Texas Style Council’s Summer School (Part 1).

As a blogger, I spend a lot of time online. For me, that’s fine – I love to write and I love to write my blog, so I certainly don’t mind the hours I spend typing away behind a computer screen. But, sometimes, it’s nice to give the ole’ laptop a break, and do some socializing the old fashioned way – face-to-face. So this weekend, I did just that and attended my very first blogger conference: Texas Style Council’s Summer School.

Let me tell you something, y’all: it was great! There is something so wonderful and inspiring about coming together with a group of women (and a few men) who love doing what you love, and sitting in sessions where the speaker spoke to every one of my own blogging thoughts, concerns, insecurities and goals. There was definitely a lot of sitting – in total, I think I sat through 10-12 separate sessions, but it I hardly took notice of the fact that I couldn’t feel my butt by the end of each day.

It would take me blog post after blog post to give y’all a detailed description of each session that I attended, so I’m going to take a page from my friend Nicole at Writes Like A Girl and share the highlights from each of my sessions (or “classes” as we loving refer to them in summer school):

HTML 101Jen, owner of Purse & Clutch gave us a crash course on writing in HTML (which I now know stands for HyperText Markup Language). I’ve always been interested in learning how to write in HTML, and while I wouldn’t say that I’m a master HTML-er after Jen’s class, I can proudly say that I understand the very, very basics. Now just to build on what Jen taught…

Freelancing 101 | One of my favorite Austin bloggers, Tolly of Austin Eavesdropper, schooled us on the ways to break into a freelance writing career, as well as selling yourself and work to the right publication. This class was right up my alley because I would love to one day become a freelancer – I think if I was listening any more closely, I would have fallen out of my chair.

Creative Living 101 | When I decided to join this class put on by Jessie of Style & Pepper, I thought I would learn how to add creativity and flair to my everyday life (two things my life desperately needs almost 100% of the time), but what I actually learned was how to bring my online world offline – a useful tool for many bloggers and shop owners whose blog is their brand.

Personal Budgeting 101Now, I’ve never thought I have been bad with money, but when I heard that Eric & Kelsey of Words of William were teaching a class on budgeting, I knew it was a must-attend. Budgeting is not my strong suit, and they are PROS! The biggest lessons I learned from this session: Find a tool that works well for you (they use YNAB) and stick to a budget for at least three months to help acclimate yourself to the new lifestyle.

DIYAt this point in the day, I was getting a little worn from sitting in panel after panel, and thought it was about time that I got involved, so I went to two separate DIY sessions. The first was a class on designing and crafting gemstone chip earrings, taught by the fabulous Sierra of Manic Trout, and I made two fabulous pairs of earrings to add to my jewelry collection. For the second DIY session, I created some awesome leather key fobs a la Jessica from Son of a Sailor.

Create Your Own Media KitThough I’ve never been in need of a media kit, at figured learning how to make one for my own blog was a valuable lesson at this point in my blogging career. And if I’m going to make a media kit, there’s no better teacher than Tieka of Selective Potential (she’s a graphic designer, and therefore knows how to make a beautifully designed media kit).

After that, sessions ended for the day, and it was time for us to head home an get ready for the night’s activity – prom. Yes, you heard me. Seriously, what would school be without a prom to celebrate all the accomplishments you’ve had at school? Brandon and I got all dressed up and headed over to TxSC’s Prom for a night of dancing, dress-up, and lots of awesome freebies! It was great – seriously, so much fun.

And that was just the first full day of the conference. Just wait until the next post…

Bluesin’ on the Green.

Blues on the Green, Austin summer activities

One of my favorite summertime activities in Austin is KGSR’s Blues on the Green, a bi-weekly music event that brings local talent to Zilker Park for Austinites to enjoy. There’s really nothing better than walking down to the park, laying out a blanket, and drinking a beer while listening to new, interesting music with friends. In the miserable Texas summer, Blues on the Green provides a great way to spend some much needed time outside without feeling like your clothes have been soaking in a warm shower (did I mention the show was in the evenings?). It’s a fun time to be had by all. The best part of Blues on the Green? It’s free!

The event has become one of Austin’s largest free concert series, and is consistently ranked as one of the top events of the summer (I agree). Each year, I pick out one or two different nights that I want to go, and head over to Zilker Park for an evening of easy-going music listening and laying in the grass with friends. Blues on the Green is a great event for families, but tends to get a little crowded which can make  it difficult to find people that you didn’t arrive with or bring dogs (or at least my dog…plenty of people are accompanied by their furry friends).

Blues on the Green, Austin summer activities

My friends from L to R: Wiley Cyrus (the pup), Oren, Jack, Marni, me, and Brandon

Early in the summer, Brandon and I met some friends (see above for my personal advice on this situation) at Blues on the Green to hear Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. Prior to the show, I had never heard of the band before, and wasn’t proactive enough to listen to their music ahead of time, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into here. They turned out to be a pretty decent band – blues and soul, with a little electric jazz thrown in the mix. The music wasn’t necessarily something that I would listen to on the regular, but it was a nice change of pace from my typical country tunes, and made for great background music for my friends and I to catch up.

The below is one of the songs from their new album, Electric Slave, set to release August 27th:

Unfortunately, Blues on the Green is almost over for the year. There are only two more shows in 2013 – tonight’s show featuring The Gourds and Shakey Graves, and the August 7th show featuring White Denim with My Jerusalem and The Preservation. If you’ve never experienced Blues on the Green before (or even if you have), I definitely recommend planning to make it out to one of the last two nights before it disappears until next year. I’ll be at tonight’s show, and I’m actually really excited – I first heard about Shakey Graves from Austin Eavesdropper, another Austin blogger I love, and I’ve listened to his music a time or two, but have never seen him perform live. Hope to see y’all there!

In know most Austinites are veterans of Blues on the Green, so I’m hoping you’ll tell me about the best Blues on the Green show you’ve ever been to in the comments below.

p.s. – sorry about the picture quality here. For some reason my camera was working against me that night.

A Very, Happy Birthday To This Little Blog.

Today is a big day!

Delish Carrot Cupcake

A celebratory cupcake from my favorite Austin cupcake store, Delish (but that’s worthy of a whole ‘nother post).

Exactly 1 year ago, For The Love Of was born. It’s been a whole 365 days of posting love (though not nearly that many posts), and it’s been truly wonderful. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this year of blogging hasn’t all been a bed of roses – there were definitely some times that I just wasn’t feeling the love, and it reflects in my posts (or in many cases, lack thereof).

In my time as a blogger (and blog lover), I’ve read many “blogiversary” posts that discuss the blogger’s favorite posts and moments from the year passed. While reminiscing is great, it doesn’t provide a whole lot of lessons for anyone, especially those new bloggers aspiring to get to that one year mark. So rather than remember the best posts of old, (though this one was a good one, and I had a blast with this one), I’m going to do something different. I’m going to talk about some lessons learned in the last year.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love blogging, but if I learned anything in the pas year I learned that blogging can be hard…and time consuming. Just because you have a natural affinity for writing, doesn’t mean that you will be an excellent blogger. Like many things in life, blogging takes time, dedication and effort. You have to consciously plan posts, and then you actually have to spend the time writing (and editing them). I can’t tell you the number of times I planned out a fantastic post, only to let it fall through the cracks because I didn’t write it right away. Throughout the year, I also learned the importance of being myself in my posts. No one wants to read a made-up or exaggerated version of you. As a blog reader, I always connected most with the blogs that seemed honest and thoughtful, so as a blogger, it’s important to give my readers the same truth. But, more than anything – and I want all you beginner bloggers to listen up – I learned to HAVE FUN! Blogging is not meant to be an obligation (at least not for me anyway), and I guarantee that the more you enjoy writing your posts, the better your blog will be. You can fake many other things that go with blogging, but don’t fake enjoyment.

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Rachael, you are one person, and there are thousands of bloggers out there, all with different experiences, so how can you give advice to everyone?”

If that was you, then let me tell you something, reader – you would be right. I am only one person, and my lessons (while applicable to everyone), are specific to what I learned as a year-one blogger…which is why I brought in support. Even before I wrote a blog, I read blogs – lots of them – and I find that seeking advice/inspiration/etc. from a variety of different sources really helps to open up your mind. So, I’ve asked three of my favorite bloggers to join in on my blogging lessons and provide some of their own first-year blogging experiences.

What is the biggest thing you learned in your first year of blogging?

Leslie Blevins, Felt & Honey – “To be honest and personal in your posts. I once read an interview with Joanna Goddard from Cup of Jo where she said that you should write a post like you were writing it for your best friend or mom. I think that’s such good advice. If you don’t think about strangers reading it and just picture your best friend, it will allow you to open up and stay true to your voice, and as a result, I think readers will connect with you.”

Tolly Moseley, Austin Eavesdropper – “In early 2008, I went to LA to visit some friends. My blog was languishing, I wasn’t doing anything with it. But then shortly after my arrival, my friend Eddie in LA grabbed me and said, “Tolly!!!! You should post more!” I was shocked. He had been reading! I didn’t think ANYBODY was reading!  But he told me I was a good writer, a funny writer, and that was honestly a huge turning point for me. That’s when I “committed.” So in my first year, I learned that even when you don’t think anybody’s reading, people are in fact reading. It’s usually your friends or family, but if you think about it, that’s the best fan base to start with.”

Jordan Reid, Ramshackle Glam – “To always be professional; even if you’re your ‘own boss’, that doesn’t mean you can turn in sloppy work, or ignore deadlines.”

What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known then?

Leslie – “Your blog and posts don’t have to be perfect.  I put off starting my blog for a long time because I was worried my pictures, photoshop and design skills, writing, etc. weren’t good enough. Once I finally began, I was amazed how quickly my pictures improved and writing felt more natural. I even got the hang of CSS! I would tell someone starting out, post consistently and often, play around with your camera and photoshop, and like anything, your hard work will pay off.” 

Tolly – “I wish I had got Austin Eavesdropper on Facebook sooner. I rejected it up until summer 2011, when I finally got a Facebook fan page. I love the little community that’s there now, and I hope it keeps on growing.”

Jordan – “I wish I had known the importance of visuals – I look back at my early posts, and am kind of horrified by the quality of the photography. But hey, it’s a work in progress.”

Great advice from some great bloggers! A HUGE thank you goes out to those three ladies, who despite being in hectic personal situations of their own (we’re talking babies, new job adventures and Hurricane Sandy), were still willing to contribute to this post. And it’s that community feel and helpful environment that I love so much about this little blogging bubble, and one of the major reasons I’ve stayed. No matter the situation, you always have a friend, albeit a virtual one.

Clearly, it’s been a great year, and I’m so excited about all the things to come in year 2 of my adventure. I really hope to turn this little blog into something special, and can’t wait to see all the changes in store for me and For The Love Of. And I really hope that you’ll stick with me for the ride.

And with that, it’s time to enjoy some anniversary cupcakery…