that project part of a series of posts and link them to one
    another--that way, readers can find the beginning of the project and work through
    from beginning to end even if they locate your blog years later (Pins & Needles does a great job of this with her wearable art garment posts). Rather than writing the dreaded "Sorry I've been neglecting the blog" post when you've failed to add new content in a while, simply pick up where you left off--hardly anyone reads the dates on posts anyway, and unless you had a major car accident/death in the family/cataclysmic event, chances are your absence is probably not worth calling attention to. Rather than making your posts "time-specific" by referring to the day of the week/date, work to make them timeless so that in the future when readers find your blog for the first time, they will feel they've uncovered a treasure trove of information instead of a time capsule (the obvious exception to this is if you're posting about a particular holiday or doing a time-sensitive giveaway or event).
  • Respond to every comment you possibly can. This one took me a long time to learn, and it really has called me to grow as a human being. For years, literally, I would love and crave comments, but wouldn't respond to them. Partly that was because I didn't really think anyone would care if I did, but partly it was because GETTING the comment was what mattered most to me. Those two things reflected my own insecurity and self-absorption, respectively, and learning to see that in myself wasn't totally fun. BUT! Once I realized that I was actually being disrespectful and unkind to readers who had taken the time to interact with me, I began to really get the meat out of blogging where before I had been subsisting on the fluff. By responding to comments, you build interaction with your readers, which grows their loyalty and your readership, and makes a community on your blog as the same folks come back time and again--but it also grows YOU, which makes your real life better, which makes your blog richer, and that benefits your readers. See how it all comes around? At some point, God willing, your blog might be so huge you cannot possibly reply to every person who leaves a comment--we should all have such problems. When that happens, pick and choose which comments you answer, but still take the time to interact with your readers. Anna Maria Horner once replied to a comment I left on her blog four years ago--I still have the email, tucked away and saved.
                                      image from Whipstitchfabrics.com

  • Social media isn't just about promoting yourself (but it can be). Personally, I despise Facebook and adore Twitter; you might be the other way around. It
    doesn't make a difference--what matters is that not everyone can keep up with their
    Google Reader all the time, and your recent brilliant blog post might go under their
    radar if they don't have another way of interacting with you. I love, love, love
    Twitter because the interface makes it so easy for me to catch up on bits and pieces
    of what my friends and fave bloggers are doing, and for them to do the same with
    me. I can tweet a post that I've just published to guide readers for faster feedback,
    and I can highlight events I'm planning or ask for advice or find a comrade with
    whom to make some mischief. Facebook acts very much the same way, and can help
    your posts get passed on to someone who might not find your blog any other way.
    The key is always to be genuine, and avoid using either as a means to self-promote
    all the time. Nothing makes me unfollow a blog faster than when they are constantly
    working to build their readership by giving things away, soliciting sponsors, or
    tweeting advertisements. Use social media to share your blog, yes, but also to share
    ideas and the joy of quilting with others from a real place.
  • You are under zero obligation to write a tutorial.
    When your blog is new, it seems as if you are expected to do a tutorial at some point. This is a MYTH. For one thing, not everyone is gifted as a teacher or technical writer. For another, not every tutorial needs to be written. Going to all the effort of putting together a tutorial and getting little or no feedback is discouraging, to say the least. If your readers see a project you've done and ask for a tutorial, then go for it--two of my most popular tutorials ever (one with over 36,000 Stumbles and  nearly 200,000 views) were the result of specific requests from regular readers of my blog that I was happy to fulfill. I had absolutely NO expectation that they'd get the kind of readership or reaction that they did; I made them for folks who already read and liked my blog, and that made it fun to do. Most tutorials get nothing like that reaction, and that can be a real bummer if you thought it would be the Next Big Thing. If you don't want to write a tutorial but would rather show off finished projects, then by all means, do what you're best at and avoid what you don't enjoy! Your blog should be your happy place, not a land of drudgery.
                                                                    image from Whipstitchfabrics.com
  • There should be no music on your blog. If I land on a blog with music in the background, I click away and never, ever, ever go back. Having music on your blog is way 1998, and is the death of any increased readership. For reals.
  • Make it easy to find content on your blog, now and in the
    future.
    This one is the real back-end work of blogging, and I am always
    tweaking mine--in fact, I'm in the middle of a redesign right now, working to get
    more content archived in ways that make it simple to find and utilize. Blogger and
    WordPress and TypePad all make great widgets for your sidebars; you don't have to
    use them all. Instead, find ways to organize your blog to make it simpler for a new
    reader to get involved. Think of it as if you're part of a TV series, and any new
    reader is coming in part way through the season; if they can't catch up on the story
    and characters, they won't stick around. Make sure you have an "about" section that
    introduces you, a "back posts" section where they can find older posts in a
    particular category or on a certain subject, and don't be too proud to highlight older
    projects or posts in your sidebar. If your blog is about YOU, make it possible for a
    new reader to learn what it is that makes your blog different and enjoyable so that
    they'll be encouraged to come back over and over again.
I hope these suggestions are useful! Most of this is pretty foundational, but these
are things I didn't think about or know when I started blogging that would have
been so helpful in thinking through WHY I had a blog and WHAT I wanted my
blog to be about. Your blog will be different from anyone else's, and the more it's a
reflection of you, the more you'll enjoy the process, whether you have readers or
not. And the enjoyment you get from blogging comes through in your posts, which
is what draws in readers. It's a paradox, I know, but there it is.

Happy blogging!

Thanks Deborah for all your valuable insights and advice!  This is such helpful information for new bloggers (such as myself) and on behalf of the new bloggers who will be reading this, I want to say how much we all appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts. 


Giveaway:


                                            image from Whipstitchfabrics.com


***Deborah is teaching a four-week e-course starting June 4th called Essential Quilting.  I've read through the description and it sounds amazing!  The course is aimed at beginning and intermediate-level quilters and will teach you the steps to make 10 different quilt blocks that can be combined into an awesome sampler quilt as well as four mini projects!   There will be daily lessons consisting of videos, audio, images, and downloads plus guest interviews with some of our favorite modern quilters.  There will also be two live chats so you can receive direct feedback on your quilting and you'll receive a PDF e-book of the course to download at the end of the class.  Be sure to check it out!


And Deborah is offering a spot in the class to one lucky reader!  To enter, just leave a comment (1 per person) on this post.  The giveaway will remain open until Thursday, May 31 at 8pm EDT and a winner will be chosen at random that evening.  You can leave any comment you want to enter the giveaway but if you want a topic, please write about your favorite quilting tip.  If you are a no-reply blogger, be sure to leave an email address.


***Edited to add:  I am getting lots of comments from no-reply bloggers on this post so I can't reply to you - if you are unsure whether you are a no-reply blogger, please put your email in your message and I'll let you know - this includes bloggers/readers using their Google id - you might still be a no-reply blogger.  


Giveaway now closed.  And the winner is:







That was great advice for a newbie blogger like myself! Thanks for sharing. As far a quilting tips go, one thing I have learned is to measure several times before cutting or piecing blocks together. I struggle in the math department and have been forced to do lots of tweaking when my calculations are off base:).

Congratulations Brooke!  Enjoy the great e-course.  






And for those of you are visiting my blog for the first time today - Welcome! - if you would like more information on the Blog Hop, click here.

Blog Hop News - May 28, 2012


Weekly Calendar
May 29
    Heidi from Fabric Mutt
    Amy from Amy's Crafty Shenanigans
    
May 31
    Jodi from Tickle and Hide
    Libby from Miss Beau Jangles
  

If you missed last week, you missed four awesome tutorials - find them here:
 May 22
    Kelsey from Kelsey Sews
    Erin from Billy Button Designs

May 24
    Nik from Bold Goods
    Alyssa from Pile O Fabric

Events and Highlights:  I'll write another post with these later this week (email me if you have something you would included.)

Other ways to keep up and participate in the Blog Hop:
   1.  Follow me on Twitter
   2.  Join and post on the Let's Get Acquainted! Flickr Group
   3.  Follow and post on my Let's Get Acquainted! Pinterest Boards here and here.

Weekly Link Up:
This is a weekly link up for Blog Hop Participants and anyone who is following along.  If you have made any projects inspired from the tutorials on Hop, link them here.  If not, just link up your recent post so that we can all get to know you better.  Be sure to visit some of the other bloggers who link here as well.  Please link to this post somewhere in your post or on your blog so others can find it as well.





67 comments:

  1. Thank you Beth and Deborah, that was a really thought provoking post.

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  2. Very, very, good advice, absorbing it all thanks Deborah! I'd really love to be in this class!

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  3. Beth, this is another great post to kick off the week! Deborah, thanks so much for your thoughts...so encouraging and insightful. Thanks to you both!

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  4. Loads of great advice there, I was gonna just read the first bit but I got sucked in! That e-course looks amazing! My number 1 tip is try as many different binding methods as you can before picking a fave, I had no idea there were so many to choose from!

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  5. This is just awesome Beth!! I started blogging a couple of months ago with lots of sewing knowledge but VERY little blog or even computer knowledge. I really have been learning as I go and your new blog series is going to help me so much. Deborah has some really good advice. I am part of the blog hop on Sept. 6th so hopefully I'll have my blog in great shape by then:)

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  6. Thanks for all the great ideas Deborah! I totally agree with your suggestion to respond to every comment. I like to think of my blog as an ongoing conversation between myself and the wonderful people that read it. If I didn't respond to their comments, the conversation would become pretty one-sided. Thanks for the chance to participate in essential quilting as well!

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  7. Wonderful advice! Thanks for sharing, Deborah!

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  8. Great advice! Thanks so much for this article!

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  9. That was great advice for a newbie blogger like myself! Thanks for sharing. As far a quilting tips go, one thing I have learned is to measure several times before cutting or piecing blocks together. I struggle in the math department and have been forced to do lots of tweaking when my calculations are off base:).

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  10. I especially like the idea of photographing quilts in motion...I'll have to try to do more of that!

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  11. This was very helpful! Thanks so much to both Beth and Deborah!

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  12. A really insightful and intelligent post. Many thanks Deborah.

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  13. Loving the advice :) Thank you for putting together such a fab blog hop! Also, the class sounds great - would love to be on it!!!

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  14. Great advice. I've only been blogging since this year so the tips are really useful =D

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  15. This is one of the most interesting and informative articles I've read in quite some time! Thank you Deborah for taking the time to share all this helpful information. :) I would absolutely love taking the Essential Quilting class.
    I'm in between a beginner and an intermediate quilter, and that might be giving myself too much credit, lol, so I'm having trouble coming up with any tips.. Think twice, measure twice, cut once! lol
    Bethany
    makemeaquilt at gmail dot com

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  16. These are some fabulous insights. Thank you Deborah! I am still working on bringing more of "me" into my blog, but I think it is definitely helping me connect more with my readers. Also, thanks for the Sewing Buddies that you arranged! I am loving my partner, she is fabulous!

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  17. Great post with some good tips! Thanks for sharing! And loving the giveaway - thank you!

    Favourite quilting tip? Always keep your seam ripper handy or is that just me? Haha!

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  18. Thanks for the tips for new bloggers - I also click right out when music comes on LOL!

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  19. It is all so true! Thanks for the advice you're sharing; really appreciate it.

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  20. Awesome tips! Really useful - thanks so much Beth and Deborah.

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  21. Great article, thanks so much for taking the time to take part.

    My favourite quilting tip is more of a saying from when I was being taught to quilt 'it's not called a walking foot for nothing, slow down!!'

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  22. This is a great post! I'm so glad I found this blog, as I've just started one of my own and am happy to find a place devoted to others starting the same type of project! I find the photography the most intimidating part--I've got a little point and shoot, no backyard/little natural light, and not much eye for composing shots-- but I guess I'll just have to keep at it! Photos are really the big payoff for me too when I'm reading others' blogs, so it makes sense to put some time into that aspect!

    Also, I'm very sad that the admonition to not have music on a blog is still needed in 2012. :(

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  23. What a great post! Thanks, Deborah and Beth. I'm a new blogger and am still finding my feet and working out the "rules" of the blogosphere. This is a great help.

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  24. Really great advice. Thank you so much for hosting this fun blog hop. It's going to be a great summer!

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  25. What a great post with a lot of good information from someone who knows.
    Would love to win a spot in the class. Thanks for the chance.

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  26. Great post! I enjoyed reading it, but I would enjoy attending that e-class more. ;)


    Thank you for the giveaway!

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  27. Very informative post - thanks for the chance to win the e-course!

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  28. Completely agree about music on blogs. Thanks for the great advice!!

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  29. Thank you for posting about the music on the blog. I still come across blogs with music on them and I NEVER return! I hate to be in my own peaceful reading mode and hit some blog with the tunes blaring. I skimmed this, but will be back to read it more thoroughly when the kids are napping (if the kids nap!)

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  30. Thank you for taking the time to put together such a thoughtful and helpful post!

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  31. Thanks for that interesting post :)

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  32. This is great info that bears sharing! Thanks for your thoughts :-D

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  33. Hi, this is a great post for new bloggers like myself and addresses some of the things that I have been worrying about eg putting music on my blog. I'd love to win this course as I'm new to quilting as well as blogging.

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  34. Thank you Deborah! This was great!

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  35. Thank you so much for all of these tips!

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  36. This was such great advice I wish I knew some years ago, when I began blogging. No doubt I would have blogged much more if I had known better:-)
    The tip about photos of quilts in motion is great:-))

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  37. I enjoyed reading this post. I feel the same about blog music.

    I'd love win the chance to participate in the e-class.
    trilliumcreates AT gmail DOT com

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  38. I so agree with the no music on the blog advice. It's so irritating and disconcerting to have one's enjoyment and thoughts interferred with when music suddenly begins to play. It always startles me.

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  39. I think this is a great idea. Thank you for taking the time to help others. It is appreciated.

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  40. I love your advice. You give some really good tips, especially the one about being true to yourself. People like to have that personal connection, even when it's hard to be through the web.

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  41. Thank you Beth and Deborah- such great advice. I love reading blogs and I agree with the idea of how people's personalities coming through, as well as their incredible quilting, draws me back to their blogs daily.
    I will work at increasing the number of comments I make, I can see how just a few words of appreciation can support your favourite bloggers to continue.
    So glad I stumbled on your blog!

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  42. Thank you for the great ideas, and the class sounds wonderful!

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  43. I am new here and so glad I found this blog hop. I am a newbie and so anxious to learn quilting. I advice is to stay positive - I know I am discouraged with all there is to learn, but I am going to stay POSITIVE.

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  44. I'm a fairly new blogger and I really appreciate the tips! I agree about the music. It drives me nuts! Short trip, though. :-) And I believe photos are key! I'm much more likely to follow a blog with lots of pictures. I'm looking forward to visiting all of these blogs on the hop.

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  45. I am a new quilter and love to read blogs for inspiration. So far there is lots of inspiration but I also find it very intimidating. I am afraid to start as I don't really know where to start. I would love to participate in the e class.

    Thanks Sandy

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  46. Hi, I'm not a blogger and probably never will be, BUT, I'm loving your Blog Hop. I've read quilting blogs for years and have my tried and true blogs that I follow. I found you through Pinterest and I'm enjoying meeting these new quilting bloggers and seeing their fresh ideas. Thank You. Penny

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  47. Great tips & wonderful blog hop. I've checked out some of the blogs already, and will be visiting them all. Thanks for the chance to win such a terrific giveaway.

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  48. I don't expect I'll ever have my own blog, but I loved reading your tips in case I do. The class sounds like something I could use.

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  49. What terrific advice! I've been working on my blog little by little, and love picking up new tips. I would LOVE the class - I have material for a couple of quilts, but haven't started yet, so I'm ready for it NOW! :)

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  50. Such great advice. Thanks for the great ideas.

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  51. Fantastic article, I'm not a blogger but I'm definitely a reader and I agree with what Deborah wrote (from a reader's perspective).
    As for quilting, I think the most valuable lesson I've learned so far is to measure twice and cut once. the7thsphere@gmail.com

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  52. I wish I had read all this when I first started! Great advice! I still have so much to learn! In the meantime, I'm enjoying it.

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  53. I'm a new quilter, so love this giveaway. Thanks for the chance!

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  54. Thank you for having this guest post. It was nice to be reminded of these things. I have made great on-line friends through my blog, and also in person.

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  55. I think the best tidbit of advice in your article was "be yourself." You had so many good thoughts, but that is one of the most difficult things to do - finding your own voice. Once you do, the rest is easy! Your class sounds awesome, btw.

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  56. Thanks for all the blog info. I'm thinking of starting a new blog, and need all the help I can get! Thanks avablondie@aol.com

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  57. Great post! Thanks Deborah for the great advice for new bloggers and thanks Beth for hosting the Blog Hop, it's a great way to discover new blogs.
    The e-class sounds great - thanks for the opportunity!

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  58. Great post. Love the giveaway

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  59. I just joined your blog and found this posting; it was so helpful. I started a blog in January and appreciate all the tips for blogging . . . I almost added music, but won't now. : ) Thanks to your advice, I'm going to start answering my posts more often.

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  60. Thanks so much for doing this. I'm still trying to figure out my blogging voice and what it's about. Now that summer is here hopefully I can get focused and make a real commitment to blogging. I'm so inspired but also overwhelmed by all the blogs out there.

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  61. One of my goals for this summer is to start my own blog. Thanks for all the helpful and honest information!

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