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Check Out My New Website!

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Check Out My New Website!

*If you follow me here, consider heading over to my new website and joining my email list!*

It’s ready, it’s ready!

Well, sort of.

My new website — www.evalangston.com — is far from perfect.  I’m still deciding on an image, so the header is rather bare.  I’m also trying to figure out how to increase the font size on my top menu bar, but so far no luck.  And I need to create a favicon at some point.  (Don’t know what that is?  I didn’t until a few weeks ago when I did the Blog By Numbers course*.)

I also need to transfer more of my In the Garden of Eva posts over to the new site.  And I have a LOT to learn about how to increase my traffic using social media.  For example, I created a Pinterest account and a Facebook page, but I need to learn how to use them to my advantage.  (By the way, if you could follow me on Pinterest, that’d be super great.  I only have one follower right now, which is kind of embarrassing.)

(*This is an affiliate link.  If you purchase the Blog by Number course, I get a little commission, with no extra cost for you — it’s a win-win!*) 

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Me, after a month’s worth of online tutorials.

 

But my site is good enough for now, and I’m proud of it.  I am NOT a tech person, and creating a professional website was a challenge for me.  Mostly a challenge in patience.  Let’s just say, I watched A LOT of online tutorials.

Soon, I’m going to be saying goodbye to In the Garden of Eva.  In fact, this might be my last post here. I’ve emailed WordPress customer support to find out how I can redirect the site so that when people type “inthegardenofeva” they will automatically be taken to my new site.  (I’ve also been getting really tight with various customer service centers.)

So head on over to www.evalangston.com and take a look.  Join the mailing list, leave a comment, and let me know what you think!

The New Website Is Nearly Ready!

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The New Website Is Nearly Ready!

Hi Everyone!  It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  I’ve been tutoring almost every day, and I heard from an agent who suggested an intriguing change for my novel… so another revision might be on the horizon.  Plus next week I’m teaching a class on Landing a Literary Agent at the Bethesda Writer’s Center.  (There’s still spots if you’re interested and in the area!)

Plus I’ve been busy with the baby.  We started experimenting with solids (with mixed results), and recently my husband and I took baby to the mountains for a four-day weekend of hiking. (She can handle about 5 miles in the carrier before she starts complaining.)

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And somehow I’ve still been finding time to work on my new website (and stress out about it).  Over the weekend I had a crisis about what colors to choose.

I’m not a visual person.  Or a tech person.  Or a business person.  Sometimes I wonder why the heck I ever decided to give my blog a professional makeover.

But I’m feeling pretty good about it right now.  I’ve also realized that it’s never going to be perfect, and with that knowledge I may be ready to share it with you guys in the next week or two.

We’ll see.

I’ve still got a lot to do.  And a lot to learn.  Stay tuned.

 

The New Website Is Coming!

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The New Website Is Coming!

Hi Friends! It was my birthday on Monday.  I spent it at a brewery with lots of friends and not one, not two, but FIVE babies!  (As well as a few kids and a dog.)  This is certainly a new era in my life!  But luckily an era that still involves day drinking.

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My daughter was not sure how to feel about a pint of porter.

 

I spent the fourth of July at my local Panera, working on my new website.

That’s right, it’s more than a blog now.  I’m creating a website.  And I’m pretty excited about it.

It’s been difficult at times.  I’m not a tech person.  Or a visual person. Or a business person.  Sometimes I wonder why exactly I decided to do this.

But then I wrote some fun new content, and I got a really cool idea that involves…wait for it… VIDEO!

I’m very excited to share with you guys what I’ve been working on.

But it’s not ready yet.  And probably won’t be for at least a month.  I’m slow with technology.

I’ll check in again, but for now I better get back to work on my new WEBSITE!

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My birthday present from my husband was… YOGA WITH GOATS!

My 3-Step Plan for a Total Blog Makeover

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My 3-Step Plan for a Total Blog Makeover

Last week I announced that it was high time I gave my blog a makeover.

This week, I took the plunge and purchased this blogging course* on how to start a professional (and potentially money-making) blog. It was recommended to me by my friend Jeni over at The Coquette Kitchen.  Jeni knows everything about everything, and is in fact attending a blogging conference in Orlando right now. And so far she was right — I’m learning a lot from the course.

(*If you purchase Blog By Number using this affiliate link, I will get a commission, but it will cost you nothing extra. See? I’m learning about this money-making stuff already!)

Last week I was skeptical about the whole blogging-for-money thing. And I still am. I still feel that writing novels (and eventually, hopefully, making money from them) is more important to me than creating a blogging business. But I figure it can’t hurt to make my site more professional and get more readers.  And I’m getting excited about the changes I plan to make to my site.

Don’t worry — I’m not going to start writing nothing but inane listicles or posts about my favorite products. (I don’t really have any favorite products, except maybe Trader Joe’s vanilla almond milk, which my husband and I think is, hands-down, the best almond milk on the market.**)

(**I am not getting any money from Trader Joe’s. I just really like their almond milk.)

The point is, I don’t want to sell out. I’m going to keep writing what I want to write, in the way that I want to write it, but I’m going to try to reach more readers and keep an open mind about potential money-making opportunities.

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See?  Look!  I’m learning how to add text to images! Next I will learn how to market my images on Pinterest!

 

I now have a three-step plan, and it goes like this:

    1. Update my blog.  Move it from wordpress.com to wordpress.org.   Give it a fresh and professional look.  
    2. Market my blog and learn how to increase traffic to my site.  Build up an email list.
    3. Investigate possible ways to make money blogging.

 

Much to my husband’s consternation, Step 3 might be quite a ways down the road and involve a few more purchases.  And I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those career bloggers who makes a six-figure income.  But it couldn’t hurt to figure out how to get more readers and make a bit of money from something I’m going to be doing anyway.

I’ve got a lot to learn.  And, to be honest, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I’m not sure how long the blog makeover is going to take me.  I’m hoping to have the new site up and running by the end of the summer, but in order to do that, I may have to let this be my last post for a while. Wish me luck! I’ll post again in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going.

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Getting hair extensions is a type of makeover I do NOT recommend.  I tried it a few years ago.  Terrible.  Might have to blog about THAT experience sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

Updating My Look & Blogging for Money

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Updating My Look & Blogging for Money

The other day I was looking through photos from the past couple years, and I realized I was wearing the same dress in almost every picture. No joke, take a look:

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Cape Cod, 2012

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Mexico, 2013

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Seattle, 2014

 

I still love this dress, and it would probably be on my body right now if it wasn’t stretched out and threadbare from my wearing it approximately twice a week for the past five years.

Besides my wardrobe, you know what else has been looking the same for the past five years? This blog. Come July, In The Garden of Eva will turn five years old.

A lot has changed since I started this blog. Back then I was single, living in my friend’s guest room on Cape Cod, and just learning how to write novels.

Now I’m married with a baby, living in Maryland, with a couple of finished novels sitting on my desktop. But this blog still looks the same.

Is it time for a change?

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Vancouver. This dress. Again.

 

On the wardrobe front, I decided yes, I need some new looks, especially some nursing-friendly (but not too mom-ish) tops and dresses.

After a few disappointing trips to the mall, I decided to try Stitch Fix*. I’m sure by now you’ve heard of this service, as every blogger in the world has at least one post dedicated to what their Stitch Fix “personal stylist” sent them. So I won’t go into detail. I’ll just say that I kept one dress from my first box, one skirt from my second, and sent everything back with my third. I will also say that Stitch Fix customer service was super nice, and because I was so unhappy with my third box, they are sending me a fourth one for free. Woohoo!

(*If you decide to try Stitch Fix and use my referral link, I will get a $25 credit, but it will cost nothing extra for you. Come on, help Mama buy a new dress!)

So I’m slowly updating my look. And now the question is, should update the look of this blog?

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My mom and me at my brother’s wedding over the weekend.  I am wearing a dress from Stitch Fix.

 

My friend Jeni Wallace, who is also a new mom, recently started a beautiful food blog, The Coquette Kitchen, and she is currently learning how to make money blogging. She strongly encouraged me to think about how I could, too.

I have to admit, it’s an intriguing thought. I live in the DC area, which is ranked the most expensive place in the country for childcare. Not to mention the absurd commute times. (It often takes me 45 minutes to drive 6.5 miles to the school where I work part-time.) So the more I can work from home while my baby is napping, the better.

And besides, wouldn’t it be nice to make money doing something I enjoy… and something that I’m going to do anyway?

But the more I talked to Jeni, the more I realized that in order to make money blogging, I would have to totally change my approach.

And I’m not just talking ads or affiliate links, although those are ways to make money. According to Jeni, the number one way bloggers make money is by selling their own e-books and online courses. Some of these courses sell for as much as $40 or $50 or even $100 or $1000! As I began poking around at some of the money-making blogs out there, I realized that many offer courses on how to make money blogging.

Wait a minute… So the best way to make money blogging is to sell courses on how to make money blogging? Hmm…

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Jeni Wallace and me.

 

Not all courses are on how to blog, of course. Jeni’s husband, Daniel David Wallace, is also making a foray into the blogging business; he has a free e-book on how to write better sentences, as well as a course called “Unlock the Six-Step Story.” Right now they are both free, but I assume he’ll start charging for courses once he builds up his fan base.

Daniel’s courses make sense to me. He has a PhD in creative writing and is a successful and innovative writing instructor. He’s legitimately an expert who has unique and helpful information to share. His content is original and genuine and worth paying for.

I also have no doubt if Jeni starts offering courses, hers will be amazing as well. Not only is Jeni a fabulous cook, she basically knows everything about everything. She’s an expert at researching things and breaking them down in a friendly and helpful manner so that the average research-hating-lazy-person like me can digest them. Jeni could offer a course in anything from “how to plan a European culinary vacation with a baby in tow” to “how to always order the best thing at a restaurant both at home and abroad,” and it would be well worth the money.

So that’s great. Jeni and Daniel are going to become a blogging-business power couple. Good for them.

But what about me? What about my blog?

Is there a way that I could make a bit of money by blogging that feels genuine? Do I have unique information to offer that people would be willing to pay for? How can I get more followers? Do I need to change my blog to look more polished and professional? Do I need to change the way I write my posts? And if I change the way I blog, will it still be fun?

I don’t know.

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GET A NEW DRESS, EVA!!

 

It might be worth doing a little research at least. Maybe even forking out the money for this course on how to make money blogging**. (Jeni recommends it, and if Jeni recommends it, I know it must be good.)

(**If you purchase Blog By Number using this affiliate link, I will get a commission, but it will cost you nothing extra. See? I’m learning about this money-making stuff already!)

But there’s this part of me that wonders, do I really want to spend my time researching how to make money blogging and writing e-courses? I don’t have much free time as it is. Wouldn’t I rather spend it working on my fiction in the hopes that one day I might make a bit of money from my published novels? That’s the type of writing I really want to be doing anyway.

But if I’m not making money from this blog, and not very many people read it, what’s the point of writing it in the first place?

Because I like it? Is that enough of a reason?

No matter what I decide, though, I do think it’s time for a blog makeover.

I’m considering upgrading my hosting site and freshening up the look of my blog. Maybe I’ll start looking into that and wait until Jeni’s figured out this blogging for money thing… then I’ll buy her course. ‘Cuz I know if she made one, it’d be good.

Hey, if I can have a Stitch Fix personal stylist pick out my clothes for me, I can have Jeni do my research for me. And in the end, both my wardrobe and my blog will have a fresh look for the world!

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Me, my husband, and our baby. I’m wearing a new skirt from Stitch Fix.

 

 

Driving & Writing, or, Mama’s Here to Stay

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Driving & Writing, or, Mama’s Here to Stay

My husband and I have decided to stay in our apartment for another year. For a while we toyed with the idea of renting a house. But just the thought of moving with a four-month-old baby was so exhausting, we decided to stay put.

Next spring we’ll think about buying a house – I’d definitely like more space and a yard – but we plan to stay in Silver Spring, Maryland. We like it here. We can metro into downtown DC in less than 20 minutes, we’re within walking distance to Rock Creek Park, and though downtown Silver Spring isn’t as cool as DC neighborhoods, there’s a bubble tea place, an indie movie theater, several yoga studios and a T.J. Maxx, so I’m happy with that.

Depending on where we buy a house, I may or may not be able to continue tutoring part-time at Washington International School in Northwest DC. Right now it takes me about 20 minutes to drive the 6.4 miles there, and then, because of rush hour, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to drive back home. I can deal with this ridiculousness because of podcasts, but if we move any further north or east, the commute won’t be worth it.

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I’m also going to have to consider buying a bigger car at some point.  My little yellow two-door isn’t quite made for mommy life.

 

What’s ironic is that back in 2010, I used to live in DC and commute up to Silver Spring to teach. Back then I didn’t want to live in Silver Spring because I thought it was a lame suburb and all the cool kids lived in DC. My, how the times have changed.

Back then I didn’t have a car, and so I often got driven around by other teachers for off-campus events or after-work happy hours. I was also the volleyball coach my second year there, so I spent a lot of time in the front of the school bus as we fought afternoon traffic to get the girls to various schools for their games.

These days, as I’m driving around suburban Maryland, I’ll sometimes have flashbacks to sitting in that school bus, watching the same scenery flash by. Except back then I never knew where I was. I didn’t know the difference between Bethesda and Chevy Chase. I didn’t know that Wisconsin Avenue turned into Rockville Pike north of the beltway, or that you could take Connecticut all the way from Northwest DC into northern Silver Spring.

When someone else is driving, you don’t pay attention to details like street names or exit numbers. When you have to drive yourself, on the other hand, you not only pay attention to where you’re going, you also start to figure out how the roads connect. Even if you rely heavily on your GPS, after a while you begin to form a map in your mind.

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Sometimes we let the baby drive.

 

It occurred to me the other day that the difference between driving and being driven is much like the difference between writing a book and reading one. When you’re reading, you get to sit back and enjoy the ride. But when you’re writing, you have a mental map, and you have to figure out how the story roads connect. Even if you take the scenic route, you need to get your readers from the starting point to the destination… and that’s not always easy. In fact, it can be as frustrating as DC rush hour traffic.

Speaking of which, the other day I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic on 495 and decided to take a different exit than my usual one. As I followed my GPS home, I suddenly realized how a road I was familiar with connected to another road I was familiar with, and my mental map of suburban Maryland grew a bit more sophisticated. It was, in it’s own little way, sort of exciting.

It was similar to the way I feel when I make a new connection in my writing.  It’s exciting when I suddenly realize a new direction to take, or a way I can bridge two ideas.

That’s the nice thing about both driving and writing: being in the driver’s seat with the radio (or a podcast) blaring, going my own way.

Watch out, Silver Spring: mama’s here to stay!

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Here I am wearing a Cut with Light DC flag necklace, but yeah… I live in Maryland.

Get Rolling, or, When You’ve Forgotten How to Write

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Get Rolling, or, When You’ve Forgotten How to Write

When my baby was nearly eleven weeks old, she started rolling from her tummy onto her back, and I was very impressed and proud. Recently, at three and a half months, she’s started rolling from her back onto her tummy. Again, I am impressed and proud.

What’s frustrating, though, is that now, when I lay her down on her play mat, she immediately rolls over and then starts to cry because she’s on her tummy and she doesn’t like it.

“Roll back over,” I tell her. “I know you know how. I’ve captured you doing it on video.”

But for some reason she can’t remember this previously-learned skill. And she’s upset about it.

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Baby on her tummy.  I know she doesn’t look upset, but believe me, she started crying 5 seconds after this picture was taken.

 

The other day I was doing some final polishes on my novel in preparation to start querying agents. As I was reading over the manuscript I began to wonder, how did I ever create this story in the first place?

I developed the idea for the novel a little over a year ago and wrote the first draft last spring, but I seem to have forgotten how I did it. Sometimes it feels like I’m revising someone else’s work.

Now that I’m finishing up this project, it’s time to start something new. Time to switch from revising to creating.  Time to start rolling the other way.

If I can only remember how.

 

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One way to get the baby to sleep.

 

Nap time with the baby has been a challenge these past few days. When I put her in her crib, half the time she immediately flips onto her tummy and then starts to cry. Yesterday I had to walk her around the neighborhood in her stroller for over and hour because that was the only way I could get her to take an afternoon nap.

Paul and I wonder if we should leave her on her tummy to struggle and cry. Maybe, if she gets frustrated enough, she’ll remember how to do it.

Or, maybe, we just have to be patient and give her time.

Normally, when I finish with one writing project, I rush to start something new; I’m in a panic not to waste time. But having a baby has made me a bit more relaxed. It’s a successful day if I manage to get dressed and go grocery shopping. So if a day goes by when I don’t work on writing, it’s not the end of the world.

Still, there is a part of me that worries — what if I’ve lost this previously-learned skill, this ability to create fiction?  I worry that this time I won’t be able to write another novel.

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Come on, baby!  Get rolling!

 

While walking the baby around the neighborhood the other day, an idea for a novel popped into my head. That’s how ideas usually arrive. You can’t force yourself to have one; they appear out of the blue, usually when you’re doing something unrelated to writing.

The idea has gotten me thinking, and I can feel the gears in my brain shifting from revision mode to creation mode. I haven’t forgotten how to write, I just haven’t done it in a while.

I’m not in a hurry, but I’m sure soon enough, I’ll get rolling on a new novel.