How to use polls to engage your blog readers

Hey blogger!

Have you ever used a poll before? If you’ve not, today’s post is perfect for you. 

Polls are a good way for bloggers to find answers to questions, try out new things or just feel the pulse of the online tribe.

Here are a few ways you can use polls for your blog.

To try out a new blog segment

Are you thinking of introducing a fresh segment on your blog but you are not sure how your audience will take it? Try taking a  poll. You can do a pilot post on your blog and create a simple poll asking your readers to vote for or against the new segment. This is a bit better than asking them to leave a comment because it gives you the results without you having to count manually who is for or against the addition. 

Top notch ideas on how to improve the blog

Tired of second guessing or doing it on your own? Ask for help. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! If you need ideas on how to improve your delivery, design or approach you can create a poll to ask your followers. Most of them would gladly chip in a thing or two. Besides your audience’s advice is priceless especially the honest and sincere ones.

What you should remove from your blog

This may be a bit painful especially if you do not agree with some of the suggestions but honest and sincere answers never hurt anyone right? The worst that could happen is that you’d reject the suggestions and move on. On the other hand, you may be getting valuable feedback on how to make your blog more likeable. 

Either way, polls are a great way to engage your audience in a fresh way.

Writing Quote – Writers get ideas all day every day

 

Medieval.jpg

“Writers get ideas all day every day. The FedEx guy delivers a package from Sears and the writer is thinking how it could actually be a ticking time bomb.” ~ Dan Alatorre

We totally agree with this. Ideas are flying around, your seemingly random everyday life can inspire the biggest stories. This is because human beings are the ones who read the stories and they are going through similar stuff in their everyday life.

Have you noticed that sometimes the best ideas come in the most unconventional ways? There is nothing wrong with actually writing about a delivery man bringing you a package and your mind is thinking it’s a bomb. If that’s the idea that comes to you then write it. You’d be surprised that many other people are thinking the same things and would totally love to read your thoughts.

When those ideas come, don’t write them off as silly. Just write away!

#WriterSpotlight – “I think it’s important for us as writers to risk ridicule and bring truth to life.” Tolu Oluwaseyi-Daniel

unnamed (2)

Hey Sparkle Writers! It’s time for another #WriterSpotlight. Today we have Tolu Oluwaseyi-Daniel, popularly known as L’Queen. She is an author and blogger and she has some great advice for writers who want to publish books and write stories.

We can’t wait for you to dig in!

Hello, Tolu. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

Hi, my name is Tolu Oluwaseyi-Daniel, also known as L’Queen. I’m a purpose driven person who loves to be a source of joy and motivation to others. I am a writer, blogger and public speaker.

At what point did you discover that you had a passion for writing and why did you decide to pursue this passion?

I fully discovered my love for writing in 2012, when I started my blog LQUEENWRITES.COM. Although before then I knew it was something I had a flair for. I’d always been inspired by books, every writer I know is a reader.  Growing up, I was surrounded by books. My parents read a lot so that probably birthed my interest. Somewhere along the line, I knew that someday I would have to share my own stories both fiction and nonfiction.

You recently published your book, ‘On the Ride’. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

Growing up, I saw a lot of books that addressed issues regarding living life as an adult but there weren’t so many books that related to our experiences as adolescents and young adults. Issues relating to building confidence, overcoming low self-esteem, mood swings, voicing out about abuse, bullying, the use of social media, grooming, utilizing talents and discovering purpose. Aside from my love for teens, I felt there was a need to put the right words to the shadowy corners in the lives of the younger generation so that definitely inspired me to write, On the Ride.

unnamed (1)

We know you shared a lot of your personal experiences in the book. Was it easy for you to do this?

I think the true reason why God allows you go through things and survive them is so that your story can reach out to others and give them hope. It wasn’t easy putting myself out there but it was very important for me to share those experiences to help someone that might be encountering similar challenges.

Why is it important for writers to learn how to be vulnerable when they write?

Vulnerability as a writer is one way to make your readers connect with you. It sparks emotional feelings and gives them a more detailed knowledge of you as a person not just for the words written but because they can relate to your own personal experiences. Writing to me is a generous act so I think it’s more important for us as writers to risk ridicule and bring truth to life.

Let’s talk about publishing. What challenges did you face in writing and getting your book published?

One of the major challenges was finding a good publishing house to work with. I called several publishing houses but when it sounded like I wasn’t getting what I wanted from any of them I became a little frustrated. Fortunately, I found Winepress Publishing and they were just in sync with the ideas I had for the book. They did a good job ensuring that the manuscript was well edited.

Many writers find it difficult to finish writing a book and get published. What tips do you have for such writers?

I think the most important thing is to know that there’s a story you must tell, there’s someone out there that your story is meant to reach out to. There would be days when you don’t feel inspired to write but you have to constantly remind yourself that you have to get it done. Have a total word count in mind, have people you are accountable to, set a deadline and stay focused on the goal.

With the right amount of commitment and motivation, one chapter at a time you’ll see your book finished in no time.

unnamed

In what ways has your writing grown and evolved since you started writing?

With each article and short story I have written, my writing has greatly evolved. I have learnt to be more descriptive, my vocabulary has expanded and I have gained a better understanding of my audience.

Where do you want writing to take you in the next five years?

Well, my goal right now is to take more writing courses and develop my writing skills much more. I’d like to write more fiction stories and gain more recognition as a writer.

I’d like to explore the world, meet more people and have more experiences to write about.

Most importantly, I want to be that writer that blesses lives with words.

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share but fear keeps holding them back?

Fear would always keep a person under because it limits their capacity to become more. I would encourage such people to rise above fear to a place of courage. The message is always bigger than the messenger so they need to come out of that place of hiding and unabashedly share their stories with the world.

#WriterSpotlight – “Find your voice, be consistent and stay true to yourself.” DamiLoves

image1 (1)

We have Damilola on today’s #WriterSpotlight. Her description of the difference between inspiration and motivation and the role discipline plays in the life of a writer is insightful and so is the rest of the interview.

Enjoy!

Hello Damilola Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

Damilola is a determined lady trying to live out God’s calling on her life, who endeavours to utilise all opportunities she encounters.

When and how did you discover your love for writing?

I cannot accurately pinpoint where my love for writing grew from, but I can certainly say that it was born alongside my love for reading books and stories. Growing up my father and maternal grandfather always had a book in their hands. They are two of the most intelligent people I know, yet they still wanted to learn and explore more. In reading, I feed my desire to learn more about the enigma that is life, and in writing, I attempt to bring a voice to stories that would have been forgotten.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me the value of patience. It has shown me the importance of stepping out regardless of the amount of fear and hesitation one may have. The reason for this is that writing is an exercise in editing, but you cannot edit a piece of work if there is no first draft. You must have the boldness to write down the first few words of the first draft, and return to it and work on it until it resembles the finished product you have envisioned. It can be a gruelling process, but the catharsis it produces pays off in the end.

Which author (dead or alive) would love to spend a day with if given a chance?

I will choose a dead author in the person of Rainer Maria Rilke. I bought the book “Letters to a young poet” as a young teenager, and I find his instructions to Kappus the young poet still resonating with me till today; the letters were written in 1902, but the wisdom is still relevant today.

Have you ever reached a point where you wanted to give up on writing?

Give up on writing? No, it has become part and parcel of who I am, I even write letters to some of my friends, and I adore love letters. Writing is a way for me to reflect, learn and even pray to God. So, no I have not wanted to give up, but when a project is due, or I am near a deadline, and I don’t have the finished product I envisaged, such moments can be testing.

When you are struggling to find inspiration, can you share some of the things that you do to find that inspiration to write?

I will acknowledge that there is no real lack of inspiration for a writer as there is a lack of motivation. Life is inspiring; nature, sorrow, joy, pain; there is some inspiration all around us. However, I have found that motivation and discipline are the more significant factors when writing seems to have reached a point of no return.

Creative people are more often than not taken for granted because people do not understand the amount of time and effort they put in their work. What do you think can be done to change this?

I have encountered the sharp sting of having my work rejected, and I acknowledge that a lot of us do work that inadvertently becomes pro-bono. So to change the current narrative, we will need to alter the mindset of those who are in the driving seat. Consumers and publishers alike need to understand the struggle, and sometimes tears that it takes to produce quality content.

You manage a blog, in your own opinion what’s the most important skill a blogger needs to have?

I currently run damiloves, and when I started, it was about my journey, but now it is about the journey of women. I endeavour to encourage women by sharing stories, poems or my thoughts of social events; reaching where we are today has been a lesson in evolution. I will say a passion and a desire to excel will be the main driving force. Find your voice, be consistent and stay true to yourself; your niche may change but don’t attempt to run someone else’s race.

What will you say has been your biggest achievement as a writer so far?

I completed a short series last year on my blog “a collection of scars“. It was a collection of fictional monologues by fictional Nigerian women who were carrying some burden or another. I was enamoured by the feedback I received, so many people had such unexpected emotional responses to the stories, their feedback humbled me.

Where would you like writing to take you in the future?

I would like my writing to be part of the legacy I leave behind. I want my words to bring joy, comfort and healing even after I depart from this earth.

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share, but fear keeps holding them back?

I would say to them just write, start with small steps and whatever you do just write. There is a talent in you that the world is waiting for; in following your dreams, you open the doors for someone else to walk towards the light of their destiny.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

#GrammarSeries – All you need to know about non continuous verbs

It is #GrammarSeries on the Sparkle Writer’s Hub blog today and we want to learn about non-continuous verbs. 

Non-continuous verbs are verbs that we do not normally use with continuous tenses. These “stative” verbs are about state, not action, and they cannot express the continuous or progressive aspect. Here are some of the most common non-continuous verbs:

Here are some of the most common non-continuous verbs:

  • Feelinghate, like, love, prefer, want, wish
  • Sensesappear, feel, hear, see, seem, smell, sound, taste
  • Communicationagree, deny, disagree, mean, promise, satisfy, surprise
  • Thinkingbelieve, imagine, know, mean, realize, recognize, remember, understand
  • Other statesbe, belong, concern, depend, involve, matter, need, owe, own, possess

If you’ve been using any of these verbs in the continuous tense you have to stop. 

Look at these examples

I am wanting cake (Wrong)

I want cake (Right)

I am not hearing anything (Wrong)

I can’t hear anything (Right)

Until next week when we bring another series your way, keep your grammar in check. 

‘Keep an honest, unpublishable journal’ – Madeleine L’Engle’s advice to writers is epic!

We’ve seen a lot of advice to writers so you can trust us when we say Madeleine’s advice is epic. It is in three folds and we’d just highlight them properly. 

On keeping an honest journal. 

‘If you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair.’

We totally agree. One of the reasons why we are lacking original content is because everyone is churning out what they think people want to read people or are copying what they see from other writers and as a result, there’s just a bunch of duplicated copies of art, content and truth. It is time writers wrote out their true feelings, the deepest, and most vulnerable. Keeping this journal will help to keep that truth alive.

On why reading is and will always be important

‘You need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write.’ 

As a writer, you must be someone who loves to read. There’s nothing more to add to this. 

On why writing every day is still relevant 

‘The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.’

Because in the end that’s why you are a writer, to write.

#WriterSpotlight – “I would love my writing to win a space for me in people’s hearts.” Ibukun Tunbi

 

IMG-20160707-WA0000

We absolutely love Ibukun Tunbi’s interview on today’s edition of #WriterSpotlight. She is such an amazing writer and her answers are so real. We love how, after struggling so much with her passion, she is finally doing what she loves which is writing. Be inspired by our interview with Ibukun. 

Hello Ibukun. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

Assertive, strong willed, playful, bold, down to earth and spiritual.

When did you discover you had a passion for writing and why did you follow this passion?

At the back of my mind, I always knew I would write, I just never imagined it would become a passion. Growing up, I had this feeling that I would be successful at it and that made me very fearful of trying. Eventually, I found myself caught between this paralyzing fear and thoughts dying to be expressed. One had to give way for the other. On this particular day, I made a decision to get validation from someone that could be gracefully objective. I wrote a story and sent it to my sister anticipating her response. She was so excited and told me to continue with the story. Her feedback made me think, ‘Umm…maybe this could work’ but still I didn’t immediately jump into writing,

I started a blog last year and was still oblivious to the fact that I had a passion for writing. I knew I liked story telling but it seemed too big to touch so I didn’t really embrace the idea.

Eventually, after a few years of trying my hands at this and that, I accepted writing to be my passion. The year after, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Sister Act (II). It was something Whoopi said to Lauren Hill that caused my awakening.  She said to her, ‘If you wake up everyday and all you think about is singing that means you are a singer.’ Applying this to myself, I decided it was time to stop being chased by my passion and chase my passion instead, I was a writer.

 Can you tell us what you love most about writing?

What I love most about writing, specifically storytelling, is the power inherent in creativity. Once one word is written the next obediently follows. The words always find an avenue to come alive and find their place in your story. Characters, scenes, dialogue…all of it, fascinates me as they mix together to create a beautiful piece. Most times, I wonder if I am the one writing or if the story is really telling itself through me. The feeling I get in the mixing and matching process is amazing. What is even more fulfilling is the joy that comes from beholding a finished work. I usually feel I earned myself a reason to sleep afterwards.

 What is the most important thing writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me that you get better with use. In whatever field you are in, I believe this rule applies. Experience really cannot be bought; knowledge can but experience cannot. The more you make use of something the better you are at manoeuvring it.

 At what point did you decide to start your blog and how has the experience been?

My blog was my training ground. It started at a time when I was trying to discover myself. The words in my head kept bouncing around until one day God told me, “Start a blog.” It was very direct. I started to give my excuses, which He sorted out. All that was left was the courage to start and that came along too. I did it afraid. I still do.

It’s been a roller coaster. In the beginning, I got so much support, then it reduced. At a point, I felt drained. I had to stop but a friend encouraged me to continue. Sometimes, I ask myself ‘why am I doing this?’ But somehow, I get encouraged again. I can tell you, as of a few days ago, I was thinking of shutting down the blog, but this has encouraged me to continue.

Which author (dead or alive) would you love to spend a day with if given a chance?

Hands down, C. S. Lewis. I would love to peek into his mind to see how it worked.

IMG-20170617-WA0006

Have you ever reached a point where you wanted to give up on writing?

Not really but I found myself extremely discouraged recently. I submitted a script to this production house but they got back to me saying they couldn’t produce my story. It was my first bold step in putting my work publicly and I was terribly crushed. I felt very powerless to keep trying. It’s a terrible thing to feel like a dream died. So anyway, one of my Spurlies (friends) called me and suggested we attend this program. I was still in a haze so I told her to register on my behalf. Eventually I made it to the event, half interested. When I got in, I met this lady speaking. She mentioned that every year for the past ten years, she has considered giving up but somehow, she has kept going. I was really shocked, especially because the lady is quite successful in her field. This theme was re-occurrent throughout the program. A few other successful speakers mentioned how they kept going despite the temptation to give up. It then dawned on me that everyone was bound to go through this stage of despair and I was in good company. Thus, my resolve to keep moving.

When you are struggling to find inspiration, can you share some of the things you do to find that inspiration to write?

Sometimes, I just write anything that comes to my head and try to force the words out. However, in situations like that, I feel like my work doesn’t make a lot of sense. Other times, I change my environment, and I get inspired. This trick doesn’t work too often though. The one that works mostly is spending time with God. After I do, I feel a flow and writing becomes effortless.

I have learnt that my writing flows from some place and so I respect that. Therefore, if there’s still no flow after I have done all that I know to do, I wait until I am stirred, and I always am, then I write.

 Where would you like writing to take you to in the future?

As much as I would like to win Oscars and Nobel Laureates, I especially would love my writing to win a space for me in people’s hearts. The ultimate for me is when my words become a voice. A voice that influences how society is shaped; a voice that creates a worldwide platform where the very hearts of people are touched.

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share but fear keeps holding them back?

You can only run so far. It’s time to stop and embrace your message, your fulfilment is hidden in your fear.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

#WordOfTheDay – Find out what inveterate means

 

We love it when we have the opportunity to learn new words. It is even better when we get to share those words with you! It’s time for our #WordOfTheDay on The Sparkle Writer’s Hub.

Today’s word is ‘inveterate’. Inveterate is an adjective that is pronounced /ɪnˈvɛt(ə)rət/. Ever heard of this word? 

It means to have a particular habit, activity, or interest that is long-established and unlikely to change. 

Look at these examples:

Politicians are inveterate liars.

I am an inveterate writer, what about you?

Find ways to use this word in a sentence this week. See you next week when we will have a new word for you.

#GrammarSeries – The difference between burnt and burned

Hey, Sparkle Writers.

Have you ever burned/ burnt a meal before? How did you relay the information? Most people still do not know which is correct. Burned or burnt?

If you read this post till the end, you will find out. 

Burned and burnt are both acceptable past-tense forms of the verb to burn.

While ‘burned’ is more acceptable in the United States, ‘burnt’ is more acceptable in the United Kingdom. 

So for example, you’d say  

Mom burned the cakes (if you are using the American standard)

Mum burnt the cakes (if you are using the British standard)

In addition, the dictionary of Modern English Usage says that the two forms can have slightly different meanings. For example, if you say a house burnt down, that implies it happened quickly, but people are more likely to use burned for something that took a long time like ‘the fire burned for days’. But this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.

We hope this helps! 

 

Culled from GrammarGirl

 

#WriterSpotlight – “No story is to short to tell, too long to narrate or too irrelevant to be listened to.” Abifola Abraham

 

It’s another Thursday and you know it’s time for our #WriterSpotlight feature! Before we tell you about today’s writer, we want to remind you about our special #WriterSpotlight Anniversary Edition. This evening, we will have an Instagram Live Chat with our Founder where she will give writing advice and solutions to common problems writers face. It starts at 7 pm so don’t miss it. 

Back to today’s feature! It won’t be an exaggeration to call Abifola Abraham a creative genius. He expresses his creativity in poetry and pencil art. We love the fact that he is self-motivated and he is willing to work hard to be successful in his craft. Enjoy his interview with us.

Hello Fola. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

Olorunlana Abifola Abraham is my name. I’m 18 years old. I hail from Ondo state Nigeria. I draw and write poems.

Drawing and writing poems. That’s an interesting combination. How did you develop a passion for these two things?

Let me say it has always been in me. All I did was let it out. The passion comes as a result of my hard work and encouragement from people who see my work and appreciate it.

In what ways are art and poetry related?  

Well, I define art as a creative way of expressing one’s self. Poetry exhibits this, likewise drawing. So poetry is just a form of art.

Take us through your journey to getting to where you are today. How did you begin as a pencil artist and as a poet?

Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. It all started when I was little. I was a fan of old British movies, where they’d sing while acting, or sometimes recite rhythmic words while acting. I also loved comic cartoon characters and paint works made by art legends such as Van Gogh, Lionel Da Vinci, and Picasso. I always tried mimicking the actors and actress in those movies I watched. Then I continued until one day my friends saw me in that act and they encouraged me to keep up. As I tried keeping up with the act, I was making caricature comic drawings of my own. Then as I grew older my fascination for comic characters began to fade right from the moment I came across “tag drawing”(a form of drawing in which you use objects to represent or describe a person, society or situation). I kept on making imaginative tag drawings until I came across a pencil portrait work of an Africa girl on the internet. I was amazed. I decided to give it a try and I discovered I had what it takes. Ever since I’ve been making pencil drawings, and I’ve not for once regretted being a pencil artist. On the other hand, I began to write poems the day I was introduced to poetry writing in secondary school. I was 14 and I did literature in secondary school even though I was a science student.  Ever since I’ve been a poet and a pencil artist.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration is a thing that comes to you anywhere, anytime.  Sometimes I am my own inspiration. Most of my poems are written based on things that have happened to me. So I just tell the story in form of a poem.  Sometimes, I get my inspiration from the society;  what’s going around me. I basically write my poems to express my thoughts in simple words, which of course will be easy for readers to relate with and get absorbed into.

Did you face any challenges in your journey and how were you able to overcome them? 

Of course I did face some challenges. There was a time I had issues with getting people to read my poems. But thanks to the existence of social media I get to share my poems on Instagram to a wide audience who can read my poems. On the other hand, drawing was more challenging. My parents always believed being a pencil artist was a waste of time and wouldn’t bring reasonable returns. All I did was to raise capital on my own. I denied myself of some things so I could get art materials which are not cheap to purchase and have never been cheap to purchase. It took a while before I could acquire a lot of professional drawing tools. I now have reasonable number of drawing tools.  I kept up with the work until my dad came home one day, saw one of my works and told me to keep the good work up. Today, I fund my own art.

What do you love most about what you do?

What I love most about what I do is that I get to express myself as well the fact that people appreciate my works when they see them.

Has combining art and poetry been profitable for you?

Yes, it has been profitable so far, especially drawing.

As a creative person, what are some of your frustrations with the way art is viewed in Nigeria?

First of all, most attention is focused on people who have spent decades doing art leaving the young and upcoming ones crawling their way up on their own. Secondly, art in Nigeria is not that well-appreciated. It’s sometimes considered as being cheap. People give you good credit for your works but don’t want to pay to have them.

Creative people are more often than not taken for granted because people do not understand the amount of time and effort they put in their work. What do you think can be done to change this?

Well, it happens in almost every occupation. All I think could be done is that one should try to stand out in whatever he or she does. The more the expression of creativity, the more the chances of appreciation.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?  

The most important thing I’ve learnt from writing is that, whatever story it is you have in mind, learn to put it down and showcase it to an audience. You never can tell who’s going to learn from it and whose life it is going to change for good. I’ve written a poem which I didn’t consider to have a strong theme but I was surprised when a reader texted me saying he read my poem and his mind was eased. He, in fact, thanked me for it.

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share but fear keeps holding them back?

My advice to those who have something to share yet allow fear to hold them back is, no story is too short to tell, too long to narrate or too irrelevant to be listened to. Do not mind the number of your audience. Not every story is for everyone. Just express yourself to an audience and you’d see your story touching souls and changing lives.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com.